Commercial Yoga Culture Has No Interest in Dialogue /// Here’s One Way to Tell

While writing our response last week to Ava Taylor’s response to criticisms lobbed against her, her talent agency, and the celebrity yoga instructors under her umbrella, I noticed something I’ve notice time and time again: Ava, like many others working in commercial yoga culture, offered no links to the articles and offenses in question. This leads me to believe that despite commercial yoga culture’s claims to be interested in discussions on matters spiritual, commercial, and practical, their actions suggest that robust public discourse is almost entirely out of the question.

Commercial yoga culture is a conversational ghost town

Commercial yoga culture is a conversational ghost town

I have seen this unwillingness to source criticism, specifically that made by The Babarazzi, in a number of places. There was Leslie Kaminoff’s vague reference to “anonymous bloggers” in his response to our goof on a NY Times article. Then there was Elena Brower’s GLBL Yoga solidarity speech, which made reference to “so many people who are writing to literally gain eyeballs,” which is one of the more unique ways to describe op/ed authors. Then there was that Sadie Nardini damage control piece written by “punk yoga yogi,” Brian Willliams, in which he openly challenges “anyone that would question whether or not Sadie Nardini is a good teacher or a good yogini.” In each case (and there are many more) no direct reference is made to where the criticism is coming from, an act that effectively swindles any reader interested in having an opinion of their own.

Compare these examples to either Paul Morris’, “The Shallowness of Hate,” which is an awful little piece of scram that basically says The Babarazzi is just hateful, or any of the posts Elephant Journal’s Waylon Lewis put up in response to our original post on EJ that was subsequently taken down. While both Morris’ and Lewis’ pieces are not ones we particularly jive with, both refer back to articles we have written, and thus present their gripes in such a way so as to give at least an option for readers to navigate through multiple sides of an argument.

Apparently, that’s the best commercial yoga culture can do….

joey-walks-into-the-door-o

Here are a few reasons why I think a person, and especially one who is invested in a yoga business, would not want to cite, or, in the age of blogging, “link back,” to a critical source.

Not wanting to give publicity to the offender
I have heard this excuse time and time again. People in the yoga community who feel as if they are wrongfully criticized will not link back to a critical article or video so as not to “publicize” the offender. This is particular to commercial yoga culture, which reads discourse solely in relationship to how it effects the numbers. Commercial yoga culture would rather censor critique rather than give the public as much information on the discussion as possible, because commercial yoga culture, having become simply a niche branch of the greater celebrity pop culture, thinks only in terms of “publicity.”

Feeling as if the criticism is unworthy of a link
I can see how someone pandering to the yogilebrity community would have opinions on the “value” of a piece that challenges said culture. However, while having strong opinions and making well-thought out arguments is most likely a good thing, imposing your assessment of a critique in question by not explicitly referring to it does far more harm than good.

Commercial yoga culture is, by design, always in advertising mode, and therefor unable to participate in actual discourse
The idea that commercial yoga culture serves no purpose other than to continuously create markets that will ultimately serve no purpose other than promoting itself is one that is taken up in Aghori’s forthcoming book. The idea here is that commercial yoga culture feigns dialogue, just as it does community building, rather than participating in it, and has no language with which to engage real discussions about real subjects.

A desire to bury dissent in order to keep the public pacified
This line of thinking replicates a governmental policy that believes an uninformed public is a safe public. While I do not think commercial yoga culture employs this tactic explicitly, I do feel that the logical result of hiding or burying sources for people to investigate, ultimate dumbs down the public, essentially creating a classic uninformed populace.

Which, ironically, is an excellent way to create this…

yoga+ny+7

…over and over and over again.

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33 comments

  1. It is so at the local, not ready for primetime level, like you would not believe. Once had been removed as a fan on a yoga company’s page.

