Kathryn and Tara: I’m a fan!

Via Brooks Hall
on Sep 9, 2010
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Kathryn Budig and Tara StilesI Like Kathryn Budig. I like Tara Stiles. I don’t know them personally, but I’m fascinated by them.

At the beginning of George W. Bush’s presidency, I remember being fascinated by his daughters. I really enjoyed the story of them getting carded for margaritas at a Mexican restaurant with their secret service people just outside. Having done a lot of underage drinking, myself, I relished in the tale of the President’s daughters doing it, too. I wanted to know more, but the story soon changed, and we heard less about Jenna and Barbara in the media as time went on.

If my life had offered a different set of circumstances, I would have posed naked for Toesox. I’m sure of it. So I’m fascinated by the little bits of info I’m gleaning from Kathryn’s blog posts at HuffPo and Yoga Journal about what all of this recent talk about it might mean to her.

I have a similar sense about Tara’s story. In the intro of her book she talks about having grown up in rural Illinois. I grew up in small town Ohio, so I project my experience onto her story a little bit. She also speaks of the pressures of her early modeling career (under different life circumstances I might have done modeling), and how she felt the need to be “Slim Calm Sexy” constantly. Yoga helped her.

Don’t many of us fantasize at some point or another about being the ones chosen to model or publish a book that appears on bookstore shelves across the country? And some of us reading this have already achieved these dreams, and I bet that some of us have yet to achieve our ambitions.

These women have worked hard to have successful careers. I just want to honor their accomplishments here, because I have a voice. Because I can.

You go girls!

And to everyone else (including me) watching the moves of these women in the spotlight right now: Let’s just consider how we might work toward our personal dreams too, and try not to stab our tiny pitchforks of unrequited dreams in the direction of these examples of success.

Let’s work. Let’s love as best we can! Let’s dream. And put energy towards making our world better, rather than trying to tear down the images of others.

What do you think? This is new media so you can tell me and all the other readers (in the comments below) how crazy and inappropriate this is: if you feel that to be true.

We can also rally our resources toward celebrating the accomplishments of successful people, as well as pumping ourselves up to more fully offer our personal blessings to the blogosphere, daily life and world.

* This article is an offering for peace from Yogic Muse *


About Brooks Hall

Brooks Hall is a Yogic Muse from Chicago, Illinois. In this capacity she teaches Yoga, writes about Yoga, and generally enjoys it. You can find her at: brookshall.blogspot.com.


37 Responses to “Kathryn and Tara: I’m a fan!”

  1. Carol Horton says:

    I think that it's too bad that the debate over the commercialization of yoga is becoming so personalized. In Ms. Budig's case, that was essentially an accident: as explained on the It's All Yoga Baby blog, if that ad hadn't been the best illustration available online at the time that initial post was written, it would never have become so heavily associated with the ensuing discussion. Certainly, there are plenty of other examples that could have been used, and most people understood that.

    With Ms. Stiles, it's different. She's putting herself out there and very aggressively marketing a "revolutionary new approach" to yoga. I hesitated writing about her directly, because I don't want to say negative things about individuals. But since she's pushing so hard for a new approach to yoga – and seemingly very successfully – I couldn't think of any way to discuss this development without talking about her work directly. But I tried to do so in a balanced and reasonable way.

    To accuse people who care enough about American yoga to take the time to be critical about some of the directions it's going of being jealous and "driven by unrequited dreams" seems unfair and mean-spirited. Similarly, I felt that Ms. Budig's Huff Post piece, which writes off everyone with a critical view of yogic commercialization as being angry, envious, negative, etc., is way off the mark. While I can sympathize with the position that she found herself in, and wish that the debate had not become so centered on her ad (again, something that no one intended), I think that she's wrong not to recognize that there's a legitimate and even important discussion going on here.

  2. Melanie says:

    What a brilliant reply, especially the last paragraph. Thank you.

  3. Linda-Sama says:

    "try not to stab our tiny pitchforks of unrequited dreams in the direction of these examples of success."

    Really, Brooks? Is that what you really think this entire discussion has been about? I'm shaking my head at that one.

  4. Martin says:

    Okay, i’ll bite. Crazy Brooks but cute as hell!

  5. Linda-Sama says:

    HA! believe me, there is no one in the rock star yoga world I am jealous of! singers maybe — wish I could sing like Etta James — but never another yoga teacher! Stiles and Budig put their yoga pants on the same way I do!

