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

Via Roseanne Harvey
on Aug 6, 2010
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Kathryn Budig gets naked for Toesox ~ a prime example of how advertising for yoga products “exploit the sexuality of women.”

It’s no secret that sex sells ~ and this is something that yoga product companies caught on to a while ago. But it seems that some yoga teachers and practitioners are saying, “Enough is enough!” In the September issue of Yoga Journal, Judith Hanson Lasater, one of the magazine’s founders (and a long-time contributor), wrote a letter to the editor stating her concern about the magazine and its advertising policy. She wrote:

Yoga Journal was born in my living room in Berkeley in 1975, where I was one of five yoga practitioner-teachers who gathered to create the magazine. I have loved the magazine ever since. But I’m concerned about ads that have stimulated both confusion and sadness in me about where the magazine is now and where it is headed.

I am confused because I do not understand how photos of naked or half-naked women are connected with the sale of practice products for asana, an important part of yoga. These pictures do not teach the viewer about yoga practice or themselves. They aren’t even about the celebration of the beauty of the human body or the beauty of the poses, which I support. These ads are just about selling a product. This approach is something I though belonged (unfortunately) to the larger culture, but not in Yoga Journal.

Finally, I feel sad because it seems that Yoga Journal has become just another voice for the status quo and not for elevating us to the higher values of yoga: spiritual integration, compassion and selfless service. My request is that Yoga Journal doesn’t run ads with photos that exploit the sexuality of young women in order to sell products or more magazines. Thank you for your attention and willingness to hear another point of view.

Judith Hanson Lasater
San Francisco, CA

From a glance at Judith’s Facebook Fanpage, she’s not the only person feeling this way. Her Fanpage is full of supportive comments from people who have similar issues with Yoga Journal’s advertising policy, and the representation of yoga. Her letter has also sparked a passionate discussion about  the ways that yoga is marketed and presented in North America, and the future of Yoga Journal. As she said on her Fanpage, “It is not my intention to harm YJ. It is my intention to open the dialogue and be clear about what my values are.”

Judith also willingly agreed to an email interview with it’s all yoga, baby to further explain her point of view.

Q: I understand that you must be disappointed to see YJ become another “voice of the status quo” and I’m sure that wasn’t your intention for the magazine when you helped start it 35 years ago. What kind of voice did you hope it would become?

JHL: I would love to be able to say that we had such a clear intention all those years ago, but it is not true. I do remember clearly that we all loved yoga (not just asana) and wanted to share it with the world. We were crazily naive about everything that went into publishing a magazine. We learned over and over again that you can’t publish if you can’t pay your staff, your distributors and your mailing costs. Business is the way of the world and nothing wrong with that. But I had and still have dreams about how the magazine and the world can be, part of my character I guess as an optimist.

Q: There have been many conversations and discussions about the commercialization/sexualization of yoga, and the response from many people is, “Yes, well we live in a capitalist society; everything is commercialized. Why not yoga?” But I see that you feel differently. What do you see as the problem with using sexual imagery to sell yoga? What is compromised?

JHL: I just want to help create a safe space for yoga to be taught. With all this sexualization of yoga clothes, props, etc., it must spill over into the environment of yoga classes in ways that do not honor the boundary between teacher and student. In the US, we pay people the most money who can distract us the best: actors, personalities and sports figures. Entertainment is all about distraction. As I understand it, the deepest practice of yoga is about the opposite: refusing at first, then later embracing, the act and art of not distracting myself anymore from myself and the moment. So it seems to me that the use of naked bodies to sell yoga products is about using distraction to sell introspection. For me it is not about the nakedness; rather, it is about using bodies to distract us instead of using ads that inspire us to practice yoga, to live in the present and to be open to compassion and grace in each moment. I am sad when I see yoga in general, and many yoga classes in particular, becoming about distraction and entertainment.

For the rest of the conversation, head on over to it’s all yoga, baby!


