Want Friends? Do Fantastic Asana /// Posture as Poseuring

Picking up on yesterday’s post, (and YD and BB‘s previous bits), we come to the phenomenon known as “yoga posing.” We’ve all seen it: that photo gallery on some yoga practitioner’s website demonstrating asanas that supposedly represent dedicated practice (when really we know 9/10 of it comes from a previous life as a dancer). Don’t get me wrong, I know a lot of people say the postures don’t matter when it comes to asana yoga, and I think that’s kinda BS. Asanas bring you to the (un)comfortable edges of your very being. And, while maintaining sthirum sukham asanam may be fantastic in whatever the hell variation of whatever the hell “restorative” asana this is supposed to be….

Sleep tight…

…or this comfy take on janushirasana A…

Catchin’ some zzz’s

…from a psychosomatic perspective, I still think working toward this…

…will get you somewhere even more special than farting while you sleep.

Nevertheless, this “rock your asana” absurdity has just gotta go, son. Trouble is, it ain’t goin’ nowhere until a little something called the “yoga scene” goes first. ‘Cause guess what. “Rocking” asanas like your coochie’s wrapped around a stripper pole is entirely dependent on the presence of commercial pop yoga culture.

Huh? My coochie’s doing what???

To better understand how this works it makes sense to look at the situation from a different subcultural perspective.

First, imagine you’re part of the art world. Now, how do you think you go about defining yourself as such? Obviously, few people are comfortable simply being a voyeur or art tourist. On the contrary! You’d rather be someone who does something. For instance, you might be a collector who chooses just the right pieces to cover your high-ceiling walls….

Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein being awesome at home (by Man Ray)

You might be a critic who demonstrates how much you know about postmodernism by writing extra-long pieces on the intersection of commerce, fabrication, and Damien Hirst‘s diamond skull….

I’ll take two, please.

Or, perhaps, if you’re one of the lucky ones, you get to be an artist yourself!…

Jackson Pollack working the scene while Lee Krasner looks on.

Ultimately, the way people know any of this about you is by seeing what it is you produce, that is, what your commodity is. Either you show off your collection, you give people links to your articles, or you have art openings of your own. That’s how you visibly participate in the culture of art.

Participating in yoga culture works in a similar fashion. And, why wouldn’t it? The culture of yoga is first and foremost a scene. The product, yoga, is merely the medium through which the scene arises. Literally, anything could take its place. That being the case, in order to fully participate in yoga culture you best have something to show for it. You need a commodity. For some it’s saying “Namaste” after every sentence, a practice that even those comfortable with the ubiquitous punchline can find annoying. And yet, who could deny that demonstrating feats of asana brilliance is one of the quickest, most conversation-stopping, ways to show your allegiance. You don’t have to say much. You simply bust out a sick back bending sequence (preferably in an ironic environment)…

Let’s face it, though. Shit is dope as hell! (Meghan Currie photographed by Robert Sturman)

…and everyone knows, “Oh. She has a great yoga practice.” Done! You’re in the club.

The point being: so long as you prop up anything called a “yoga scene,” or invest in what has come to be known as the commercial culture of yoga, you should expect to see this….

Unnecessary planks.

…and a lot more of it.

But, for goodness sake, don’t get all bent out of shape over it. As far as We Babarazzi are concerned, all of this is just spectacle. It has nothing to do with one’s personal practice any more than some meditation flash mob does….

Or was that a Karate Kid flash mob?

Sweep the leg…

And that’s the pushing back. Just deny that it has anything whatsoever to do with your yoga practice and then go play for weeks in the sandbox of spiritual materialism. It’s just social fodder. Busy work for people who want to pose as something that differentiates them. In the end, this is what scenes are for. Posturing. Pretending. You wear the clothes. You buy the products. You perform the postures. That’s how you identify as a member. That’s how you claim your place.

Drop your identification with the scene, however, and you’ll find yourself without much to prove.

