Judith Hanson Lasater Slams Yoga Journal for “Sexy Ads.” ~ via it’s all yoga, baby

Via Roseanne Harvey
on Aug 6, 2010
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Kathryn Budig gets naked for Toesox ~ a prime example of how advertising for yoga products “exploit the sexuality of women.”

It’s no secret that sex sells ~ and this is something that yoga product companies caught on to a while ago. But it seems that some yoga teachers and practitioners are saying, “Enough is enough!” In the September issue of Yoga Journal, Judith Hanson Lasater, one of the magazine’s founders (and a long-time contributor), wrote a letter to the editor stating her concern about the magazine and its advertising policy. She wrote:

Yoga Journal was born in my living room in Berkeley in 1975, where I was one of five yoga practitioner-teachers who gathered to create the magazine. I have loved the magazine ever since. But I’m concerned about ads that have stimulated both confusion and sadness in me about where the magazine is now and where it is headed.

I am confused because I do not understand how photos of naked or half-naked women are connected with the sale of practice products for asana, an important part of yoga. These pictures do not teach the viewer about yoga practice or themselves. They aren’t even about the celebration of the beauty of the human body or the beauty of the poses, which I support. These ads are just about selling a product. This approach is something I though belonged (unfortunately) to the larger culture, but not in Yoga Journal.

Finally, 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. My request is that Yoga Journal doesn’t run ads with photos that exploit the sexuality of young women in order to sell products or more magazines. Thank you for your attention and willingness to hear another point of view.

Judith Hanson Lasater
San Francisco, CA

From a glance at Judith’s Facebook Fanpage, she’s not the only person feeling this way. Her Fanpage is full of supportive comments from people who have similar issues with Yoga Journal’s advertising policy, and the representation of yoga. Her letter has also sparked a passionate discussion about  the ways that yoga is marketed and presented in North America, and the future of Yoga Journal. As she said on her Fanpage, “It is not my intention to harm YJ. It is my intention to open the dialogue and be clear about what my values are.”

Judith also willingly agreed to an email interview with it’s all yoga, baby to further explain her point of view.

Q: I understand that you must be disappointed to see YJ become another “voice of the status quo” and I’m sure that wasn’t your intention for the magazine when you helped start it 35 years ago. What kind of voice did you hope it would become?

JHL: I would love to be able to say that we had such a clear intention all those years ago, but it is not true. I do remember clearly that we all loved yoga (not just asana) and wanted to share it with the world. We were crazily naive about everything that went into publishing a magazine. We learned over and over again that you can’t publish if you can’t pay your staff, your distributors and your mailing costs. Business is the way of the world and nothing wrong with that. But I had and still have dreams about how the magazine and the world can be, part of my character I guess as an optimist.

Q: There have been many conversations and discussions about the commercialization/sexualization of yoga, and the response from many people is, “Yes, well we live in a capitalist society; everything is commercialized. Why not yoga?” But I see that you feel differently. What do you see as the problem with using sexual imagery to sell yoga? What is compromised?

JHL: I just want to help create a safe space for yoga to be taught. With all this sexualization of yoga clothes, props, etc., it must spill over into the environment of yoga classes in ways that do not honor the boundary between teacher and student. In the US, we pay people the most money who can distract us the best: actors, personalities and sports figures. Entertainment is all about distraction. As I understand it, the deepest practice of yoga is about the opposite: refusing at first, then later embracing, the act and art of not distracting myself anymore from myself and the moment. So it seems to me that the use of naked bodies to sell yoga products is about using distraction to sell introspection. For me it is not about the nakedness; rather, it is about using bodies to distract us instead of using ads that inspire us to practice yoga, to live in the present and to be open to compassion and grace in each moment. I am sad when I see yoga in general, and many yoga classes in particular, becoming about distraction and entertainment.

For the rest of the conversation, head on over to it’s all yoga, baby!


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About Roseanne Harvey

Roseanne is a writer, editor and geeky girl who lives and loves life in Montreal. Her blog It's All Yoga Baby, is one of the most popular Yoga blogs on the Internet. As the former editor of ascent magazine, Roseanne isn’t afraid to use her media literacy skills to call out the hypocrisies and contradictions of modern yoga. She is all for dismantling the dominant hegemony of rock star teachers, expensive class fees and designer clothes/accessories/products. She also loves supporting progressive yoga projects, innovative and independent teachers, and general awesomeness. Rather infamous for being an overt voice against the commercialization of yoga, these days Roseanne is more interested in how yoga intersects with daily life, activism, politics and culture. While still fascinated by the ramifications of the popularity of yoga and its representation in popular culture, she has faith that yoga will maintain its integrity. Comments, questions, ideas? Get in touch: [email protected] or @itsallyoga_baby in the Twittersphere.

