Schtick It To Me.

Via Clare Polencheck
on Jan 21, 2011
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Gimmick or Gandhi…how do you decide?

I really enjoyed Joslyn Hamilton’s latest article on her experience with famous yoga teacher Bryan Kest. In her piece, Hamilton called out Kest’s “schtick.” For lack of a better reference, Wiktionary defines schtick as “a gimmick.” As I read Hamilton’s article, I nodded with a smile, took her words clearly as her opinion and experience, laughed, appreciated her honesty, and moved on to the comments, where it seemed some took her words with a bit of annoyance.

One commenter said, “Everyone has a schtick, and it has nothing to do with ‘authenticity.’”

This got me thinking, is there some specified discernment prototype or rule of judgment on schticking vs. authenticity?

What makes (for example purposes…) Gandhi authentic, but Bryan Kest a gimmick?

Why can’t Bryan Kest’s schtick be authentic? Just because it is perceived or used as a gimmick or because it makes him famous, doesn’t mean it’s not him. And who is anyone to judge that? What are the criteria for critiquing another’s authenticity? Is it use of money? Fame? Media?

If a famous yoga teacher gives to a charity, touts vegetarianism as the Yoga principle of ahimsa (non-violence), or teaches free classes as part of their schtick, does it cancel out a gimmick and become more authentic? What do the ancient Yoga texts say about schticks? For that matter, what do the ancient Yoga texts say about using sex to sell Yoga products? Or naked images to get readers to click on Yoga articles? Is that a schtick too?

Is Hamilton’s schtick that she doesn’t care and doesn’t buy it and is over it? Is my schtick that I’m wide eyed, seemingly confused, afraid to offend…writing in all questions rather than opinionated statements?   

The question remains, who decides and based on what?

Who's gonna judge if this seal's Self is showing?

We each judge schtickiness based on our own experience of course. But in my experience, “my experience” is limited and I guess I just feel unqualified to judge another’s. I’m not saying you are as well, just asking. This is my post and my schtick, for today.

What’s your shtick? Is it self, Self, or shtick? Do you worry about how others perceive it?


About Clare Polencheck

Clare L. Polencheck is a yoga instructor who strives to live and write from a Christian-Yogic spiritual perspective, and is humbled to share tidbits of her lessons as a teacher of asana, a student of her students, and a pupil of Universe. Learning to go with God’s flow is her dharma code.


14 Responses to “Schtick It To Me.”

  1. You ask some great questions here, Clare. I know all the correct answers, but let's see what others have to say…

    No, seriously, these really are great questions. I'm going to do my part by getting the word out on Facebook and Twitter.

    Bob W.
    Yoga Editor

  2. This is a question I often think of when an artist is accused of "selling out"–someone like Paul McCartney, for instance, writing silly love songs instead of something weightier–when, to anybody looking over the guy's career, it's clear that the "schlock" is exactly what the guy loves, and anything more "experimental" back in the sixties was, most likely, an attempt to go with the trends of the psychedelic era (meaning that the "sell-out" material might, in fact, be his authentic expression, while the less commercial stuff might be the opposite) , just as his attempts at classical music may have been a self-conscious attempt at being taken seriously as an artist (notably, critics pounced on the poppy melodies he couldn't seem to leave out) .

    So who's to say Brian Kest doesn't like swearing? I sure as fuck do…

  3. I love this! Especially this part: "Is Hamilton’s schtick that she doesn’t care and doesn’t buy it and is over it?" I wouldn't go so far as to say it's my "schtick" because I generally DON'T care and AM over it… but then again, I think all schticks start out by coming from a place of truth. Then, they STICK. Get it?

  4. CarolHorton says:

    I think that if we work on being mercilessly honest with ourselves, we can usually instinctively sense the difference between whether we or others are being authentic or fake. The problem is that that's often frightening and painful to do that, so often we'd really rather not know the difference.

  5. G Gabriel says:

    Is it a gimmick that everyone want's to be Green? Green Yogi, Green Studio, Green Building, Green Business? Trends will come and go! or is this just an awakening of ones true nature to live in harmony with nature and other humans. Honesty and Integrity must come from ones own truth yet not ridicule another's truth which may be different than our own. Most of the commercialization of Yoga is focused on the physical and not so much on the Meditative which all long term practitioners know is the real goal of yoga. I had this realization standing in line at last years Bhakti Fest as i waited in line for some good
    vegetarian Fare. Two yogi's stood in front of me in line. One looked like he was a reincarnated Jesus in Burlap looking rags for clothes and the other a tall female in a brand new Lululemon top and matching leggings. I chuckled at the juxtaposition
    of each yet realized the two will always thrive side by side so we better just ride the tides of change and invite the schtick with a chuckle. Questions can always be asked but many answers will undoubtably come, are any one of them right/wrong?

  6. yogiclarebear says:

    got it, GOOD!

  7. Rebecca says:

    I think we all have that one thing we're bursting to share, and it comes out in our teaching and our practice. If that's a "schtick", then I'm all for it!

  8. Kali Ma Das says:

    My experience is that a schtick is a something somebody uses to get you to buy. Some call it added value, some call it personality, some call it sizzle, some call it BS. Authentic? Naw…..authentic is a high wall for schtick to get over. Love you anyway, schtick.

  9. jdk says:

    My first yoga classes were with Bryan Kest. I stayed and practiced 3 days a week for over a year. I needed it. Nothing about him or his delivery felt schticky to me in any way. I revere him for helping me process through a time when I was in need. I don't know him personally, but I've met him a few times and I've seen him speak on yoga panels with other old school yogis. I like his bold opinionated cursing self. He's a dude. He also has his other side who is open and approachable and shy in all the ways most of us are around strangers when not in our professional presentation. I rarely go to Bryan's classes these days, but when I do it is like going back to the beginning, an old slice of home for me. I enjoy the practice and the sweat and the anti-formal way he teaches, his humor. Power yoga no longer appealing to me as it once did. My practice has evolved in a therapeutic direction, but I will always hold Bryan in a certain light because those are my memories of that time in my life.

  10. Hi, jdk. This is one of the things I love about Elephant and why I'm so devoted. People often take the time and effort to tell the other side of a story in a most personal and convincing way, like you just did here. Thanks for writing.

    Bob W.
    Yoga Editor

  11. jdk says:

    You're welcome. 🙂 jdk

  12. Susan says:

    Those are both loaded words. "schtick" is loaded toward the negative. "Authentic" is loaded toward the positive. I've always thought of someone's "schtick" as "their thing"; as a behavior that serves a purpose, consiously driven or not. As someone that works in the field of a mental health, one man's schtick may be another man's drastiic, and awkward attempt to cope. Love love love the article Clare!

  13. yogiclarebear says:

    Susan you have a great perspective. "'Their thing' that servies a purpose"…that is an awesome way with words my friend!