And, “things” start to become burstingly open-ended.

And, life gets really colorful.

36 comments

  1. amphibi1yogini

    You don’t have to know that over at EJ the “dope as hell” photographer picked an argument with me … He did do a series on 93 year old yoga “rockstar”, Tao; Unfortunately the Judith Hanson Lasseter stuff–your first two photos–is neither covered (nor taught) by her. Her students are young women who press up into headstand, for chrissake …

    I like the idea of the 53 year old yoga teacher who could teach the AVERAGE 93 year old yogi (in a class, not a private session) … or the slightly overweight, slightly disabled, attention-challenged,58 year old one (oh, I think I just was talking about me) …

  2. Pranama Red

    Do a google image search of Dharma Mittra.
    First image is the daily double. Rockin’ armless headstand in Times Square no less.
    Res Ipsa Loquitur.

  3. Pranama Red

    Not sad. Just think credit should be given where it is due.
    Back in ’74 he was burning up his Polaroid.

    • Come on, Pranama! Out with it already. Say what you’re feeling. Be specific. You think we’re being unfair? You think we’re being selective? We’re wasting time and comment space. Say it loud. Say it proud. Own your words!

      • Pranama Red

        Hey it is your site. I am not making a normative case. It is just apparent that you have your favorites that are accorded the privilege of omission.

        • One must remember that we’ve only been up and running for about 14 weeks! WEEKS, baby! Believe me, the moment Mr. Dharma transitions from person to personality (if he hasn’t done so already) one of us will be chomping at the bit to get a poke in. Until then, there’s just so much itch to be scratched.

          Also, please note that we are in no way *against* people taking pictures of themselves doing amazing asanas. Remember in the piece where we talked about not getting bent out of shape over it? We like looking at Kathryn Budig’s rump as much as the next person!

        • The moment already came

          I gotta agree with Pranama here–while I understand you’re still a tender young site just getting the hang of the wild wild web, three months of fun-pokery is plenty of time to to take a dig at more than Leslie Kaminoff and Sadie Nardini, or Dana Flynn and Elena Brower.

          Go for some higher hanging fruit. A dude DIED at Geshe Michael Roche’s “University,” and the response from Lama Christie McNally (www.scribd.com/doc/90220087/A-Shift-in-the-Matrix) reads as positively off the map. I’ve heard nary a peep from the babas about that.

          And as someone who has attended a yoga class where he brought his DOGS, the moment when Dharma transitioned from person to personality came ages ago. From his 2009 Yoga Journal workshop: “Instructions from Dharma, an illuminated teacher, are partially telepathic in order to impart spiritual and psychic knowledge that words cannot convey.” Really? You don’t wanna take a bite out of that?

          Don’t get me wrong, I love your site, and love that folks are calling BS on the yoga scene, so keep it up, but taking a crack at “Summer Yoga Body” or the fact that I can’t bend over without Elena showing up is kids stuff now, don’t you think? We’ll all survive Sadie’s facebook ads just fine. But when folks who’ve been lineage holders for decades start popping up with nonsense like the above, I’d like to suggest that’s where the real danger lies, and probably the saucier story…

          • Ah, interesting take, the moment. You are right. There is so much to pull from at times it can be almost overwhelming. In order to keep things somewhat sane around here, we tend to focus on (what YogaCityNYC left out of our interview) what we call the newly forming nation states of yoga pop culture. So, a few things to say about that:

            1. We don’t really have any problem with someone claiming psychic powers, etc. In fact, we have next to NO problem with that. It’s simply not what sets off our radar. I have some psychic abilities. Not really a big deal.

            2. We’re not really watching Dharma specifically. Perhaps he’s a media whore like the rest of the newbies, but we just aren’t really clocking him so much.

