Amazonian, Asana, Barbie doll, bra fat, Compassion, disingenuous, fat burning, Fry your fat on the mat, hamster wheel, Healing, Heart-Chakra Opening, infomercials, jiva mukti, liberation, Living Liberation, Love, Meditation, modern-day sorcery, Radical Self-Acceptance, Self-esteem, Slim Calm Sexy Yoga, Tara Stiles, un-yogic, Unreasonable Joy, Yin Yoga, Yoga, yoga teachers
I’ve been thinking this one through and I wanted to break down my outrage for y’all a little more re: the Tara Stiles saga.
I’m much calmer now. Not so much with the angry. But still, this latest “yoga scandal” resonates with me in a way that none of the other recent issues have (e.g. see Toe Sox-Gate), and I’m gonna explain why. In detail. So bear with me, okay?
To kick things off: Tara Stiles has called her book and presumably “her” yoga “Slim Calm Sexy Yoga”. She promotes it as such and clearly believes in this message. However for me, this is very problematic.
The title itself is disingenuous.
What I mean by that is this: if you do enough yoga or ANY other kind of exercise, you will lose weight as a by-product. And for that you don’t need to buy the “Slim Calm Sexy Yoga” book. Whether 15 minutes a day of yoga is enough to deliver the sort of results Tara is claiming… well, that’s debatable.
As for “Slim”? Really? There are people in this world – people like me – who, even at their thinnest, could NEVER be described as thin. I might look in shape, toned and slim for my build (think tall Amazonian proportions, broad shoulders, busty, curvy), but no one would call me slim when there’s a world of underfed actresses and models to be compared to.
Calm, eh? Hmmm. Yesss… a little meditation and regular old yoga will help you with the calm factor. So will getting enough sleep.
And Sexy? So erm… is sexiness implied in relation to Slim? Are you only Sexy if you’re Slim and Calm? Can you possibly be Sexy and neither Slim or Calm?
And that’s just for starters.
Honestly, I don’t really care if Tara has “sensible” You Tube videos or other “helpful” tips in her book, as has been pointed out by other bloggers. And I don’t buy the “poor Tara, she’s just a victim of the marketing machine selling her book, it’s not her fault” excuse, either.
Surely, if she truly objected to the way it was going to be marketed, she’d pull out of the deal and/or find another publisher? I know I would!
And let’s not forget her “Fry your fat on the mat” segment which directly supports those advertising messages! I don’t mean to be snooty, but I’d like to point out that in that TV spot she was holding standard yoga poses for only a minute or two and calling them “fat burning” exercises. On live TV being broadcast to millions of viewers.
In direct contrast, a male yoga teacher friend of mine talks about asana in terms of their healing benefits. Yep, HEALING.
And hey, let’s not forget that Yin Yoga (which I haven’t practiced, but Linda teaches) involves holding asana for MUCH longer than a minute (with ZERO mentions of fat burning!).
Guess what I’m saying is that certain attributes have been assigned to Tara’s yoga style and the benefits promised are actually true for doing ANY kind of yoga. But generally, those things are considered by-products of the practice, and not the end-goal.
So, already there’s a major disconnect happening here for me.
But don’t get me wrong: I think it’s perfectly fine to want to lose weight (healthily, I might add). If that’s what you think you need. And in some cases for reasons to do with health and longevity, weight loss is desirable. But not to make you better, calmer or sexier.
Of course, this is the common mythology of our society and it begins the moment young girls are given their first Barbie and Ken dolls: thinner (for girls)/more muscular (for guys) = Better.
BUT THIS IS NOT YOGA.
And in my humble opinion, it is NOT okay for yoga teachers to reinforce the message that you aren’t okay the way you are. You’re fat. You need to do MY yoga in order to lose weight. Fry your fat! Buy my book!!
(My Guru refers to marketing as modern-day sorcery because of its ability to manipulate people to do what you want them to do.)
This kind of marketing message is anti EVERYTHING that yoga stands for, and it’s one of the few things that I’d describe as “un-yogic” – a word that in general I detest and think is used as a slur/insult to judge others (and therefore is in itself, un-yogic. Doh!). But that’s a whole other post!
The very branding of yoga as “Slim Calm Sexy” with skimpily-clad images of Tara infers: “Be like me/look like me”.
It doesn’t even matter if she never says that explicitly – the message is there like a blinking neon light because it’s tapping directly into all of the pre-existing “lose 100lbs and get a life” late-night infomercials that have been playing ad nausea in our collective unconscious for far too many years.
