Editor’s note: Why I pulled the YAMA op-ed by Babarazzi.

Via on Mar 26, 2012

Update: added in Babarazzi’s reply to the controversy in comments in this blog, below.

Taking Babarazzi article down.

Why I pulled one of our three most popular posts. ~ ed.

Recently, a blog—troublemaking-in-a-good-way, in a way that the yoga community needs—posted their first piece on elephant. While I disagreed with Babarazzi’s conclusions, I loved the questions asked, and enjoyed the snarky tone.

Perhaps I’ve become too used to being attacked, and didn’t find the piece half as…challenging…as the small-but-loud minority of nearly always anonymous comments that all-too-frequently degrades the conversation on elephant and other blogs.

I liked the conversation, and appreciated Babarazzi asking the question of how (and how not) yoga teachers can do well and do good at the same time. Is it a contradiction in terms for a yoga teacher to have an agent, as the New York Times article discussed?

Can we use fame as a means to alleviate suffering and share mindfulness practices beyond our core or choir? That last part is elephant’s mission.

Can do-gooders market ourselves while protecting the integrity of our intention, and without selling out? If we don’t offer yoga, real food diets, wellness, meditation and other helpful paths to the wider world—if we don’t try and succeed—if we just do our navel-gazing thing on the proverbial mountaintop, isn’t that selfish?

It’s an important question for our community.

But though we have hosted Yogadork, YogaModern, Recovering Yogi, Intent and other blogs under their own name on our site, all those blogs have also included each of their author’s names. Here on elephant, we have to always ask for author names. We can’t do anonymous. And while Babarazzi is a public blog and their about page goes into details about what they’re up to, they’re still operating under a nom de plume.

They’ve declined to include their personal name in addition to their blog name, so we’ve had to regretfully take it down.

For that reason, and that reason alone I’m pulling the piece. If they change their mind, I’d put the post back up.

Bonus:

For what little it’s worth, here are various comments I left to various defenders and critics on the original post. I also think that Sadie and Babarazzi’s comments are worth preserving, but their comments and the comments of others will only be shared if they wish.  ~ ed.

~

I know Ava and like her to the small extent I know her. Same for Sadie, who’s called other teachers and marketing BS before, so I like her for that. I don’t see huge problem with good folks making a good living doing good.

The target seems slightly off–in my view as long as you’re offering the real thing, then using media and agents and all is not only okay, but a good thing to do. My problem is with “fake” yoga teachers selling themselves, not real yoga.

But I hugely agree with your main point about JF scandal vs. this, and in any case it’s a hugely worthwhile conversation to have, if we can all do so constructively. Plus, you’re just fun to read.

~

Dear XXXXX,

Your comment rides the line between criticism and name-calling. Let’s keep this respectful, svp.

~

There’s so little middle ground, here. I can say honestly I think you’re great and what you’re doing is great. I intend to make a kabillion dollars (and do good things with it, and all along the way)—not just, as most do, make money doing some douchey thing and then get great PR for giving 5% of it back.

Yoga folks use the term “abundance”—while I find that term cheesey, there is nothing wrong with success, if our path is ethical. As a Buddhist teacher once said, it’s our duty to succeed, if what we’re doing is of benefit. ~ Waylon

~

I’m surprised at you, XXXX. You’ve written plenty of pointed criticism. There’s a place for that. Criticism and openness about such is precisely what was missing in terms of, say, John Friend. If he’d had more respectful criticism along the way, he would not now be being accused of fallen cult leaderhood.

Again, I disagree with this article, but I’m fine with it existing.

~
Sadie (as she has shown in her often brilliant articles) is more than able to handle such questions and discussions, even when negative in tone. She has embraced yoga and success, not just one or the other. I think that’s great, as long as real yoga is being offered.

I just had breakfast with two of her colleagues, and we all agreed she’s been transparent, fun, and helping getting yoga out there for many who might have otherwise missed it. ~ Waylon

