File this under “over-the-top yoga marketing that makes you go hmmmm.” ~ Mary Beth Ray

Via Recovering Yogi
on Nov 15, 2011
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 Originally published by our elephriends over at Recovering Yogi on November 9, 2011. 


File this under “over-the-top yoga marketing that makes you go hmmmm.”

By Mary Beth Ray

I saw this news headline the other day:

Manduka and John Friend Unveil
The John Friend Collection by Manduka

I have a Manduka mat, and I thought “Oh jeez, is this Anusara ‘inner body bright’ bug going to infect Manduka, too?!?”

The press release begins: “Yoga industry pioneers partner to create innovative line of yoga accessories, inspired by 40 years of practice.” Bleck. My left eyebrow raised as I read on.

Some key points I want to highlight from the press release (in case you don’t have the time or inclination to read it yourself):

  • The mats will be 6 inches wider, which “allows for a deeper expression of movement and a better connection between body, mat and heart.”
  • “Available in the rich, purple hue Magic that is embraced by John Friend’s 600,000 students for its spiritual energy, the John Friend PROlite is a heartfelt expression of beauty and purpose.”
  • And John Friend says, “I am honored to collaborate with such an authentic company to bring an amazing new line of gear to the yoga community, deepening the connection between heart and mat, and inspiring students of any level to enjoy more energetic freedom during their practice.”

Oh, and they also released a video.

Did you watch it? “Everything about this mat will lead to the very essence of your heart…” Uh, reeeally? One of the comments below the video echoed my thoughts: “People. It’s just a yoga mat…and really, are you going to be the one who shows up for a packed class with a gigantic mat, bigger than everyone else’s?”

As I roll my eyes I think: yeah, well, with a potential market of 600,000 students (who apparently are enamored with the color purple) it makes sense that Manduka (and Mr. “let’s serve people” John Friend) would do this (at $95 a pop). And I can certainly understand how a good mat makes your practice more stable; that’s why I do love Manduka, but I don’t think I need 6 extra inches to “allow for a deeper expression of movement” — or maybe I’m wrong and size does matter here, which, if you’re broad shouldered, sure, makes sense you might want a wider mat to move at all, let alone deeper. They already make extra long mats for tall folks, so maybe extra width is a design alternative whose time has come. But in this context, with the flowery Anusara language wrapped around it, it’s just very funny to me (well, honestly it’s rather annoying, and, well, rather American to super-size your yoga class real estate).

I guess that’s just marketing fluff though, written to appeal to a certain (Anusara) demographic. Manduka mats are supposed to last a lifetime, and I already own a wonderful, regular ol’ 24” wide ProLite Manduka that I do love. (Hmmm, perhaps there is some validity to this connection between heart and mat?) Personally I’m not going to be in the market for a new mat anytime soon. I’m assuming, then, that all this marketing is meant to lure all those “other” mat users over to the Anusara Koolaid…err I mean Kula, away from Gaiam, Hugger Mugger, Tapas, Barefoot, Jade, and Prana.

But wait…Prana?

Hold on a sec, John Friend must be on a personal mission to transform the universal size of all mats (which apparently makes them “better”) one company at a time ‘cuz uh, yeah, he already designed “the best mat ever”… with Prana, two years ago. It is called the “Revolution”. Check it out here. The Revolution is apparently great for that all important “personal space” (or my all-time favorite “partner work” …ugh).

So now if you read the Manduka press release again, it seems all the more inauthentic with phrases like: “This is the first time…” and “This mat is a revolution in…” Whoa. <snap>

Yeah, okay, whatever, I really do think it’s great that everyone has the freedom to choose the mat that works best for their body (or one that they can afford, frankly). And I’m glad I invested in my virtually indestructible Manduka a few years ago (which, alas, is just plain purple, not officially “Magic” :-<) but I suppose if we all had 30-inch mats in a packed class then we could have them touching (or even overlapping) and honestly still have plenty of “personal space” to practice (unless when teachers insist on making you do that Wild Thing pose). Hey, on that note, why not just design a room-size mat that is custom-fit to each yoga room so everyone can really “enjoy more energetic freedom” and not worry about their pinky fingers falling off the mat in cobra?

PS Stay tuned: “The John Friend Collection by Manduka will expand in 2012 to include towels, bags and other innovative gear.”

 About Mary Beth Ray

 MB gets up before the crack of dawn to practice in a sweaty Mysore room in San Francisco, loving every moment of it, even when she hates it. She then trots off to earn a living by the good fortune of having a regular 9-5 corporate job, where she knows a thing or two about the business of book publishing. By night (and some weekends), she spreads the gospel of yoga one firmly grounded asana at a time to “all levels,” whatever that means.



About Recovering Yogi

Far from the land of meaningless manifestation, vacuous positivity, and boring yoga speak lives Recovering Yogi, the voice of the pop spirituality counterculture and an irreverent forum where yogis, ex-yogis, never-yogis, writers, and readers converge to burst the bubble of sanctimonious rhetoric. We are critical thinkers and people who just love to laugh. Visit us on our web site for some straight talk, join the discussion on Facebook or Twitter, or buy a t-shirt and support our mission.


66 Responses to “File this under “over-the-top yoga marketing that makes you go hmmmm.” ~ Mary Beth Ray”

  1. macpanther says:

    I have since replied to your points in context above.