Now, here’s a cold hard fact: depending on your metabolism/doshas, genes, physical build and bone structure, you might NEVER look like Tara. Ever.
Then… what happens when those 15 minutes of “fat burning” yoga a day DON’T get rid of one’s bra fat (I’m assuming this refers to the little roll that forms under the back of the bra)? Because let’s face it – this is NOT going to be enough for some people at all.
Note: There’s no one-size-fits-all yoga routine that’s guaranteed to make a person lose weight!
==Also, as Nadine has rightly pointed out in the comments, there’s nothing wrong with bra fat anyway==
So, if someone doesn’t get the result they expect, what will it mean about their impression of yoga and more importantly, their relationship to themselves? Has yoga, then, just added another nail in the coffin of someone’s self-esteem instead of offering them a powerful means of liberation from such things?
This sort of thinking in Tara’s book and marketing in general is symptomatic of the “I’ll be happy when…” disease. When I’m richer, thinner, better looking, when I’ve had that nose/boob job, got a better job, a lover, children and so on… THEN I’ll be happy.
Of course, “I’ll be happy when…” is a lie.
And the cure to this malaise is NEVER more improvements or possessions. I mean, we know this, right? Because when we do get what we want, we’re still not as happy as we thought we’d be, right? Like a hamster on its wheel, we keep spinning on the spot thinking we’re getting somewhere but in fact, we’re digging ourselves a deeper and deeper hole.
The ONLY way out of the hamster wheel is to fully buy into Radical Self-Acceptance: that everything about you is perfect just the way you are… there’s no need to keep running, and searching. Everything you want and need is already right here, and you’ve just got to learn to see it.
Right now, some of you might be thinking: OMG, that sounds like a huge pile of horse dung, right?
How could I possibly be okay if I don’t have movie star looks and/or a model shaped body? How can I like or love myself if I’m not this generalised western concept of everything that’s acceptably attractive, fun and social? If I don’t have the right clothes, a house, a car, a family, lots of friends. HOW COULD ANY OF THAT BE OKAY?!!
Well, because who you are is not limited to your appearance, clothes, your job, how you live, your friends, hobbies and habits. None of those things!
And because if you like, you can choose to start exploring what else you might be. What other wondrous possibilities might be associated with being a human being in this inter-connected interplay of the universe!
And this, my friends, is what yoga is all about.
Because yoga is, amongst other things, Radical Self-Acceptance, Unreasonable Joy (i.e. joy without reason or cause), Heart-Chakra Opening, generating Love and Compassion, and the tradition of Living Liberation (jiva mukti)…
WHAT??! You thought yoga was just about stretching or frying your fat or getting a toned butt? Erm, sorry. That’s. Just. Not. True.
There’s much more to come! And here’s part 2..
P.S. Here’s a few related posts on the subject in no particular order. I don’t necessarily agree with every post, but feel free to make up your own mind!
From Nadine: The making of a yoga body
From The BlissChick: DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK
From EcoYogini: Selling Yoga: The Trends that Define our Culture
From Curvy Yoga: Yoga, weight loss, and transformation
From Brooks Hall: Slim Sexy Savvy and Yoga-sex
From Linda-Sama #1: Words almost fail me
From Linda-Sama #2: Seva is sexy
From Linda-Sama #3: Burn your blubber, fry your fat
From Linda-Sama #4: Upon further reflection of yoga noise
From Yoga Dawg: The New Epidemic: Bra Fat
From Yoga Dork: Tara Stiles Launches ‘Slim, Calm, Sexy’ Yoga to Acclaim, Insult, Revolt (see marketing)
From It’s All Yoga, Baby: Toesoxnudegate: the feminists & Kathryn Budig speak up
Christine (Blisschick) Reed said:
I was just discussing some of this with a student who had read my DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK post and had asked her teenage daughter to read it.
An important distinction came to mind that you bring up here.
I have in the past year dropped about 4 sizes. There is nothing wrong with getting slimmer and healthier BUT BUT BUT…
I dropped those sizes as a consequence of DOING WHAT I LOVE!!!
I did not set out to get “THIN” or “SEXY” or whatever. I set out to follow my heart. I did so by returning to dance (via yoga), and then I set out to become healthy and strong so that I may dance for many, many years to come.
And then it hit me — this is the very BASE, FOUNDATION of Yoga — INTENTION.
