Yoga Journal Controversy: why Judith H. Lasater’s plea will fall on deaf ears.

Via on Aug 9, 2010

Update: Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis interviews Judith Hanson Lasater.

If you can imagine sexy women doing Buddhist prostrations in Tricycle magazine, then you can also imagine the evolution of Yoga Journal over the years: from holistic yoga magazine with a spiritual, hippie charm…to yoga lifestyle and fitness magazine with a seductive allure.

I’m oversimplifying of course, but you get the general drift! The intellectual and spiritual flagship of yoga in America has drifted far away from its original editorial course.

So far, Judith H. Lasater is right.

At best, Yoga journal has become a magazine with mixed messages.

At worst, Yoga Journal has become a yuppie magazine for yoga fitness lovers.

A closer examination of a recent issue of Yoga Journal reveals a gorgeous yogini (for they are always beautiful, always wearing not-too-much, and these days always female [probably because readers want it that way; they buy more copies of the magazine ~ ed.]) and the following titles:

Meditate for a calm, clear mind.

Restorative power of silence.

Mantra goes mainstream.

Move to the music: 10 poses + 10 songs = Joy!

These titles sound pretty body-mind-spirit balanced, right? Yes, indeed. Still, there has been a radical change in the content of many yoga magazines over the last 12 years or so, from spiritual and philosophical to seductive and commercial.

There has also been a visible shift from yoga as primarily a spiritual discipline to yoga as exercise and sport, a shift from students going to ashrams to yoga studios, a shift from holistic lifestyle to hard core capitalism.

Indeed, a radical shift from a minor yet powerful counterculture to a mainstream, multibillion dollar industry.

As if to underscore this commercial shift, the ownership of Yoga Journal—which was established in 1975 by several prominent yoga teachers (including Judith Lasater) and is the most widely read yoga magazine today—changed hands in 2000 from the Holistic Life Foundation to investment banker John Abbot.

In 2006, John Abbot sold the magazine to publishing conglomerate Active Interest Media in 2006. And if you follow the content, you’ll also witness this popular journal’s steady editorial decline.

Gone are the mile long and in-depth theme articles about yoga philosophy and practice by the likes of Stephen Bodian, Georg Feuerstein, and yes, Judith Lasater.

At worst, Yoga Journal has become a softporn yoga magazine.

But, nobody in charge seems to blush.

If you follow the money, you’ll learn that the circulation has skyrocketed during this last 10 year period, and today the magazine has over 1 million readers.

And, to underscore the shift in content from spirituality and health to fitness and health, Yoga Journal has won four Folio Editorial Excellence Awards for “Best Health and Fitness Magazine.”

Imagine, best fitness magazine! Can you then imagine Patanjali being nominated as the world’s best fitness guru?  Can you imagine the fitness industry turning the Dali Lama’s prostration practice into a sexy exercise routine?

Well, if you can, then you know and accept that Yoga Journal is a money making magazine that answers to the call of the shallow market and the sexy body rather than the call of the cultural, the wholesome, the intellectual and the spiritual.

As an old time yogi, I have reluctantly accepted this fact and therefore I prefer reading Buddhist magazines such as Tricycle and Shambhala Sun.

Reluctantly, Buddhist magazines have become my intellectual and spiritual food these days.

For Yoga Journal is not alone featuring yoga babes on its covers and mostly a series of yoga asana articles inside. All the other yoga magazines follow the same routine. The editorial standards have fallen, the shallow money market has risen, and the sexy cover girls have conquered us all!

So, Judith Lasater, nobody will listen unfortunately. Well, they may listen, politely. They may even quietly agree, but the market will rule, the sexy body will decide.

Because sex is what sells.

The standard has changed. Yoga has changed. Yoga Journal has changed. The message has changed: The subtle body is for Buddhists. The crude body is for yogis.

So, I don’t bring Yoga Journal’s sexy ladies into my meditation room. I reserve that space for my guru and a few other sacred objects.

I don’t want to be distracted when I practice my meditation and my yoga postures.

So, Judith H. Lasater, if you don’t like what you see in Yoga Journal. Don’t read it. Or, even better, start another magazine without all those sexy ads.

Ironically, I actually think there would be a market for it. If the Buddhists can do it, why can’t the yogis do it?

About Ramesh Bjonnes

Ramesh Bjonnes was born in Norway and lived for nearly three years in India and Nepal learning directly from the masters of tantric yoga. He has written extensively on tantra, yoga, culture and sustainability, and his articles have appeared in books and numerous magazines and newspapers in Europe and the US. His forthcoming book on Tantra will be published by Hay House India soon. He is currently contributing editor of New Renaissance and a columnist for Fredrikstad Blad, a Norwegian newspaper. He lives in an eco-village in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Visit his blog here: Eight Fold Path. His book Sacred Body, Sacred Spirit: A Personal Guide to the Wisdom of Yoga and Tantra can be purchased here.

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68 Responses to “Yoga Journal Controversy: why Judith H. Lasater’s plea will fall on deaf ears.”

  1. Mat says:

    "If the Buddhists can do it, why can’t the yogis do it?"

    Yogis have already done it = Yoga International. Obviously not the circulation of YJ, but solid yoga content covering the physical and metaphysical aspects in equal proportion. Thankfully the name has returned and it's no longer Yoga+ Joyful Living.

    Namarupa is way more niche than that, but great content too, even if digital only these days (unless you buy print on demand copies).

