May 9, 2011

Keep the Contest Where It Belongs: On The Stage And Off the Mat.

Photo: Lululemon Athletica

I’m just going to come out and say it: I watched the premier of The Voice and I loved it.

But more than just the interesting format, something nagged at me throughout the show.  It occurred to me how much closer this highly commercialized and marketed show is to the meaning of yoga than that of Yoga Journal’s “Talent Competition” held this April.

Talent search? In yoga? Okay. First of all, to come clean:  I entered this talent contest. I saw the ad in my most recent Yoga Journal magazine for  a “talent search” where you could enter and win yoga clothes and gear as well as a possible trip to San Fancisco for a cover shoot. All you had to do was write about how yoga inspires you and, oh yes, send a picture.

I thought, and this is true, that you should submit a picture just to show or prove even that you are a practicing yogi. I focused more on the writing part. I poured out an essay about all the reasons yoga has inspired me and then, just because it was a requirement, found some haphazard picture of me doing a backbend.

I emailed my amateur photo as practically a side note just to complete the requirements.  What I really cared about was the attachment, a declaration of my love for yoga. Surely the folks at Yoga Journal were going to read all the submissions and see how yoga has brought much joy to their readers lives?

Read the rules. All of them.

I am inherently lazy. The headlines jump out at me, but I tend to skim everything else, usually while daydreaming so I don’t actually absorb what may be later construed as important.

I missed a few vital bits of information. Namely, the emphasis on what the picture should be and the fact that the pictures would be voted on by the readers.

This leads me to the show that led me to think more about competitions in general and then to the yoga competition in particular.

Photo: The Voice, NBC

For those who have no idea what The Voice is, it’s comparable to American Idol. It’s another competition where everyday people get a chance to sing their hearts out and win the opportunity to get coached by already-made superstar singers. These superstars are not judges, but coaches. They pick a team of 8 to coach and eventually battle it out to become America’s new Voice.  Here’s the catch: The coaches who pick the singers to be on their team don’t see who is singing. They pick their team based solely on the voice they hear.

American Idol is looking for the entire package from the get-go. People are not only being critiqued by their vocals, but by their clothes, their make-up, their body and personality. What comes out of the performer’s mouth is the very first impression on The Voice—the purest essence of what the talent should be about. Right? Maybe.

Why does it seem like something is flip-flopped here? Why is a marketed commercialized television competition show (virtually a dime a dozen as far as reality tv goes) getting something right when the yoga magazine of choice is getting it all wrong (in this humble practitioners opinion)?

As I confessed above, I fell for the yoga talent contest too. Obviously there were thousands of people who were excited by a possible cover shoot and prizes. Tons of people were drawn to the publicity and 5 seconds of fame they would get, myself included.  But why would Yoga Journal do this to begin with? Why would they (and this is after going back to read the fine print) create a contest that requires you to essentially show off?

To me this screams everything yoga has tried to unravel, that of the Ego. Isn’t yoga about inner awareness and non-competing (with the self and others) and all that is inside the body? And here a trusted source of all things yoga asking you to show yourself in a picture for other people to pick. If there is a talent in yoga aren’t you being sidetracked by what the yogi people are wearing, what pose they are doing, how attractive they are and everything else that doesn’t matter in yoga at all?

Photo: Nicholas T

Is it surprising that the top 5 winners with the most votes are people clad in little else but bikini’s or doing the most impressive postures?

Am I whining? I am. My husband says I’m being bitter, and I agree, but I don’t think it makes any less of an argument that there is some incongruence with YJ’s effort to promote a contest while providing all the articles on meditation, environmental issues, yoga philosophy, etc. I thought YJ emphasized yoga to transcend perfection and aesthetics, inside and out. Not to emphasize what you should look like or else foster the idea that people are going to vote for what looks good.

Needless to say, I didn’t win.  I checked out a few of the entrants and knew right off the bat that few would rate my picture and no one would bother to read what was probably the longest essay on how yoga inspires.

I am still trying to figure out the whole yoga thing and what makes it is so beneficial. The reasons for me change all the time, but for the time being I feel there was a touch more yoga in The Voice then there was in the Yoga Talent Contest. They should keep the contest where it belongs, which is on the stage and off the mat.

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