Fight the Power! A plea to Yoga Journal.

Via Nancy Alder
on Feb 12, 2011
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Okay folks, it’s time for me to rant and rave.

I got the latest Yoga Journal in the mail and while I was happy to see a man on the cover, those folks at the magazine made me angry.  The first thing I did after acknowledging the coolness of a guy chillin’ in Padmasana was look to see if they had published a letter from my pal Anna Guest-Jelley.

You see Anna is a curvy yogini, she wrote a brilliant and beautiful letter to Yoga Journal about a recent article they published on diet and body.  Her letter connected with a slew of people (she got 42 comments on her blog alone and a shout out at our pal YogaDork’s site as well).

[She’s been featured on elephant, too, and now has her own column here. We love her. ~ ed]

Her letter was a rallying cry about the lack of “real” yogis in Yoga Journal, and a sign that it was time for the magazine to start making some changes. I figured after the blogosphere hubbub that for sure Yoga Journal would post this letter in their “Letters to the Editor” section, but alas saw that instead they hadn’t.

I was mad.

Photo Courtesy Anna Guest-Jelley

My frustration with Yoga Journal got bigger last night when Anna posted that she might just enter their talent search for a new cover model.  After all she’s got tons of great pictures (see her Vira I, above) doing yoga—and she suggested that I apply as well since I also have a slew of such images. At first I thought, why the hell not, maybe Yoga Journal is moving forward and will pick a “normal” person for their cover.  Was I smoking something when I thought that?  I looked again at the “guidelines” of the contest and I saw that it said:

“Make sure we can see your whole body in the frame. Show us your face, if possible. Wear something form-fitting and bright, so that you stand out from the background.”

I was like, hells no I’m not entering.  Yoga Journal purports to promote yoga for the masses, after all anyone can buy an issue.  But asking people to wear something form-fitting and bright is truly insulting and instantly told me that they are looking for one model-type yogi for the pictures.  I know, some of you right now are saying “duh” to me, but readers I have faith that what I think isn’t always correct.  I wanted to believe that Yoga Journal would be willing to put someone like Anna or me on the cover.  I am not particularly curvy (well in places), nor am I 100% thin, but I think most people would say that my body is pretty okay.  I have had two children, cut out of my body no less, and at 41 I can rock some of the shazam pants and poses that the models can.  But other than some yoga pants with thick waistbands to cover my mom belly, I would never wear anything form-fitting.  No one save those with perfect, flawless bodies can wear really bright clothing, and how many of us like the way our faces look in pictures? Really Yoga Journal, you thought you were fooling me but I see right through you:  you only want perfection, and it stinks!

I once asked my teacher Sadie Nardini, who as you know looks like a model, if she was on the cover of Yoga Journal what pose she’d be doing.  She said she’d be in her traditional black (strike one) in Sukasana with her back to the audience (strike two). My homage photo is to the left (and taken by my favorite yogini in the world, my friend Ashley).  I loved Sadie’s response because despite her beauty, her shazam-pose abilities and her model-like figure she wanted to promote the quite and repose of yoga.  Even Sadie would be breaking the guidelines of this contest and that’s saying something!

Yoga to me is for every body, whether you are perfect and look like Christy Turlington or you look like the girl next door.  When I teach my 6-8 classes a week I rarely have someone who could be a model for Vogue in my class, I almost always have the average everyman/woman.  It is a shame that Yoga Journal can’t seem to get a grip on this reality and promote some yoga that can rock the local yokels and not just those of us who want to go to study with the teachers on the cover.  It’s horrid that they publish articles about body and weight and yet ignore the folks like Anna who intelligently point this out.  I’m tired of it, and I’m ready to fight.  I’m not famous, nor a Yoga Journal cover model, but I am a yoga teacher and person.  I want to see them publish Anna’s letter and I’m giving them two months (because who knows if there is a time lag, right?) to do it.  If by May they don’t pony up and show the weakness in their message I’m going to unsubscribe and no longer link to their website in my posts here on Elephant Journal or on my blog.

It’s not a big step, or a national protest, but it’s my way of saying: let’s fight the powers that be.  The next move is theirs.