  2. Ramesh says:

    Mat,
    I agree. The content of Yoga International is of a much higher and integral standard than Yoga Journal. BUT Yoga International has not kept the same integral standard on its covers. Since the past 10 years or so, it has also sold out and mainly featured yoga babes on its covers as well as inside. If yoga is body, mind, spirit, why not reflect this triad of reality also on the cover? Why flatten yoga to equal the images of female bodies only?

    • elephant journal elephantjournal says:

      Yoga Journal and other magazines have tried—but the fact is the cover sells the magazine, or doesn't. A recent cover featuring a popular male yoga teacher on YJ was widely reported to flop. No one bought it, in comparison with other "aspirational" covers. So is it YJ's fault?

      Or ours?

      • Ramesh says:

        Waylon, there are a thousand and one ways to create good quality magazines and covers, and you don't have to exploit women in order to do it. Yoga in America is primarily practiced by middle to upper class white women. YJ caters to that demographic, indeed has, in part, created that demographic. When people start practicing the whole shebang that is yoga, then the magazines will change as well. But right now, YJ is one shallow magazine that caters to one small section of the yoga market: white women! The covers speak volumes to that effect.

  3. Padma Kadag says:

    No problem with sexy women or not sexy women doing prostrations buddhist style….wonderful offering! Tricycle I do not read.

  4. Ben Ralston Ben Ralston says:

    This is a subject I’ve been thinking about ever since I (relatively recently) started reading and contributing to Elephant Magazine.

    I hate to say it, but it’s all about supply and demand.

    How many people have the honesty, integrity, and courage to turn their back on the big $$$’s and remain focused on the essence? Whether editing a magazine, running a studio, or whatever.

    I’d say that there aren’t many of us…

    I did an experiment – after seeing that many articles here on EJ that do well seem to be sensationalist (either the picture, or title, or both) I put the word Orgasm into the title of my latest article:
    http://www.elephantjournal.com/2010/08/awaken-the
    Guess what? It’s already getting more hits than all my others.

    It’s the society we live in: almost all of us have been conditioned in this way, and it’s very, very hard to undo that conditioning. Most people haven’t even started trying yet.

    With love to you all,

    Ben

    • elephant journal elephantjournal says:

      That's what I frequently say: when I do an in-depth piece on something I'm inspired about, say the Everglades or Green Mountain Coffee or the literally 95% of articles by various elephant articles that don't have sexy titles or images—rarely do such "quality" articles get clicks.

      So, we've taken the approach of 1) doing our thing anyway, staying true to mission 2) remembering that nothing's wrong with sexy, it's only bad if it's exploitative and 3) having fun with the whole thing. For example, a post on "Richard Branson Naked" featured 12 videos about his admirable work with The Elders before showing photos of him and a model in various states of sexiness. Reel the readers in, and, like West Wing or Jon Stewart whatev, after you've given 'em fun and entertainment, readers won't mind learning something. Of course, a few of our readers don't need fun or sexiness to read an article, and that's wonderful, too.

      • Ramesh says:

        Waylon, one of the most popular posts here has been the Gita posts, and they have been the least sexy of any of the titles. So, I think there are many ways to get readers besides being funny, sarcastic, sexy, or sensationalist. People love good quality material here as well. And they gravitate toward those quality articles especially if they are touched by them or the comments made. Finally, being featured on the EJ Facebook is of course another way to draw readers.
        So, there are multiple ways to get views.

  5. Ramesh says:

    Ben,

    thank Goddess that life is about more than just supply and demand, an economic equation, that is. But, even at that shallow level, there is demand for good content out there. The Gita discussions here on EJ has shown that people still dig deep philosophy and spirituality. And as I mentioned in my article above, the Buddhist magazines are full of great content without all those tiny, organic bras on every other page.
    Yes, it's hard to undo the conditioning, BUT THAT IS WHAT YOGA IS ABOUT, TO UNDO THE CONDITIONED MIND.

  6. ARCreated says:

    I gave up worrying about the sex sells thing…I go back time and time again to what my teacher said "yoga will find a way" …reel 'em in (thanks waylon) and you might be surprised how far it takes you. ____I get my "teacher" info elsewhere, I stack the YJ in the lobby and I let others decide how deep they want to go and what they get from the practice. Let them come in because they want to get a butt just like that…and let them leave with the ability to sit down on that butt and be still and maybe, just maybe not worry about how it looks anymore…Hey it's their path.

    • Ramesh says:

      ARCreated,
      true, points well taken. there are many doorways to that Infinite One, and of course YJ has and will serve as such for many big or small butts. No doubt about that. Still, there are those of us who wish for something more form our yoga magazines…

  7. Ramesh says:

    Toonmonk,
    in the world of body and mind, yes, the only constant is change. In the world of duality the only constant is change. BUT in the world of nonduality or spirituality, there is no change, the only constant is infinitely constant and peaceful. And in order to get to that place of no-change, of nonduality, we say temporarily goodby to the distractions of change and turn inward in meditation on THAT which is changeless, that which is always constantly unmoving.

  8. In the end it always comes back to what is or isn't "Yoga". I don't think anyone objects to people doing Yoga-like poses solely for fitness, light meditation, and general well-being. They just don't want them to call it Yoga.

    I've been telling people all along, the only sensible answer is my modest proposal for Yobo.

    (We'd still have the important controversy about using images of beautiful fit people to sell products that are no longer called Yoga, but rather Yobo, but I don't have a solution for that one, short of either 1) censorship or 2) getting a large number of Yobo Journal readers to object, as Roseanne suggests above (that would certainly work) or 3) convincing Yobo Journal owners that they should shrink their company to a fraction of its current size for moral and ethical reasons.)

