Yoga’s Relationship with Beauty, Diet & Money?

Via on Sep 18, 2010

…Same As It Ever Was.

When Judith Lasater took exception to ads featuring sexualized young women in ads…

…in Yoga Journal, I bit my tongue and looked the other way out of respect for Judith’s place in yoga. It just seemed obvious to me, or redundant, to question how sex and beauty sell products—yoga products’ existence is still dependent on sales, which explains why so many ad campaigns use sexualized models to try to move product.

Yesterday I read a similarly 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.

I am not part of the Yoga Elite. I don’t claim to have a spiritual connection to stretching my body. I started doing yoga to lose weight, but it’s the beautiful women in the classes that keep me coming back. So maybe my connection to yoga isn’t deep enough for me to worry about the supposed direction yoga is heading by featuring pretty women in yoga magazines, using models to sell yoga goods, and emphasizing weight loss as a benefit of the practice.

But one simple rule I like to live by is to give credence to opinions held by those who are smarter than me, and Melanie’s article was so well written it made me curious to see just how far yoga had fallen. Since both Judith Lasater and Melanie cited Yoga Journal as one of the bigger offenders in their writing about yoga’s cultural decline I decided to try and find out what the magazine was up to back in the day when beauty and diet and “sexy images of size zero women in skin tight outfits” didn’t pollute the world of yoga.

I found two old issues of Yoga Journal on Google Books. The first one was Yoga Journal’s May 1975 inaugural edition, of which Judith Lasater was the copy editor. Interestingly enough, the woman on the cover (maybe it’s even Judith?) is gorgeous, looks to be about a size zero, and is dressed in a skin tight outfit. She’s in some yoga pose (I don’t know which one) and her eyes are seductively closed as she turns her head up towards the sky. Sexy. The lead article is “Yoga, Diet, and Sensitivity.”

You can read the entire edition here, it’s really quite entertaining.

The next issue I found was Yoga Journal’s 15th anniversary issue, from March/April 1990. Melanie wrote how she didn’t start practicing until 1996, but it wasn’t until 2003 that she became disillusioned with Yoga Journal when the magazine included an ad for diet pills. Even though the synergy between weight loss products and yoga is obvious, I still could see her point. Because in a perfect world where magazines don’t need money to exist so they could do things like pay their staff a salary and rent office space and buy things like computers and telephones and desks, it makes sense that a magazine about a lifestyle as healthy as yoga shouldn’t get mixed up with dirty diet pills.

I say all this because the very first page of the 1990 15th Anniversary issue of Yoga Journal features a full page ad for “Alive Energy” pills. The magazine’s cover is a racy shot of Patricia Walden in a white leotard. Patricia was the model for the issue’s centerfold which features several sexy pictures of her in the same white, skin tight leotard doing poses in the desert. If you could set music to the pages, they would be a Bon Jovi video. Sales of that very leotard were said to have doubled in the following months.

Read the entire issue here.

Yoga Journal has managed to stay in business since 1975—no easy feat. They’ve done it because somebody there has had enough sense and edge to keep the magazine sexy and bring in ad revenues.

Be it using a model on the cover of their first issue, or selling premium pages to companies advertising “energy pills,” it may not be pretty (well, actually, it is pretty, that’s kinda the point,) and some of the yoga purists may not agree with it, but perhaps the rapper Ice-T explains it best with his one simple lyric,

Don’t hate the playa, hate the game.

About Jimmy Gleacher

Jimmy Gleacher is the author of three books and movie. He is currently working on his fourth book, THE YOGA TERRORIST. He lives in Boulder, Colorado. For more information please visit his website, jimmygleacher.net.

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7 Responses to “Yoga’s Relationship with Beauty, Diet & Money?”

  1. Sexy is in the eye of the beholder. From my perspective neither of the covers mentioned in this article are particularly "sexy". They are both beautiful demonstrations of asanas.
    I understand that Yoga Journal needs advertisement to stay in business. They do a nice job of putting together a nice publication each month…educational, well rounded, nicely photographed. I can't speak for Judith Laster, but one of the messages I hear in her comments is dismay at how far from the original focus of yoga we have strayed. How we have fallen into the consumerism of our time. I agree, whether the model is naked or clothed, the message is "buy".

  2. Melanie Klein Melanie says:

    I just wanted to add one more thing: if you look at all the covers of YJ for the last 30 years (YJ recently featured a slide show of their covers in full), you will find that these two covers do not represent the trend for the first 15 years of the magazine. In fact, the covers were quite varied and rarely featured models in asanas. While I appreciate your article, using these two covers as support for your point doesn't work.

  3. Ramesh says:

    Jimmy, as I mentioned in my article on this topic, the covers on Yoga Journal had a dramatic change about 12 years ago. You can see for yourself in the link below. From about 1998, all covers feature sexy yogis, 95 percent female. They did exist in the old days too, as you noticed in your random picks, but by-and-large, the further back you go, the more common it was to find beautiful art or an author like Robert Bly on the cover. Today that is unthinkable, the yoga babes have taken over.
    http://covers.yogajournal.com/gallery.html

  4. Rinatkaallka says:

    Грядущий продовольственный кризис Любит ли он меня? Будем ли мы сообща? Надолго ли наши отношения?

    Это действительно очень для меня важно! Спасибо.

    Если нужны вопросы-задавайте.

    Если кто-то не верит в гадания и гороскопы, пожалуйста не издевайтесь и не оскорбляйте…

  5. Inediestypept says:

    А не подскажите ли, а партал живой? Совсем недавно на него наткнулся, вот интересуюсь. Чрезмерно буду благодарен за ответы.

  6. ovexessyjesee says:

    статья как раз по теме – читать тут – автору спасибо

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