  6. Ramesh says:

    Well said, Carol. I agree. It's rather simple: when you are a celebrity and a public personality people will talk about you, have opinions about you. Hence, some famous people are, for good reason, careful not to associate themselves with products, trends, and ideas that are contrary to their lifestyle and ethical values. That is a choice every celebrity has and can make. That is also a choice we yogis have, including Ms. Stiles and M. Budig. So, while a yogi is not simply his or her clothes, his or her body, the way you wear or not wear your clothes and in which circumstances, does matter. This important and healthy debate was not solely about Ms. Stiles nor Ms. Budig, but it was definitely about the choices that they have made in portraying yoga as just another commercial fad for those who want (and can afford) to look and feel fit. Some of us do not think that is only what yoga is about, so we voiced our opinions against the superficial and commercial aspects of yoga today. Hence, I truly admire and aspire to be like those beautiful yoginis and yogis, in all shapes and colors, who do not dream of getting a big paycheck to stand next to a car to strut their stuff….

  7. Brooks_Hall says:

    Hi Ramesh.

    I agree that the choices you talk about are important, but there’s nothing wrong with being successful either… I think that we all need to make our own choices, and perhaps respect the choices of others, too. It’s not to say that we might not choose to call the choices of others to a question sometimes to heighten our awareness of the choices we are making, but to speak out aggressively toward someone just because they’re successful also seems suspect to me. Everybody deserves respect and kindness.

  8. Brooks_Hall says:

    Honestly, Linda-Sama, I can only speak from my individual viewpoint, and from where I am it looks like the situation would benefit from a little consideration of what we are saying to one another.

    For me this has been a process: First I was wounded as I remembered some of my own body-issues, after Judith Hanson Lasater's letter to Yoga Journal. Then I activated through my writing and felt more empowered. And now I've softened, accepting what I see now. I have a new understanding based on this journey I have undertaken.

    This discussion has been about cultivating or maybe birthing awareness about how I relate to yoga in popular culture. I think it plays a relevant role, when I think that I used to think of it as “out there” and my yoga practice and teaching was somehow separate. It no longer is making sense to think that way. The more I open up to hear other viewpoints, the richer my life is.

  9. Carol Horton says:

    Hi Brooks. Thanks for your response. I really do appreciate it.

    Overall, I'm feeling like this whole discussion (not just on this particular post, but in general) needs to shift in a different direction. I'm getting more and more of the feeling of two opposing sides talking past one another – and even worse, dismissing and disparaging each other. I'm not feeling a whole lot of learning from each other going on. (Of course, there's some exceptions, but I'm talking about in general.)

    Maybe the sensibilities involved are too deep to be moved to anything but reaction in this type of online forum. Maybe there's a more skillful way of handling the discussion that we haven't found yet. Maybe I'm feeling overly sensitive and wanting to opt out too quickly. I'm not sure. I'm going to reflect on it further – practice some yoga – try to tap into that deeper intuition – see what comes up.

  10. Brooks_Hall says:

    Hi Emmanuelle.

    I just found myself questioning where some of the comments and posts were coming from. I mentioned that only so we might question, perhaps we might look and find a way to further clarify the discussion without demonizing others. We are in this together.

  11. Ramesh says:

    Hi Brooks, I did not speak out against success in general. I have no problem with success, as I consider both Buddha and Patanjali to be fairly successful at what they did. So this debate was not about the envy of success. It was about how yoga is presented and represented by certain successful yogis. On a spiritual level, yes, everybody deserves respect and kindness, YES! But when spiritual people misrepresent and cheapen yoga, they deserve to be reminded, sometimes even strongly. However, this debate was not so much about these successful yoginis, it was about a general downward spiraling trend–the commercialization of yoga. Let's keep that perspective in mind. So, in all respect, I reserve the right to disagree with that trend.

  12. Linda-Sama says:

    I'll take that as a joke.

  13. Linda-Sama says:

    Carol, I thought Nathan's comment on your blog made THE most sense out of everything that I have read!

  14. Linda-Sama says:

    of course you speak from your own viewpoint, don't most writers/artists? the same way that my "personal is political" blog post came from my experience as an early '70s feminist in the trenches, so to speak. we all speak from our own experiences.

  15. Ramesh says:

    Carol, I just read this article of yours, "Yoga, Weight Loss, & Spirituality: Parsing the Cultural Politics of Slim Calm Sexy Yoga" and I think it is one of the best to come out of this whole debate. Especially the last paragraph! It is one of the best because you explain well why we are poorer as a yoga nation when we think it is elitist to water down the wholeness of yoga, the body-mind-spirit aspects of yoga, and yoga's inherent tie to the deep cultural and spiritual traditions of India.
    As far as the "reactions" we have seen here on EJ, and those of my own included, they are also necessary, as they represent an important voice that we have seldom heard in the yoga community before, that voice: enough is enough! Aggressive Greenpeace activists may not save the whales, and we outraged yogis may not save America from its own commercialization of a deeply sacred tradition, but the world needs to hear these messages and would be so much poorer for it if these voices were not expressed. There is a time and place for such "reactions." Such as right now. I see that as part of being a sacred activist. And I do not worry about my loud voice during my silent meditations. Indeed, I embrace both my loud and silent voices as part of my tantric practice. At the same time I appreciate yours, too, the more considerate one, the more reflective….They are all needed!