Comments

95 Responses to “Judith Hanson Lasater Slams Yoga Journal for “Sexy Ads.” ~ via it’s all yoga, baby”

  1. Kaoverii says:

    So glad you posted this here – I was thinking about writing about it but, no time. Kudos to Lasater for speaking out.

  2. elephantjournal says:

    Personally, I have a problem with ads that show women to be overly thin as some sort of ideal. That said, I don't have a problem with the Toesox ads. Kathyrn is warm, funny, sweet, loves to cook (and eat), isn't pencil-thin, and Jasper Johal is one of yoga's most tasteful and remarkable photographers. Perhaps Judith, who I respect deeply, is thinking of other ads?

    Like many things, it's all about "How" nudity or sexy is presented—not whether or not it is. If it's done in an uplifted, humorous, real manner—kudos. If it's done cheaply, skeezily, tackily—well boo. That said, either way, as Jennifer says in comments here, http://www.elephantjournal.com/2010/08/own-your-s… it's our job to separate our self-esteem from media or any outside source.

  3. kat says:

    really well said, girlwarrior. definitely agree with this. loving the comment made by Cyndi Lee too, thanks for sharing!

  4. Amanda says:

    Assuming that the Toe Sox ads are the subject of Judith Lasater’s critique, I could not disagree more with her assessment of the advertisements or the culture from which they spring.

    I do not understand the basic assumption that a tasteful photograph of a “naked or half-naked” yogini “exploits the sexuality of young women.”

    Photographs of yoga have traditionally been of naked or half-naked men. Consider the classic photographs of a very young Pattabhi Jois demonstrating (and marketing) his Ashtanga yoga system in nothing but a loincloth.

    Ms. Lasater’s comments point to a deeply ingrained double standard in which the male body is assumed to be neutral while the female body is seen as inherently sexualized. It is only when seen through this distorted lens that the beautiful nudes featured in the Toe Sox campaign can be seen as anything other than a celebration of yoga and the human form.

    I think Yoga Journal, Toe Sox, and Ms. Budig are to be commended for out of this old, culturally embedded fear of the female form.

  5. Ok, sorry, but my job is to turn this into a real debate instead a mass pep rally in which, as you proudly proclaim, "98% of the response is positive". That can only be because most of the people who actually buy the magazine aren't responding. Perhaps they're not even reading.

    Anyone who's ever been to a Yoga Journal conference knows that a high percentage of attendees, both men and women, actually do look like the people in the ads! Not sure how that figures in. But it's an interesting thought.

    But even for those of us who don't look like that, do we really want to go to the movies or open up magazines to see people who look just like the people living across the street or who we can see everyday at the grocery store. Of course pop culture is about fantasy and seeing people who aren't like us.

    The critics are saying that Yoga Journal should be above pop culture. But yoga is part of pop culture. If one doesn't like that, there are plenty of fine Yoga venues, and even magazines, that are more traditional, like the Himalayan Institute, or even a place as with-it as Kripalu. To do what these critics are asking, YJ would have to shrink to a fraction of its current size. They can only survive at their current size by appealing to pop culture, not eshewing it.

    Why does everyone and all publications have to be the same. People are different. Vive la difference! Vive la France! (The U.S. is far more puritanical in its magazines than Europe is, where actual nudity is the norm. And the worst mistreatment of women, across the board, occurs in those countries that are the most puritanical, not the least.)

    I hope you'll all still be nice to me after this comment. I actually hesitated to respond because I thought it might be like talking about Krishna at a Jesus rally.

    Bob Weisenberg
    YogaDemystified.com

  6. Sandy Gross says:

    Sent to the editors of Yoga Journal, a response to the "Need to be Naked?" letter in the 9/10 issue….
    http://www.facebook.com/note.php?saved&&s

  7. tia says:

    She is completely NAKED , not in a loin cloth or leo or little shorts and a sports bar , just NAKED ! For no other reason than to shock and sell something.

  8. elephantjournal says:

    via http://www.facebook.com/elephantjournal

    #
    Mary Yamada one hardly notices the toe socks. goodness!

    #
    Jennifer Hennrich Maybe I'm just used to bodies but this doesn't come off sexual more like showing the human body work of art

    #
    Dylan Barmmer Kathryn is so beautiful. And this is completely a work of art. It's not sexed up at all. A lot of Yoga People REALLY need to get over themselves.