    I received no notification, except for the fact that it did not show up as one of my Pages. I did not initiate the gesture. I knew within hours what the problem was, as all of my comments were gone, and there were holes in comment streams …

    That having been done, I deleted all my (4 and 5 star) reviews of their business and the one from which they spun off, from Yelp and citysearch (my attempt on yahoo! failed … sorry about that, World). Deleted also any Compliments to my Yelp profile that mentioned their name. Removed and prohibit any emailings from ConstantContact to my email address.

    Deleted any comments I made about them to status updates on Friends’ pages.
    This is going back, whatever is still there, even if it obliquely referenced the company, it’s gone.

    Decided not to give them any more business nor to contact them in any way. And I had been about to give them somewhat more business, because they’d modified a policy of theirs that had been making it uncomfortable for me.

    I am sure it would not be a great loss to them. I hope they are happy with their precipitous actions.

    My comment had not been negative at all. Just truthful, and inviting of discussion.
    It seems they brook no discussion.

    I sit shivva for them. It’s like I’d never patronized their business.

    End of story.

  2. Janet

    I don’t think they really care what you think so why would they dialog with you? Waylon on the other hand will do anything for traffic no matter how lame his posts are.

    • It is my firm belief that Waylon Lewis is driven more by the desire to be part of the backstage in-crowd at celebrity yoga events than he is by post numbers. That’s why he is willing to allow his blog to be the vehicle of every form of condemnation toward people on their way out of yoga celebrity-hood, but will never allow even mild critique of his new friends at the fests. He’s got what he always wanted now and he isn’t going to let go. If that costs him a bit of traffic, he’s okay with that. What he’s protecting now is his celebrity connections. And between the sex posts and the hatched job posts on already downed teachers he can keep the blog afloat as well.

      • Helga

        Well there’s someone else who has the hots for Waldo almost as much as the babarazzi.

        • Greenpoint

          made it into about 1:20 mark…why is she touching him?!?!? and so awkwardly?!?!?!?

          • Helga

            That’s what I was thinking. Can you imagine the uproar if that was a male teacher get all touchy like that with a female interviewer. Yuk!

    • As most of you know, I worked at elephant for 3-4 years as Yoga Editor then Assoc. Publisher, until I retired last year. I certainly had some big differences with Waylon, and I don’t defend all his editorial decisions.

      However, as for elephant content in general, please consider this. I just started this new project called “Best of Yoga Philosophy”, in which I follow all the relevant yoga blogs and sites across the internet (about 40 so far) and pick out the very best articles on Yoga philosophy (as opposed to asana practice or yoga popular culture or anything else).

      Even though I don’t give elephant any particular preference, so far almost 1/3 of my objective selections have come from elephant. And the rest are scattered among the other 40 sites. (The second most selected site is Rebelle Society, which was created by my two best superstar editors at elephant, Tanya Lee Markul and Andrea Balt.)

      So, whatever faults you feel elephant has, it is still the best source of serious but accessible Yoga philosophy content on the Internet, and we should give Waylon credit for that, too, along with whatever criticism you feel he deserves.

      I plan to add to my “Classic Articles from the Past”, too, and I have literally hundreds of great Yoga Philosophy articles from the past four years to consider from elephant. I’m guess that nearly half of those articles, objectively chosen will come from elephant. It cast a long shadow in the field of serious Yoga philosophy articles.

      Bob W. Editor
      Best of Yoga Philosophy
      http://pinterest.com/yogaphilosophy/

      • “Even though I don’t give elephant any particular preference, so far almost 1/3 of my objective selections have come from elephant.”

        Wow. That sentence right there says it all. Subjectively, my opinion is that you are probably a very well intentioned, intelligent guy, Bob. And that’s my opinion even though I do give things a particular preference. I’m human. I can’t help it. My opinion is subjective. I believe that yours is too. The fact that you can write a sentence like that is problematic. Can you see that? In my subjective opinion, your problem there is related to the bigger problem at elephant.

