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This guy is hoping it's safe to come out of this low crouching position soon!

The ongoing discussion re: Tara Stiles’ Slim Calm Sexy “Yoga” and similar horrendous-yet-commercial “anti-yoga yoga” advertising, certainly has legs (no pun intended).

Like oil and water, seems there’s two main groups disagreeing with each other and the effects are still reverberating around the blogosphere.

I’ve been called a “radical feminist” for my opinions, although in this day and age I’ve no idea what is radical about anything I’ve said. In fact, as Linda put it (someone who was also labelled as such), perhaps we are “radical humanists” at the most. But our views on all of this are not extreme in any way.

It’s also been suggested that anyone who thinks Tara is selling out is just jealous of her success. Can you imagine that? Women who oppose yoga being used as a weapon against women’s self-esteem are being accused of things that suggest a very old fashioned mind-set, circa 1960s. And being accused by other women, no less!

Apparently, my anger and objections to the way Tara is using yoga can be boiled down to “extreme” ideas and oh… jealousy. How nice, because then you get to ignore me, right?

I shake my head in wonder, particularly because I expected more from some people. But perhaps they want to buy into the fame and glory associated with models-turned-yoga-teachers-who-don’t-know-yoga-from-a-hole-in-their… y’know. I’ve no idea! It does at least appear that some people’s heads are turned by even the slightest association with someone famous, even if they don’t actually know them personally!

But then, perhaps that’s just part of their samskaras in this life. Who’s to say?

I’ve even had to end my association with a couple of bloggers who quite frankly, have been incredibly judgey, patronising and hypocritical. Although if our ideas on yoga, human/women’s rights differ so much, then perhaps that’s for the best at this point in time.

Maybe that’s how I look to them, too. It’s possible! I’m okay with others disagreeing with me, but not with being called names and people getting all passive-aggressive about it. With me, if I don’t like something I’m gonna tell you to your face (and I have!).

So it’s been quite the ride, but then I think it just shows how important this issue is. Everyone’s personal issues (mine included) – or rather our samskaras – are flaring up like crazy!

There’s a “don’t pick on Tara, she’s not hurting anybodeee” attitude that belies the reality of what’s going on. (BTW “Lalanna”, folks who leave comments on my blog with a fake email address will NOT get published!).

But actually this isn’t about Tara personally (although please don’t get me started on the 20 hour “yoga teacher training” she offers!), so much as it is about a certain approach to yoga. Or “pseudo-yoga”, shall we call it? Or perhaps “yoga-flavoured movement to sell books and DVDs”?

There also seems to be a “peace, love and its all good no matter what” thing going on. Let’s all agree with everybody else! But in my opinion, that’s how you get something I like to call “yoga puree”, or meaningless gloop.

And if yoga puree is what people think is acceptable, why don’t we all just not bother with (expensive) yoga teacher training? Why not just read some Roald Dhal and Mr. Men and call ourselves yoga teachers? I’ll translate Charlie and the Chocolate Factory into a version of the Upanishads, shall I?

Or rather, I won’t.

Sad when a student says on the first day of my Mindful Yoga class, “I hope I survive this class!” I asked “why do you say that?” She said “I’m not flexible”, not this, not that. I said “What makes you think yoga is all about that?” She said “all the ads I see.”

So for those who think current ads for yoga have no affect on future students, look harder. She had not done yoga for 40 years – said [that] yoga 40 years ago was “about the mind”. I said, “In my class it still is”. She left feeling wonderful BTW..:)

And after class she said her hips no longer hurt.

~from Linda-Sama about a very recent student

Can you imagine? A mature-age woman who felt inadequate about going to a yoga class! Because of yoga ads.

It’s not like I’m saying it’s all the fault of people like Tara Stiles, but she sure isn’t helping the situation! She herself is caught up in her own samskaras. So she really can’t help it, I guess.

And this is what we need to be mindful of. We cannot be okay with calling everything and anything yoga! We cannot let yoga be over-run with a very narrow definition of acceptable physical appearance in the same way the fashion industry has! We cannot allow yoga to be co-opted by the fashion industry (any more than it already is) or other commercial pursuits!

I realise that those of us who are dissenting are apparently the minority voice. But then, that’s traditionally been the role of yogis anyway. And yoga has always been about freeing the mind of such shallow and limited points of view. So really, it makes sense.

It’s just rather sad.

Years ago, I remember listening to my Guru explain a bunch of stuff about “American Yoga”, and make clear definitions between what we were studying and ummm, other kinds of teachings. Not in an elitist way, however. Back then, I didn’t really get it. But now I do, and I also understand why he refuses to live in America and be a part of the yoga scene there. It’s just too KRAAAAAZY for him!

I also recall the yoga debate on Yoga Dork’s blog a while back. At the time, I didn’t understand why the Indian community was so angry about the western-world co-opting yoga the way it has. I’d like to apologise to those people now!

Perhaps I didn’t get it because I’ve only ever been trained in a relatively traditional way. I have an authentic Guru who’s given me an incredible knowledge base already. And all of the yoga I’ve studied, practice and teach is relatively traditional, too.

Also, here in Australia we simply don’t have the same sort of yoga scene that the US does.

In the Land Down Under, yoga is still just plain old (but super-wonderful) yoga. No bells. No whistles. No catchy slogans to manipulate people into signing up for yoga class or buying a book or DVD.

Just yoga.

And really, that’s all I’m interested in.

I’m not giving up my position in the trenches. I’ll still disagree with blatantly commercial and self-esteem harming advertising in the name of yoga. BUT, I won’t bother trying to convince those who are too deluded to see. Not any more, anyway.

And I’ll still be here writing about real yoga (I won’t be shutting up any time soon), along with topics like PTSD and depression. Because they’re all inter-related as human experiences, and we need to look for truth in each of them.

You can count on that. You can also count on me being fierce (as is my warrior nature) as I do so, and truthful. And I won’t give up, I promise!

~Svasti

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