March 27, 2013

There’s Something Wrong with Our Fame-Driven Yoga Community.

There are times when I get so sick of dealing with the yoga community hoopla that it completely turns me off to practicing yoga.

This lasts for about five minutes, because the second that I get out of my head, away from yoga media, and back into my body, I want to hop on my mat and move straightaway.

At the same time, there’s a real disconnect between yoga’s top dogs and the general snobbery and the “this is the only way to practice yoga” mentality that is a real turn-off.

I have to admit that I subscribe to the magazine Yoga Journal, and that I love getting my new issues. I also enjoy using their free online podcasts and website. However, as a writer, I find myself more and more turned off by Yoga Journal (and more and more inspired by a site like elephant).

The reason is simple: to me it seems apparent that Yoga Journal promotes yoga celebrities.

I’ve had several people ask me recently why I don’t try and write for Yoga Journal. My response is often limited, as I usually don’t want to get into a detailed conversation about this, but if I’m being honest and complete, my answer is as follows.

At one point in my writing career, I would have absolutely adored writing for YJ. Now, however, I think it’s pretty obvious that YJ wants writers with a more famous resume than I have to offer—and that’s actually led to me to being less impressed by the quality and content than in years past.

I really don’t want to have an anti-YJ article here, or start a conversation that’s as heated and aggressive as another recent piece I wrote. What I do want is to point out that I, personally, am appalled by the frequent combination of more athletically inclined yogis and fame.

Yoga and fame should not (necessarily) go hand in hand.

As someone who teaches and writes, I definitely understand the need to have a level of success and an ideally highly-populated audience. Still, this isn’t my goal of practicing, teaching or writing. Quite frankly, maybe that’s why I’m not super famous and wealthy, because honestly, I don’t even have a concrete goal. I do these things because my passion dictates that I must.

I just feel like I might just itch to death if I don’t get that blog from my brain to my fingertips!

I feel like something is deeply lacking in my life if I don’t share my yoga practice with others.

My day is entirely thrown off if I haven’t set eyes, or foot, on my yoga mat.

I practice, teach and write because I feel I must in order to survive.

Yet, if I’m not being melodramatic, I can understand that yogis have to reach a level of achievement in order to teach for a living. The reality of life is that money pays our bills and helps us make greener choices. Regardless, I can’t help but be turned off by the entire scene more often than I’d want to admit (as yoga is such a huge part of my life and self-identity).

Where there are people, it seems there will always be drama, gossip, self-righteousness and elitism, but I just can’t help having a utopian dream that my yoga community could be different—that we could all treat others and be treated with verbal and physical respect, that what comes out of our mouths and back into our ears and souls isn’t hurtful, spiteful or self-indulgent.

I guess that’s why dystopian novels are just as successful.

Anyway, take from this stream of consciousness what you want, but my purpose for writing it was simply to honor the authentic dream that lies within me that dies a little bit each day.

Is our world too humanly egotistical to ever practice true yoga?

I guess in my own small way, when I step on my mat and move through my postures, I’m trying to lend some positive energy toward a larger yogic movement.

Every time I send in a piece to elephant journal, I’m hoping to open people’s hearts and minds in some small way to a (possibly) new idea or way of thinking.

I’m not entirely sure what I hope to gain from this particular article. I do know, though, that it’s important to me that if we decide to call ourselves “yogis” and want to add something dynamic and important to the yoga community, that we begin to more fully assess what our end desires are.

Maybe it’s just me and my own life experience, but I happen to believe (for now, at least) that we often achieve our best results when we let go of our obsessions with attaining them.

The passion has to be in the action and the journey, not on the intention your ego seeks.


Like elephant Yoga on Facebook.


Ed: Brianna Bemel

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Kirsten H Apr 4, 2013 1:16pm

Hmmm…..I hear what you are saying with this and then I ask you to turn it around – why would you care so much if not being driven by ego and maybe some tiny part of jealousy. All yoga is good yoga – gym yoga, mainstream yoga, "celebrity" yoga has it's place. Think of the countless number of people that have come to a more spiritual place or found Bhakti through conventional, modern means. Isn't that a good thing. YJ is just a magazine, it is accessible for people new to yoga or practice and that is good too. The work you are doing is excellent as well. We need both shining stars and empty space to make the brillance of the night sky. I challange you to turn your focus off of critical thinking and onto something more compassionate – Do More Yoga.

Myster_G Apr 2, 2013 12:32pm

Why should Yoga be exempt from superficiality? Spirituality in general has become a big business cult of personality driven by superstars who had the fortune to stumble upon something real before gurus came in three day packages. Glossy spiritual magazines flog books and programs by celebrities and sell meditation accessories and paraphernalia for exorbitant prices.

Markie Schwitau Mar 29, 2013 11:04pm

Any yoga is good yoga. However, it hurts my heart to see yogi's with full-on personal entourages trailing them. Anyone, who has ever been to "Wanderlust" must know what I mean. It's not the problem of the teacher …. It's the strange predilection of the student ….. to be over enamored with the teacher.

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Jennifer S. White

Jennifer S. White is a voracious reader, obsessive writer, passionate yoga instructor and drinker of hoppy ales. She’s also a devoted mama and wife (a stay-at-home yogi). She considers herself to be one of the funniest people who ever lived and she’s also an identical twin. In addition to her work on elephant journal, Jennifer has over 40 articles published on the wellness website MindBodyGreen and her yoga-themed column Your Personal Yogi ran in the newspaper Toledo Free Press. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in geology, absolutely no degrees in anything related to literature, and she currently owns a wheel of cheese. If you want to learn more about Jennifer, make sure to check out her writing, as she’s finally put her tendencies to over-think and over-share to good use. Jennifer is the author of The Best Day of Your Life, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. She’s also as excited as a five year old to announce the release of her second book, The Art of Parenting: Love Letters from a Mother, available on Amazon.