~

We are a forum for debate about important issues. If you want to stop paying us $1 a month because you disagree with one article, please think again: our job is to host discussion, not uniform agreement. That’s for cults, or PR.
~
Please let me know how I was disrespectful of you above, and I’ll sincerely apologize.I welcome your respectful criticism! I do not think we need to threaten to “leave the room” every time we disagree with someone.
~
Don’t worry, as of now we pay our writers exactly what you paid to read this. We’re hoping to fix that, hiring editors and hopefully paying writers this year. That said, I think Babarazzi brings up important issues through biting satire that are worth discussing respectfully, and with a sense of humor, though I partially disagree with the above (see my comment, above).
~
Amen. To me the problem isn’t the marketing, but the integrity or lack thereof in marketing. In Sadie’s case, she seems to be the real deal, so the more marketing the merrier.
~
Amen. This is op-ed, just an opinion, and I think Sadie and everyone concerned is in the business and yoga worlds and can handle disagreement respectfully. I know I get my share of debate through elephant, day after day!To me, the problem here is if the piece is wrong in any factual way. If it is, let me know, and we’ll edit/fix immediately.Babarazzi has their own blog, like say Yogadork, and is far, far from anonymous. But I’ve asked them to add their personal name following a “suggestion” from a yogi I respect. The more transparency, the better.
~
Really, Jen? I thought it was provocative, but a great subject that we all privately discuss and should do so more as a community. Again, I like Ava and all concerned. They all seem to me to be good people who love yoga and want to see its offerings of breath, movement, tolerance, humor and community permeate mainstream culture.
From Kate, elephant editor:
“The responsiblity of a writer is to be a sort of demonic social critic—to present the world and people in it as he sees it and say, ‘Do you like it? If you don’t like it, change it.’” ~ Edward AlbeeDo I agree with everything the Babarazzi duo wrote? Nope. Do I think part of having mindful conversations includes perspectives I don’t agree with so I can be challenged, think, grow—even if that growth means being able to articulate my own position in a stronger way? Absolutely.I think this particular perspective pushes the envelope, maybe further than makes many of us comfortable. And that’s why it’s an important discussion to have. Why does it make us uncomfortable? Is there truth here? If not, let it make you take a stronger, clearer stance of your own. If there is—let it instigate change.I think some of the best responses have been from Sadie, who clearly has a strong grasp on who she is and who she isn’t and didn’t let some rude comments change that a bit.If you are bothered by this, write your own piece on why representation for yoga teachers is a good thing…I’d love to hear more on this & would love to publish it.
Via Katy Poole, who comes in for criticism by Babarazzi:
And actually, Kate, this article may do more to promote Ava’s business than anything else. I already referred one of my clients to her services who’s looking to make it “big” in the yoga market—and I’m sure I’m not alone. I had no idea how he could do this before I read this article. Sometimes satire that pushes the envelope serves more good than nicey-nicey love n’light feel goodism. Someone told me once that all press is good press. I bet her phone is ringing off the hook. And now those of us who had no idea who Sadie is have now gone on Youtube and checked her out to find out what all the hub-bub is about and why her fans like her so much. Plus the discussion that has arisen has been really interesting. I hope you’ll still publish stuff by Babarazzi and all kinds of alternate voices however controversial.
~
Calling this article akin to Limbaugh or Santorum is to put their hate in a mild light. Hyperbole does a disservice to this conversation. I disagree with this article, but welcome the discussion. ~ Waylon.
~

Amen to your point! And nice generalization. Click our yoga tab, or any tab, and you’ll see hundreds of quality, personal articles…that you haven’t read.
~
i read elephant for
-the mindfully focused wit – we gotta laugh at own our yogi selves, right?
-the educational & inspiring articles
-the friendly banter & spirited discussions over issues that could/might be controversial (in someone’s mind)sadie nardini’s articles on elephant fall under all of these categories, not to mention, i love her teaching style.
i also love brock & krista cahill, dana flynn, derek beres, suzanne sterling and lots of the teachers that YAMA represents.my point is (and i do have one), practice with who resonates with you, don’t support who doesn’t. we’re all doing this work for our own reasons.
easy as sukhasana, right?
Here’s Babarazzi’s reply:
Hello, Elephant Journal community! Our lovely contact at EJ thought it a good idea for us to respond to some of the comments regarding our pesky thorn of an article that has caused so much ire and discord in the stomachs of so many people. While we can’t respond to everyone specifically, we can, and will do our best, to respond to a few themes that have been brought up by some of the readers. Before we do, please feel free to read our short response over on www.thebabarazzi.comto get an alternate take on the fury. Also, while you’re there, be sure to read our “About” page if you have any interest in understanding how we personally view what it is we do.And now…The Response!THE ARTICLE
Wow. The article. Is it “journalism?” Is it “trash?” Is it “genius?” Is it a “necessary pushing of the envelope?” To be fair, I guess it’s a little of all the above, with the exception of the “genius” bit. Obviously, we Babarazzi come from a varied background of degrees, with one of us in particular having earned a couple extra literary letters to attach to the ol’ birth name. We like what we do and have a right laugh doing it. Admittedly, the piece in question is not our finest work. Far from it! Although, we must say, judging from the response, we now consider it a nice addition to the yoga pop culture canon. Nothing more. Maybe a little less. At least it’s something to rub up against. Just know that when we make a pooh joke, or throw something together that has the look and feel of a duct-taped train wreck, we know we’re doing it. Pooh jokes have been around since pooh was deemed unsuitable for the cave. They’ll be with us for a long time.

