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Archive for the ‘Yoga Teachers’ Category

No stranger to controversy, Tara Stiles is at it again.  Many of you might recall the Slim, Calm, Sexy Debacle that took place not so long ago.   Yesterday, The New York Times profiled Ms. Stiles and effectively dubbed her a “rebel” yogini.

I won’t post the article here, but I will encourage you to go and read it.  In profiling Tara’s approach to yoga, the article seemed to expose a lot of issues and concerns than many people have been discussing lately about where yoga is headed these days.  In fact, the NYT profile seemed to make three very controversial points:  First, it established Tara’s approach to yoga as one that is completely different from most other styles of yoga — in other words, decidedly not elitist and exclusive.  Second, it introduced her so-called “user friendly” approach to yoga and essentially described it as an approach which proudly defies the customs and traditions of an ancient practice .  Third, it hinted at Tara’s lack of qualification in teaching yoga.

In short, the NYT profile has caused quite a shit storm in the yoga blogasphere.  To start, two very famous yogi bloggers, YogaDork and Linda Sama (who was profiled here on Yoga Tattuesday recently), were quoted as being two vocal Stiles critics.  But it also set off a frenzy of comments over at YogaDork’s blog.

Some take issue with Tara’s designation of yogis as snobby and elitist.  Some ask why call Tara’s style of practice yoga at all?  Other commenters get caught up in Tara’s refusal to answer questions about where she received her training, which she essentially calls useless (but, in the same breath discusses her own teacher training program for which she charges $2,500 a pop).

As for Tara, we know one thing’s for certain:  there ain’t no way she’s getting mixed up with those dirty little things called rules.  According to Tara, a life with rules is a “mind-set that limits people dramatically.”

Thoughts?

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This weekend the first annual Iowa City Yoga Festival will be held at the Sheraton Hotel in beautiful downtown Iowa City. In anticipation of the festivities, the Des Moines Register profiled native Iowan (is that what people native to Iowa are called?), Sadie Nardini:

The rock star of yoga is from Iowa, which is a mind-bender for those who didn’t know there was one, or that Iowa could produce her.

Sadie Nardini travels nearly every weekend to yoga festivals, a recent trend.

“It’s like being in a rock band on tour,” said Nardini, appearing with other national yoga experts at the Iowa City Yoga Festival starting Friday. “They always say, ‘Sadie is the rock star of yoga.’ I live out of a suitcase. It’s not that sexy.”

This is Iowa’s first yoga festival, said James Miller, owner of Tree House Studio in Iowa City. Its 42 workshops are designed to share methods in a diverse group, outside the typical private or tribal yoga class experience.

Nardini’s rise in the burgeoning yoga field was a result of the modern daily double – a traumatic personal story and a YouTube video.

Nardini was diagnosed with leukemia at age 13 while in junior high in Iowa City and was told she had two weeks to two months to live.

“I was walking the hallways like a zombie, saying goodbye to the world,” she said.

It was a misdiagnosis. That didn’t stop the mystery illness, which she suspects was a nervous system virus, leaving her home bound with troubled breathing and limited movement.

“My mom practiced some yoga and she helped me do some light stretching and moving. It helped give me a sense of control over the illness,” Nardini said.

Her symptoms eventually waned after two years and Nardini’s family moved to Cedar Falls. She attended the University of Northern Iowa, then the University of Washington for journalism.

She charged forward with intense workouts and left yoga behind. Miller said that is common. We train for the outside look, not necessarily for overall health.

But one day Nardini spotted a yoga teacher who looked great and decided to pick up yoga again. By the late 1990s she was leading classes and attracting big crowds in Seattle.

“I refound yoga in a new way. I’m a rational Midwestern girl. I don’t fall for gimmicks,” she said. “It is not some guru experience for me. My yoga is not religious; it’s a personal path to improvement.”

After moving to New York City to do freelance writing and lead yoga classes, she had an idea.

“One day I woke up in my shoebox apartment and thought, hey, I want to make a video. I turned over a lamp for lighting, put my couch on end and put up a YouTube video,” she said.

“That started a huge online studio with 190 videos and 15,000 subscribers. The Yoga Journal called for me to do a conference and somehow it snowballed.”

She’s delighted to see Iowa City join the growing festival trend.

“Coming from Iowa, I didn’t think Iowa would be one of the first to have a regional conference,” she said.

At festivals, she said, people can experiment in various classes, from slow and gentle to hard core, and find what fits.

“Yoga hooked me on the level of the body. At first, I was like a rusty tin man on the Wizard of Oz. I couldn’t move at all,” she said. “It was also de-stressing. I was a nicer person if I did yoga. It’s really calming as an exercise.”

Sadie Nardini is one interesting lady. I first came across her when I was too broke to afford yoga classes.  Unfortunately, I was so broke that I couldn’t afford an internet connection to watch the YouTube videos at home online (I ended up with some Seane Corne DVDs instead).  When I first saw this girl posting videos online from her small apartment, I thought she had real chutzpa. She was really putting herself out there and sharing her knowledge with the world. And let me tell you yogis can be a surprisingly critical crew. To her credit, she kept at it. You can read a really fantastic interview posted on YogaDork, but written by the fabulous and talented Nancy Alder of FlyingYogini fame.

