Two NYC Yoga Instructors Step on Hindu Murti /// WTF Do Major Yoga Studios Teach?

“[F]eet hold a powerful symbolism with Hindu culture. You take off your shoes when you enter a temple. When sitting you never point your feet towards people, especially seniors, and you never spread your feet before an altar or towards fellow worshipers.”
—From “Feet in Hinduism

Ahhh…. The sweet smell of contemporary yoga’s complete and total obliviousness. Just as we were about to settle into our few day restful slumber we were sent this photo of two prominent Laughing Lotus instructors being, well, Laughing Lotus instructors, in India. I guess they didn’t cover cultural imperialism, white privilege, and cultural ignorance in their teacher training.

So let’s see. We’ve got:

  • 1 foot by Ganesh’s head
  • 1 foot on Ganesh’s balls
  • 2 women practically naked by Hindu standards
  • 2 dancy asana-looking gestures that apparently make this “ok”
  • 1 major incident of cultural insensitivity

Could it be that LL’s “hip-hop” Ganesh mural, which features Ganesh carrying a boombox [<—best photo ever!] while riding a skateboard, has effectively desacralized the Hindu God to the point where even LL teachers no longer comprehend the deity’s social, cultural, and religious significance?

And, people wonder why we “sweat the small stuff.”

Anyway, this pretty much sums it up:

Ok, now back to our rest….

55 comments

  1. Yoga Observer

    You are right about this one without a doubt. Major cultural ignorance with no intellectual editing going on in the photograph. Thanks for continuing to point these things out.

  2. Linda-Sama

    OM tattoos on feet make me cringe….

  3. cynthia

    Oh my god, next they will be putting lipstick on them so they can get a better pic . . .

  4. gross

    The fact you are pointing this out makes me tickle with delight. The crudeness and ignorance is so stark it makes me cringe. But let’s actually mention that we know its Dana Flynn who snapped that photo and probably forced them by her will into acting so ridiculously and confusing thme into thinking that this is the way you “celebrate your beautiful life!” …. But attempting to “make everything your own”…ie: co-opt anything out there and use it as a way to look cool, happy, and free. This piece is brilliant, but let’s not ignore the root of the issue. These two are surly pawns in a bigger game of ignorance.

  5. yogalover

    Wow – this may be one of the most insane photos I’ve ever seen. It’s almost hard to believe it’s real! Having spent time in India on more than one occasion, I can barely wrap my mind around this level of disrespect for the culture, the people, yoga… can you make yourself more obviously white, western and oblivious? I bet all of the Lotus Teachers around the world who are gearing up for their Lotus Summit Pilgrimage are psyched for the master class on Deity DISrespect – a MUST if you’re coming all the way to New York to learn something new and cutting edge!

    • godlover

      O.M.G. i wonder if this “summit” will suddenly be a “group support hug for their MA’s” & a babs bash fest (probably), or if the teachers who had a chance to get away from the “dance-floor” will all show up and “resign their Laughing Lotus certification” as an act of re-claiming self-respect & respect for Yoga?! that would be a interesting, but of course nobody would care since the Laughing Lotus “lineage” is already a bit of a black sheep in the yoga world.

  6. itstrue

    Is there nothing sacred anymore? The ignorance and lack of cultural sensitivity in this case is inexcusable. You chant to these deities, take on their forms in movement but actually have no understanding or sensitivity to the lineage of culture that these deities are connected to. Read your freaking lonely planet before you go to India so you don’t go insulting the people who actually take their worship seriously!

  7. 108

    there is NOTHING about this picture that i understand at all. which i am thankful for. i can’t even begin to dissect this abomination. thanks for posting babs, i think you made my day in a strange kind of way.

  8. Chai Fan

    Well stated everyone above, and thanks for posting Babarazzi. Does anyone else notice a slightly pained look in Ganesh’s eyes? Like “why are they doing this to mee??”. Hey, way to “make it yours” LL.

