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.
Relephant Reads >>>
A Look at How Yoga Became a Tool for Women’s Empowerment & Activism: An Interview with Kate Clere McIntyre ofYogawoman.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Travis May