About Nancy Alder

Nancy Alder is a 200H Registered Yoga Teacher in Connecticut. She teaches her students to connect with space and breath from a place of safety and humor. She writes for many yoga blogs and chronicles her daily practice to find the beginners mind on and off the mat at her own blog, She is co-founder of Teachasana,, a site by yoga teachers for yoga teachers. When not writing or doing yoga she is in awe of her elves, busting asanas in crazy places and counting the days until the next snowfall.


95 Responses to “Fight the Power! A plea to Yoga Journal.”

  1. CarolHorton says:

    Preach it, sista! Thanks for this.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by nancy , Cherie Lathey, cafeterrablog, Jenny , kenching mom and others. kenching mom said: RT @yoga_mydrishti: <- my post from today is up at @elephantjournal w/ new pics of me and @CurvyYoga @yoga … […]

  3. Rock My Soles says:

    Great Nancy well don't expect to see me on their cover….

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Fredric (aka Rick), Melanie Klein. Melanie Klein said: Fight the Power! A plea to Yoga Journal (@elephantjournal) #bodyacceptance #bodyimage […]

  5. elephantjournal says:

    Honestly, as a publisher, I see this from the other end. Yoga Journal put the well-loved, uber-popular John Friend on a cover, and it didn't sell well. The demographic apparently wants to see young, conventionally attractive women on the cover—aspirational covers.

    I do think Anna Guest-Jelley would make a fantastic cover model—the publicity and controversy and boldness of the move would likely sell magazines. But ultimately YJ has to think about that: it can, as you say, "publish articles about body and weight"—it can and does feature great normal, all-ages, male and female yoga teachers inside…I think they do a pretty damn good job. But covers are tough. The fact that they ever put a man on the cover is a bold move–yoga men apparently do not sell magazines.

    Yoga Journal has a tough task, here: to be sustainable, please its owners, be accessible and get the good word out to many (which it can't do if the magazine doesn't sell or YJ weren't profitable)…and yet your passionate letter, above, points to something greater: the thought leaders in yoga in the US, of which you are one, need to be loyal, passionate fans. YJ, as does elephant, needs to keep it real, or it loses that loyalty.

    And that's bad business, too.



  6. TamingAuthor says:

    Nancy's picture, in the sandbox with daughter, would be a fantastic cover! That picture speaks to the heart so much more effectively than one of a photo-shopped anorexic model. It captures so much that is right about yoga. The picture of Anna Guest-Jolley may not be aspirational but sure is inspirational. Looks like many women in the classes I attend, who are not staying home in spite of models decorating the cover of YJ.

    But that said, as I am preparing for my own "lights and camera" moment, I gleaned some helpful information from the article. One of my instructors (who could grace a model cover) is being taped in class next week. (Obviously a stellar background moment for me.) So I thought maybe my usual black-on-black yoga wear but now I'm considering the form-fitting bright colors. Wise advice. Need to show off the cool physique. Every yoga video needs a slightly overweight old guy looking every bit as coordinated and attractive as Adam Sandler or Mike Myers. Right?

  7. CDrishti says:

    Yoga in the west has become a multimillion dollar business. And business will use any tool to sell. Beauty/sex sells best. A vicious cycle of lowering people's self-esteem in order to make (more) money. That is why studios and teachers are everywhere, some of the mats and gear are ridiculously expensive and pseudo-spiritualism flourishes, all under the guise of yoga. Unfortunately, very few are doing real yoga, rather an aerobic exercise at best. Go to any of David Williams workshops and you'll understand why. One of the few great yoginis that never capitalized on his knowledge and remains true to the great spirit of yoga.

  8. Jen says:

    You rock, Nancy! I have seriously been considering canceling my subscription to YJ because of the lack of racial, gender, weight, height and age diversity. I think since the YJ "talent search" is something readers vote for, we should all go to the YJ website during the voting period and get Ms.Anna Guest on the cover!

  9. Karen says:

    Canceled my subscription to YJ several years ago for these and other reasons. They probably haven't noticed, and seemed pretty clueless in their responses to others who have written letters like the one your friend wrote.