  9. wondering

    good grief! Insensitive as well as incredibly cheesy. And babarazzsi I have been enjoying you for a few weeks now. Keep up the good work, you are insightful as well as hilarious

    • We will of course do our best. Thanks for following us!

    • gross

      the cheesy-ness & composition & “posing” in the photo alone are bad enough, what to speak of the entirety of it revolving around a Ganesh murti. i am surprised some old indian people didn’t come running over and smack them upside the head. perhaps they were scared by the strange white-people and ran for cover & did some mantras to re-sanctify the murti. i’m sure the local priest came by to give abhishek moments after they danced away.

  10. Yoga Observer: Yeah. There’s almost no self-reflection to be had when it comes to this stuff. At least not until someone points it out.

    Linda-Sama: Foot OMs. Those are tough to swallow.

    Cynthia: Yup

    Gross: Yes. In my opinion, this is a DIRECT result of “making everything your own” without including within that process an understanding of what cultural appropriation actually means. It’s one thing to honor and respect. Another to don the facade.

    Yoga Lover: I hear you. It’s very oblivious.

    itstrue: Hehe. “Read yr Lonely Planet.” That’s a swell one.

  11. mouse

    and the words “Ganesh’s balls” that you use, that is ok and sacred?

  12. Yogachip

    I thought the same thing that “gross” at 8:47 commented. The teachers were both probably aggressively encouraged to do this by DF. This makes me soooo sad.

    • gross

      yes, and DF get’s to hide out behind the camera and at your local Yoga Journal conference teaching everyone how to make the universe their own. poor teachers. even poorer students.

      • wondering

        Yeah, maybe they are encouraged by D.F.,or whoever, but as the the anusara nastiness illustrates, why can’t adult yoga practicioners think and act for themselves?

        • godlover

          they probably don’t want to get fired.

        • yogalover

          A cult is a cult is a cult… once people lose themselves and become entangled in the mental and emotional confusion that comes with gving any one undeserving person too much power, it is very hard to become disentangled. Hopefully after the Anusara debaucle and the recent terrible tragic events at Michael Roche’s place, people will start to make better choices in terms of who they call their teachers and take responsibility for adding to the ego trip of any one person claiming to be a Guru. Elena Brower actually admitted that she knew for years that John Friend’s personal life actions were not in alignment with his public pitch, but she stayed for a long time as he bacame more and more rich and famous (and so did she). DF isn’t as famous as John Friend (much to her dismay I’m sure) but as long as she has enough people drinking her brand of Kool Aid, statues all over India are ask risk of having white American women step on them while making bizarre madeup gestures and posing for photos to post to their Facebook pages to show all of their students back in NY how cool and authentic they are because they went on holiday to India. Therefore, DF followers become complicit in the crime of supporting the denegration and breaking down of a practice that many white American people DO treat with the upmost respect and try to uphold the tradition of while acknowledging that is actually DOESN’T belong to us anyway.

        • My prototypical Anusara instructor, based on personal interaction but also reading about people like Elana Brower, is someone who doesn’t love themselves and has issues with self worth and is searching for a path to do so.

          So the prototype goes to someone like Friend or Flynn who promises to teach them how to love themselves but the guru cannot do that. They can only teach them how to construct a facade that makes it appear so to others, but in return they have to love the guru. So they keep drinking the kool-aid in an effort to keep the facade together.

          Real self-love through confidence is hard, and it can only be done by the individual through self-exploration.

  13. mouse

    will leave you to fight your own personal righteous battle. i wish you all much happiness.

  14. wondering

    sad and possibly true. Maybe a better ? why sign up n pay to study a subject so vast, interesting and infinitely layered as yoga w/a buch of flashy goofballs like L.L.?

  15. Yogachip

    @ Mouse – thank you!!!, but I think the LL peeps in question need the most support and show of good wishes at this time.

    @ godlover – YES!!!!

    • godlover

      @ Yogachip, YES!!!! let’s send our love and support to the LL peeps in question.