About Roseanne Harvey

Roseanne is a writer, editor and geeky girl who lives and loves life in Montreal. Her blog It's All Yoga Baby, is one of the most popular Yoga blogs on the Internet. As the former editor of ascent magazine, Roseanne isn’t afraid to use her media literacy skills to call out the hypocrisies and contradictions of modern yoga. She is all for dismantling the dominant hegemony of rock star teachers, expensive class fees and designer clothes/accessories/products. She also loves supporting progressive yoga projects, innovative and independent teachers, and general awesomeness. Rather infamous for being an overt voice against the commercialization of yoga, these days Roseanne is more interested in how yoga intersects with daily life, activism, politics and culture. While still fascinated by the ramifications of the popularity of yoga and its representation in popular culture, she has faith that yoga will maintain its integrity. Comments, questions, ideas? Get in touch: [email protected] or @itsallyoga_baby in the Twittersphere.


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

  1. laksmi says:

    I gave up my subscription to YJ years ago because, let's face it, it's about sales. I completely agree with Judith that ads like this are just plain wrong. I mean, look, we're almost looking at her snatch for god's sake. It's not a 'celebration' of the strength of women–just keep telling yourself that B.S. story, girls and you'll keep being viewed as a pair of boobs and a snatch.

  2. laksmi says:

    And if we're going to go this route, let's be equal and GET SOME NAKED MEN IN THE MAG AS WELL.

  3. Rebecca says:

    @Roseanne….I agree that there are times when women are grossly exploited, but I seriously doubt it is within the pages of Yoga Journal….and as for Judith Lasater being a senior yoga teacher….well, that's a matter of much debate.

  4. Mike says:

    "learn about the awful things that are being done to women all over the world right now because people view them as objects."

    Not a fair argument. Bad, shameful, things have happened to women (and men as well), because there are bad people in the world.

  5. Mike. says:

    Well said Amanda. The people in the ads look like the people practicing (and buying YJ). If more people thought more like this author, there wouldn't be much of a controversy – http://www.elephantjournal.com/2010/08/own-your-s….

  6. Mona says:

    I disagree. I think the adds are just fine. They are normal advertising. I personally don't subscribe to Yoga Journal because after I got my free issues, I was unimpressed. The magazine was nothing but adds. The type of adds doesn't matter. I generally don't pay much attention to adds in magazines anyway. It's a known fact that sex sells. And if I see an add with ugly people, i am much less likely to pay attention or to notice the advertiser. Advertisers need to be noticed so their name is remembered. If the adds are successfull, then eventually yoga journal can charge more for add space and then get enough money to make their magazine at least 50% content. Right now the magazine needs all the advertisers they can get, and the magazine can't fault advertisers for using attractive women. Think of it as art. Especially since they are attractive women in yoga poses. I love the sexy adds. They are inspirational to me actually. It's like one book said, the pictures are not to represent and ideal that everyone should strive for, but an inspiration. People can't help it if they are attracted to beautiful women.

  7. Guest says:

    There is a *huge* assumption that the ToeSox ads are the ads in question.

    Let's not forget about the Shakti Mat ad (see the August issue of YJ, page 56) with the topless model, her hands covering her breasts, lying on the mat. There is no point to the use of nudity in this instance except to sell.

  8. Yogini# says:

    As New York City based (no, I am not in L.A.!), there is one high profile New York City vinyasa studio that consistently uses attractive actors in sexy, flexy asana in order to sell its classes, although lately they toned it down a little. If the studio has integrity and deep spirituality to it, which it might, I can't really see it …

  9. integralhack says:

    Great point, Nancy.

  10. Shannon says:

    as a feminist, dancer, choreographer, and teacher, i have no issues with tasteful nudity used to accentuate the brilliance of what the body can do through yoga, pilates, or dance.

    “Down through the centuries poets, sculptors, painters and now photographers, have also been striving to grasp and immortalize the beauty of the human body, both male and female. I see in these forms the elemental relationship to the large forms of nature; a sense of strength like a rock – fluidity like water – space like a mountain range. If I have chosen the female form in particular, it is because beauty has been debased and exploited in our sensual twentieth century. We seem to have a need to turn innocent nature into evil ugliness be the twist of the mind. Woman has been target of much that is sordid and cheap, especially in photography. To raise, to elevate, to endorse with timeless reverence the image of woman, has been my mission – the reason for my work.”