Anyone out there attending the Iowa City Yoga Festival? Tell us how it was!

Go Buckeyes! (…Buckeyes, right?)…

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Photo courtesy of the Wall Street Journal

Today’s San Fransisco-Bay Area edition of the Wall Street Journal featured a piece on “Blue-Collar Yoga”, or “Yoga With Your Boots On”.  This yoga focuses on teachings geared towards people in the construction and labor fields. Despite the popularity of yoga in San Fransisco, the man behind this movement, Allan Nett – 64-year-old contractor-cum-yoga-instructor – says that convincing those in the construction field to participate in yoga is not an easy task. Mr. Nett holds a Junior Intermediate Level III Certification in Iyengar Yoga, and has been practicing Iyengar yoga for 17 years. While he does teach traditional Iyengar yoga classes, his classes geared towards the construction crowd do not involve most of the things many of us experience in every class such as sanskrit, expensive yoga mats, a particular type of clothing, etc.  Instead, his students are attired in hard hats, neon vests, and work boots, and he focuses on the physiological areas which are adversely effected by such physical demanding work like the lumbar spine. Mr. Nett even renames many of the poses in a way that will be more familiar to people in a construction background.  For instance, instead of tadasana (or, mountain pose), Mr. Nett refers to this pose as the Plumb Bob.

The class was “an eye opener,” says Marianna Williams, who lays concrete sidewalks for the city and had never tried yoga before. While she gave a favorable review to the class, it only drew eight workers out of the roughly 400 who gathered that day for a health fair for department employees.

While yoga studios and teachers across the country have maintained relatively steady business despite the economic downturn, such is not the case with Mr. Nett’s class.

Now Mr. Nett is finding the housing bust and weak economy are making yoga an even tougher sell with that group. Though attracting blue-collar workers has never been easy, Mr. Nett says his “Yoga with Your Boots On” classes gained some traction during the housing boom four years ago.

But since 2008, after demand for new construction plummeted, his income from such classes has dropped to nearly nil. Today, Mr. Nett teaches one yoga class for blue-collar workers every few months—sometimes for free to generate interest—down from three classes per week for $75 apiece at the height of the housing bubble.

Since then, demand for Mr. Nett’s classes has been weak. So far this year, he has landed three gigs teaching “Boots On” at health fairs for San Francisco city workers.

Still, it’s unlikely the gigs will turn into regular classes given the city’s budget woes, says Priscilla Morse, San Francisco’s deputy director of human resources. She adds that she hopes to bring Mr. Nett in for more one-time lessons.

My hard hat is off to Mr. Nett who continues to tout the benefits of yoga to a community that is very much in need of it and likely does not have access to it.  In my neck of the woods, so many yoga studios make a killing charging outrageous prices for people to practice yoga.  It makes me think that it would be nice if a portion of the proceeds went to individuals such as Mr. Nett who struggle to teach yoga to underserved populations?

Hey readers, do any of your yoga studios participate in any programs like this?

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Photo Courtesy of The Boston Globe

 

In tomorrow’s edition Home and Lifestyle section of The Boston Globe, journalist Linda Matchan tackles some huge issues in an article entitled “What Happened to Yoga”.  She does it by traveling to Down Under Yoga, a yoga studio in Newtonville, Massachusettes, where Aussie owner Justine Wiltshire Cohen has assembled some internationally recognized yoginis – Natasha Rizopoulos and Patricia Walden among them – to not only teach some in depth workshops, but to participate in a summit on the future of yoga in America.

To illustrate some of the problems with yoga in America today, Matchen interviewed none other than Stephanie Syman, author of The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America. During the interview, Syman outlines the issues:

[Yoga is] recombined with dominant forms of the culture; it’s very malleable that way,’’ said Syman. There is yoga for every taste, energy level, and aspirant — hip-hop yoga, hot yoga, rock pop yoga, weight loss yoga, Christian yoga, even “Yoga Booty Ballet,’’ which bills itself as a dynamic fusion of yoga, booty sculpting, and cardio-dance. If there is any doubt that yoga has left the ashram and joined the mainstream, consider that yoga was part of this year’s Easter Egg Roll festivities on the White House lawn.

It’s also been “monetized,’’ Syman said. Practiced by celebrities, fitness buffs, and fashionistas, yoga is a $6 billion industry with some 16 million American followers. Many of those millions are pouring into the trendy lululemon yogawear stores — purveyor of $90 yoga mats, $25 yoga water bottles, $40 yoga towels, and other nonessential yoga accessories such as yoga thong underwear and an $88 “yoga mat carry system’’ with a “Helmet friendly design.’’ [So you won’t hit your head with your mat while riding your bike.]