    I nominate Ramesh for the Yobo/Yoga Certification Committee.

    Bob W.

    • Ramesh says:

      Bob, thanks for the nomination, Bob, but I am already on so many committees that I would respectfully have to decline this prestigious position! But I can offer a slogan, for free: Yobo for all!

      More seriously: It is more about editorial policy and goal of the magazine, not censorship. Yoga Journal has created its own niche, and it's a relatively small niche. So if it's about marketing, they should think about ways to grow bigger and also attract men. It obviously is not working as its readers are mainly women. Thus no need to shrink the company if they do a better job at attracting men and women who do not aspire to look like superslim donuts.
      Personally, I think that the next wave in yoga is to make meditation hip. Huge market there. less sexy, perhaps, but we are talking about Yoga Journal, and yoga is about meditation, too. Last time I checked, yoga asanas are in part about preparing us for a richer inner life, for meditation, for the Gita, for Bob's wondrous universe. So, if we are simply talking marketing, there's a huge scope for growth that does not involve half-naked women and organic bras.

  9. candice says:

    Bob, you have been, and remain, supremely awesome.

  10. I am a complete newbie to all this stuff. I have only been practicing Yoga for the past year and bit after I fell ill. It helped me massively, and my yoga teacher taught me many things to help me become hopefully more centered and less prone to how my illness came about.

    Now it took me a long time with my practice to want to understand more, to go in deeper to the meaning of it all, and thats when I started to find some sort of spirituality inside me that I didn't know about. So I wonder if I could add a slightly different slant to the argument that YJ shouldn't change?

    From what you are saying YJ has changed from being pure yogi slanted content, that if the average joe on the street were to pick the magazine up, they probably splutter on the "latte decafe with cream 2 brown sugars and a cup cake please" and pick up Men's Health or whatever the ladies have (sorry not big on magazines). Now I will admit I would have been one of those people maybe 2 years ago? I never saw YJ as it was before, and so when I am able to pick up a copy, I can actually read it cover to cover, find a few extra things to add or try out, in my practice, and thus feel I got a good magazine for my bucks (well pounds, am in the UK after all).

    So my point, after that ramble, is the average guy or gal on the street can pick up the YJ, read it cover to cover, try out some of the things, and if they are interested in finding out more, they can head down to their local yoga studio and talk to a teacher or two. And then the world is their oyster.

    So don't knock it cause it's not hardcore yoga and spirituality. Take it as it is, as a great magazine and introduction to a new and possibly better way of life.

    • Ramesh says:

      Colin,
      I hear you Colin, and I also thank you for your valid perspective, which is that YJ certainly serves a purpose and bring many people to the yogic path, who otherwise may never have known about it. I agree 100%. But there is also another side to the story as well, and that is the one I focused on: commodity-fication of yoga, the message that yoga is about becoming superslim and nearly anorexic, the selling of yoga stuff via sex, etc etc. That's dumbing yoga down to a level we can all live without.

  11. Hi, Colin. Great to see you here. I think Yoga Journal is a great magazine, too.

    I agree with Ramesh that it's not a hardcore Yoga magazine, nor is it trying to be. Yoga Journal is clearly doing a great job of appealing to its million readers. I happen to know a some of these readers because I have a blog at the Yoga Journal Community. Yoga Journal is my wife Jane's favorite fitness magazine. And I have had the opportunity to work with some of the YJ staff. Jane and I went to a wonderful Yoga Journal conference last year in Lake Geneva.

    Ramesh is right that the magazine is mostly about fitness, light meditation and general well-being. In that category it's clearly superior.

    Ramesh is dead wrong to stereotype the management and readers of Yoga Journal as being any one thing or another. It's a very diverse and wonderful group of people.

    Yoga Journal is doing a terrific job of serving its customers, which is what a business is supposed to do. These customers, like my wife Jane, just happen to have a bit of a different spiritual outlook than Ramesh.

    Bob W.

  12. Ramesh says:

    Bob,
    the thing about hardcore capitalism, Bob, is that it has a way of making a group of diverse people very one-pointed, very bottom-line focused, very flat-land, very unyogi-like. I am more of a sustainable yogi, if you will. And, for us thinking sustainability, there's more too life than the bottom line. Ever heard of the quadruple bottom line? 1. Profit, 2. the environment, 3.the community, 4. the spirit. A kind of spiritual and environmental socialism, if you will. (Oh, no, I am in America now. Not cool to use words like socialism. Could be branded an Obama follower by the likes of Rush Limbough.)
    But you get the drift, Bob. There are many ways to expand and grow in more healthy and balanced and sustainable ways than what I see Yoga Journal doing right now. Yoga is about expansion. And they are contracting the vision.

  13. Ramesh says:

    Namaskar/Namaste everybody,

    I just want to add that this is not a black and white issue. Yoga Journal does a great service to yoga in bringing many people to the path that otherwise may never have heard of yoga before. In being the world's most popular yoga magazine, it certainly does a good job at educating many people about hatha yoga. Moreover, as I also acknowledged in my article above, Yoga Journal often includes articles about yoga ethics, ayurveda, meditation, etc. It is not simply a magazine about yoga as fitness, although that has become its main focus of late, but also a magazine about all the many-faceted and integral aspects of yoga. This I acknowledge.

    But as my guru often said, our problems are our friends, and Yoga Journal does have a few problems. It was in that spirit, I think, Judith Lasater wrote her letter, as a friendly reminder to shape up, to live up to the greater responsibility of being an ambassador for yoga.

