Saturday, August 21, 2010

Yoga Journal is a Chronicle of the “Yoga Scene”, including Nakedness…

I came across this response from the Editor in Chief of Yoga Journal, Kaitlin Quistgaard, to the concerns generated by Judith Hanson Lasater’s letter that was published in the September 2010 issue. Here is a small excerpt:

“Perhaps the biggest difference between the magazine Judith founded and the one I edit today is that while Yoga Journal continues to be a source of instruction and insight on yogic practices, it is now also a chronicle of the ever-evolving yoga scene–a scene that didn’t exist 35 years ago and one that some old-time practitioners would, quite frankly, find un-yogic.”

(The bold words are in the source post…)

Yes, it’s easy to see that the magazine has evolved, and so has yoga, but to place in bold text the opinion that it is only “some old-time practitioners” that find parts of the “ever-evolving yoga scene” questionable really minimizes the option of critical thinking. If I’m reading this right, it’s just the “old” people who feel this way so it doesn’t matter to the magazine so much because Yoga Journal is a chronicle of what is happening: an unseeing filter for whatever is going on in yoga in our culture right now. Well thanks for clarifying that for me, Ms. Quistgaard, I now understand better how to look at this magazine.

And I guess since it’s just “old” thinking, and I don’t want to feel ashamed for not being of the latest, hottest opinion of yoga I’ll just clam up since these other opinions are apparently no longer relevant.

I think that ideals, choices and responsibility are important when publishing about a subject I care about like yoga. But she also points out:

“It’s a messy time to be in the business of covering yoga. Some yoga publications that offered a purist’s view of the practice are no longer in print, while “workout yoga” is popular on the newsstand. Yoga Journal remains devoted to bringing a full spectrum of teachings to a wide audience, and it does so while walking the age-old line of art and commerce.”

I find this response somewhat dispiriting, or is it sobering? Have I been drunk with idealism? Is our culture so far gone that the only way we can get peoples attention is by showing them a flashy naked (or almost Naked) idealized form?


Anonymous said...

thank. you.

i've haven't kept up too much with this topic (mainly b/c i don't read yoga journal) and appreciate your summary here. of course, i also agree with you! wouldn't consider myself an "old timer" on any level and yet i am offended and disheartened by the magazine's projections of our yoga culture. just because sex sells, doesn't mean you should sell it...

Anonymous said...

The word "only" is not in their writing when referring to "old time practitioners." You've put it there along with other assumptions.

Also, the word "some" IS there and would imply that there are older practitioners who have no problem with the changing scene.

Only showing that we ALL must watch out in terms of critical thinking. ;)

Brooks Hall said...

Hi Christine. I agree with you, and I also perceive language here that gently shames older yogis and people who might want to preserve or defend traditional practices. 

Linda-Sama said...

some of those "old time practitioners" would include people like Desikachar, someone whose teaching is as relavent NOW as it was back in the day.

I agree with you about the use of "old time". I'm old school, but that does not make me outmoded.

IMHO, screw YJ. and I am being polite.

Brooks Hall said...

Here is a better link to Yoga Journal's response, and it includes great comments as well. The post is called:
Naked Truths

Arturo said...

Dear Brooks
I practice Ashtanga. I stopped reading Yoga Journal long before an Ashtanga certified teacher said in a workshop many years ago that he and his wife thought the magazine had a wrong focus. When their subscription came up for renewal after the first year, the letter advising them of it said, "you are about to lose your enlightment; continue your subscription..." The teacher thought the choice of words was crass. Of course, he would fall in the "old people category." How unfortunate that the editor only accepts what is hip and young. It's a very shallow attitude.

Unknown said...

yoga journal is not worth reading.
namarupa is much better. also yoga international.

Linda-Sama said...

"How unfortunate that the editor only accepts what is hip and young. It's a very shallow attitude."

Two years ago in YJ Judith Lasater said that Americanized yoga is about a mile wide and an inch deep. wrote about her statement here:

Anonymous said...

I worry that we are reading ill intent where there is none. Which is the problem with most judgment of other.

I do this all the time, but I am learning to really watch for it.

A really silly example: I am watching Mad Men, about the beginnings of the advertising industry, an industry for which I have had nothing but disdain. I have carried assumptions about the people who write ad copy -- that they are TRYING to MAKE us feel things or do things for awful purposes. NO. They are humans doing work that they think is good -- maybe not like feeding the poor but they don't think they are doing evil.

That is just one example.

I think that most humans, regardless of what it LOOKS like they are doing, are actually not intentionally trying to hurt others.

We need to look deeper than that or will never ever experience true compassion.

Bob Weisenberg said...

I'm with Christine on this one.

Having been in Kaitlin's position most of my life (running a business and trying to keep it alive and healthly while satisfying a wide variety of constituencies) makes me very sympathetic to her challenge and to her letter.

And having worked closely with a few of the staff of Yoga Journal, Christine is certainly right that these are a lot of great people trying to do good, even if they define that good a differently than many in the Yoga world would.

To top it all off, I live with a woman, my wife, who is the ideal Yoga Journal reader--it's one of her favorite magazines. For her the content is just the right mix of fitness, health, and light philosophy.

I enjoy the magazine myself when I do read it occasionally. I think they are doing a great job for their chosen market.

Bob W.

Brooks Hall said...

Yes, I allowed myself a rant on this post, and I have considered taking it down even though I align with my criticism, for sure!

I also like the magazine and was incredibly happy when my blog was honored in it last year.

However, to suggest that things are just fine with the magazine is true and not true. Yoga Journal certainly appears to be thriving—that's great. Is there also a need to continue honing the content to better serve readers? My answer is: always.

I am in awe of the power that Yoga Journal represents. This power is why what they print is a big deal. What they print goes to a lot of people who are looking to learn about the precious subject of yoga—so I do think that there is a responsibility to treat the subject with respect.

Anonymous said...

If you feel the need to rant, I don't see why you shouldn't. Honestly, eems to me there's a lot of not saying what you really think going on in the blogosphere. "Let's all make allowances for everything that's said and done in the name of yoga".

I say NO. We don't have to be okay with that.

And if chronicling the ever-evolving yoga scene means running more ads than practical and useful articles, then I say YJ might be pretty to look at (if you want to see skinny white women in yoga poses) but not much more.

And if embracing the new means throwing out the old I say beware, YJ. You got to where you are on the shoulders of every yogi who ever came to the US from India. From every hippie who ever got their down dog on in their loungeroom before YJ even existed.

Now it's all artful studio photos and naked women selling products and conferences. And I don't buy it, literally or as an analogy.

Good on you Brooks, for having your say!

Bob Weisenberg said...

Hi, svasti.

I also applaud Brooks and others for expressing their criticisms of Yoga Journal.

Even though I have a different point of view, in my opinion the critiques of Yoga Journal and the resulting vigorous discussions have been good for everyone. I know they have been for me.

And if enough people voice their complaints, it will definitely have an impact on Yoga Journal. (Their problem is they have a variety of important audiences who want contradictory things.)

Yes, bravo Brooks!

Bob W.