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

Via on Aug 6, 2010

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!

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: roseanne@itsallyogababy.com or @itsallyoga_baby in the Twittersphere.

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

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  2. [...] 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 [...]

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  9. nunh says:

    The human body is beautiful. I do not find the ads negative in any way.

  10. K Sequoia says:

    In general, Amanda, I would agree with you; you make some very good points . I do think there is a double standard, and as an artist I think the depiction of the naked human form is absolutely beautiful. I do think this ad in particular (which, I gather from reading all the comments, etc., is not the original ad that was even used in the article) shows the human female form in strength and beauty. AND no matter how you dodge it, it is using sex to sell, because this ad would still depict the beauty and power of the female form in an intense yogic position if she were clothed. As others have pointed out, this is not art, this is an AD. So what was the point, then?

    And as girl warrior points out, the real issue is that women are used this way everywhere, more than ever. And as a mother, (because that's my chosen axe to grind in this debate) the idea that I potentially can't let my girls see me reading YJ, because the ads are also increasingly chock full of sexualization, only contributing to all the millions of ads out there of the sexualized feminine form, is sad.

    Children cannot discern as we do; it is putting the cart before the horse to say we teach them discernment, by bombarding them with things to discern before they can even do so. They are being imprinted in ways we cannot change. I want my daughters to feel powerful and engaged with their sexuality, but not reliant on it for that same power.

    Rant over! LOL

  11. Linda-Sama says:

    actually I was rather calm when I wrote my comment. I save my "rage" for things I find a bit more important like destruction of the environment, sex trafficking of women, and child and animal abuse….but thanks for the armchair diagnosis!

    oh, but did I forget? Yogis are not supposed to be pissed, angry or upset. it’s not “yogic”. I remember Jack Kornfield at Spirit Rock telling us that anyone who thinks one is not supposed to still get angry or upset, and yes, even have full-blown rage, is working with a a kindergarten version of spirituality.

    I also used to be much heavier — back in the late '70s I lost over 60 lbs. and have kept it off. But I never really aspired to be or look like someone else. I just wanted to be a thinner me. there is a problem when we start to compare ourselves with these glossy ad images and imagine how happy and fulfilled we would be if we looked like that.

    "It's an ad. 30 seconds from now another will take its place and it will be forgotten. "

    yup. and maybe that's the problem —

  12. Linda-Sama says:

    paraphrasing Anne Cushman in her Shambhala Sun article from 2003 "Yoga and meditation are ultimately about turning our eyes away from the airbrushed images of the outside world and looking deep within our own hearts." http://www.shambhalasun.com/index.php?option=cont

    there is nothing wrong with aspiring to a certain "goal." if we did not aspire to something there would be no "successes" — but attachment is something else altogether….as I said, there is a problem when we start to compare ourselves with these glossy ad images and imagine how happy and fulfilled we would be if we looked like that.

    the question I would ask is what happens if you never get to that level? then it would be time to "get real"… .http://lindasyoga.blogspot.com/2008/03/get-real.html

  13. lighthasmass says:

    Amen

  14. lighthasmass says:

    nude does not equal stripper or sex. The human anatomy is an awesome thing. Celebrate it, enjoy it, it is our temple. It is our vehicle. Kathryn is an awesome yogini and the pictures are wonderful. The other YJ picture mentioned is not as well done as the Toesox picts, but there is not anything overtly sexual about it. Again, the human form is beautiful…

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