        • You could be right, of course, Human. I’ve tried my honest best to avoid that phenomenon, and will continue to do so in the future, but who knows? I’ve been away from elephant for a long time, and I certainly want to be totally independent with my new project.

          You can help! Please tell me your favorite Yoga philosophy sites so I can make sure they’re among the 40 in my RSS feed right now. In time I’d like to be following every great site.

          And I thrive on feedback. Please take a look at the articles I’ve chosen and tell me what you like and what you don’t, either in a comment or a private message.

          This is only three weeks old, and I’ll be refining it for years, I’m sure. My sole purpose is to bring Yoga philosophy fans together, and to enjoy the ensuing conversations.

          Thanks for writing.

          Bob W.
          http://pinterest.com/yogaphilosophy/

      • yogadas

        “Even though I don’t give elephant any particular preference, so far almost 1/3 of my objective selections have come from elephant.”

        Wow. That sentence right there says it all. Subjectively, my opinion is that you are probably a very well intentioned, intelligent guy, Bob. And that’s my opinion even though I do give things a particular preference. I’m human. I can’t help it. My opinion is subjective. I believe that yours is too. The fact that you can write a sentence like that is problematic. Can you see that? In my subjective opinion, the problem there is related to the bigger problem at elephant.

  3. Greenpoint

    Hey, now wait a minute here, I distinctly recall something about your next post including “bikinis” and “wine spritzers”, which above fabulous article is bereft of…I feel cheated, in a alpha male sort of way…

  4. Emily

    Thank you for writing this– it sums up most of my feelings about the crassness of this culture as well. If YAMA wants to be the first of its kind as a manager to the “stars,” then here is the main thing they need to change: Come up with more eloquent responses than the piss poor, blind jabs you’ve been taking at well thought out critiques like the ones on this site. The negative publicity they garnered for themselves with that stupid “everyone’s so mean” post wouldn’t make me, as a teacher, want to seek out her services. If you put yourself out there, be prepared for the jabs to come from all corners of the Internet, legit and creepy, but at least respect the writers who critique you honestly! Bitch, please.

  5. Garuda

    It is a tactic learned in Grade School. Shun the ones who differ with popular opinion.
    I think it festers if not treated and it ends up looking a little more like Real Housewives, or Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
    Waylon and EJ were on the journalistic guillotine with the JF scandal. Any contrary voice was beheaded and shunned.
    It really helps to have a sense of humor about ourselves, it is a shame that commercialism nullifies that.
    Thank You Babarrazzi for keeping things street.

  6. There’s a deeper issue in play here which you don’t mention, but is implied in your earlier brilliant critique of commercial culture (in the YAMA post): that is, to engage in dialog about the issues raised on any sort of serious level necessarily de-naturalizes commercial culture itself. As long as that culture is taken as so completely natural that it’s beyond questioning (like our understanding of gravity, or that the earth revolves around the sun), then critique is reduced to the status of whining by losers and malcontents. Once you start debating the issues raised in a meaningful way, that whole unspoken hierarchy is gone.

    • Linda-Sama

      “As long as that culture is taken as so completely natural that it’s beyond questioning….then critique is reduced to the status of whining by losers and malcontents.”

      Kinda like what happens in elephant journal, Carol.

  7. Commercial yoga is a lame, pasty facsimile of the capitalist model it comes out of.
    Corporations these days are getting more sophisticated in hiding their tracks and the crap they do while pursuing profits which is why there is so much money invested in the public relations, reputation management and spin industry. I think the commercial yoga culture is no different, they do the same thing, only they couch their language with pseudo-spiritual jargon and use words like “abundance” (= make me rich, give me money) a lot.
    Of course they are not interested in any real discussion or exchange. If they actually did it, it would blow their cover and their premises and their real motivations in getting involve in hyper-commercial yoga in the first place. A serious dialogue would also instantly expose the more vapid and vacuous personalities involved as well, that they are in yoga for the most superficial and flimsiest of reasons. I mean look at that Rainbeau Mars chick who admitted that she didn’t “understand yoga”.
    A friend described ruthless capitalism to me once in these terms: “If you’re gonna give it up the ass, you’d better be willing to take it up the ass as well.”
    Meaning: If these yogilebrities and such are going to play in this commercial yoga arena, then they had better be prepared for the backlash, criticism, poking fun of and lampooning as well.

