A few days ago, Leslie Kaminoff, author of the justifiably ubiquitous Yoga Anatomy, and founder of YAMA Talent, Ava Taylor, posted a video responding to an article of ours, which begged the question: Is the celebrification of the yogic tradition more damaging to the so-called “yoga community” (as defined by Douglas Brooks) than John Friend’s sexual antics. While we found it curious to watch such a lengthy response delivered by Leslie, in light of the fact that during his response he says he will never respond to “anonymous” bloggers, overall the video seemed to be a nice addition to the ongoing discussion. In our opinion, Ms. Taylor was truly a delight to listen to (as most people “behind the scenes” can be), and while Leslie seemed to us rather “effected” by what we had said in our piece (as most personalities in front of the scenes can be), overall, we were rather pleased by the spectacle.
There were, however, a few areas of note we thought might be worth commenting on. We apologize in advance for letting this get a tad lengthy:
Leslie Kaminoff’s Critique of Anonymity
Leslie’s non-response makes quite a beg deal of (we can assume) The Babarazzi’s supposed anonymity, as if our choosing to refrain from using the names our mothers gave us is in some way indicative of an inherent flaw in our critique and being. We find this position to be strange and curious, and so we thought we’d give (yet another) perspective.
People have their reasons for assuming a new name. For some, it is to differentiate between their mundane and artistic lives. For others it is an attempt to protect those around them from the pervasive trend of “guilt-by-association,” a tendency few self-defined communities are able to stave off. For us, it is a combination of a number of factors. But, one reason in particular seems to stand out.
As the yogilebrity world is one based almost entirely on identities and personalities, essentially becoming the Cult of Personality, par excellence, one of our intentions as The Babarazzi is to play with these ideas, while at the same time pressing up against what it means to create a “person.” To that end, we, The Babarazzi, assume a number of identities, and allow the commentators to wrestle with the frustration of not having any one single identity to hang their condemnations on. The question of course being: Will people be forced to confront the issues raised, as opposed to the person(s) raising them?
When we critique, we critique what is in the public record. That is to say, we confront what the personalities of yoga present to the world, be it through interviews, out-of-context quotations, or imagery. Yes, at times we do so with an acidic tone, and yes we poke fun. However, we stick to what is in the public domain. We make no specific claims as to the intentions of the person (though we admittedly ride quite close), nor do we attempt to dissect the human being attached to that human being’s public persona. That is to say, you will not find us speculating on how Rodney Yi, the person, treats his mother, or how he likes his eggs. (Although, I bet he doesn’t eat eggs. Damn! I just did it!)
Also, unlike other so-called “anonymous” writers, The Babarazzi, and at least one of those associated therewith, attempt to maintain a consistent message (the critique and exposing of the commodification of yoga culture), while at the same time locating ourselves in a consistent location (www.thebabarazzi.com). In short,
- we have a name (The Babarazzi)
- we have an ethos (contemporary yoga culture is a drag)
- we have a home (www.thebabrazzi.com)
We also have this weird compulsion to respond to people who comment on our site, as well as to those who email us. In fact, just this week, Mr. Kaminoff corresponded with us over email. We have also maintained extended communications with Waylon Lewis of Elephant Journal, as well as a few back-and-forths with Sadie Nardini. Surely, we are more “visible” and “reachable” than many others deemed anonymous!
So, our suggestion: Get over it. You will find it impossible to maintain the critique of our so-called anonymity in today’s artistic and performative world. One day you will actually have to confront what we are saying and set your “righteous” wishes to “know the person behind the mask” to rest. Why not, as the Gorilla Biscuits once sang, “start today?”
Leslie Kaminoff’s Ideas of “Cowardliness” –vs– “Courage”
Typically, when a person (usually a man) attempts to challenge an opposing point of view by propping up a false dichotomy between “fear” and “courage” (i.e. “You’re weak. I’m strong.”) it is done in defense of some aspect of one’s masculinity being challenged. Now, it is our belief that the tension created in a man when his masculinity has been checked is a universal one. As such, we make no attempt to single out Leslie Kaminoff in this regard. Nevertheless, we are also of the belief that drawing lines in the sand based on concepts of “fear” and “courage” is an example of trite meathead-ish posturing, as well as being an oversimplification of the human condition.