            3. The McNally thing is insane. Our take is the same as we told an emailer to us: There are other people closer to the story who can and have a better eye on what happened there. We could speak to the media aspects of it all, but not really interested. Our only advice: peeps need to take responsibility for where they give their power and why. There are reasons for and against.

            4. We believe in sweating the small stuff. The Nardini’s and Brower’s are where the action’s at, as far as we’re concerned. They’re the nation states trying to emerge. They’re working 24-7 (or so it seems) to make their names household. Frankly, who the fuck cares what Dharma has to say, unless you’re a student of Dharma.

        • The moment already came

          I get that you all love the small stuff, and boy do I love it too. I swing by this site just about on the daily hoping to cackle about some new janked-up nonsense you’ve uncovered. And I agree, the possible topics lately are like flies on shit. And who doesn’t love swatting flies? It’s all squish and crunch and oh so satisfying.

          But I disagree when you say that’s where the action’s at. I think that’s where the attention’s at. And I don’t think they’re the same. I am reminded, eloquently and improbably, of that Simpsons episode where all the advertising comes to life and starts attacking the good citizens of Springfield. And everyone is helpless until Paul Anka comes up with a jingle (let’s call it a mantra) to solve the problem. His jingle is just a repetition of the phrase, “Just don’t look, just don’t look.”

          The flies aren’t the problem, and the swatting won’t make them go away. The problem is that there’s a big fat dump in the middle of the room. And the celebriyogis at didn’t take that shit. We all took that shit. They just love the smell of it.

  4. amphibi1yogini

    I get it now. I really get the meaning of “Dharma Mittra: A Friend to All” …
    Want Friends? Just keep posting those kick-asana pics to my blogsite (that I’m no longer active at). It’s all good.

  5. amphibi1yogini

    @the moment already came, you rock!!
    And I don’t mean this in a “rockstar” … methinks Babarazzi is an apologist for what (t)he(y) THINK is old-school … the real old-school people keep chugging along without much fanfare, even if they stopped holding “workshops” years ago …

    • We’re a “they,” and we agree with you, amphibi1. We love the keep-chuggers without the fanfare. Sometimes a little fanfare is good too, though. (Secretly, sometime a LOT of fanfare can be fun also. But, shhh… don’t tell anyone).

  6. Oh dear, I have so much to say and so little time. In fact, no time at all….so stay tuned everyone for the best comment in the universe coming soon….until then…I have to get the baby off the tit, teach me old asana class upstairs (no time for a shit before I teach, dammit)…and say this: I really love your photo “collage” today. Especially the first 4 pics ending with the Hirst. Something about Alice and Gertrude after the “restoratives” and the Kripalu ad really delight the eye and then you scroll down to the Hirst and the brain gets sloshed around in funny ways. xxxx more later.

  7. Earth Energy Reader

    Babarazzi, we both are coming at this from different directions but you are spot on in say that this rock-star asana BS won’t go away anytime soon unless we address the “yoga scene” and a scene it is.
    http://earthenergyreader.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/why-i-left-yoga-and-why-i-think-a-helluva-lot-of-people-are-being-duped/

    • Thanks, friend. Had a quick glance at the site, and anything that gives the concept of “twin souls” some airtime, is ok by me! Thanks for stopping by. Will check out yr site more in depth asap.

      Also, the link to your name/site in the comments is incorrect…

  8. knittinginnc

    Here’s Dharma’s ad for Jade. I have not decided if since he is on a Segway it is ok that he is posing in front of multiple posters of himself in 908 yoga asanas that appear to be plastered to a construction wall in NYC.
    Dharma Mittra with Jade yoga mat

    • Since Segways are (we believe) illegal to ride in NYC, I’d go with “ok,” since that makes Dharma (in this instance) a bad ass tough lil’ law breaker. Even if he is….uh…on a Segway, and…uh…carrying a yoga mat.

