February 12, 2011

Fight the Power! A plea to Yoga Journal.

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.

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