Stop the Love Boat, I’m Getting Off. ~ Elissa Scott

Via Elissa Scott
on Aug 12, 2013
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Yoga Barbies

The yoga community is all about peace and love.

Yes, we get it. Yet lately, this whole saccharine, over-the-top, being-swept-up-on-the-love-boat, has my teeth aching and leaves me in need of a shot of insulin.

I’m generally all about peace and love. In fact, I once traversed through this initial phase of blissed-out, hooey-gooey, warm load of unicorn jizz; while practicing the primary series, it felt as though a tantric feather was tickling my brain.

The bubbling up in my forehead made my third eye tingle. I went from marathon-runner-endorphin-addict to shooting up doses of dope yoga poses. The satisfaction of accomplishing Tittibasana balance, the feeling of binding in Marichyasana D all contributed to the high.

As do cocaine, honeymoon sex and cheese.

I could crack coconuts open with my bare hands and all I could think of was becoming a yoga teacher. In my mind, they were all on some separate spiritual pedestal, or so I thought. Nowadays, certified instructors are spat out, as if from a wood chipper, to everyone and their dog, whether upward, downward and wayward.

Throw on some mala prayer beads, sport a nose ring and voila, Gurus-R-Us.

As a recovering vegan, I thought what I ate and in which studio I practiced was what made me one elite scenester. As my throat chakra opened and my kundalini detonated through my crown, my yoga bubble also shifted.

There were a few contributing factors that catapulted me right through to the other side into Opposite-Land, and soon after, my heart and spirit poured into some bubbling volcanic pit of anger.  I found myself bitter and frustrated when others diluted the idyllic image of yoga I had created and held in my own mind or when I witnessed the branding of asana sequencing into Sanskrit named businesses for the sake of a buck. It was the anti-yoga.

I lost my lust for the game and no longer was inspired to teach, let alone practice. The spotlight dimmed and I lost respect for those in it.

I lost respect for the culture.

Illustration: Vanessa Fiola
Illustration: Vanessa Fiola

I couldn’t stomach yogis carrying on with all this lovey-dovey hokey-poke, spewing, “Have a beautiful day!” “Discover your bliss!” “Authentic abundance!” and more.

Pictures on websites and social media of Chiclet veneers sparkling and supple arms thrown into the air in some victory pose with sun rays beaming down on them from the heavens. Or the staged casual snapshot profile-pic-cum-ego-yardstick of a handstand on the beach. Maybe it was some faked-out, ridiculously near-impossible yoga pose only the long-time gymnastic ballerina yogi might conquer, like Eka Pada Sirsasana.

Actors performing happiness: life complete and perfectly executed, their effortless asanas so easily achieved. It nearly drove me over my lithe edge as these boastful images chafed my very last parasympathetic nerve.

Not to mention those hoochie-mama outfits exposing every hint of legal skin, like booty shorts and a tube top. How do those even stay in place during a vigorous practice like Ashtanga? Are you for real or really just selling sex as part of publicity?

There was a story I heard while practicing at the shala in Mysore, India. A yogini showed up to practice in a thong bikini and Sharath told her to get out and not come back. Not sure how true the story is, but it reveals plenty, especially in regards to the ethics and efficacy of practicing a grueling system in such teeny weeny clothing.

I questioned further: Is yoga really about a glamorously hippy-chic guise, done au-naturale? Peddling coaching and transformational seminars and asana workshops? Is it selling out to the illusion of a stellar website, international speaking gigs and plentiful fans on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram? Funded by credit, a sugar daddy or rich hubby to bankroll this portrayal of a false image?

It merely gives a fabricated impression of success, that yoga is big business.

Because we do it for the money, right? Usually the yoga teacher is the most broke person in the class. We spend a fortune on training, traveling, commuting to various studios and healing our bodies, leaving less time for our own practice.

We maintain other jobs which actually pay the bills, in addition to juggling kids, partners and households.

Sure, studios may make big bucks, as do a handful of speaking-circuit sadhus. Yet celeb-yogis may be doing a disservice by creating a yoga illusion when what’s really important is recognizing the maya and dissolving illusion. I’m Confucius’d. It’s like an episode of the Krishnamacharyadashians.

And since when did voicing one’s opinion give rise to being a rabble-rouser?