  16. Ramesh says:

    COORECTION: This sentence above should read: Especially the last paragraph! It is one of the best because you explain well why we are poorer as a yoga nation when we think it is elitist to not want to water down the wholeness of yoga, the body-mind-spirit aspects of yoga, and yoga's inherent tie to the deep cultural and spiritual traditions of India.

  17. Continuing to keep out of the yoga advertising wars, I'll simply go on record as a Brooks Hall fan…

  18. Linda-Sama says:

    I concur with Carol — thanks, Ramesh.

    I was watching Paul Grilley's DVD on the chakras tonight and sat in awe — even tho I've listened to him for 7 years now — of his explanations of samskaras/samsaras and other yogic concepts….and then thought about the dumbing down of yoga as a weight loss technique. It made me feel queasy.

    for the most part I am fine with "do your yoga and I'll do mine", but I feel very disheartened at times in the face of "slim sexy yoga", "hot yoga", "yoga sculpt", "yogalates", and packed "crunch yoga" classes, etc etc etc. sometimes I think I should quit teaching and concentrate on my own practice. But the truth is that It takes courage to teach what I teach, to weave meditation and awakening in my classes. I won't teach any differently to attract more students. As Seanne Corn has said, I'd rather teach to the two who get it than the 10 who don't.

  19. Brooks_Hall says:

    Ramesh: I honor your passion and commitment to the practice and transmission of yoga. There are things I do not understand about your viewpoint, however.

    What's weird to me is that some of us bloggers seem to want to choose for everybody: what is authentic yoga or what is watered-down yoga, when I wonder if we spoke to a pure Renunciate, perhaps practicing in a cave somewhere, would they not look at practically everybody’s practice as "watered down". And how can you propose to want to choose for everybody else? I think that everybody interfaces with the yoga in their own way. We could all practice in a room together and each have a different nuanced sense of what happened in there—and that’s more than okay. That’s good! It means that we were all consciously participating.

    I can like people who might have a different practice or teaching style than mine. It in no way threatens the amount of “depth” in my practice or the quality of what others teach and practice.

    There is no one answer when it comes to yoga. We all participate and that’s what makes it beautiful.

  20. Brooks_Hall says:

    barefootyoga01, from your comment:
    “…you don't see a naked Rodney Yee, or John Friend posing for Ford, or a suggestive shot of Patricia Walden, or Dharma Mittra, or Erich Schiffman.”

    True enough! This is definitely a newer twist on our concept of yoga teachers. Hmm. Makes a lot of sense. People are reacting to the newness of this development…

  21. Ramesh says:

    Brooks, you are right that nobody can choose for others in how they practice yoga, all we can do is suggest, then people will choose on their own. You are also right that all participate in their own way and on their own terms. But what is evident in your reply above is the common contradiction of cultural relativism: that everyone is right, that everyone holds the truth, that there are no universal truths out there. In other words, if there is no one answer, then you claim that it is universally true that no judgments are universally true. In other words, cultural relativism makes its own universal judgment that universal judgments are very very bad. See the irony in that? I do not agree with such a judgement, nor does yoga philosophy. Yoga philosophy believes that some truths are better or higher than others, and that we must use viveka (discrimination), yoga believes there are relative truths, yes, but also universal truths. Yoga also believes there are stages of realization, that some people are more enlightened than others, some actions are more spiritual, ethical, moral than others. So, again, if you believe that Yoga Journal has the right to sell its version of commercialized fitness yoga, you must also recognize that I also have the right to say that it does not represent the whole picture of what yoga is. I have the right to say that it is a watered down form of yoga, but I do not, of course, have the right, nor do I desire, to stop anyone from practicing this type of fitness yoga. Practicing hatha yoga by itself is very healthy, but I do question the way it is being commercialized and sold by making false promises. So, yes, not all yoga is the same, and on the physical and mental level there is no one yoga pant or book that fits all, but spiritually there is one universal truth and answer: yoga's ultimate goal is enlightenment, nondual awareness, Oneness. The names of That may vary, but the experience is universal. You may of course question that as well, but it would be contrary to the universal truth that yoga stands for.

  22. Brooks Hall says:

    Saying that “yoga believes” this or that doesn’t make any sense. People believe. Yoga is not a person. It sounds like you believe this and that about yoga, but I don’t sense friendliness in your words, so it makes me less interested.