  10. Tamara says:

    Sometimes “real yogis” are slender. Let’s not backlash against those yogis. Makes me nervous when I see that term thrown around. When I started practicing yoga on a regular basis I dropped a lot of weight and was not dieting.
    As far as form fitting clothes, its easier to do yoga when you’re not fighting bunched up fabric and well, bright colors make for interesting covers.
    I agree yogis come in all sizes but let’s not demean yogis of all shapes by calling some real and some not.

  11. 32000days says:

    I don't think they're ready for this Anna Guest-Jelley. Sad but true.

  12. Kim says:

    We should all submit photos (like the one above) in a quiet seat, with backs to the camera, for the cover model talent search. Include an explanation of why and a reference to what's going on the the yoga blogging world right now. Maybe if they received a couple hundred of those, they'd start listening.

  13. […] experience of ourselves makes us more vulnerable to manipulation by sex in advertising. Maybe if we want less sexy ads we need to embrace our sexy […]

  14. Adam says:

    Hi, I am male, not in great shape, 37 years old, 6 feet tall and 200 lbs with a bit of a belly. I buy yoga journal. I am not a yoga teacher and my practice sucks right now. I was a fairly dedicated yogi a couple of years ago though. Lets not mice words here, were talking about fat people not being well enough represented. When I was taking classes regularly, I can say the only fat people I saw, and the most out of shape people I saw by far were those that were brand new or only showed up once a week or less. I can say I personally went from 220 lbs to 180 ish in about 18 months when I finally got off my lazy butt and began a daily practice (3 times a day). So in my experience, the people that have a good daily practice are in good shape, or getting there. Those who don't put in the time or effort are not. This played out everywhere I've been. I have never seen a fat person at a workshop, these people are there because they are dedicated to their practice and it shows. Last year I even went to wanderlust in Lake Tahoe, California. I feel like that was a good sample of the type of people that are dedicated to yoga. I'd find it pretty unlikely that someone doing yoga as a hobby or because its trendy or just on and off would be willing to spend $1000 or more to go to wanderlust. And I can tell you that more than 99% of the people there were anything but fat. Those were the most beautiful people I've ever been around. I have never seen so many athletic looking bodies in one place anywhere, ever, in my entire life. There were thousands of people there and I felt like I was no longer in America. There were maybe three fat people there, and I was one of them. If you don't believe that, I've got pictures, I bet I have pictures of over a thousand people, and I've looked thought them for a fat person, and I didn't find one…not one. So, in my opinion and experience saying fat people can be real yogi's is a bit disingenuous. For me, there is no way that fat girl in the purple shirt is dedicated to yoga, I'm not buying it. I don't care if she's a teacher, if she looks like that she's not doing the work, hands down. For example, don't tell me she's good at what she does, because her back heel isn't on the ground and her front knee is not over her ankle, so that warrior is NOT good form. Which of course is what I expected to see an undedicated fat yogi pull off. I may sound harsh, but the truth is independent of how it makes someone feel.

  15. Adam says:

    AS for yoga journal covers not being diverse, that's a load of crap. I'm sitting here looking through a stack of them from the past two years and I see people from their 20's (Kathryn Budig) to almost 60 (Trudie Styler) in age. I see asians (Bebe Chianni Lin, Minhee Cha, and more), indian's (Hemalayaa), italian? (Maria Villella), a freakin musician (Sarah McLachlan), hispanic? (Autumn Alvarez), black (Faith Hunter, Terri Kennedy), and the totally hot and 5 foot tall Giselle Mari. Where are you even getting the idea that this isn't diverse?

    As for putting fat people on the cover or what sells yoga journal. I can tell you, I buy yoga journal BECAUSE it has beautiful people doing great poses with near perfect form. If I wanted to see crap yoga, or "real, normal, or average people" doing yoga, I'd go take a class somewhere. I spend my money to be inspired, and I'm inspired by beautiful people with perfect very athletic bodies doing difficult poses with great form. Some of you here may spout a bunch of crap about canceling your subscriptions because of some misconception you have about what kind of people make the cover, or out of some kind of white knight syndrome you have with fat people but I can tell you, as for me and most of the people I know, if you put fatties on the cover I'm outta here. If you think I'm mean or unusual you go ahead and try to find successful magazines catering to fitness related topics that put fat people on the cover. Go ahead, name some.

