August 17, 2014

Really, Yoga Journal?


Editor’s Note: the below is opinion, and should be enjoyed in the spirit of communication, dialogue, listening and constructive criticism.


I’ve watched with some distress over the years as Yoga Journal has devolved from my once-beloved source of solid information about the nuts and bolts of yoga…to another popular magazine shaming women to sell a copy.

Still, I did not unsubscribe, since it seemed to me that for every ridiculous article about so-called yogic fashion and of-the-moment yoga superstars, there was a good, solid piece about the history, the philosophy, the physiology and many other important aspects of the practice.

Well, I’m sad to report that the gig is up. The latest and by far the lamest issue yet has me reeling in dismay. Featuring Hilaria Baldwin on the cover—you know, that sage yogini who is best known for her Instagram snaps and her famous husband—it also includes a Cosmo-esque spread of Mrs. Baldwin doing dancer pose and handstand in four inch heels (who doesn’t practice in heels?, you ask) followed by a Teen Vogue-worthy six page piece about yoga “style solutions” for your inherently flawed body. I read in horror as my fellow yogis were reduced to meaningless, cliched labels like “hourglass” and “pear,” and were advised on how best to cover “thicker thighs” and conceal “butt dimples.”

What the heck is going on here?

Yoga, and by extension yoga publications, are supposed to be an oasis from all that noise, not another vampire sucking on the fragile egos of people who have been told by modern culture that if they just buy some particular thing or look some particular way, they will finally be okay.

I was raised, as an American female born in 1970, on a steady diet of “how to be thinner” and “how to please my man.” The images, the messages assaulted me, and every other girl I knew, from every side, relentlessly, day after day, changing who we were on a molecular level. I remember being in my mid-20s and making this radical decision to not read popular magazines anymore. It felt so strange, turning my back on this world that I had allowed to define me since my very earliest memories. The first few weeks I still gazed longingly at the glossy pictures on the newsstand, desperate for a fix. I wanted to know the tips and tricks they promised inside that would make me beautiful, desirable, enviable. But after that weaning period I realized, I could finally feel my own heart and look at my reflection and see my own face—not how I wanted it to be, but how it was.  It may sound silly, but years later I am still cleaning up the mess of all that false idolatry. I still struggle with self esteem, and still fight to remember that physical beauty is not the holy grail.

One of the most important pieces of this fight has been my commitment to yoga.

Especially during yoga teacher training, I felt that old blocks were shifting and dissolving and I was so grateful to have some relief from the madness inside my brain. I’d say that madness is about 50 percent cured—so, like a recovering addict, I’m in a perpetually fragile state where the subject of beauty and cultural norms and expectations are concerned.

Which is what makes it all the more vexing when, in exploring what is supposed to be a scared venue, I am once again plopped into the vampires den. F*CK Based on the direction YJ has been going, I’m going to have to accept that this is a permanent state of affairs, and it is with great bummed out-ness that I will be canceling my subscription.

The good news is, I’ll have more time to actually practice, and read stuff that matters like books, or the Yoga Sutras, or maybe even a few elephant journal articles.


Relephant Reads >>>

Flawed, Imperfect, Emotional…but Alive. ~ Danielle Vinson

How to Critically Analyze Yoga Articles (Part Three). ~ Bernie Clark

The Pros & Cons of Social Media on Eating & Body Image Issues. ~ Dr. Stacey Rosenfeld

Yoga Teachers & Selfies: Do They Harm or Inspire? ~ Jennifer Ginsberg

Stop! Don’t Post That Perfect Yoga Photo: Read This First.

A Look at How Yoga Became a Tool for Women’s Empowerment & Activism: An Interview with Kate Clere McIntyre ofYogawoman.

What I’d Like to See in a Serious Yoga Magazine. ~ Michelle Marchildon

5 Fabulous American Yoga Books You Must Read.

Being a Fat Yoga Teacher. ~ Kate Robinson

21st Century Yoga: Questioning the “Body Beautiful”: Yoga, Commercialism & Discernment. ~ Frank Jude Boccio

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Editor: Travis May

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Jennifer Apr 8, 2016 8:18am

I just purchased a subscription.

V.R.M. Aug 28, 2014 2:43pm

Agree with you, Erica. I got a free 2-yr subscription when I purchased my insurance but I have yet to be moved/motivated by a single recent article in Yoga Journal. I barely look at it and end up giving it away soon after it arrives. While I am all for fun photos of asanas and a playful and joyful approach to the yoga practice, I would also like some substance in their issues. If the handstands and cool yoga pants bring practitioners in to practice, that's great — but the publication should offer them spiritual nourishment that takes them past the initial draw as well. If I wanted to read about body types, cellulite, flat tummies and movie stars, I'd read Cosmo. 🙂

I did recently purchase a copy of Mantra, mostly because it featured Robert Sturmann's photography. I found that their interviews and content was much more interesting and varied.

yogibattle Aug 22, 2014 9:14pm

It is timely that the outcry over the vapid commercialism of YJ is dovetailing with Iyengar's passing. It is interesting to see that Iyengar's picture has supplanted Hilaria's on the website. The two couldn't be any more opposite in their practice and intention. Iyengar's light will shine for generations to come. Meanwhile, Hilaria's shallow selfie practice is highlighted and exposed for all that is wrong with commercialized yoga today.

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Erica Leibrandt

Erica Leibrandt is a licensed psychotherapist, registered yoga teacher, published author, and imperfect mom. Visit her at PsycheFinder, her new website—the only site that finds your mental health professional for you. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.