CELEBRITY CULTURE
We, The Babarazzi, are very clear in our agenda with regards to celebriyogi culture. Our heading on our site is very straight forward: We are “giving contemporary yoga culture the star treatment.” To state it simply, if you want to be a celebrity you will reap what you sow in that regard. Not in a biblical sense. But, definitely in a prankster Babarazzi sense. If living the life of a public celebrity figure is what you are after, we Babarazzi are more than happy to oblige.

That said, even though we Babarazzi have no sympathy for the celebrification of yoga culture and the *personalities* that facilitate and maintain its existence, this does not mean we have any less love for humans or even the humans who rely on the celebriyogi infrastructure we so dearly mock. On the contrary, WE LOVE YOU! Seriously. This is not a sarcastic statement. WE. LOVE. YOU! You reading this. We love YOU. Maybe we can’t stand the personality you’ve crafted over the years or the one crafted for you by an agent, but we definitely love YOU. Just saying it makes our hearts warm and fluttery. In all seriousness!

However, we Babarazzi are still going to mock the pants off celebriyogi culture. That’s just the way it’s gonna be.

SADIE NARDINI
As we state in our response on our site, we were shocked to find out Sadie had such a seemingly visceral response to the piece. While, of course, no one likes to see her/his face embedded in an article that ridicules a culture s/he participates in, we felt our article was by far more an attack on the culture of commodification and how that culture was being represented back to the public through the earning pursuits of key figures in the mainstream commercialized yoga scene. In all honesty, Sadie was merely a passing thought in the piece, and was mentioned only because she was quoted in the original NYT article. Had she not been, we would be having a very different discussion right now.

—RESPONSE PART 2—MONEY CULTURE
There’s been quite a bit made of our apparent “stance” on making money, a stance here at The Babarazzi that is as varied as the stretch marks on my mother’s thighs. Although one could (and probably should!) make the argument that accumulations of wealth are by design antithetical to neutral pursuits (as in, despite what some Buddhists would like to think, in today’s hyper-capitalist environment money is by definition not a neutral mediator of exchange), making such an argument is not our primary concern. We are not “against” people acquiring money (hitherto referred to as “greenish slips of paper”). And, while we won’t go as far as saying we’d like to make “kabillions” as one EJ commenter put it, we feel, given the economic system we currently live in, that making enough greenish slips of paper to live a stress-free life is a good thing. Be that making greenish slips of paper teaching yoga, selling “teacher trainings,” snake oil, or snake-oil-flavored cupcakes.However, it is our opinion that this discussion of greenish slips of paper is not about “making a living” as many people have commented. When we talk about celebrity yoga culture, we are not talking about netting 90,000 greenish slips of paper. We are not talking about netting 100,000 greenish slips of paper. We are not talking about netting 200,000 greenish slips of paper. We are talking about netting 300,000+ greenish slips of paper. Again, if acquiring as many greenish slips of paper is what you are after, by all means, good luck! But, know that when we talk about the vapid commercial aspects of contemporary yoga culture, we are not talking about “making a living.” We are talking about wealth. And, in that, we are not talking about “healing.” No yogi I know was ever healed by stock-piling a million greenish slips of paper, with the exception of maybe OSHO, may peace be upon his whacked out soul.

SAVING YOGA
Now, a number of people have accused us of taking a “holier than thou” stance with regards to what one should or should not do in yoga and in commerce. This couldn’t be further from the truth. While it is true that we have very high standards when it comes to the people we will study under, we are also the product of American pop culture. We ate Mr. T cereal just like you. Our parents fed us Hostess cupcakes. We watched Saturday morning cartoons. We played Nintendo. We learned how to touch our awkward pubescent selves while staying up late watching Red Shoe Diaries on Showtime.

We have a pretty well-rounded view of what’s out there and what’s possible when it comes to navigating through the miasmic sea of commercialized yoga. But, we are certainly not here to “save yoga.” Please, make no mistake. It is our opinion that yoga need not be saved. Even if it did, with the exception of a few impossible to implement and probably illegal strategies, we Babarazzi would have no idea how to save it. No. Yoga is always already perfect and available to anyone who dares kiss its ever-so-slightly upturned lips. To us, yoga is just fine!

So, that should just about do it. Really, thanks again for reading the article and putting your heart and soul into your responses. We’ll just keep on doing what we do, and you just see where it lands for you.

In great Love of this fancy lil’ planet we live on,
The Babarazzi

About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | facebook.com/elephantjournal | twitter.com/elephantjournal | facebook.com/waylonhlewis | twitter.com/waylonlewis | Google+ For more: publisherelephantjournalcom

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17 Responses to “Editor’s note: Why I pulled the YAMA op-ed by Babarazzi.”