      • von finger

        What a shame that you’re scared to put Dharma Mittra with the badies. You’re scared of his psychic development techniques class coming after you? Only $10 when combined with Maha Shakti the same evening!!!!! That’s cheap psychic development! the dude stands on his head, literally all over the place, when he’s not waggling his cooch for the the camera



        http://brooklynyogaschool.com/images/Dharma/head-to-foot.gif http://farm2.staticflickr.com/1198/5136401884_bd115328a8_z.jpg

        he’s got class and ass, he has his own style named after himself (Dharma Yoga!) what a clean cut man gotta do to get on the poo list! How many NY Yoga cover does a fat cooch gotta grace?!

        • There is a piece online that speaks to this exact thing. We like it very much. We will probably follow suit eventually, but other things have been exciting us lately. You shouldn’t assume we are “scared” to mention the guy. That’s just weird. It’s way more tough to cut down celebs who would actually respond and threaten you and call you names like “motherfucker” and stuff! Dharma is, I’m sure, way “above it all.”

          But don’t worry. We can see you’re taken with the man. We’ll hook you up soon enough.

  9. J. Brown

    You sucked me in with the title. I’m all for casting a little aspersion on the fluffy notion that busting out back-bending sequences in times square is what makes yoga cool. But then, you veer into an easy jab at “restorative” which is kind of equivalent to a comedian doing fart jokes and then you go on to make a fart joke. While I appreciate that you used the big girl from the Kripalu add, suggesting that working towards being able to do an asana is going to get you somewhere more “special”, from a “psychosomatic perspective” or not, is still pretty much perpetuating the same bullshit notion that the corporate business types are capitalizing on and you started out dissing.

    Your comparison to the art world is maybe a bit strained too. Most artists, like yoga teachers, are not out there schmoozing and trying to make millions. They’re just doing their best to pay their rent and still do what they love. “Participating in yoga culture” can mean that we are full of shit or that we are being good people who have intimate relationships and enjoy life.

    I’ve clicked around on your site and its obvious that you’ve got more to bring then just snark. Your ending here is a nice bit of heart that I think serves your purposes well. But here are a few questions: Is there really just one big mean “yoga scene” that is putting all this crap out there? Are we to fault Elena and Sadie for taking advantage of opportunities to make a better living off their teaching? I haven’t seen the reality show yet and I cringe every time I hear the phrase “rock your asana” but I just feel like we need to be clear about who were talking to and what were saying.

    How much of what you are getting at here goes to the influence of corporate business?
    http://yogijbrown.com/2012/05/yoga-business-government/

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m so with you on the main point about not identifying with a whole lotta external crap that don’t got anything to do with your yoga. But if the over-arching mission is to tip some sacred cows then I think we gotta really back it up with more then just whimsy. I’ll keep you in check if you’ll do the same for me.

    Thanks for keeping it real. Respect.

  10. Pranama Red

    BTW, as a lover of classic rock and yoga, I take issue with your statement that “Rockstars in and of themselves are just total douchebags! Didn’t you know that?! Like, straight up.”
    So happens my favorite yogic song of all time is “Bargain” by The Who. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyv_65o1HDY
    I just dare you to name a better song.
    And let’s not forget that The Beatles helped popularize Eastern spirituality in the West. Even more than DNA or Fugazi I might add.

    • I, personally, always considered Pete Townsend to be more punk than rockstar. A once teddy, then guitar smashing mod, who went deaf while wearing one-piece jumpsuits while threatening to kill Abbie Hoffman, and at around the same time was bisexual and had an Indian guru? Plus he really only played four chords. Pretty punk to me.

  11. Thanks everyone, but especially J Brown and The moment already came for some really great push backs against some of the points and tone in the piece. Even ol’ Pranama Red deserves a little nod.

    For now all we can say is to try and think of what we are doing more in the light of critical performance, or performative criticism. I think most of you do, but just reiterating that.