    #
    Ana Li who needs socks for yoga, gosh!?

    #
    Teri Robnett I agree with Jennifer. When I first saw the ad, I thought "Wow!" Not because I thought it was sexy but because I was admiring Kathryn's strength, beauty and flexibility. I noticed the toesox because I noticed how perfectly positioned her feet were. :) I would have had the same response had it used a pic of a man…Wow! In the article's comments, @girlwarrior says "“It is NEVER okay to use women’s bodies to sell ANYTHING EVER." I guess Kathryn didn't feel that way.

    #
    Teri Robnett I agree with Jennifer. When I first saw the ad, I thought "Wow!" Not because I thought it was sexy but because I was admiring Kathryn's strength, beauty and flexibility. I noticed the toesox because I noticed how perfectly positioned her feet were. :) I would have had the same response had it used a pic of a man…Wow! In the article's comments, @girlwarrior says "“It is NEVER okay to use women’s bodies to sell ANYTHING EVER." I guess Kathryn didn't feel that way.

    #
    Chris Galaxy Nudity and art are not mutually exclusive even when it makes money. I don't think that art or yoga are diminished by nudity as much as how we perceive it. I think we have more to worry about, like war and poverty, which are quite repulsive.

    #
    Dylan Barmmer ‎@girlwarrior should pick a new battle. She ever heard of personal choice?

    #
    Melissa Cawley Hentschel I think this pose is beautiful and she is beautiful. I wish I could do it and look like her doing it!
    While I appreciate Lasaters perspective, I don't find this overly sexual or offensive. Yoga does the body good…..

    #
    Stephen Daniels ‎"We are what we think.
    All that we are arises with our thoughts.
    With our thoughts we make the world." ~ Buddha

    #
    Melissa Dloughy Those are actually my favorite ads in yoga journal. I think that they are absolutely beautiful. Her strength, and confidence, as well as skill and ability are all things to be admired. I don't find the pictures sexual at all. Nudity does not equal sex.

    #
    elephantjournal.com Jay, You didn't think I would actually write this from my house, did you? –Bob W.

  9. elephantjournal says:

    via http://www.facebook.com/elephantjournal

    #
    Jessie Fletcher Yeah I guess Kathryn Budig just takes her clothes off at the drop of a hat. I have no problem with her practice, but how many times do I need to see her ass all up in my face???

    #
    Nancy LaNasa toesox offend me.

    #
    Jessica Avery That was such a great letter to the editor that she wrote. I appreciate the beauty in her movement, but I would appreciate it even more if I wasn't so annoyed with the ad itself.

    #
    Deborah Wickham If I had a body like hers I think I'd want to show it off… however, I do agree up to a point, but then again asana practice is ABOUT the perfection of the body as a vehicle for the soul. Is anyone complaining about Iyengar's frankly skimpy pants in 'Light on Yoga'?

    #
    elephantjournal.com Jessie, amen on your passion, let's just keep things super respectful, as if you were saying it to KB directly? http://www.elephantjournal.com/2010/08/be-nice-or

    #
    Tracie Jansen Yikes. If yoga is about the perfection of the body, then I have no business being a yoga teacher. Unless we're talking about the perfectly imperfect state of being beautifully human.

    #
    Jessie Fletcher Comparing Iyengar to Kathryn Budig is utter nonsense! Do you really think Iyengar's intention is the same. Asana practice is about the breaking down of obstructions in your mind which prevents reaching enlightenment. It's amazing what people have come to believe what the purpose of yoga is.

    #
    Jessie Fletcher ‎@EJ- I'm sure no one has the balls to speak up to KB. But if she is to be a spokes person for the Yoga movement…maybe it shouldn't be about the $$$.

    #
    elephantjournal.com Jessie, I hear you, she's popular and well loved and I love what you're saying. I just am trying to keep this page super nice in tone, though what we say can be passionate in disagreement. We've just had complaints. I actually posted something re KB, who I know, titled Sex Sells—Yoga a long while back.

    #
    Emily Kathryn ૐ We practice naked at home all the time so I guess I don't see the difference :/

    #
    Deborah Wickham Perfection is notional, about one's own intent, we cannot all achieve the glossy advert 'ideal', yet this is surely inspirational, as is 'Light on Yoga'. If these adverts draw people into yoga and thereby discover the beauty of the inner self, then this is good? Kathryn Budig strikes me as a beautiful person that transcends her physicality.