Not to overgeneralize, but from a Buddhist perspective (perhaps in light of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche‘s teachings) one could say that not an act takes place that is not motivated in some fashion by a fear of death. Whether it be The Babarazzi’s own attempts to cheat death by critiquing an aspect of society we consider dubious, or whether it be a yogilebrity’s intent to sell a particular image of his/herself, very few escape the motivating fear of a prospective looming doom dangling above them like a piano, no matter how silent the keys.
So, it is strange to be confronted with such an empty binary as that lobbed by Mr. Kaminoff. We all act out of fear. At times even our own courage—the supposed antithesis of cowardliness—may be motivated by such a worthy opponent.
But, is what The Babarazzi does a reflection of cowardice or courage? Are we strong, or are we weak? Our answer: Who the hell cares?! While yoga as a discipline requires a tremendous amount of courage, it also requires an even greater amount of humility. The same humility that allows one’s own inevitable fear to manifest. We’re all complex characters roaming this great planet, riddled with conflicting and sometimes contradictory motivations. Yes, we act out of a fear of death. But, we also act out of a fear of being loved (the opposing side of the same coin). One would be hard-pressed to locate the explicit intersection of the two motivations.
So, whether you be Braveheart or Brokenheart, come one come all! Your cowardice does not frighten us. Nor should our courage be a challenge to you.
Leslie Kaminoff’s Misunderstanding of Our Take On The “Yoga Industry”
While we can not speak for others critical of the commercialization of yoga, we can speak to our own personal take(s) on the “yoga industry” and its relevance to yogic practice. Personally, I (Aghori Babarazzi) only take issue with the “yoga industry” in as much as I take issue with the attempted commodification of any spiritual discipline. [Ed.: Please note that I intentionally use the word “attempted,” as I do not feel the “yoga industry” has anything to do with yoga or yogic practice whatsoever].
I’d like this distinction to be clear: The Babarazzi critiques the commercialization of yoga not because of its supposed effects on the practice of yoga, but rather from the viewpoint that commercialization in general is generally a downer. You do not need to be Marshall McLuhan to get that. [Ed.: We recommend ALL those on the path to celebryogini status to please read his seminal texts. At least start there, for goodness sake!]
Because yoga is the practice we are invested in, the culture that surrounds it is the culture we critique. Were we circus performers, we would be critiquing the culture that surrounds the commercialization of clowning. So, it is not that we “deny” the “fact” of the “yoga industry.” On the contrary. We love that there is such a thing. For, what else would we have to laugh at and mock were it not to be so?!
Leslie Kaminoff’s Use of the Phrases “Fuck you” and “Motherfuckers”
Towards the end of the video, Leslie looks straight into the camera, in his most direct, furrowed brow, and male way, and says, “fuck you” to anonymous critics.
We are of two minds regarding these comments made by Leslie Kaminoff. On the one hand, we are truly flattered, if slightly blushed, to hear that Leslie would like to “fuck” us. While we understand that there is a certain sexual mystique that can be had when in the non-presence of people as elusive as we, we still feel slightly embarrassed to have such a direct and openly sexual advance thrown at us. Though it isn’t entirely impossible, usually we like to start at the lesser of “bases” when engaging in “relations” with a person we have only just met. Rarely do we jump right into the “fucking” aspects of rough coital love. But, we’re impressionable souls, and will give the offer some thought.
As per the suggestion of fucking ones own mother, as connoted in the phrase “motherfucker”: That, my friend, is disrespectful of mothers, presumptuous, and, dare we say, down right kinky! It is also, we believe, illegal.
As an aside, I once in jest(!) called a Mexican guy I worked with a “motherfucker.” I immediately realized what a poor choice of words this was, as when what I said was eventually translated to him (he spoke solamente un pocito inglese), I quickly found myself on the wrong side of six cholos, with me wishing I knew a lot more Spanish than I did at the time.
So, you know, be careful with that.
Also, be careful as to what you say about mothers. Mothers can get pretty intense around their kids….