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