    #
    Jessie Fletcher ‎@EJ- I understand your point. It saddens me to see yoga come to this. American yoga isn't really held in high regard around the world. #1 reason is the commercialization of it, and the disregard for its predecessors.

    #
    Jennifer Jones Hunt Beautiful, tastefully done art, in my opinion. ToeSox is lucky to have such an amazing women (both inside and out) represent their company. Makes me want to grab my ToeSox and practice naked :) I'll think I'll actually do that tonight….

    #
    Roseanne Harvey hey y'all ~ i suggest you read the blog post before commenting. this is *not* about kathryn budig, toesox or "tastefully done art." this is about a senior yoga teacher's response to a systemic problem with not only how yoga is advertised but how women are exploited within mainstream capitalist culture. check it out, then let the world know what you're thinking.

  10. Vanita says:

    The elephant in the room (no pun intended) is that magazines need advertisers to survive and thrive. I'm going to come right out and say that I LOVE Kathryn Budig and wouldn't be a subscriber to Yogaglo were it not for her. The point of advertising is to stand out and get attention. Using the lovely Kathryn buck naked in Toe Sox is a way to do it. If a 1/4 page ad of a beautiful Yogini in a product whose usefulness is debatable is what it takes to continue to provide outstanding technical and spiritual content is the trade off, so be it.

  11. Art Trip says:

    Two points:

    1. Stop with the “this is art” already. This is not art. This is commercial photography. Calling this art is like calling what she is doing in that ad Tantric yoga. Calling this art is an insult to artists.

    2. To those calling this courageous, it is not. This is the oldest and cheapest advertising trick in the book. Using a hot young babe. Courageous would be to use an old naked women, or a naked male of any age or a person on any age or color other than white.

    Kathryn, call me at the art studio 1-800-GET-NAKED to get your portrait done. You are smokin’ hot!

  12. Lasater has confused the magnificence & symmetry of the healthy human body with sex. Giant disconnect. Sort of like
    calling Michelangelo's David "porn". I am an obese physician who loves my yoga, to see that image is to recognize the potential within. Is it selling sox? Not to me, but it sure is selling yoga!

  13. elephantjournal says:

    Erin Jamieson Cheers to the pose! I have no idea how this product will enhance my practice, nor any desire to look further into it. YJ aint too different from Cosmo. It is what it is.
    12 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 1 personJessie Fletcher likes this. · ·
    #
    Kristin Jordan
    Bob, so um, i uh, am guessing you're going by Bob now..? considering i just got home from teaching and only minutes ago flipped open my laptop and read your post of about an hour ago (and it's contents)– i haven't had time to process any …of it.. so i don't know what to think– what i do know is that if i, or we, take the time to sit with what is being offered (from every angel) i mean- really sit with it all- especially those of us triggered by any part of the offering, whether it's me, you, Kathryn, Judith, Bob, Linda, Larry or Moe– whether it's feeling threatened or curious or the need to immidiately comment, justify, defend, attack, explain and on and on… if we take the time to process it all- it has potential to be huge growth for all of us- in every form.
    as for your career, i think it's a new beginning. perhaps down the line you won't even need to preface your offering with doubt- even if it's in jest… or maybe that will be your shtick.. either way- it's a good thing. :o) keep on keepin' on.
    See More
    12 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 1 personLoading… · ·
    #
    Dylan Barmmer Nothing is worse than Cialis ads. Well, maybe Viagra ads. ED? PU!
    12 hours ago · LikeUnlike · ·
    #
    Amber Mangrum She's an absolutely beautiful being. Those offended may need to seriously consider gaining a deeper relationship with that oNe in the mirror there.
    12 hours ago · LikeUnlike · ·
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    Dylan Barmmer Oh yeah. If you take the time to meet her and/or attend one of her classes, you'll appreciate her – and the ads – even more. She is truly Special.
    12 hours ago · LikeUnlike · ·
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    Marcus Hartsfield I'll admit to being a man who gets pretty easily turned on by images of beautiful bodies, but that was not my response to this photo. Like others above, I see beauty, strength, grace. Of course, they are selling something so I also see commercialism.
    11 hours ago · LikeUnlike · ·
    #
    Jessie Fletcher Look, I am sure KB is an outstanding person. The issue is not really just about her or of this particular picture. No one said it's easy to be a role model. But that is what she is. So maybe just a tad bit more of consideration should go into the choices she makes. Whether its realized or not an effect has been created. I guess time will tell if it's positive or negative. Is Toe Sox making fat cash from such a controversy? It certainly has peoples attention. If not the ad campaign is moot.
    11 hours ago · LikeUnlike · ·
    #
    elephantjournal.com An interesting point of reflection that makes the above look t-a-m-e (though, admittedly, it wasn't used as advertising): http://www.elephantjournal.com/2009/08/yoga-is-an
    11 hours ago · LikeUnlike ·
    #
    Whit Neblett Beautiful and Sexy. Just as flowers, clouds, geese in flight, dolphins swimming, etc. have a natural beauty and senuosness! I admire her with all seven chakras…..
    11 hours ago · LikeUnlike · ·
    #
    Richard Smith To sell something they needed a picture, to run the magazine they needed an advert. Yoga journal must have editorial guidelines so the best thing to do is have a look at those. What are they??
    10 hours ago · LikeUnlike · ·
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    Gwen Nitya Eby Hello! Hasn't anyone considered the simple elegant beauty of ALL of Jasper Johal's art?! He's a genius, and all of his work inspires me to deepen my yoga asana practice, which in the end, deepens my Raja Yoga practice… I disagree with Judith's comment, "They aren’t even about the celebration of the beauty of the human body or the beauty of the poses, which I support." Jasper's art work is DEFINITELY about celebrating the beauty of the human body and asana!
    10 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 1 personLoading… · ·
    #
    Alexandra van Oosterum living in italy i have not yet received yoga journal finally I understand what it is all about! I completely agree with Judith enough is enough, the same is also all over italy, sell sell sell and no substance
    10 hours ago · LikeUnlike · ·
    #
    Sarah Martin I think its a beautiful photo of a beautiful strong woman- hard to admire it actually…
    10 hours ago · LikeUnlike · ·
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    Kathleen Holm Perhaps if the ad demonstrated the usefulness of the sox- like a backside shot of vaishastasana…
    9 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 1 personLoading… · ·
    #