Yoga is the intention and mindfulness that we bring to our yoga, but more importantly, to the WHOLE of our lives. Paths may look different on the outside but yoga is all about the inside.
(As she preaches to the converted!)
There is no yogic intention and mindfulness in this book. It is simply about someone getting “Big” and making money.
And I agree, Tara is in NO WAY a victim of marketing. We all make choices and we can all make different ones.
“Yoga is the intention and mindfulness that we bring to our yoga, but more importantly, to the WHOLE of our lives.”
which is why Krishnamacharya said “yoga is life.”
yoga and meditation are 24/7. period. THAT is real yoga.
And bra fat is ok! We love every bit of ourselves, here now. Atha.
@Christine (Blisschick) Reed – Truly. Not grasping onto an idea or an image of something that, if attained, will bring happiness etc. That’s a HUGE distinction. And absolutely, focusing on something you love and that brings you joy and inspiration, that’s the work to be done. Not the dropping of four dress sizes!
Intention – oh yes. That’s the basis of puja, of meditation, asana and EVERYTHING else we want to do. Get the intention right and make it honest – then the rest will flow.
@Linda-Sama – Sing it, sister!
@nadinefawell – YES! And, I’ve amended my post to reflect this…
Beautiful and insightful post.Loved the remark about advertising being modern sorcery. I’m looking forward to part 2.
A very thoughtful post Svasti. The only positive thing that hopefully will come from the sales of Tara’s books is that once people are introduced to yoga, the spark will be ignited, and they will move more deeply into their beings and become connected to their souls – recognizing they are more than skin and bones. Perhaps once the door has been opened, many will be able to see beyond the superficial bullshit she is selling.
Rachel @ Suburban Yogini said:
I’m still not even sure I know what bra fat is. Is it that bit between the top of your bra and your armpit and the bit underneath your bra? Because if so that is there to stop us splitting in two when we reach upward. Does Tara not have that? Does that mean she splits in two when she reaches upward? Now that I’d pay money to see! 😉
I completely agree with everything you say here Svasti. I am sick to death of hearing Tara and other bloggers defending this book in anyway. My only fear is that in the name of “all publicity is good publicity” we are adding fuel to the fire in the same way that other much loathed books (Spycatcher, The Satanic Verses, Tony Blair’s autobiography) became bestsellers.
I hope not.
Victim of marketing my arse…
Svasti–I am so glad you are calling Tara Stiles out on this. I’m like you–I’ve got a bigger build–and even at my very thinnest, I’ve never looked skinny. I’ve always been very insecure about my looks–and women like this–who perpetuate this belief that for a woman to be of any worth, she must be thin and sexy–well it is just BS! And it really makes me so angry.
I teach psychology classes so I keep up with a lot of research on behavior and I read a study just last week about little girls, as young as six years old, developing eating disorders! Tara Stiles plays right into this. Yoga should be promoted as a way to improve balance and health–not as a means to become ‘skinny and sexy.’ It’s just wrong–but bravo to you, my friend! Keep on it! 🙂
@Medea – Thank you! Part 2 is now live 🙂
@Karin – This is the hope, and this is one the excuses being made by the Tara supporters. We can hope they do find more about yoga once they get into it, but the thing is, we never know. And for every person who is sucked in by promises of losing multiple dress sizes, there’s another person who won’t go near yoga because they don’t take kindly to the crazy marketing.
And Yoga Dawg is sooo funny, isn’t he? Love his satire!
@Rachel @ Suburban Yogini – I’m pretty sure bra fat is “back fat” that looks lumpy when wearing a bra if you have too much of it. You know, just something else to make women feel vulnerable and not good enough!
Perhaps you’re right and “all publicity is good publicity”… who knows? But I intend to keep talking anyway 😉
@Melinda – You know what, Melinda? I’d really love it if you felt like writing a post from the psychology perspective on all of this. I’m sure you’d have some interesting things to add with your professional knowledge. xo
Thank you for this post. Wonderful.
In the past, I’ve sought out yoga as a *solution* to my *problem*. A year or so ago, I would have been first in line to buy this book. I’m so glad I stopped looking at yoga as a means to an end and started seeing it as an end in itself.
Hi Karena, what a wonderful comment! I’m so glad you no longer see yourself or your body as a “problem”. How can it be, when it is the life form that sustains you in this world!! Yoga, if we keep practicing, will inform us about these things and many others. 🙂