I’ve piped up often about this on social media forums,finding common ground from other teachers:

“Truth be told I have had similar conversations in my head. I used to express myself a hell of a lot more but feel as though this can be a faux pas in the yoga community. Such pressure/expectation to be positive and non-critical. I’m not too sure how any community can evolve if we aren’t critical, if we don’t question. Hope to see my gutsy self, reveal itself again soon. You have most certainly inspired me to do so.”

It’s not my intention to bash and smash other instructors or yogi-celebs. But it’s like the universe has become some ecstasy vending machine propagating yoga paradise. And people are drinking the Kool-Aid, worshiping the individuals who bring them the yoga. It’s not about the teacher; it’s all about the yoga.

Simply keep your mind on the practice.

Back to basics, baby.


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Assistant Ed: Katharine Spano/Ed: Bryonie Wise


About Elissa Scott

Elissa Scott is devoted to driving everyone alongside her crazy with her wildly wanton, truthful nature. Her mantra is loving life and is blessed with four dazzling offspring and an equally maddened, adoring and brilliant Navy partner-in-crime Bestie. Many people find her entertaining and lively, while others seek cover from this tornado-on-tour. As a yoga instructor, artist and writer based in Canada, this sacred space, home couture addict is found seeking truth, revolution and social justice. Find Elissa in beditation, a hammock by the sea, sprawled out under pines or other mind-full adventures, like traveling the world with her mate.


21 Responses to “Stop the Love Boat, I’m Getting Off. ~ Elissa Scott”

  1. yogalime says:

    Thank you Elissa for voicing this. I agree, yoga is concerned with focusing inwards and moving away from the external, yet a majority of how the West portrays yoga is about external image. My mind would be grateful to witness some humility and images of older women, and women with different body shapes practicing yoga. Unfortunately women, especially in the West are oppressed by media's obsession with control over how a females body should look, what age that body must be to allow for publication and how it should be covered (largely driven by a patriarchal society, supported by many women). To my mind yoga does not support this. Yoga is about freedom. Yet portrayal of western yoga is often anything but. Also observe yoga publications, when they share a thumbnail to a yoga article – if an image of a woman, it's usually a young, half clad woman looking sexually frustrated. We all have a part to play in making a change. Let's focus on balance both in and out of the picture. Thank you, peace and love. Sky @yogalime

  2. DanielleDD says:

    Elissa, I loved this article and I couldn't agree more. Coming from Vancouver, home of some of the sexiest time-lapse you-tube afficianados and most blissed out celebri-yogis of our time, as well as my city being the home base of lululemon, I have pretty much had it with today's yoga culture. I have been practicing for some 10 years now, and have come full circle as you have described in your article. I am disappointed in myself for the lululemon clothes I have purchased, and continue to purchase until recently. The straw(s) that broke this camel's back re: lululemon are twofold: 1- lululemon kindly teaching me about Asteya on their latest enlightening bag from my purchase and 2- facebook pictures from friends who attended lulu founder's back yard party at which the red hot chili peppers played for the private audience. That is my money at work!! Never mind the out of reach prices for most yogis, and especially yoga teachers, of lulu's products. Part II to follow…

  3. DanielleDD says:

    Part II
    I am just so tired of the yoga vibe these days, especially now that Vancouver / Whistler has started to become the hub of some serious yoga conferences and events, including but not limited to the yoga journal, wanderlust and the lululemon seawheeze 1/2 marathon and yoga event. I have been stepping back and seriously considering how I feel about all this. We have so many fantastic yoga teachers who I never thought would fall for the lululemon stuff, and have been disappointed many times when they have become ambassadors, or hawk lululemon on social media, or host events. Part III to follow…

  4. DanielleDD says:

    Part III
    Yet at the same time I want these instructors to really be successful and earn a really good living at it. Who am I to say how they should be doing so? Also – is the problem me? Am I jealous of the success of x, y or z? Did I want to see the red hot chili peppers too and that's my problem? I am still trying to figure that one out, though must say that I still love the practice and I continue to support my local yoga teachers (of which I am not – humble accountant, here). Apologies to all for the long-windedness of my post, but I have been thinking a lot about what I have said here, and more. Thank you for the opportunity to get this off my chest, even if not completely on point! I'm kind of embarrassed that this post is III parts long.

  5. Jason Gan says:

    I love this article!

  6. Sapha Arias says:

    Wonderful article. Thank you for expressing it in such an eloquent manner.