  1. Sadie Nardini sadienardini says:

    Thank you, Waylon, for maintaining the standards you put forth around anonymity.

    The interesting thing is, most everyone who wrote in or had something to do with that piece including, Barbarazzi, Waylon, me, and most of those who commented, actually agreed on a centralized point: that it's creepy and potentially damaging when people take actions for money's sake, or fame first, and leave the yoga or spiritual/personal integrity for much later, if at all.

    Barbarazzi, unfortunately, chose to try and make an example, or perhaps prove their larger point, by framing some of the very people who are the last to do that, and instead who work very hard to put their living yoga commitments first and other aspects of this career second.

    I'm all for spirited discussions, but that article bordered on abusiveness. I appreciate blogs like YogaDork who have taken me to task or poked fun, but never bullied. And this wasn't just about me, but other yogis whom I know very well, and didn't like seeing called out when they have done nothing to deserve such treatment. Since I'm a fellow Elephant writer, I felt it was my duty to stand up and show people another perspective.

    Next time, if we are to have an intelligent, respectful dialogue about these (very real) issues and actually make a difference in holding our yoga leaders accountable, let's all step out of the shadows, use our real names, and get to know one another. If the Barbarazzi wants to become an actual person I can talk to, then I, and others in this community, will welcome a conversation that can move past biting, often cutting satire and provide a more in-depth and rounded, and–who knows?–Maybe even a greater understanding of one another after all.

    • elephantjournal says:

      Well said. It's harder to make enemies of those we know on a human, personal, raw level.

      It's as simple as this: while I respect the decision of various blogs and bloggers to go under nom de plumes, here on elephant we need to own our words.

      We'd like to be able to mandate that in comments, as well. ~ Waylon Lewis (my real name)

    • bhagat_singh says:

      Love you, Sadie – thanks for keeping it real. Accountable is one goal, but even though I appreciate sarcasm and some snarkiness, it's apparent from the straight up mean-spiritedness this was not about a discussion, but a flame fest.

      You, as always, set a strong example,.. be true, keep it real, have fun, stay focused on the beauty but live in the reality.

      xoxox – can't wait to see you – Mahabunnasana awaits! Chrispy

  2. Karl Saliter Karl Saliter says:

    Right on. I read it last night. I found it snarky past the amusement point but let it go as something that looked cathartic for the writer.

    As a performer, I’ve had agents for twenty years: they are handy, and leave me time to practice my craft. (Not that I do, just that there is time for it.) But I digress.

    Using your real name leaves you vulnerable. That’s why I stole Karl Saliter’s identity, and simply use his.

    xo

  3. __MikeG__ says:

    This leads to the question as to why this post was allowed in the first place if the author/s were anonymous? Was the article too snarky? Was the article and some of the comments too hard on Ms. Nardini? Were the Nardini minions and their use of overly flowery language in defense of Ms. Nardini getting of EJ's nerves?

    • elephantjournal says:

      Again, I'd love to put it back up. It's my mistake: as I explained, above, we've allowed an exception to anonmity when it came from established blogs like Yogadork, etc. But Babarazzi, unlike the others mentioned above, has never published their identity. Since I get emails from them, I didn't really realize that they were fully anonymous. When I did, I asked them to include their name. When they declined, I pulled the article. Does that make sense, Mike?

      As you know I was happy to have the article and it's questions up on our site, I like Babarazzi, and I actively defended the opinion's right to be published in comments, even while I disagreed with its conclusions or target.

  4. thebabarazzi says:

    Thank you, Waylon, for posting the article. And, thanks for understanding our position with regards to our collective identity, The Babarazzi. As of now it is impossible to separate out who of us writes which piece, as we all contribute to the great good cause of celebrimockery. And, while we appreciate you giving us a number of ways to work around/with/through your no non de plume policy, "Aghori Babarazzi" (WTF?!) and the rest of the crew feel it best to continue writing under the collective banner, The Babarazzi.

    Feel free to continue following our unruly pursuits over at <a href="http://www.thebabarazzi.com” target=”_blank”>www.thebabarazzi.com and keep an eye out for us in places we shouldn't be. We're just getting started.

    A great big non-sentimental LOVE hug of CHAOS to you all.
    See you soon!

    The Babarazzi
    "We watch people"

    PS- What a fantastic way to end it, though! Right?!

    • elephantjournal says:

      I will. I love the blog and if you reconsider, we'd be honored/pleasured to continue to share up your troublemaking, with tags and love, to our readership. ~ Waylon.

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    Hi there I so liked reading your thoughts. I’m considering beginning my own blog now Best Wishes.

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