October 30, 2013

An Open Letter to Yoga Journal.

Hey Yoga Journal, I heard you’re moving to Boulder, Colorado.

This got me thinking: what a perfect place for a magazine that caters to the elite yoga athlete. With a population of over 300, 000 and yoga studios on every corner, Boulder is becoming one of the largest and most influential places for yoga.  

I feel this move represents a step away from Yoga Journal‘s possibilities, and a step towards becoming just another fashion magazine. I understand that a magazine is a business. It creates revenue by selling ads for products. Images of thin, flexible and beautiful people sell more products than images of people who look like me. I get it.

I’ve been to Boulder, and I loved it. It’s a beautiful city, with beautiful, friendly people and plenty of yoga studios to choose from. It has yogalebrities, uber-fit bodies and is an environmentally conscious culture. However, the feel good, look-good city boasts very little in terms of diversity. In all fairness I did see one other black person when I was there.

I am afraid that this move will only add to the further homogenization, and ultimately the downfall, of yoga in the west.

Michelle Marchildon’s points this out in her post Top 10 Things we can expect now that Yoga Journal is moving to Boulder. Points two, three and four basically translate to whiter, thinner and highly educated.

Are you sure you want to niche yourself right out of relevance?

As a curvy yoga teacher of color, I am constantly getting messages from people who pour their hearts out to me. They think they are too fat, too old, the wrong gender, the wrong color and they do not feel welcome, or even part of this experience. I find this heart breaking. I hear stories of how they feel they don’t fit the yoga stereotype. A stereotype that you help perpetuate. A stereotype that I fear may be getting stronger, and therefore turning people off of yoga.

Yoga has had a huge boom of popularity in the last decade or so. In order for us to keep growing yoga, we need to expand its reach. Inferring that yoga is only for those that are within a certain demographic is terribly limiting and will surely take yoga out of the limelight, close studios and create a lot of underemployed jaded yoga teachers.

Also, I predict, you will end up selling a lot less magazines.

You’re in a tough position. Your subject matter is Yoga, but your business is selling advertising for products. Yoga and commerce have always had a tricky relationship. I really do hope you can pull it together in a way that will serve yoga as well as your advertisers.

Please remember all the regular people who do yoga.

We come in all shapes: thin as a rail to curvy and ultra bootylicious. We come in a lot of different shades. With the advent of inexpensive online yoga, it’s available for everyone who can afford a copy of your magazine.

Yoga saves, yoga invites, yoga heals and yoga serves us all. We can give people hope, serve our children and change the world through yoga. We need to be more inclusive. We need to be more compassionate and accepting of all body types.

We are all beautiful. We create a broken world when we exclude others, create unrealistic expectations and fail to serve each other. I don’t understand why we can’t create a beautiful all inclusive yoga publication to enjoy and be inspired by.

I know it can be done. Are you up for the challenge?


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Ed: Catherine Monkman

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