    —Ruth Bernhard, Views on nudes by Bill Jay

  11. […] letter to Yoga Journal. Accompanying the letter, both here on it’s all yoga, baby, and on elephant journal, is the now iconic image of Kathryn Budig posing for Toesox ~ which has ended up being the […]

  12. […] Judith Hanson Lasater Slams Yoga Journal for “Sexy Ads.” ~ via … Photographs of yoga have traditionally been of naked or half-naked men Consider the classic photographs of a very young Pattabhi Jois demonstrating (and marketing) his Ashtanga yoga system in nothing but a loincloth. (Drishtis being the point of gaze you are supposed to focus on while in a pose i.e. looking at the toes in a forward bend). The drishtis turn the practice into a meditation no matter where a practitioner is able to go in each pose physically. […]

  13. Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enyed reading your blog posts. Any way I'll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon

  14. […] the blogging world continues to conversate  about those peskyToe Sox ads and whether, or not, they are offensive, I sat, watching quietly and wondering why I didn’t take […]

  15. […] of the most challenging things about last month’s conversation was watching the focus shift from the use of nudity in yoga advertising to the Toesox ad and Kathryn Budig. It was frustrating to watch, and I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for Kathryn […]

  16. kasey says:

    Just wanted to give a shout out to KB. Check out this video with Kathryn and her dog Ashi. Kathryn is a beautiful maaaaaa and using yoga to save animals!

  17. […] with Poses for Paws co-founder Kathryn Budig With all the um, interesting press that Kathryn Budig has been getting lately, I thought it would be nice to feature a recent […]

  18. elephantjournal says:

    The Toesox ads are not, indeed, the ones in question according to my interview with Judith Hanson Lasater. They are, however, highlighted on many blogs, not just this one, because they not only are an obvious example of nudity, yoga and advertising in YJ, but they're an example that makes us think—they're artful, beautiful, not merely sexual.

  19. elephantjournal says:

    Already happened, last year.

  20. elephantjournal says:

    Nice, and glad you're blogging it up here on elej!

  21. […] campaign featuring Kathryn Budig I bit my tongue and looked the other way out of respect for Judith’s place in yoga. It also seemed redundant to write about how sex and beauty sell products, and that even though Toesox may be a yoga product, its existence is still dependent on sales, which explains Toesox using a very pretty, naked yoga instructor to try to move product. Yesterday I read a very similar 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. […]

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  23. […] human form is beautiful. I’m all for celebrating it. But after all the intense interchange around Judith Hanson Lasater’s (She was a part of the group that started the m… in the September issue where she made a request: “My request is that Yoga Journal doesn’t run […]

  24. […] ToeSox, which prompted one of the magazine’s original co-founders, Judith Hanson Lasater, to protest publicly, first in a letter to the editor, and more recently, in […]

  25. […] ToeSox, which prompted one of the magazine’s original co-founders, Judith Hanson Lasater, to protest publicly, first in a letter to the editor, and more recently, in […]

  26. […] ToeSox, which prompted one of the magazine’s original co-founders, Judith Hanson Lasater, to protest publicly, first in a letter to the editor, and more recently, in […]

  27. […] ToeSox, which prompted one of the magazine’s original co-founders, Judith Hanson Lasater, to protest publicly, first in a letter to the editor, and more recently, in […]

  28. […] this art, or selling socks, or helping animals? (The can of worms that will never be […]

  29. […] letter to Yoga Journal. Accompanying the letter, both here on it’s all yoga, baby, and on elephant journal, is the now iconic image of Kathryn Budig posing for Toesox ~ which has ended up being the […]

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  32. […] ToeSox, which prompted one of the magazine’s original co-founders, Judith Hanson Lasater, to protest publicly, first in a letter to the editor, and more recently, in […]

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  40. nunh says:

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