  7. Interesting, a bit over the top for my taste, but there is no denying much of what you say here.

    I do however have a problem with your almost closing sentence "It’s not my intention to bash and smash other instructors or yogi-celeb". Really? This sounds to me like a "make nice" apologia at the end of a long rant that does precisely that. I have no problem with you saying what you are saying, but be honest with yourself and own up to what is actually in your writing. Yoga is about being real, not denying what is actually there.

  8. svhk says:

    Yesssssss! Still, metta, sister.

  9. kimberlylowriter says:

    I love this! Thank you so much for writing this.

    As a yoga instructor who teaches because I sincerely love yoga-I could not live what I earn if I tried-and who is never going to be approached to be a Lululemon ambassador, you nicely sum up many of the frustrations I feel from time to time.

    I keep going back because I love yoga. It's that simple.

  10. Joe Sparks says:

    Sorry Elissa, In my perspective, you are witnessing the effects of capitalism taking over the yoga world. My generation, the baby boomers are mostly responsible for most of it. You are right we need to go back to basics, but I am afraid it is too late, unless you ( meaning us) do something about it. We need to get past, the talking/ complaining about it. Thank You.

  11. @azawhistle says:

    Thanks sooo much for this!!!

    We must try and preserve yoga as much as we can, though most of it is already lost.

  12. elephantjournal says:

    Hi Barry: I did make the call to edit that last line out today. I think Elissa's words are strong enough to stand without apology. Thank you for your support. ~ Bryonie

  13. Karen says:

    Thank you so much. I too, see way too much ego and fake ooey-gooey love in the yoga teacher community where I live. I remember raising the question of competition for classes during a YTT discussion (aren't we supposed to explore ideas and "speak our truth?"), and everyone was shocked. "Oh no, we're all sisters and brothers who love each other. I'd be so happy to support X if she got the lunchtime vinyasa class that I wanted." You're right: when yoga and business and competition collide, things get ugly underneath all the fakeness. Why would someone show up 10 minutes before a teacher/staff meeting and suddenly feel "inspired" to pop up into a handstand and flip back into a full backbend? I try to view all of it as a lesson in tolerance for me; for finding a place of compassion for those who are so insecure that they feel the need to show off in the name of "love."

  14. Jane says:

    I like that you are challenging how yoga has been affected by capitalism etc but I gotta stick up for what it has become too. Isn't it fun to buy cute expensive clothes from time to time? Isn't it liberating and confidence boosting to wear little yoga clothes in class? Those little skimpy clothes also help with dealing with Bikram heat. Yoga is for everyone and offers something for everyone. If you want to buy all organic, wear no makeup, make your own clothes, and live off the grid, yoga is for you.if you want to buy everything lululemon offers, spend lots of cash on yoga retreats, or wear makeup in class, yoga is still for you. There is no one right way to practice. Everyone practices yoga for different reasons. It's just important that we practice, even if it is while wearing lululemon.

  15. Catherine says:

    I loved this article! And let me say what no one has yet mentioned: you are an AWESOME painter of words! I really loved the way you made them twist and turn and express what you feel about the way Yoga has been "celebritized."

    I have just been practicing Yoga for the last year. My instructor has tremendous positive energy and has become a treasured friend. Her classes are often held on the beach; the last class got to see baby sea turtles making their way to the ocean! and not one of the many people in the class were wearing fancy Yoga clothes nor did anyone remotely resemble a Barbie doll including the instructor. Thank . . . whatever!

  16. BarbaraSunshine says:

    I don't see it as the baby boomers being responsible. Right now the studios are full of students in their 20s and 30s and corporations are jumping on the yoga money train targeting that audience. Put an OM on a water bottle. Sell skimpy stretchy clothing. Put a person doing King Dancer Pose in a commercial for banking online anywhere. Have celebrities write yoga books and dvds. Yoga has become 'cool' and it sells. I do agree we need to get past the ranting. Also tired of seeing blogs about Five People in Yoga Class That Annoy Me and such. People – just go to class, pay attention to what is happening within YOU. Be humble and don't show off. Yoga is not about competition or clothing. Learn compassion. Meditate. You don't need the wares, you need the wherehows.