    It is also in that spirit, I wrote my article and also why we are having these discussions here. To deeply reflect on what yoga means and how we want yoga portrayed in the media, in its own media.

  14. Front Row Denizen says:

    I'm so tired of all the "woe, Yoga Journal is not a spiritually inclined digest but is trying to sell magazines! Woe, they are using sexy ladies on the cover!" Gimme a break. It is a MAGAZINE. Did you just walk out of an ashram in 1967 and notice that media has changed in the last 40 years? Does anyone who is really serious about yoga as a practice actually read Yoga Journal? It's a different market, and it's a product ( a media product). And to the extent that one can enter yoga as sexy physical exercise and come out a serious practitioner … what's the big deal? If you want to read Georg Feurstein … he has a dozen books you can probably buy at a used book store for the cost of a single issue of sexy lady in lullumoon magazine. I just don't understand why this is an "issue." Bemoaning change just seems so pointless. If YJ started to create content like they have here at Ele … (a) Ele would go out of business, and then (b) YJ would go out of business. I hear this all time from the self-proclaimed "serious practitioners" and I don't understand why they bring up YJ all the time. It's just irrelevant.

  15. Carolina says:

    Yoga Journal is a business and with every business you have to adapt to who your current clients are. Those that want to read spiritual writing know that you don't pick up a magazine for that you reach to the Yoga Sutras, The Gita, Upanishads, etc. These scriptures hold all the true content anyone and everybody needs. Yoga Journal is a magazine for our current yoga culture. A magazine like Yoga Journal is helpful for students and teachers who are either just starting yoga or those teachers who are looking for fresh ideas for their asana or just trying to understand who their potential new student might be also gain facial recognition. None of those things are bad or taboo, being a yoga teacher is a job so marketing is a natural part of it. To continue to call women out and focus on the tiny outfits in my opinion is slightly dangerous. For so long the ancient practice of yoga asana was always about Men and they demo in tiny loin cloth underpants. No one complained then so why complain now. Should women be in all white head to toe outfits demonstrating their asana potential? If all of this is so called wrong or " cry falling on death ears" so should things like Lululemon, Hardtail, Prana, etc be banned and everyone back to the original garment of just plain cotton. No and it shouldn't make anyone less for liking it.

    As a yogi community rather than bringing each other down and focus on negatives we should embrace and tolerate our differences. As I see it as long as we are all trying to reach the divine so be it what we wear or don't.

    • Ramesh says:

      Carolina, Unlike Bob, I disagree. You are both missing the point. It's not about nakedness, not about sex, it's about the selling of products using sex as the medium. Thus exploiting sex and people. It is also about reducing yoga to the physical only, to the body. Yes, yogis have been naked or half naked for a long time, so has aboriginal people, natives all over the place. That is not the point. Nor were these people naked to sell sex, or to push products.
      So that link is absolutely moot.
      T the rest of your points, I have made my arguments clear in the articles and other comments.

      • Carolina says:

        @ Ramesh as I understand it through all the beautiful scriptures the true path to yoga is that all beings be happy and free. As Sri Dharma was once asked " what about people who eat meat, smoke, drink, etc what do you think about that" In a true loving way " so be it – the divine accepts all who comes it's way".

        Again so be it Maitri, Karuna, Mudita, Upaksana, sukha,

  16. integralhack says:

    I think you illustrate Ramesh's point–if you have to look for Feuerstein's writing in used bookstores then the exposure of such writing to the general yoga public is going to be extremely limited.

    Magazines like Yoga Journal tend to set the level of discourse about the subject on a mass scale. While it is fine to dismiss this as something that serious practitioners don't read anyway, the effect of this is just one more drop of "sexy, market-driven banality" into our culture's ideology.

    -Matt

    • Just as a point of information, I'm not sure about Feuerstein, but a lot of new books about Yoga philosophy and the broader practice of Yoga are routinely reviewed in Yoga Journal. And there are frequent good introductory articles about Yoga philosophy.

      It's certainly not the magazine's main focus. But they don't totally ignore it either. They have a prestige advisory board with the likes of Richard Rosen (Mr. Pranayama) and Stephen Cope (Kripalu "Yoga and the Quest for the True Self"). I think they have just the amount of larger Yoga practice that their average customer wants. As a business, they respond to customer demand, they don't control it.

      Bob W.

      • integralhack says:

        Bob,

        I wasn't indicting Yoga Journal, in particular, and I pick it up infrequently if there is an interesting article or asana sequence.

        I'm more concerned about the dominant culture's attitude (exhibited in this thread) that consciously or unconsciously goes out of its way to defend "markets" and the pull of "customer demand" but expresses dismay if you criticize the way things are now.

        I'm more interested in a yoga community that appreciates change and dissent–even if that means dissenting from the opinion of the status quo.

        P.S. No stealing my tagline, "Sexy, Market-Driven Banality," YJ!

        -Matt

    • Ramesh says:

      Exactly, Matt. And also, it is a myth that marketers just sell what people want. Marketers also create new markets, they create things and needs and desires that people did not know they wanted nor needed in the first place.

      • integralhack says:

        Good point. It also helps explain my sudden urge to do yoga wearing nothing but Toe Sox(TM). :)

        • Ramesh says:

          Sure does, Matt. And my sudden urge to do headstand with nothing but Yoga Gloves. Maybe I should start a company? Hire a naked yogini?

  17. Thank you, Carolina.

    This is the most intelligent, practical, and loving thing I've seen written about this whole issue.

    I'm with you. Let's hear it for Yoga universalists!

