Friday, January 29, 2010

What I Meant to Say...

A big thank-you to all the comments on Monday's post. After reflecting on many of them, I think some clarification is due.

I don't think "celebrity yoga" has come close to running its course, unfortunately. What I meant, is that I don't see the A-list yogis (to borrow terminology from Yoga Dawg) being replaced any time soon. That crowd came of age in a time when there was little opportunity for mainstream America (or anywhere else) practice with a qualified teacher. If you weren't near a good-sized city, you had to do yoga with your VCR. These yogis delivered the goods consistently, so you could take an effective class with them every morning in your living room and enjoy a conference class every once and awhile. Anyone interested in yoga had been exposed to their teaching and, as a result, they became famous for their expertise. Thus, A-list.

Not to say that they didn't deserve the attention. And they all use their position for the greater good of the discipline (for the most part), so I don't begrudge them their fame.

But now yoga is everywhere. And everyone wants a piece of the pie. So there are lots of inspiring, wonderful teachers with large followings, but not on the scale of the A-list. That's what I meant. These days, for every calm, clear, student-centered instructor, there seems to be a goofy, overreaching striver who will do anything to get some attention. Market saturation is being reached.

I hope there are some great teachers who do get the national attention they deserve. And I hope the strivers shut up after their 15 minutes and figure out some other fitness trend to exploit. It's a much bigger field now, so there will always be a greater number of notable teachers because of the higher demand and varied audiences. I just wonder if that kind of A-list longevity is still possible...

My wish is that people would realize that and stop shooting for the sun, publicity-wise. Be happy with the attention you do get and the DVDs you do sell and stop pandering to the advertisers and the media that want more skin, more products, more self-loathing. What about focusing on teaching? How's that for a novel idea?

Or better yet, bail on yoga altogether. It seems like the martial arts could use some new spokesmodels--plus that's a better place to jump-start an acting career. Steven Seagal is getting a bit long in the tooth, doncha know...

[If you persist on ignoring my advice, at least pander correctly--with Yoga Dawg's Steps to Yoga Stardom]

8 comments:

Eco Yogini said...

you know, I can think of a few, and it's irritating that's for sure.

I actually wonder if yoga is going to split... i sure see some signs of that- the 'woo we love buying lululemon and wearing 'yoga shoes' (bah seriously) and we pay a zillion dollars for yoga cuz we CAN' crowd

and then there's the, well, I hate to use the word, but 'purists' (ok, a better word is out there I'm sure). In any case, I wonder if there will be a real shift, a true label shift in these two crowds...

that would be interesting.

David Lincecum said...

Dear grounding,
Thanks for using 'doncha know' in the post. As a fellow midwesterner it grounded me.

And Eco Yogini, when you say a split does that mean a rebranding? It's all just yoga after all. I love my Lu Lu pants don't care if I am judged over them. They feel delicious, fit perfectly. I love them like I love my Jade mat. But, I would practice in blue jeans on the carpet if you asked. It may be hard to accept the 'mainstreaming' of yoga and all that comes with it. Every practice has its purists; golfers that still use 'wood' clubs, runners who run barefoot. We have to work on acceptance of everyone who wants to practice. I firmly believe it is changing everyone; even the people wearing shoes.

writeonyoga said...

I would love to see the yoga scene evolve to the point that the sincere, dedicated, student-centered yoga instructors naturally rise to the top.

Brenda P. said...

Interesting thought, EcoY. Altho, I'd say the split has already happened, whether it's been named or not. What does everyone else think?

I think the problem, David, is not the "mainstreaming" of yoga--which I'd encourage, more the merrier--but the merchandising that has come along for the ride. People smell money, and that's where the self-promotion and crass commercialism comes into play. Ego and Materialism, in other words, both discouraged by the yamas and niyamas.

I don't think anyone is telling anyone else to quit practicing.

writeon--wouldn't that be wonderful? I'm not holding my breath (aside from during pranayama)...

Namaste_Heather said...

I just want to say that I love your interesting thought provoking posts!

roseanne said...

thanks for the clarification here, and i now have a better idea of what you're getting at. it's true that the culture and positioning of yoga has changed. everybody has more access to yoga, whether in their community or via youtube/online channels.

it's also much easier to transform oneself into a minor "yoga celebrity" - via youtube, social media, blogging, advertising for non-yoga related things. there are more platforms and venues to reach people, and increase one's public profile. but as you've noted, the market is pretty saturated, and teachers have to work harder and make more noise (post more videos on youtube or blog for huffpo) to get noticed. or they can just get YAMA to do the publicity work while they focus on their teaching...

what i'd really like to see is what you identified in a previous post a while back, what you called the "oprah of yoga." that spokesperson who isn't just a pretty face/flexible body, but is committed to the practice, willing to speak out for other things, and be publicly vulnerable, passionate, enthusiastic, flawed. whole. human.

Emma said...

i was just having a "discussion" about this with my guy... he cant stand the yoga "scene" and "scenesters," but i figure that that's just a stage, and if it means that eventually a beautiful, growth-filled practice may come, then start there. but, hopefully, move on.

La Gitane said...

I think the issue is not Yoga so much as our society of extremes and stereotypes.

I don't think that I'm more enlightened on the days when I practice yoga in my $3 cotton pants from the flea market than on the days when I don my LuLu stretchy-black-pant-thingies. But we live in a world that is so focused on external appearances, so eager to classify and stereotype, that even us sincere yogis and yoginis leap to those conclusions. As with much in our society, we bring it back to material 'worth' rather than what's on the inside.

As a counterpoint, I have also met the "other extreme" of yogis. They dress in cotton rags and eat only vegetable broth, wander around bright-eyed and grasp your hands with moist-palmed love of the universe. Many of the places that they go to "find themselves" are places where ordinary people live in poverty and hardship - India, Thailand, Bali. Yet I have certainly met some people who call these places paradise, oblivious to the suffering around them, focusing only on their own enlightened selves.

I think the lesson for me is that every situation is a chance to apply our yoga. We must be patient with the "five-minutes-of-fame" yogis and feel compassion for those who crave the approval of external eyes. We must study our own reactions to the LuLu-lemmings and the Ragamuffin-rishis, and learn to overcome our prejudices and see everyone as just human beings.

Yoga can only ever be about your own quest. If we instinctively recoil against LuLu, what does that tell us about our own hangups on materialism? If we feel anger or disappointment at the 'corporatisation' of Yoga, what does that say about our own Ego?