  14. elephantjournal says:

    Tiffany Rice
    Love it… we all need to get a little more comfortable with sex and the nude body (our own or otherwise). There is nothing cheap/trashy about this picture. Now if she had looked at the camera with the come-get-some-boys/girls look it woul…d be a different story. Alas, that is not the case.
    Aside from the nakedness… toe socks? I want less clothing on when I practice, not more.
    Stop trying to sell me something I don't need. Less is more. See More
    9 hours ago · LikeUnlike · ·
    #
    Shayn Almeida
    Regardless of the Person (model) or the Pose (product), it seems the root issue is the morality of 'using Sex to sell' product of some sort, particularly in the 'Yoga World', (where we, seemingly, all try to maintain some levels of Ahimsa…… anyway :)
    Sex (Beautiful Women, Hot Models – Goddess or otherwise) have always been, and will most likely always be, used in advertising; in this day it seems like such a moot point: is this Beautiful Woman / Yogini Goddess, w/ her splendid toes and striking pose going to influence wether or not I purchase this particular product?
    ~ No ~
    For myself, as a Male grown up in the US, having been exposed to the multi-dimensional-hyper-sensual mass media, this ad neither turns me on in any sort of Sexual way, nor does it make me think that by buying and wearing these toe-socks am I going to suddenly, magically, gracefully press from Supta Kurmasana into Vrksasana, (or any other kind of crazy gorgeous arm balance for that matter;)
    I am in Awe of the Pose: the Focus, the Strength, the Grace, the Honest and Playful innocence, but, most notably, the raw naked and divine beauty of the human form.
    It's disheartening to hear of 'Yogis' who get swayed so easily by the natural ripples of our reality.
    If this ad is going to get the masses doing Yoga, Breathing, and truly Living Yoga, , , so be it 😉
    ~ LOVE IT!!!See More
    6 hours ago · LikeUnlike · ·
    #
    Trish Wittig Huber like
    5 hours ago · LikeUnlike · ·
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    Karen Fabian Bob, when I click on that link, I get a post by Rosanne Harvey. I don't see anything by you?
    5 hours ago · LikeUnlike · ·
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    Richard B. Romig I've found the use of nudity in YJ ads to be very tasteful and non-sexual. The Toe-Sox ads show beauty and grace.
    5 hours ago · LikeUnlike · ·
    #

  15. elephantjournal says:

    Todd Burton Beauty is in the eye of the beholder…
    4 hours ago · LikeUnlike · ·
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    Dawna Houston I agree with Judith in general about the fact that YJ ads have become more sexual and sometimes it really is quite obvious and offensive. My 10 year old son was looking over my shoulder when I was reading one issue of YJ and there was a nude woman with her hands barely over her breasts advertising a mat…or something – what was the point of that? But this ad for Toe Socks is really quite lovely.
    3 hours ago · LikeUnlike · ·
    #
    Art Trip
    Stop with the “this is art” already. This is not art. This is commercial photography. Calling this art is like calling what she is doing in that ad Tantric yoga. Calling this art is an insult to artists.