  23. Ramesh says:

    Brooks, thanks for pointing out my poor choice of words, but if you extend your friendliness, you would certainly get the point. As for my own, I consider this a debate among friends, that's the beauty of EJ. We may strongly disagree and still be friends! I grew up in an extended family of fundamentalist Christians (grandparents) and communists (parents) all living in the same house and enjoying fierce debates but still sharing the same dinner table. Or just ask my friend Bob! We often disagree, but we are still great friends. Also keep in mind that we are men, and we can be rough around the edges some time, but deep down not unfriendly.

  24. Linda-Sama says:

    and a big thanks from me, Ramesh…..

  25. Brooks Hall says:

    To me, yoga represents a kind of truth and in that sense:

    “Truth is a pathless land”

    ~J. Krishnamurti

    The only thing I am not questioning is the necessity of continuing to ask questions.

  26. Ramesh says:

    Brooks, by this time in this discussion the two of us might be the only ones reading, so I will be brief: I think yoga philosophy and practice, in its deepest sense, has everything to do with this discussion. And it is here that our views differ, of course. To me, it is of value to address the disconnect between the deeper values of yoga and how it is generally being taught or sold or bribed upon us. Moreover, few hatha yogis, even those who are not commercially corrupted, try to embody or practice the inner essence of Asthanga Yoga, simply because it is not available in the commercial market place. Raja and hatha go together, but not vety often do we see it in practice. How many practice Dharana as shakra shodana or tattva dharana out there, or how many have even heard of these integral practices? Not many, which is unfortunate. So, yes, I don't think I am preaching to the choir. But that's another story. It's been great conversing with you, and I do appreciate your sincerity and your care!

  27. Brooks Hall says:

    Ramesh, it sounds like you are resisting the truth of what’s happening in the world. I am convinced that there is a message here for us. Scriptural foundation is helpful and practice is a blessing, but what we can learn from what is happening right now might also help us on our yogic quest.

    Be well. I wish you peace and great healing. May our world be happy, healthy and peaceful.

  28. Ramesh says:

    No, I do not think so, Brooks. Protesting what is superficial and commercial is not resisting the truth; it's trying to do something about it. However, I do agree with you that some people come to the more genuine aspects of yoga by picking up Yoga Journal, etc. I have acknowledged that in my other articles here on this topic. While you may think that all forms of yoga is great, whether it is selling sex or cars or not, I do not agree with this cultural relativism. So, let us just smile, agree to disagree (even though I think we are closer in view points than our writings may acknowledge), and move on! It is great weather here in the mountains today, and the birds are flying high!

  29. DutchYogini says:

    I find it interesting to see that in this post, the two ladies in question are being portrayed as successful. What is successful anyway? Is someone who is portrayed in the media extensively – and, arguably, more so because of the way they look than because of what they think – more successful than someone who is not? I have no reason to dislike these women, but I have to say that I haven't noticed them spreading any extraordinary ideas.

    Their messages, their ideas, are not different from messages I see other women spreading: anonymous yoga teachers giving their students tools to acquire peace and insight, school teachers, mothers, sisters…

    I guess I just don't see why these two stereotypically thin, white, pretty, young women should be considered more successful and more of a role model than those countless other women out there.

  30. Brooks Hall says:

    Hi DutchYogini!

    Your question, “What is successful?” is a great one! And I think it’s a wonderful idea to honor our yoga teachers whether they are famous or not.

    What you seem to be saying about media popularity as a questionable measure of success I see as a consciousness-raising addition to this post. Thanks!

    And at the same time it is a measure of success that a lot of us buy into: fame = success, or money = success. But it’s definitely worthy of a question.

    Also, there was a time in my life (as a teenager) when I didn’t have any healthy role-models in the media, and it might have made a difference if I had. Media is powerful. That said, I did have my grandmother who was a helpful role model. But I was looking to the media to try to fit-in more at that age.

  31. […] Carol Horton comments: To accuse people who care enough about American yoga to take the time to be critical about some of […]

  32. […] also been suggested that anyone who thinks Tara is selling out is just jealous of her success. Can you imagine that? […]

  33. While personal attacks or insults are not productive or necessary, as the public to whom media is directed, we should been well-versed in looking at advertisements and discerning the messages they are feeding us and be allowed to raise legitimate concerns about them. To have valid concerns written off as mere jealousy is alarming. While we should indeed look inside to learn about the origins of our reactions, work to move from love and light, celebrate and enjoy the success of others, that in no way should discourage speaking up when we see things that are not in integrity and play on insecurity bred by societal gender exploitation.

  34. Brooks_Hall says:

    Yes, Jessica. I agree. Thanks for speaking out.

  35. Brooks_Hall says:

    Thanks, Kaoverii. I appreciate the suggestion.