The article also touches on the recent debacle, which I wrote about, regarding the sexualization and Westernization of yoga, which is obvious in many of the advertisements in the popular yoga magazine Yoga Journal:

Even the venerable magazine Yoga Journal, considered the bible for yoga practitioners, has evolved from a nonprofit publication founded in 1975 in a Berkeley basement to a glossy magazine with celebrities on the cover and sexy ads for pricey yoga gear, a trend that’s infuriated one of its founding editors.

“I feel sad because it seems that Yoga Journal has become just another voice for the status quo and not for elevating us to the higher values of yoga: spiritual integration, compassion and selfless service,’’ Judith Hanson Lasater wrote in a recent letter to the editor.

Yoga Journal’s editor in chief, Kaitlin Quistgaard, said she “completely respected’’ Lasater’s letter, “but we also need to run a commercial venture. . . . We are Americans and one thing Americans do is shop and like nice things. And one of the ways we identify ourselves is having a certain look. The yoga industry does support our desire to create self-identity through what we wear or what we purchase.’’

Cohen seems to set a new standard for taking yoga back:

Her website makes it clear where she stands on the question. “We believe that yoga studios should act in ways that are consistent with the teachings of yoga,’’ it says. “We will never sell plastic water bottles that go into landfills [becauseahimsa means ‘do no harm’]. We will never sell $150 yoga pants [because aparigraha means ‘identifying greed’]. We will never accept offers from companies to promote their gear in exchange for free publicity or products (because satya means “truthfulness’’). We will never brand, trademark, or pretend we’ve made up a new style of yoga.’’

The article is packed with the biggest issues facing yoga today.  Matchan even goes so far as to address what she calls the the “irksome” trend of Anusara yoga and yoga rockstar John Friend:

One brand, though not the only one, that seems particularly irksome is the growing Texas-based global empire of Anusara yoga, a relatively new hatha yoga system founded by John Friend, who teaches worldwide and sells clothing, jewelry, and music. He blogs, tweets, and characterizes himself on his website as “one of the most charismatic and highly respected hatha yoga teachers in the world.’’ Friend was recently featured in a New York Times magazine article, which he noted in a three-page rebuttal posted on his website was “the largest article on yoga ever published in a major newspaper. . . . For me, it is another clear sign that Grace supports Anusara.’’

“The minute yoga is packaged and branded, you’ve lost it,’’ Wiltshire Cohen contends.

You can visit Cohen’s website at www.downunderyoga.com, where she outlines her yoga manifesto.  You can also read the full text of the article here.  What say you, yogis?  These are some pretty huge issues.  I say at the very least, kudos to Cohen for tackling them.  Maybe we need some more summits like this one?


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Long before Sarah Palin struck tree pose for Runner’s World.  Long before Snookie’s asana antics in a Miami park.  And long before yoga classes were offered on the White House lawn, Lila Landau was quietly teaching yoga to suburban New Jersey students at her local YWCA.  In fact, she started teaching yoga in the 1960s, when practicing yoga was still relatively unheard of in the west. After 35 years of teaching yoga, she died last week after a battle with pancreatic cancer.  And while she may not have garnered any fame from her pursuits, in her 35 years of teaching, she likely had a great impact on many people in search of healing.

The following is her obituary courtesy of writer Jay Levin at North Jersey online:

“Lila Landau was teaching yoga before many people even knew what yoga was.

Mrs. Landau, an athletic mother of three from Teaneck who taught the ancient Indian practice for more than 35 years, died last Friday. She was 80.

She had pancreatic cancer, said her husband, Walter.

Mrs. Landau discovered yoga in the mid-1960s when she enrolled in a course at the Hackensack YWCA. “It was strictly an experiment,” she told The Record’s career columnist in 1980. After the course ended, she followed the yogi across the Hudson and took private lessons at the Yoga Institute of New York. She also trained with Ruth Bender, a German-born teacher and author who helped popularize yoga in the U.S. and served on President Jimmy Carter’s Council on Fitness and Sports.

By the 1970s, Mrs. Landau’s avocation had become a career. She gave yoga instruction in her home studio and taught at adult schools in Bergenfield, Tenafly and Fort Lee.

“The adult schools give people an opportunity to see whether yoga is for them – and many want to continue,” she said in the Record interview. “I use books and tapes as supplements to my teaching, and my aim is to teach people what they can do for themselves by themselves in their homes or wherever they are.”

With a busy schedule that included four group sessions a week at her home, Mrs. Landau introduced hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Bergen County residents to yoga. Her husband was not among them.

“I never did yoga and she never tried to get me to do it,” Walter Landau said. “We got along very well for 56 years because we didn’t push each other.”

Mrs. Landau also was an avid bicyclist, tennis player, skier and ice dancer. She stopped teaching yoga two years ago, about the time she was diagnosed with cancer, but was off to Vermont with the Bicycle Touring Club of North Jersey as recently as this summer, her husband said.

Other survivors include her sons, Ned of New York City, Roger of Millburn and Steven of New York City; her brother, Seymour Rappoport of Hackensack, and three grandchildren.

The funeral was Monday at Gutterman & Musicant Jewish Funeral Directors, Hackensack.”

Shanti.

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