    That said, we get what you’re saying. We see where you’re going with your comments. While some of the finer details we may disagree on, the overall arc you’re supporting is pretty sound and we found ourselves all nodding in time in the same direction. We definitely stand behind the piece and the jests we made, and we’re still gonna handle the subjects how we want to, but you’ve captured our hearts if for a moment. Nice work.

    As for the rest of you lazy suckers….

  12. Pranama Red

    Aw shucks! I just turned crimson.

  13. Read at your own Peril:
    I say “FUCK” a lot.

    Okay mofos I’m not gonna let old J. Brown (hi there old friend, remember me?) get a nod before I get a chance to complete my best-comment-in-the-universe. Where was I? Yes, baby is down to sleep now, taught my classes whup-ass style, and now the bed is down in the yoga room, (oh, yes, finally got my toilet trip in [see earlier post]), lights are out, and I will NOT be left in the category of “lazy suckers”…sucker?…okay, yes. Lazy?…just a tad. Okay now…where was I for real? I’ve told you already how much I love your photo line-up today…

    As I’ve mentioned before–I’ve been teaching for a while. Like many other “old-school” teachers (I use that phrase only as a way to describe someone who has been teaching for over a decade, who started back when the teacher trainings were only Sivananda and Iyengar [okay, okay, people back off! I’m exaggerating and I am SURE there were other trainings back then in 1996 when I started teaching. You know how I talk…broad, sweeping statements], and you just started teaching because your friends said “show me some of that stuff you do”) I have never wholeheartedly taken the self-promotion leap. I never intended to be a yoga teacher for life. In fact, I had very different intentions and still do. I still fantasize every day about quitting. “Hey sucker fool–I’m not available to teach you that private today because my book just got published and I got a crazy advance! Ha haaaaa!………call me later alligator. See yaaaaaa…..”

    In the meantime, I had a couple of kids in a rented blow-up tub, celebrated a bunch of birthdays, and found myself still teaching yoga at the ripe age of 41. Not only that, I’m the main bread winner in the family. And that bread gets stale sometimes, know what I mean?

    So people say: “You should lead a teacher training” (I’m not even certified myself so… fuck it). “You should go on Facebook” (double fuck it, baby…I can barely finish this comment let alone add in another social media obligation). “You should make a video.” Oy vey! Doing all those fancy asanas on camera?…it hurts me back…clap on, clap off… know what I mean?

    Then, all of a sudden, under my rectum, I notice all these yoga teachers getting…what do you call it?….Famous? And then many years ago, after I would teach a class sometimes a person would say to me: “You must have studied Anusara?” And I would be like: “Anus Are You?” And they wold be like: “You should take Elena Brower’s class” and I would say: “Does that come with whipped cream?”

    (And, Jay Brown, I beg to differ on the art world comparison that The Babarazzi makes–it’s dead on–and I am truly really on the inside–sounds like an asshole thing to say, I know, but trust me on this one, google me….of course there are the artists “doing their best to pay the rent….” but those are not who The Babarazzi are talking about. The art scene is bereft and all about money. ANd about this thing you ask in your post: “Are we to fault Elena and Sadie for taking advantage of opportunities to make a better living off their teaching?”
    Yeah, we are. I’d want you to fault me if I did what they do. And I wouldn’t mind getting faulted if I had their money and that kitchen Elena cooks in in one of those sorry videos The Babarazzi posted.
    I am sorry to say…but once you do an Adidas “line” and commercial, as Elena B. has, you are in the cog.
    For example:
    I was invited to the White House [yup…me….who did the air fellacio routine at The Kitchen] through Kula Yoga do teach kids yoga (and bring our own kids) on the lawn on Easter. Elena was meant to join our group. Lululemon [I’m sick in my own mouth already] was “sponsoring” [? I don’t even know if thats the right term]/ “outfitting” us. Because of Elena’s B.’s affiliation with Adidas she was told she could not go…by ADIDAS! I mean….this is a volunteer thing on the lawn of the PEOPLE’S HOUSE! And Elena is essentially owned by a company and told she can not go. Would I NOT GO to the white house for $100,000? [I was told by Jeff Krasno that that is what she made]. Of course! But I’d never be given $100,000 to promote yoga clothes for obvious reasons.