  2. hya says:

    Well I for one won't be buying their stuff anymore. Have one yoga bag, admittedly very good, but this marketing speak turns me off big time. My OH has had a longer, wider long lasting mat for years and it cost him twenty euro instead of what Manduka and JF are asking for. The mat is still going strong despite having no brand sticker on it. But if JF wanted to pass on the message to try larger no name mats for better experience – without endorsing expensive brands – he would not earn anything for his effort.
    It is just so unnecessary. He doesn't need to do such things. Why is he selling himself in this way?

  3. hya says:

    Emma, John is making this product something it is not (XXL mats have been available for years in all colours and materials, and it certainly has no relation to your "essence" as he puts it). This makes me doubt his integrity – if he can make such claims for money what other cliams of his are motivated by?

  4. hya says:

    Mary Beth, I practice Anusara and find it very valuable – which is precisely why I am so disappointed to find JF stooping to this level of corporate marketing tricks.

  5. macpanther says:

    As we debate the finer points of the collaboration between John Friend and Manduka, and the Anusara path, what to me is the truly interesting discussion is languishing for comment.

    I heard on NPR this morning (a podcast that downloads automagically to my iPod based on the keyword "yoga") that Lululemon is asking on its bags "Who is John Galt?" If that isn't humor fodder, I don't know what is.

  6. […] Asked ‘Who Is John Galt?’ Posted on November 18, 2011 While we engage in a very welcome and enlivening debate over on elephant journal, about the new mat collaboration between John Friend and Manduka, and the finer points of Anusara […]

  7. Monica says:

    Thank you Hya, I did know the wider mats where available, just not the Manduka black mat, which in my opinion is the best and most long lasting mat out there… I did go to college for Communications and Marketing, so I'm aware of how it all works… Still, a great product speaks for itself and I feel the black Manduka mat does just that… the ad, well it was fun to watch… 😉

  8. Monica says:

    The jade mats are great at first then they get floppy and slide around in a weird stretchy way…I went through 2 Jade mats that lost their grip to the floor in less than a year, before i decided to get my Manduka black mat 5 years ago and I haven't needed another mat since. From the look and feel of it, I never will!

  9. craigholliday says:

    When i was in india we practiced on a concrete roof with no mats, i'm not that tough anymore

  10. Mary Beth says:

    Ah yes, the piece has indeed sparked some great conversations and more exposure for this Ad (you’re welcome John and Manduka ;)). Alas, those darn “quotations marks” :)… sometimes they literally meant it’s a quote and sometimes yes they were meant to impart a bit of snarkiness (to poke fun at the vernacular from my point of view.) When he stated “let’s serve people” as his highest goal in making this commercial product, it came across to me as pretty disingenuous. Precisely because he serves people in and out of this classes, the subtext I read from him using this phrase in an advertisement was ‘yeah we are keeping to the Anusara mission of service but we’ll also make a buck along the way’ –not that there’s anything wrong with making a buck…again, my only issue with this whole ad was that a wide mat was not ground-breaking and the press release and video focused way too much on intangible and outlandish sounding promises and claims about a yoga mat (like really do all 600k Anusara practitioners really embrace the color purple for its spiritual energy? I think we could probably find 1 or 2 who would prefer green. :->) As for the Kool-Aid, hey we ALL drink the Kool-Aid of what we believe in…it is just an easy riff with the “kula” vernacular used in Anusara that’s all. Yes, the piece was over the top to address the over the top ad – (if I played it straight it might have been a yawner :->), but honestly, if I read it out loud (like they do on NPR) my voice might have conveyed a less negative tone than many readers read into it (because they were understandably triggered by those darn quotation marks) 🙂 I’m finding all the comments that have been shared about this piece very interesting illustrations of our attachments and projections around “yoga” (perhaps fodder for another piece, where I’ll try a different tack on watching my Ps & Qs – aka punctuation and quotation marks :->) I know as “yogis” we aren’t saints, it’s all imperfect practice. Thanks for engaging in the conversation Monica! I hope your husband enjoys his new Manduka mat! (as I said, I love mine too)

  11. Mary Beth says:

    I'm glad you said so, hya. A valuable perspective to the conversation. thanks

  12. Mary Beth says:

    oh, Yogaressa…(is that your real name? ;-)) it's just a bit of sarcasm…maybe a little satire having to provide Recovering Yogi with a "bio" albeit so brief.

    Anyway, I agree with your statement – it is a good thing to have people practice any kind of yoga on any kind of mat. And the wider mat is not wrong, it is just different – I would just add one thing, based on what I brought up in the article, the wider mat is not a new idea either.

    Thanks for sharing!

  13. elephantjournal says:

    Comment or ad?

  14. And the press release, written by a PR agent and
    approved copywriter, has done it’s job. What a wonderful dance of dialogue!

  15. YogaJohn says:

    I do wonder how universal these principles of alignment are, not every body is the same, so how can they be?
    That being said I have been to several Anusara classes before and the alignment principles are the same as many other alignment principles; just using different language.

    All yoga comes from the same place, live and let live. Anusara doesn't work for me on many levels, but I appreciate how it can for others.

  16. macpanther says:

    This past weekend, while I was working on urdhva danurasana (upward-facing bow pose or "wheel"), I discovered greater freedom and less exertion taking my hands so wide off my standard Manduka that only the index fingers, their knuckles, and the thumbs were on the mat.

    I'm getting similar results in down dog, and cobra.

    Now I think I would like a 30-inch wide mat.

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