    Bob Weisenberg

  18. Ramesh says:

    Shira commented on a post you were tagged in:

    "I absolutely agree! I do read and enjoy parts of YJ, but the last few issues,
    especially, paging through, have left me with that aweful feeling of
    inferiority…the same reason I stopped reading fashion magazines so many years
    ago."

    Laurie commented on a post you were tagged in:

    "I am going to disagree with those who say that it is terrible that YJ is
    allowing sexy ads on moral grounds. I am opposed to the sexy ad for business
    reasons. If I was the advertiser I would have picked a photo of the model doing
    this pose in a neutral colored outfit that did not draw attention away from the
    product I was trying to sell. Without a doubt, the fact that the model is nude
    is distracting. Does anybody even know what the product is? Has anybody went out
    and purchased the product as a result of seeing the ad? If not, the ad is a
    complete waste of the advertiser's budget.
    I think the photograph and the pose are beautiful, but I question they are
    achieving their intended result– selling the product. Advertisers will stop
    using sex "to sell" only when it does not work. "

    Dalia commented on a post you were tagged in:

    "i actually noticed that the only time they used a fuller-figured model for an
    asana practice photo shoot – it was for restorative yoga… what kind of message
    does that send?

    Heather commented on a post you were tagged in:

    "I have not renewed my subscription for some of these reasons; the cover always
    has a very fit woman, there are too many ads hawking products, ads w/ senior
    yoga teachers endorsing a particular mat. It doesn't speak from the heart of
    Yoga. Philosophy is relegated to an article here & there. "

  19. Ramesh says:

    Kelly commented on a post you were tagged in:

    "…i have not renewed my subscription either…:("

  20. nathan says:

    Front row – you can dismiss every criticism as whining – a classic shutdown technique if I've ever seen one. The thing is, this is larger than YJ. I subscribe to the magazine because it's a decent source for poses, anatomy discussion, and sometimes yoga philosophy. However, the shift in YJ reflects a commonplace appropriation of yoga into the uber individualistic, global capitalist framework. And this is troubling. At least it should be. In fact, I'd argue that the conclusion of Ramesh's article plays right into this framework. Stopping one's reading of a magazine is an "individualistic" solution that fails to address systemic imbalances that might be occurring …

    Like yoga becoming a commodity to sell to others.

    Yoga being priced out of reach of low income and flat out poor people.

    Yoga being focused solely on the body, as well as the whole sex/advertisement theme mentioned above.

    Yoga being about practicing inside of some fancy studio with a teacher who must charge a certain amount of money to remain economically stable.

    Viewing people doing yoga as "customers."

    I can go on, but won't. There are broad issues that need to be consider more deeply, intelligently, through the eyes of the teachings that have been passed down to us. Ramesh's posts is attempting to do some of this, and other comments are adding to that discussion.

    I, for one, think this is more than just about reading a magazine or not.

  21. Ramesh says:

    Nathan, thanks so much for your thoughtful and thoughtprovoking comments, which I largely agree with.
    I also agree that stopping to buy or subscribe to a magazine is largely an individualistic solution. However, if there are many individuals that vote with their dollars, then it will have some impact. We know, for example, that environmental consumerism has had an impact on the economy, for sure. The list that you outline as part of the "systemic imbalances" has largely been mentioned in my article and other comments, but your points are well taken.

  22. Manatosh says:

    Namaskar Ramesh,
    as usually a great article.
    What you write is tragically true, but I think that Yoga Journal is just one of the causes of this decadence of the Yoga culture.
    I think that one other cause is actually Yoga Alliance, this weird organization that during the last years has giving out certification of "teachers of Yoga" to people that were only interested in making money with fitness business. What an arrogance. They believe that they have the authority to certificate if somebody is actually a yogi, and how they do that? Basing their criteria mostly on what this "teachers" know about muscles, bounds, and other subject related to fitness and not really about samadhi….
    It seems that Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance, go together.
    I think that the time has come to give a stop to this decadence in Tama Guna. One positive thing we could do is to create alternative networks where people sincerely interested in yoga can actually find a real satsang. Where people interested in Ashtanga Yoga can actually find the real meaning of the eightfold path of Patanjali instead of weird dynamic asanas invented by Krishnamacarya and Pattabhi Jois. Where people interested in Tantra can find knowledge about chakras, kundalini and bhakti, instead of weird sexual exercises….
    Together with some friend I started to develop an alternative network about yoga on my website: http://www.yogatogether.net, where everyone can post articles, videos, pictures related to Yoga in a traditional style.
    It is just the beginning. I dream about global Yoga festivals where the main guest are not circus athletes, like happens now, but sadhu.
    BNK

    Manatosh

  23. Just out of sincere curiosity, Ramesh, do you consider Yoga International to be a good alternative to Yoga Journal? On the surface, it would seem to be the more traditional publication people want Yoga Journal to be, but it has a miniscule circulation in comparison.

    Wouldn't it be better for everyone if the traditionalists would just support Yoga International instead of trying to force Yoga Journal to be exactly like Yoga International?

    Why is it necessary for traditionalists to tear down other peoples' practices to promote their own? A lot of Yoga Journal subscribers, like my wife, would have not have the slightest interest in Yoga if it had to be more seriously spiritual or heavily philosophical. She loves Yoga Journal and her 45 minute daily early morning asana routine (done to a Yoga Journal Jason Crandell CD) just as it is. And she loves the ads.

    So if the world would instantly conform to your fondest wishes tomorrow, the best you could achieve would be to have Yoga Journal become another Yoga International. What would we gain from that kind of conformity?