    Kathryn, call me at my art studio 1-…800-GET-NAKED to schedule your portrait. You are smokin’ hot!
    See More
    3 hours ago · LikeUnlike · ·
    #
    Marcus Hartsfield tacky comment is tacky
    3 hours ago · LikeUnlike · ·
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    Christopher Hicks Love it! Strong, tasteful… and YES! sexual. It's all good people. I love honest human expression that grabs us on multiple levels.
    about an hour ago · LikeUnlike · ·
    #
    Natalie Jobling
    I don't believe Judith ever actually said her feelings were spawned from Kathryn Budig's Toe Sox ad. Are we all assuming Judith was refering to Jasper's photos? When I read Judith's letter, my mind immediately recalled ads of half naked gir…ls selling short shorts. For me it's not the amount of skin in an ad, but the vibe, the feeling, the energy of a picture and the Toe Sox ads don't rub me the wrong way at all while other more scantily clad girls with wet hair and erotic smirks kind of do. I have the highest respect for Judith. She's an amazing lady btw, in my opinion. Yoga is about so many things and we each have our own path, our own set of 'stuff' we bring to the table and to respect that we are all doing our best is the best we can do. I'd like to see more from men in Yoga Journal and less erotically charged sportswear advertising. Not about the skin for me…See More
    about an hour ago · LikeUnlike · ·
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    Vanessa Metalli Dionne Beautiful body art, definitely doesn't come out as sex oriented in my mind.
    41 minutes ago · LikeUnlike · ·
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    Dylan Barmmer What if it IS "sexual"? Is that a "bad" thing? Yoga is incredibly primal and sexual in many aspects. As well as deeply spiritual and calming. It is, in the end, about unifying mind, soul and BODY. And it can give you a great looking (and performing) body. And a calm, open mind and soul (as Kathryn clearly has here). Word.
    17 minutes ago · LikeUnlike · ·
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    Kirsten Weimann Thanks for sharing, interesting discussion!

  16. Art Trip says:

    >I see no connection whatsoever between Michaelangelo’s “David” and any ad that uses a naked woman to sell something. Talk about a major disconnect. One is art, the other is Advertising 101, pure and simple.

    Thank you Sama, I guess my analogy was too murky…:)

  17. Charlotte says:

    I so appreciate this discussion, and all the viewpoints that have been brought to the table. I’ve already stated a discomfort with using idealized, beautiful, nude or half-nude women in yoga ads. It’s not about the nudity, though. For me the use of young, beautiful, etc. women in yoga ads is one facet of a larger issue with the commercialization of yoga. For me this begs the question of how much we are willing to dilute the system of yoga in order to make it palatable to the largest numbers of people. And when does yoga cease to function as a system for freeing ourselves from those beliefs and ideas that cause us to suffer?

    Yoga is not simply about the body. Asana is just one of the eight limbs described by Patanjali; only three of the 196 sutras are about asana. Western culture is highly identified with the body, so it makes sense that asana is the gateway for most of us to begin to explore the system. Like most yoga practitioners, I also began my practice with asana. Asana is meant to create an environment of ease for the mind to reside. This supports the true purpose of the practice, the “settling of the mind into silence” (Alistair Shearer’s translation of Sutra 1.2). Flexibility, tone, physical beauty, etc. are by-products. They are not the point.

    As Frank Jude says, yoga is radical. It was developed as a method for transcending the suffering that comes from greed, hatred and ignorance. As a radical discipline, it is meant to shake us out of complacency, to give us tools to uncover the truth of who we are. The discovery of our truth involves navigating through our brightest and darkest moments with clear (not distracted) and open eyes, minds and hearts. And the truth rarely conforms to our deeply held cultural beliefs.