  17. Kate says:

    Don't be embarrassed, but maybe you need to write your own article! I used to struggle with all of the aforementioned controversial issues, too, but my solution was somewhat simple: I quite working at a studio that did not embody what I thought yoga was (a hot yoga studio that sold lululemon, $108 mala beads, and taught "Booty Asana" classes), stopped buying lululemon and looking at lululemon blog/facebook page/website, unliked yogi-celebs that I did not agree with, you get the picture. It only exists if you allow it. So I flipped my switch. The only one that can make you feel a particular way about something is you, so I turned it off. I still love my practice, I teach at a studio that does not embody these fake yoga things, and I no longer seek for yogi-celeb culture on instagram or facebook.
    I am happy to see a community is growing that is outside of this pop-culture trendy yoga. I know it will continue to grow.

  18. Lisa says:

    It does pain me to read this but there is certainly an element of truth and as I have been taught since I began my first teacher training in 2007 is let the Ego go. I went on a Yoga Retreat with a top teacher ( who I still greatly admire) in 2010 and there was such a groupie vibe and a sometimes santamonious air. I am a low key teacher and as you say I have spent a lot of money working on myself and my endeavour to be the authentic me. I believe that Yoga will return to the garages at the back of houses, little shrines in the spare bedroom and a group of friends going for brunch after a great class with somebody real standing at the top laying bare their strughles. We will find the space and the teachers and the places to teach that suit where we are on the journey. The asana and the lulu lemons are a smoke screen for the vast internal landscape that so humbles you when you even scratch the surface. Thank you for your sarcasim! ( us Irish are good at self deprecation too) wit, your honest contribution it is all part of seeking the truth.

  19. Kristin says:

    Jane makes a great point. Why shouldn’t folks feel great in what they are wearing? People do yoga for a variety of reasons. In this day and age when there are so many people not doing any form of physical activity the fact that these folks are showing up just for the physical part of it is great. If they get anything else out of it is icing on the cake. Maybe they are not doing it the way some of the yoga diehards want them to do it, but these folks are showing up and doing the work that THEY signed up to do not what YOU think they should be doing.

  20. Rhonda says:

    From my experience, the ones most cynical about "celebrity yoga teachers" are those who try to be one, unable to reach their own expectations of achieving that aim. She alludes to wanting to be a teacher with a firey passion, then saying she wanted to quit teaching, and even practicing. She also writes about financial hardship, saying "We maintain other jobs which actually pay the bills, in addition to juggling kids, partners and households." Like many yoga teachers, it sounds like she struggles financially. The "poor me" attitude is a mask we wear to protect ourselves from old, deep rooted pain, and the masks we wear simultaneously cut us off from our authenticity, our true essence. She hit a point where she faced the deeper work which regular practice will place before us. It gets very difficult. Our work is ours alone. When she writes "Not to mention those hoochie-mama outfits exposing every hint of legal skin, like booty shorts and a tube top. How do those even stay in place during a vigorous practice like Ashtanga? Are you for real or really just selling sex as part of publicity?" she is clearly referencing the Ashtanga "yoga celeb" Kino MacGregor. The author may have missed Kino's elephant journal article "Confessions of a Loved & Hated Ashtangi" where Kino writes "The men’s traditional yoga gear is a loin cloth that barely covers anything". Why can women not be afforded the same freedom? Why is it that we call each other "hoochie mamas" and accuse each other of selling sex instead of seeing the true freedom we are afforded as women today? The energy and effort afforded toward criticism has the potential to be just as poisonous and contentious as being a celebrity.

  21. El says:

    I LOVE all these responses. Super sweet thank you. I wrote this on behalf of many like minded peeps. Super cute and first off love to my editor Briohony to have my back (cyber hugs!) Interesting how it traversed into a lulu slash kino hating spiral. I’m wearing lulu shorts, Nike bra top and Victoria secret tank top ATM. As I swing in a hammock under pines reading Guruji. It’s really great! Anyways it’s a pinnacle moment when my fake 32E’s can bind in mari D never mind so being 5’8″ ASHTANGA is my nemesis. The one time I bound in supta kurmasana was when sharath and saraswathi did it for me 6+ years ago. Chances are that was the one and only time it may happen in this lifetime ;hopefully my last…) I do enjoy kinos videos but seriously that girl would get stoned to death in india and other parts of this world for being half naked. But her body type lends itself well to this Chester fantasy. I’m 43 and have four babies birthed from this body. Super grateful. Thank you all for your comments. Love now!!! Xx