    Bob Weisenberg
    YogaDemystified.com

    • castellani says:

      Traditionally, Yoga International is only one aspect of what "The Himalayan Institute," actually accomplishes. The Himalayan Institute is a non-profit, international organization that is encompassed by Humanitarian projects, book publishing, Ayurvedic health products, Educational yoga and Ayurveda programs, and a worldwide membership.

      Even if their circulation in the US is limited, the actual reach of The Himalayan Institute is more expansive than you are giving them credit for.

      Yoga Journal has three main divisions, Magazine, Conferences, DVDs & Books. I think that you have your information turned around. If the world would instantly conform to your fondest wishes tomorrow, the best you could achieve would be to have Yoga International become another Yoga Journal. What would we gain from that kind of conformity? Yoga International would become less altruistic and more commercial.

  24. Ramesh says:

    Bob,
    In some ways, I would consider Yoga International to be deeper and broader in scope than YJ. But even YI is using the same pretty slim ladies on the front cover as YJ, thus catering to a similar market as YJ. BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY, one of the reasons YI has a much smaller readership is because it is affiliated with the Himalayan Institute, and primarily feature writers from that Institute. Thus YJ has, ironically, a wider scope in terms of authors and a way to attract more general readers. So, personally, I rather read YI than YJ.

    But this debate is still important. It came about because people care, because Judith Lasater and many other who care deeply about yoga and its most popular publication had had enough and needed to express their concerns.

    Personally, I think a better alternative to YJ than YI would be some kind of Utne Reader for yogis, "the best of the yoga press." A truly independent yoga magazine that is holistic and progressive and does not feature all these anorexic yoga babes on every other page.

  25. nathan says:

    Bob – I've seen you comment on a few posts on different blogs speaking about these issues. I get the sense you're supporting the "everyone is equally right" view, and that any approach to yoga is just fine and shouldn't be scrutinized. If this take on your comments is wrong, I do apologize.

    However, if it's a right assessment, this is the kind of feel good relativism that has taken over a lot of American culture if you ask me. Look at any mainstream newspaper. You'll find articles about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq side by side with articles about American Idol and the latest celebrity divorce – as if the two are equally newsworthy. That's just one example of this trend.

    To be honest, I'm fully aware that I am just one voice amongst millions. And not one with any powerful platform to speak from. My point in speaking about the issues I do is that the trends Ramesh's post brings up, I brought up in my comments, and others have brought up in their comments, are troubling because if they end up dominating the North American yoga community, then what you will have is yet another self-improvement, exercise routine that rarely challenges people to actually transform their lives.

    You assume people like Ramesh and I are threats to the "yoga" YJ folks are practicing (whatever that is), but actually I'd argue if anything, it's the opposite. Those of us dedicated to the whole works of yoga practice, in whatever form it takes (Iyengar, Ashtanga, Bikram, etc), are in the minority already. The majority of North Americans are people who do yoga primarily as physical exercise.

    This wouldn't be an issue for me if it was just a separate category of practice that had no influence on the minority of people practicing, or attempting to practice, the whole Eight Limbs. But there is definite influence and what you find is that a lot of studios, yoga media, and teachers are bending towards the yoga as exercise crew in order to make money. And this is having an impact on how all these various yogas are being transmitted to the next generation of practitioners.

    It's fine to me if people just want to practice asana. In fact, I even have taught just asana to some of my English as a Second Language students, knowing that a secular approach was all I could offer in the setting I work in.

    For those of us interested in maintaining yoga as a broader path beyond exercise routine, however, we really must dig into these kind of issues seriously because just saying anything goes means assuming that our practice occurs in a vacuum where outside pressures aren't impacting us. And that's just plain false.

  26. Zach Ketterhagen says:

    There already is a magazine out there that features the philosophical and spiritual aspects of yoga–Yoga International. Its been around since 1991 and this may be the best opportunity for people to search out and find it!

    • Ramesh says:

      Zach, yes, you are right, and this has also been mentioned above. YJ also feture such articles, but not so many anymore.
      The limitation with Yoga International is that it mainly features article by teachers of the Himalayan Institute and thus may not have a broad appeal as my imganiray favorite magazine– more like Tricycle or Shambhala Sun….or Utne Reader for yogis.

  27. Ramesh says:

    Nathan, thanks so much for your response, which I very much agree with.

    And to Bob: I do not think this is about being holier-than-thou judgements, but as Nathan, says, about the deeper discussion of what yoga is.

    Also, Bob, I do not consider myself a "traditionalist." That is your label. Calling me or other or our views holier-than-thou, is also your label.

    Yoga has always been diverse, with many different forms, and schools, (and this I celebrate) and also, from the very onset, a practice that involves the whole of human life–the physical, mental and spiritual.

    In India, yoga has been very diverse for thousands of years, without any Yoga Journal. So the commercialization of yoga, the sexploitation of women to market yoga is not necessary to create diversity and does not necessarily represent diversity.

    I think that the integrity and diversity of yoga is best served without this current slant YJ has taken. But, I am of course not advocating censorship. That would be to stop the natural flow of cultural evolution. That would be to stifle diversity.

    But I do encourage free debate and deep discussion. And that is what this is all about. And yogis have done that for thousands of years. The yogis of old were fierce debaters of philosophy and practice.
    So are the yogis of today. So, I like to think of myself as someone who represents and uphold tradition but also someone that is open to new ways to spread and practice and celebrate yoga.

