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

Via Sarah Simmons
on May 9, 2011
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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.


About Sarah Simmons

Sarah Simmons is 32 and the mother of one princess who loves to jump on Sarah’s back when she’s in Downdog. If the princess gets told not to do something the princess tells her mother to go do yoga. When she's not blogging or reading books or writing about books or running around in circles silly she's....well there isn't much time leftover so that calls for a nap and a part time job at the library.


10 Responses to “Keep the Contest Where It Belongs: On The Stage And Off the Mat.”

  1. AMO says:

    You can't only think the contest sucks if you didn't win and they didn't do it the way you think it should have been done. It's not right or wrong that they had a contest, it just is. You may or may not like it, but you'd have lots of positive things to say had you won.

    I am extremely competitive. I know that about myself. I like to win. So I didn't enter because winning would really have mattered to me and that would have had consequences for me emotionally, even if I won. My head can puff up to 10 times it's normal size with little encouragement so I didn't need to win, and since, like most people, I'm an egomaniac with an inferiority complex, I can go into an emotional tail spin if I lose. No win, either way.

    Next time, don't get involved in what Yoga Journal does or doesn't do, because you clearly don't need to be involved in this stuff. You don't have to judge them, just stop judging yourself…

  2. sarah says:

    Good Lord I was just having a little fun. I entered the contest thinking it was about the writing, not the picture with the tiniest hope that I could get some yoga clothes and I wanted to shed a little light on the show that I think is way cooler than American Idol. I knew how I'd come off writing this. But thanks for your comment. Next time my ego self will probably enter the contest because I don't learn quickly.

  3. sordog1 says:

    yoga bimbo contest? You ask some great questions. I teach yoga in the prisons. I would rather help a guy with diabetes than have him worry about not having washboard abs. A lot of yoga is about worshipping the physical form but the central practice seems to be more about meditation. Asana for Patanjali is a comfortable seated position for meditation.

  4. sordog1 says:

    sorry, let's give the guys equal time. Perhaps it was also a yoga himbo contest. 🙂

  5. sarah says:

    Thanks for commenting Emily. I had just wanted to get my opinion out there. I'm glad there's a kindred spirit reader 🙂

  6. Well done, Sarah.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Bob W.
    Yoga Editor

  7. Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  8. sarah says:

    Woo-Hoo thanks Bob

  9. […] viewing yoga as a sport or some kind of competitive endeavor is just ridiculous. I know and really believe that, even though at times I’m as guilty as the […]

  10. […] Competition are prime examples—and yet even Sarah Simmons, who blogged about keeping contests off the mat, admitted that she entered the competition […]