    • Gus

      A friend described ruthless capitalism to me once in these terms: “If you’re gonna give it up the ass, you’d better be willing to take it up the ass as well.”

      Don’t you think this also holds true for the critics? Baba maybe one of you should come out of hiding. This discourse would be far more interesting if the other side could “poke fun” at you personally. Let it get ugly, let everyone show their true colors.

      • Hi, Gus. Interesting idea. Here is my retort:

        1. Anyone has at any moment the option of critiquing us back. Of course, they would only have what they see here (articles, words, images, text, colors, interviews, etc.) to reply to. While yogilebrities have chosen a particular facade with which to sell to the world, so have we. Only, for now while the market is disinterested, ours is free for all! Ours is also a good deal more attractive.

        2. I think “hiding” is the wrong word. We don’t feel like we’re hiding. I think we just happen to be rather particular about how we are represented publicly. Plus there’s a lot of other stuff that goes into it (identity politics, self-as-design, punk pseudonyms, etc.). We are certainly not anonymous. We have a name. We have a place. We respond to people. At this time we simply have no interest in promoting our living social selves. We are a people of letters. Of course, this means we reap none of the benefits of being liked, loved, appreciated, and agreed with as there is no one who knows us to like us. It is a lonely life we have chosen. :(

        3. Who or what is this “other side” you speak of? Is that a person? Are we being unfair to a disembodied scene of ideas? How is that even possible?

        • Gus

          You’re right, “hiding” was the wrong word. Don’t get me wrong, there is so much about the fact that you are “anonymous” that I enjoy, however, it’s times like these when I wish the people behind both curtains, (Babarazzi and Commercial Yoga) would show their true faces(living, social selves, as you put it.) I don’t think you are being unfair at all. I’m not even interested in fairness. It’s my opinion that this article can only go so far when you’re not showing your living, social selves. You are people behind all of the articles, words, images, text, colors, interview, etc. I understand that everybody has their facade, I just think it would get a lot more interesting if you couldn’t go to your- identity-politics-self-as-design-punk-pseudonyms-corner and the commercial yoga world couldn’t go to their- you’re-mean-we’re-just-being-honest-about-how-we’re-making-a-living-corner. I just really liked the idea- “If you’re gonna give it up the ass, you’d better be willing to take it up the ass as well.” and I want everyone to play this way. I think it could get a little ugly, and I would like that….I know, it’s not gonna happen.

          • amphibi1yogini

            Except with Bikram. He’d never been one for hypocrisy. A hundred Rolexes? A fleet of Rolls Royces? Suing for copyright infringement?

            Now, I have to really respect that. Commercial yogis who don’t piss on you and then tell you it was just a little rain.

      • Oh god, no, I wouldn’t want my Babs to reveal his/her self! Then who would I fantasize about in the dawn hours? Some human flesh sack with a hedda hair and and failing joints trying everything they can to ward off the final exhale (otherwise known as death)? Please don’t ruin this for me. It’s all I have left after giving up dogmatism and embracing uncertainty for the latter half of my life. X

  8. Yoga_Dude

    YAMA = Yet Another Monetary Alliance

  9. Yoga_Dude

    Ava’s phrase “It’s not a revolution unless everyone is a part of it” was more aptly phrased by Pete Townsend when he wrote, “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” Oh well, I hope everyone has an excellent practice today.

  10. Baba’s anonymity keeps them from being co-opted, otherwise you might have a Baba Fest!

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