    You may be familiar with vertical and horizontal values. The vertical represent tradition, the deep, the interior, the horizontal represent the new, the democratic, the experimental, the everybody-is-right-view. I think true yogis have both of those qualities.

    So, yes, YJ represents, perhaps mostly horizontal values (but also vertical values as it also features more traditional views and articles) and that is good on many levels, and not so good on others (and I have already said why I think so in particulat in my article above). Traditional values, or vertical values also have a shadow side: dogmatism, against experimentation, etc.

    So, I think this debate is about finding the right balance, and to find balance, we need to listen and have dialogue about issues of importance to that which we love: to practice and live the life of yoga.

    • That sounds great, Ramesh.

      I sure do wish you would adopt this respectful, variety-embracing, knowledgeable, nuanced tone in your original blogs. To me you are often like a completely different writer in your replies to comments, as above.

      Thanks,

      Bob W.

  28. As of November 2009, I used to work for Yoga Journal in small business advertising where I represented only smaller yoga teachers and yoga studios worldwide. I had the largest number of advertisers of any of the other sales reps and I loved my customers… so much so, I started my own business that focuses on giving Teachers, studios and smaller yoga businesses a voice for free.

    I still like Yoga Journal. I even subscribe to it now that I don’t get it for free. I can say that working at Yoga Journal was a beautiful experience for the teachers and studios owners that I came in contact with. Out of all the people worked there, I can tell you that they are great people… and most of them, with the exception of like 7 or 8 (out of like 40) people all practice yoga…. even the main advertising publisher Bill Harper practices yoga. The ex-ceo John Abbott does yoga every day.

    When I first started at Yoga Journal, I thought it was really ironic that for once I was selling ad space that people were happy to buy. But as time went on, I felt as though I was fighting an up hill battle against corporate bureaucracy.

    However, I can tell you that when Judith Lassiter says “Your Ads are too sexy,” Yoga Journal is completely listening. Everyone in the editorial staff heard it, because Judith Lassiter is still in contact with Yoga Journal and historically she is the whole reason that yoga is as popular in America as it is right now. When she lashes out against their ads, she is lashing out at Active Interest Media’s lack of editorial focus, not the editors of Yoga Journal.

    What Yoga Journal prints and what gets cut from the pages are two different topics… the editors hands are tied to what advertising is making it into the magazine.

    I have been saying that the corporate yoga boom has very little to do with yoga, in fact, the corporate yoga boom has nothing to do with yoga and everything to do with the almighty consumerism. Most of the people practicing, or teaching yoga have not experienced the increase. Active Interest Media will do what the corporate polls and numbers indicate, so if America wants sexy ads, the ads will stay.

  29. castellani says:

    Maybe there really is such a thing as corporate conscience… I don't know. I know that Judith brought up great points, that are obviously affecting the yoga moral majority.

    There are instances where great things are done through Yoga Journal that are truly beneficial to some teachers, (sometimes they aren't even models!) but the thing that I find alarming is that instead of being a "great" resource, Yoga Journal is quite satisfied in being a "good" resource with more ads than articles. Sometimes the good can be the enemy of the best.

    So ok… Judith Lassiter is justified in her outburst, but what is that really saying about yoga… other than the obvious need to pull away from flagrant materialism and fervent need to understand that corporations are not spiritual entities? Yoga Journal is a magazine that has around 350,000 subscribers. That is the size of a small town in America, but that is the largest presence in the yoga world right now. Rather than being a leader as the largest yoga media entity and discussing issues that are presently effecting yoga on a nationwide level and now a global level, Yoga Journal maintains their middle road.

  30. [...] women. The focus ended up on this Toesox ad. Lots of folks in the cyber shala have chimed it, with strong and compelling voices on both sides. Toesox responded, as well. Me, i think the truth is, as usual, somewhere in [...]

  31. [...] Yoga Journal Controversy: why Judith H. Lasater's plea will fall … The standard has changed. Yoga has changed. Yoga Journal has changed. The message has changed: The subtle body is for Buddhists The crude body is for yogis. So, I don't bring Yoga Journal's sexy ladies into my meditation room. [...]

  32. [...] use of the controversial Toe-Sox advertisement in one of its posts and obvious responses such as ‘if you don’t like it, don’t read it’. It is indeed disheartening to see how yoga, a practice that can help women fight depression, body [...]

  33. [...] featured show very little diversity when it comes to size, age, and race. Almost all of the models are young, thin, white and polished women. I should also add that many of the celebrity yoginis had [...]

  34. Ramesh says:

    I think it would be easier to influence Yoga International than Yoga Journal, because Yoga Journal has reached a certain size and it may be too corporate and too late.
    Even if nothing happens, the discussion in itself is important and healthy and a small victory.

  35. Ramesh says:

    Candice, thanks for your awesome reply. I agree 108%.
    In spite of Yoga Journal often turning its back on all the 8 limbs of yoga, you are so right that there are thousands of yogis, if not millions, who practice the whole shebang, and even great yogis who hardly practice asanas at all.

    So, my point about "The message has changed: The subtle body is for Buddhists. The crude body is for yogis." was directed at Yoga Journal primarily. Not the Yoga Community at large. Although, I know several popular yoga teachers who work in studios who tell me that many of their students think that "mediation is Buddhism and yoga is asana. "
    To change this imbalance, we need to make yogic meditation more hip, more accessible to all asana yogis. Create a balance of hatha and raja yoga, the way it was intended.

  36. Charlotte says:

    Wow…That would be incredible! Roseanne running an Utne Reader for yogis. Let me know when it happens!