    Of course, in some ways yoga must adapt to the culture in which we live. Most of us can’t live in caves and practice all day long. We do need to fit the practice into our own lives in whatever way we can. But it makes me sad to see yoga’s potential being wasted in favor of making it appeal to popular culture. To me, the ads in question are not inappropriate because of the nudity in and of itself. They bother me because they are one more indication that Western culture has co-opted yoga to the point where it is promoting rather than questioning our cultural neurosis about body image. As many have said, the ads are not radical at all. They are business as usual. The are the path of least resistance, and yoga does not ask us to take the path of least resistance. Rather than freeing us from our identification with the body, these ads reinforce it.

  18. Thanks, I re-read the full post, and now I see the model is a yoga teacher. Still, a tasteful ad, as ads go. Much better than the Swiffer commercials where sadistic things are done to a duster. :)

  19. Laura Flora says:

    There are ads in YJ that bother me a lot more than this one — namely the ones for fake food and lose weight quickly products to help us be somewhere we're not. And, almost monthly, someone writes a letter to the editor asking for photos of "regular people with regular bodies" to be featured more prominently — in the articles, of course, not necessarily the ads.

  20. Nancy says:

    For me these ads represent something else that I find problematic about Yoga Journal: they demonstrate shazaam poses that most yoga practitioners cannot acheive or should not attempt based upon their abilities. I've been teaching beginners and all levels for several months now and more than once someone has asked me to help them do Lotus pose or an arm balance when it is not safe for them. The home practice sequences that have been in the last three months of YJ have included some asanas I would NEVER suggest to beginner students, especially ones practicing at home solo. I love that YJ allows us to see where yoga can go, but I think they are missing a bit about how we all have beginner's minds. Yoga is NOT about achieving a fantastic asana (and this is coming from someone who loves arm balances as much as Elephant Journal), it is about space and openness, quiet, meditation and so many more things. I would love to see YJ promote those aspects of the practice/life much more, to offer sequences that are more restorative and basic and frankly, if they are demonstrated by Kathryn Budig in nothing but Toe Sox I won't care. Just make it more about yoga and less about show, shazaam, glitz and glam. Please!

  21. lighthasmass says:

    All women should wear burkas! Anything less is disrespectful! (tongue-in-cheek)
    Why are folks so afraid of a woman's power in her sexuality? Use it, use it wisely. It is a commodity and should be "spent" with care; but it is inherently powerful. This fact precedes the use of "sex" as an advertising scheme. It is why woman have been oppressed for the past few millennium. Women have the power and it is time they begin to use it.

  22. Linda-Sama says:

    "Personally my problem with Yoga Journal is that they never show any models with tattoos. What's up with that"

    yeah, my thoughts exactly! they could me use to advertise yoga totchkes that no one needs — a woman of a certain age with a Kali tattoo! my people should call their people!

  23. laksmi says:

    I gave up my subscription to YJ years ago because, let's face it, it's about sales. I completely agree with Judith that ads like this are just plain wrong. I mean, look, we're almost looking at her snatch for god's sake. It's not a 'celebration' of the strength of women–just keep telling yourself that B.S. story, girls and you'll keep being viewed as a pair of boobs and a snatch.

  24. laksmi says:

    And if we're going to go this route, let's be equal and GET SOME NAKED MEN IN THE MAG AS WELL.

  25. Mona says:

    I disagree. I think the adds are just fine. They are normal advertising. I personally don't subscribe to Yoga Journal because after I got my free issues, I was unimpressed. The magazine was nothing but adds. The type of adds doesn't matter. I generally don't pay much attention to adds in magazines anyway. It's a known fact that sex sells. And if I see an add with ugly people, i am much less likely to pay attention or to notice the advertiser. Advertisers need to be noticed so their name is remembered. If the adds are successfull, then eventually yoga journal can charge more for add space and then get enough money to make their magazine at least 50% content. Right now the magazine needs all the advertisers they can get, and the magazine can't fault advertisers for using attractive women. Think of it as art. Especially since they are attractive women in yoga poses. I love the sexy adds. They are inspirational to me actually. It's like one book said, the pictures are not to represent and ideal that everyone should strive for, but an inspiration. People can't help it if they are attracted to beautiful women.

  26. Guest says:

    There is a *huge* assumption that the ToeSox ads are the ads in question.

    Let's not forget about the Shakti Mat ad (see the August issue of YJ, page 56) with the topless model, her hands covering her breasts, lying on the mat. There is no point to the use of nudity in this instance except to sell.

  27. Yogini# says:

    As New York City based (no, I am not in L.A.!), there is one high profile New York City vinyasa studio that consistently uses attractive actors in sexy, flexy asana in order to sell its classes, although lately they toned it down a little. If the studio has integrity and deep spirituality to it, which it might, I can't really see it …

  28. Shannon says:

    as a feminist, dancer, choreographer, and teacher, i have no issues with tasteful nudity used to accentuate the brilliance of what the body can do through yoga, pilates, or dance.