    So what’s my point? It’s a conundrum. I enjoy teaching my classes with not too much fan fair (please, I still want praise), but then again I need some dough to for the kids guitar lessons, some kale on the table, and perhaps a trip to a warm climate in the winter (we don’t have credit cards so its hard to travel)…but I can’t stomach marketing myself…I can barely stomach my own website. In fact I rarely update the schedule because I can’t stand looking at it.

    And now, Babs, you’ve fucked me up even more. Because when I do come up with a potential money-making idea I can only think of youse finding it online and…Oy Gawd help me. Are you lesbians? Are you a gay man? Are you Transgendered? Why do I want to know? Are you a hetero couple who has home-births? If you are a single straight white man I just lost a fuck-load of bets. Why do I want to know? Because figuring out who you are just fucking drives me wild!!! In fact, I’ve been asked many times if YOU are ME. Ha!
    Goodnight Crack-Ass Sweet Hearts. x

    • looking up

      This comment gave my soul an orgasm. Now I have to change my soul-panties and it’s not even 8:30 am.

    • I second what looking up just said. Only it wasn’t so much a “soul” orgasm, as it was a…well…uh….

      As far as who we are…. It’s best to think of us as a bunch of geriatric old ladies in a nursing home sitting around in wheel chairs. One of us screams, “They’re kidnapping me!” every time the nurse wheels hir to the bathroom. Another one has hir head bent forward and just keeps looking at hir knees. A few others each take turns moving checker pieces around a Shoots & Ladders board. All the while one curious soul sits in the corner looking out a window overlooking a parking lot. In this lot there are cars parked along a strip of grass backed with squared-off bushes. On one of these bushes rests a finch. It is unaware of the Babarazzi sitting by the window watching it, thinking to hirself, Never before had I realized that birds do not have arms until I spied the one that twitches before me.

  14. I have an addendum to my essay: In the fourth paragraph I reference the “clap on clap off” commercial in regard to how it makes me feel to do a yoga demo video. But more to the point and more vividly depicting my sentiments is the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQlpDiXPZHQ
    Thanks for your time. Moi.

  15. Yoga_Muff Diver

    Did I hear the subject of yoga and the clap? It’s true, there’s a whole lot of bonking going on. Do you think Lulu should move into Little Latex Warmers?

  16. Yoga_Muff Diver

    We already have Trojans, why not introduce a new line of “Arjuns”? Fair trade condoms made from renewable rubber and therefore (gulp) 100% recyclable. We can sell them with our new line of soft, two-ply Arjun yoga mats, in matching colors, which will heighten your drishti, keeping you completely focused on the important tasks at hand.

    I really do see a huge growth market for yoga sex accessories. Clap on, clap off!

  17. Yoga_Muff Diver

    Alex, you’re a scream. I started yoga around the same time, before it morphed into a pornographic social media circle jerk — and they started charging you to watch. I think the Babarazzi twins are bit like my new yoga sex toy, “Ganesha.” The front has a twistable elephantine trunk that functions like a huge manipulable dildo, and the back has a giant hairy orifice that allows for adjustable penetration. The Babarazzi are likewise dual-use, highly adaptable, and completely oriented to bestial bliss — alone or in tandem. .

  18. Yogachip

    Alex – you are awesome. (oh and so is the Babarazzz!!)

  19. Oh Muff Diver you are embarrassing me….in a nice way. Hey, Looking up– I want some soul panties, too. And my dear Babarazzi–I am so happy you are like old ladies, it helps me to think of you like that, and your pretty bird poem…me likes. I’ve got to stop reading you now and get some work done. Cut me off!

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