  16. NotSoSure says:

    I understand the frustration. As a man, I do not subscribe to YJ because it is totally female oriented. No (or very little) content for me
    But still, I find the YJ bashing self serving. Let’s remember that it costs nothing to complain. But it costs YJ a lot of money to have issues that do not sell. YJ is a business and if they do not sell magazines they will be a business no more (See Waylons comments above).
    Would YJ sell if they put me, a 43 year old balding uptight white guy, on the cover? If you think there is a market for an “ordinary yogi” magazine, then it is time put your money where your mouth is. Get a marketing plan together and start your own magazine. I’ll be happy to be your first cover model and I work cheap.

  17. yogahopesue says:

    perhaps we should all practice our yoga and refrain from judging anyone or anything…including Yoga Journal?

  18. Please see Sadie Nardini's comments in her sensitive and insightful blog response:

    Yoga Journal Covers: Who Really Calls the Shots?

    Bob W.
    Yoga Editor

  19. joqatana says:

    Beautiful. So sharing this.

  20. monkeywithglasses says:

    I'm with you! I appreciate party tricks as much as the next person, but seriously – of all the yoga classes I've taken in the past 10 years, there was only ONE person who looked like a YJ model and could do the super-bendy stuff. It was bordering on freakish when in the midst of a class of "regular folk". YJ has been too pristine for me for years.

  21. Tony says:

    How about we all stop buying the fucking thing?

  22. Valerie says:

    Let's talk about what YJ does offer. In every issue you'll find "Basic" and "Master Class" in which a venerable, experienced yogi(ni) breaks down an asana into the building blocks necessary to achieve the pose. Basic poses are explained to make them accessible to absolute beginners and to allow the more experienced among us to refine and explore poses we've rocked out hundreds of times. How many times have you made the tiniest tweak to a common pose to discover sudden limitless energy and freedom in the pose? In master class simpler poses are used to build up to an advanced pose (one you might expect to see on the cover). Exploring the building block poses teaches the movements and energy necessary to do it. We're all capable (barring any true physical impediment) of learning any of the "impossible" poses featured on YJ covers. The magazine introduces simple yogic philosophy and how it can be applied to everyday life in a section called "Wisdom." It's not an in depth discussion, but I don't expect to find theological/philosophical discourse in the pages of a glossy magazine (maybe a scholarly journal, but nothing I can buy off a newsstand in the airport). I may never have the opportunity to take a class with Cindi Lee, but I can learn from her each month in YJ, and to me, that is invaluable. The pictures are not nearly as important as the content.

    None of the cover models walked into their 1st yoga class and flawlessly demonstrated that pose. The people featured on the covers are not models, but working yoga teachers who have spent years studying and practicing yoga with true dedication. From all this work they created a strong, grounded base from which they arose with grace, peace and freedom. Look on their faces – you can see it in the smiles. I don't believe the covers are meant to be aspirational or perfect, but rather, inspirational. I for one find the cover models extremely inspirational. Maybe the only backbend you'll ever muster is bridge, but you can always experience the same freedom and beauty you can see in Amy Ippoliti in Ardha Chandra Chapasana on the cover of last months issue.

  23. […] wanted to bring the pages of Yoga Journal to life and give people the opportunity to study with the very best yoga teachers in the world,” […]

  24. […] of you read my post a little over a month ago sending a cyber plea to Yoga Journal to publish a letter by Anna […]

  25. Liz says:

    I agree with you about the submission guidelines, but I decided to submit anyway. I chose the pose that is really the core of my personal practice and not what usually "graces the covers" of the magazine. Thanks for speaking out like this, I really felt uncomfortable after seeing all the model-like submissions. But this made me feel much better.

  26. […] artigo me levou a outros dois, «Fight the Power! A plea to Yoga Journal» e «Yoga Journal Covers: Who Really Calls the Shots?». O teor destes é praticamente o mesmo do […]

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  28. […] yoga community about the “yoga body.” Body image has and will be forever recycled as a topic of interest, concern, impact, and awareness in many […]

  29. […] harkened my first Yoga Journal Conference. I must say, I’ve gained a new appreciation for the oft-criticized publication. If you ask me, Yoga Journal knows how to do it […]

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