  37. Ramesh says:

    Girlwarrior, glad you like the idea of this type of magazine!

  38. Ramesh says:

    Charlotte, you wrote: The issue is "the dilution of this ancient, rich system down to what's most palatable to the Western psyche—the physical body."

    That pretty much sums up the whole debate for me!

  39. Charlotte says:

    Me too. Thanks for conveying that in your post. I'd be equally happy if you decided to start a new publication too!

  40. Why, why, why does everyone have to be the same? You do the Yoga you love. I'll do the Gita Yoga I love. Anusara devotees will do the Yoga they love. Bikram, Asthanga, Kripalu, Ananda, Himalayan Institute, YMCA, etc.

    My wife Jane will do the daily 45 minutes of pre-dawn asana to her Yoga Journal Jason Crandell DVD. SHE WILL CONTINUE TO LOVE YOGA JOURNAL JUST THE WAY IT IS (including all the ads) and she'll continue to be completely uninterested in what you consider real Yoga.

    She and hundreds of thousands of other happy Yoga Journal lovers don't need improving from you or anyone else. They are fine just the way they are. Try to attract them to your Yoga, if you wish. But don't do it by demeaning the Yoga they love. Live and let live.

    Start a new magazine. Tell people how wonderful your Yoga stuff is. Spread the word. But stop looking down your nose as people like my wife who simply don't care to follow your particular path. Sell the positive message of your type of practice without tearing down the type of Yoga most YJ readers like to practice.

    There are plenty of other people to carry on this "rich, ancient system". Why do you feel you need to convert Yoga Journal readers, many of whom JUST AREN'T INTERESTED? Sell your stuff, but at the same time, embrace diversity and accept people who are different from you.

    Bob Weisenberg
    ElephantJournal.com

  41. Charlotte says:

    Thanks for your reply. I'm honestly not sure what "real" yoga is, as it keeps evolving even within my own small practice. I think we all find real yoga for ourselves over time, and like everything, it changes. Perhaps each of our paths might include Anusara, Bikram, Ashtanga, Kripalu, Ananda, etc. at different times in our practice. I'm certainly not advocating anyone conforming to a particular idea of yoga. Even traditional yoga leaves lots of room for interpretation. The sutras were purposely written without any sort of literary coloration so that different interpreters could fill in the blanks. The sutras provide some scaffolding, but we all fill in the structure with time and practice if we choose to make sutra study a part of our path.

    I think there's room in the yoga world for lots of different viewpoints, and I think that's one of the perceived issues with the images YJ has been using to depict yoga. They are beautiful, yes, but they don't necessarily represent incredible spectrum of people who are practicing yoga. YJ does include a sampling of articles that appeal to lots of different types of yogis and that's a good thing.

    I am in no way criticizing your wife's practice or proclivities. A consistent, steady practice is what it's about, no matter what "style" it is or how it looks from the outside. I don't think any of us are bent on "improving" others' yoga or proselytizing about "real" yoga. It's not my place to tell anyone what kind of yoga they should do. The yogic journey is a highly individualized one, which it was traditionally taught one-on-one. In fact I believe strongly that as a teacher, my main job is to make myself obsolete to my students, to share basic tools that can help them eventually find their own yoga, whether that yoga looks like Iyengar, Bikram, Ashtanga or something completely different.

  42. Ramesh says:

    Hey, Bob, dear friend! I think you have started down that path of beating around the bush again. So, take a deep pranayama breath and relax.

    This debate is indeed about diversity but it is also about quality. By trying to stifle our points of view, you are doing exactly what you speak out against. So, take a look in the mirror. Discussion is healthy. Different points of view is healthy. Moreover, yoga is about expansion of the mind, and I think these discussions expand our minds. I think even your wife, Jane, would agree to that. So, back to you, my dear friend Bob, you tough, smartass yogi, you. Live and let live!

  43. My apologies, Charlotte. That rant was aimed at my good friend Ramesh, not you. I happened to type it into the wrong box and forgot to start with "My dear friend Ramesh".

    In any case, thank you for your warm, sensitive reply to my rant!

    Bob W.

  44. Charlotte says:

    Thanks for the clarification, Bob. Now I'll see if I can capitalize on the adrenaline rush I got from your post!

  45. I really am very sorry to have done that to you, Charlotte. I meant to do it to Ramesh. He deserves it!

  46. Read your own blog, Ramesh. I read it very carefully and objectlively several times before writing this. You do not really allow for diversity in you point of view.

    I stand by my comment, and I will continue to fight you every step of the way when you write blogs like this that make it sound like you have the one true Yoga. Someone has to.

    Respectfully and with great affection,
    in spite our serious disagreement here,

    Bob W.

  47. Ramesh says:

    Bob, I respectfully disagree… would you say that someone who is against racism is against diversity of view points. Of course not.

    Please stop telling me that I do not have a legitimate right to call these ads exploitative of women and demeaning and flattening to yoga practice and philosophy. That right is part of living in a democratic, plural, diverse, universal society.

    We are back to square one again, Bob. When you strongly disagree with something I say, you try to label me. Put me in a box. Shut me up. It's not working. I know you can do much better than that!
    Let's agree to disagree and move on!

  48. Oh, stop it now, Ramesh. Really.

    I didn't say anything at all about your rights. I did not apply any label to you at all, except traditionalist, which I assume you don't object to. I did not put you in a box. I did not shut you up. I fully expect and look forward to a strong rebuttal from you. It'll be fun.

    This is all just good debate, as far as I'm concerned. Let the readers enjoy and decide.

    Bob

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