    “Down through the centuries poets, sculptors, painters and now photographers, have also been striving to grasp and immortalize the beauty of the human body, both male and female. I see in these forms the elemental relationship to the large forms of nature; a sense of strength like a rock – fluidity like water – space like a mountain range. If I have chosen the female form in particular, it is because beauty has been debased and exploited in our sensual twentieth century. We seem to have a need to turn innocent nature into evil ugliness be the twist of the mind. Woman has been target of much that is sordid and cheap, especially in photography. To raise, to elevate, to endorse with timeless reverence the image of woman, has been my mission – the reason for my work.”

    —Ruth Bernhard, Views on nudes by Bill Jay

  29. […] letter to Yoga Journal. Accompanying the letter, both here on it’s all yoga, baby, and on elephant journal, is the now iconic image of Kathryn Budig posing for Toesox ~ which has ended up being the […]

  30. […] Judith Hanson Lasater Slams Yoga Journal for “Sexy Ads.” ~ via … Photographs of yoga have traditionally been of naked or half-naked men Consider the classic photographs of a very young Pattabhi Jois demonstrating (and marketing) his Ashtanga yoga system in nothing but a loincloth. (Drishtis being the point of gaze you are supposed to focus on while in a pose i.e. looking at the toes in a forward bend). The drishtis turn the practice into a meditation no matter where a practitioner is able to go in each pose physically. […]

  31. Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enyed reading your blog posts. Any way I'll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon

  32. […] the blogging world continues to conversate  about those peskyToe Sox ads and whether, or not, they are offensive, I sat, watching quietly and wondering why I didn’t take […]

  33. […] of the most challenging things about last month’s conversation was watching the focus shift from the use of nudity in yoga advertising to the Toesox ad and Kathryn Budig. It was frustrating to watch, and I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for Kathryn […]

  34. kasey says:

    Just wanted to give a shout out to KB. Check out this video with Kathryn and her dog Ashi. Kathryn is a beautiful maaaaaa and using yoga to save animals!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuW3dgTk59w

  35. […] with Poses for Paws co-founder Kathryn Budig With all the um, interesting press that Kathryn Budig has been getting lately, I thought it would be nice to feature a recent […]

  36. elephantjournal says:

    Already happened, last year.

  37. […] campaign featuring Kathryn Budig I bit my tongue and looked the other way out of respect for Judith’s place in yoga. It also seemed redundant to write about how sex and beauty sell products, and that even though Toesox may be a yoga product, its existence is still dependent on sales, which explains Toesox using a very pretty, naked yoga instructor to try to move product. Yesterday I read a very similar themed post by Melanie Klein, who is young, attractive and smart and I began to doubt my belief that yoga magazines and yoga products exist in the same world as every other commercial endeavor and thus have to do what’s necessary to survive what is currently an incredibly difficult business environment. […]

  38. Daria Fraint says:

    Let me tell ya, if u really into this stuff, u should check out this Hypnosis & NLP course

  39. […] human form is beautiful. I’m all for celebrating it. But after all the intense interchange around Judith Hanson Lasater’s (She was a part of the group that started the m… in the September issue where she made a request: “My request is that Yoga Journal doesn’t run […]

  40. […] ToeSox, which prompted one of the magazine’s original co-founders, Judith Hanson Lasater, to protest publicly, first in a letter to the editor, and more recently, in […]

  41. […] ToeSox, which prompted one of the magazine’s original co-founders, Judith Hanson Lasater, to protest publicly, first in a letter to the editor, and more recently, in […]

  42. […] ToeSox, which prompted one of the magazine’s original co-founders, Judith Hanson Lasater, to protest publicly, first in a letter to the editor, and more recently, in […]

  43. […] ToeSox, which prompted one of the magazine’s original co-founders, Judith Hanson Lasater, to protest publicly, first in a letter to the editor, and more recently, in […]

  44. […] this art, or selling socks, or helping animals? (The can of worms that will never be […]

  45. […] letter to Yoga Journal. Accompanying the letter, both here on it’s all yoga, baby, and on elephant journal, is the now iconic image of Kathryn Budig posing for Toesox ~ which has ended up being the […]

  46. Baby blog says:

    Ugh for the name and double ugh for the moronic mother.Report this comment as spam or abuse

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