Posts Tagged ‘Yoga Journal’

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.”



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Recently, I wrote a post about my discomfort with the whole idea of circular yoga mats. For some reason, it has continued to be one of the most popular posts on this little blog.

Last night, the creator of the circular yoga mat, (also known as the Mandala Mat), Desiree Kleemann, commented on my post:

Hi Birdie,

Your post made me smile. You gotta love freedom of expression.

I never expected people to want to take it to a studio as the size is an issue. But I know that many teachers are using them when they instruct. And in my studio I have special classes where we all use a round mat.

I loved your post and if you ever think you could use Mandala Yoga Mat with your head exploding : ) let me know.

If you would like to see my DVD to see how I use the let me know and I would be happy to mail it off to you.

I like this Desiree Kleeman. After doing a little research on her company, she seems like one cool yogini.  Her company, which produces the Mandala Mat, is a small, grass roots, company, that is environmentally conscious. Moreover, after realizing how difficult it was to start a small company, Desiree decided to donate a portion of her proceeds to help other small business owners across the globe in need of financing. So, for every mat she sells, Desiree donates $5 to www.kiva.org, and organization that encourages entrepreneurship to eliminate poverty.

While I still believe my head just might explode if someone came to class with this sucker, I can understand its purpose. It seems a lot of Desiree’s customers are yoga teachers who find it useful when demonstrating. Also, studios who offer “mommy and me” yoga classes find the extra space beneficial.

Check out Desiree’s company. She was also profiled as an “OmTown Hero” by Yoga Journal where she was designated as the “Yogini Without Borders”.

Desiree, if you come back to this blog…and I don’t blame you if you don’t given that I called your yoga mat an “atrocity” (okay, maybe that was harsh)…thanks for being a good sport and having a good sense of humor.

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It has been a weird and wild week in yoga, friendlies. We started with Halloween on Sunday, which I commemorated by begging my fellow yogis – a community riddled with conflict over various and sundry issues – to wave the white flag and throw a yoga-themed Halloween party. Some people thought my post was ridiculous, and they weren’t afraid to say it right there on The Facebooks. It was my first experience with “snark,” what the Urban Dictionary defines as a mix between “snide” and “remark”, and which I say is frequently bandied about on social media sites. But, in the words of one reader, the post was meant to be cheeky!  If you haven’t read it, check it out and start thinking about your yoga-inspired Halloween party next year.

The Halloween theme dominated other yoga sites. My friend YogaDork had an awesome contest to see who could come up with the best yoga-inspired costume. Check out the finalists…Dork will be posting the winner today!

And, despite the fact that Halloween was nearly a week ago…Lady Gaga chose to wear the following get-up to attend a Bikram yoga class two days ago:

Now, I love a good pair of heels as much as the next girl, but I can attest that I have never, ever worn heels that high. Wonder if she kept ’em on during class. Namaste, you little monsters!

In other news, Pitkin County Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely delayed sentencing of Steven Roger, the Aspen yoga teacher convicted of groping his students, until November 12 in hopes that he will admit to his crime and help his victims heal as well as avoid a harsher penalty. My guess is he probably won’t and that his lawyers will likely appeal the conviction. You can read more about this story at the Aspen Daily News.

Wanna go to the January 2011 Yoga Journal Conference in San Francisco but struggling to afford the hefty entrance fee?  How’s about a work-study program?  The following was advertised on the San Francisco Examiner website:

Are you interested in attending this January’s Yoga Journal San Francisco Conference, but find the price tag as challenging as an afternoon ofVrschikasana? Depending on your motivation for attending, there are a few “work-study” positions available that bring down the price considerably, offering an annotated but powerful version of the dynamic weekend. If this sounds like your cup of tea, then act fast: selections for these prized packages will be made soon, and the application requires attention and thoughtfulness.

Becoming a part of the yoga community by serving at the conference can provide a deep and rewarding insight into your practice, as well as provide revelations that come from being a part of a team. The work is real, but so are the benefits. The opportunity to mingle with some of modern yoga’s experts might not come cheap, but for those with focus and a giving spirit can make the most of it for a fraction of the price.

For more information, write to Kourtney Betts at yoga@horizonconferences.com.

Finally, never read the Bhagavad Gita, and too afraid to admit it to all your yogi friends? Well, join us! November 10th begins Bob Weisenberg’s new weekly Gita Talk Discussion…You cannot miss it!  Check out Gita Talk on Elephant Journal, or on Facebook.

Have a wonderful weekend! If you’re hoping to get back into your yoga groove after being out of practice lately due to back pain (like me), a crazy schedule, or just plain laziness, enjoy your Yoga Walk of Shame/Bliss this weekend! Rrrrawrr!

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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 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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