    • Chai Fan

      Really good point. Its like are you practically spread eagle-ing and over expressing all over a sacred Ganesh statue because it fills you with glee and you just don’t know any better? Or is because your “teacher” is encouraging you get your boogie on? And if you don’t, you have to start feeling insecure about what’s now become your livelihood?

      Or lets say, its none of that. Its just a some ladies having fun and getting a little carried away and not realizing the cultural insensitivities while having a good time. Because they’re bringin’ their shakti and feelin’ free on a sunny day in India. Fine, I guess it happens. After the fact though- Everyone involved is ok with posting it for all the world to see and represent the LL community?

      In either case, yes sending the love and support in their direction would be a nice thing to do. But remembering they still do have a choice…maybe.

  16. Pranama Red

    This happened on LL’s watch; however, this is the result of decades of Ganesh and other Hindu symbols being trivialized and sold as kitsch. Or perhaps it is a nod to Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ”.

  17. I don’t know. This whole attitude confuses me. These are the first people to start hollering about white supremacy and global injustices, yet our foreparents would recognize the same imperialist attitudes. No. You do NOT get to take whatever you want and make it your own. That’s called theft. The fact that these are cultural artifacts does not make it any less theft or you less thieves. In the US, we have something called intellectual property lawyers who can talk for long boring hours about just how seriously this country takes this when the concepts in question have monetary value. Uncool, by any standard.

    Thanks for letting me know where I do not want to take any advanced training. I’ve been to that studio before for a seminar and the painting really wigged me out. I didn’t realize how far it went.

  18. maybe instead of doing dumb shit like that, for an evener more asinine photo, they could stop to look around and pick up that piece of trash on the ground…

  19. van fanger

    i wonder what the Hindu take on littering is…

  20. Bobcat

    I cringe when a yoga studio ask for a promotion photo of me in a yoga pose. As yoga teachers do we need to have a picture of ourselves doing yoga (in a sexy outfit draped with malas if we want to do it right) in order to convey the ability to teach yoga? How do we convey the essence of an authentic conscious human being? Perhaps by not posing in any way or form?

  21. whatevs

    I did the LL 200 hour teacher training. I disliked the Indo-fetish slant–we learned about masalas and making khichdi, gods/goddesses, and the bindi glitter bar wigged me out most of all. I am of Indian origin and resented the fact that white people were trying to teach a superficial version of a culture that wasn’t even theirs. I complained to my dad (an Indian). He told me, essentially, to chill out. He said, this is what they were taught by their teachers and they are passing the knowledge the best way they can. So I chilled out and am not getting my panties in a twist over this photo, though I am surprised they didn’t read the “feet are considered very dirty” section in their Lonely Planet Guide to India.

    • I actually agree with your father, funny enough. However, when we look at this from the viewpoint of passing on knowledge, it’s highly critique-able. Meaning: these are teachers representing a tradition and charging students for their knowledge. If they are imparting blatantly faulty information, information that they should definitely have possession of, than their product (themselves and their teachings) are questionable. That’s a very very basic look. One could of course take the specifics of the case as far as they like (ie. cultural ignorance, etc.).

      But, yes, I don’t think getting all bent out of shape has a real good track record.

  22. gross

    In yet another ridiculous moment of this India Spring Break that Dana Flynn needs to capture and photo-log on her Facebook page, I noticed that one of the other LL teachers, and fellow presenter at the “Lotus Summit”, in true LL teacher fashion wrote, “india doesn’t know what hit them”. (Did anyone else suddenly hack?) A photo in which these same two teachers are standing w/ “expressive” (read: inappropriate) hand/body gestures behind 3 sikh young men. I think that comment is actually even more sad and insane that the stepping on Ganesh. What self-centered craziness to think that anything could possibly “SHOCK” India?… What to speak of two white “yoga teachers” coming by for an India Spring Break-cation. FUN! SAD! Oh, the ignorance is never-ending. Somebody teach them some humility.

  23. Marcella Bucci

    I think we all need to remember, and acknowledge, that Dana Flynn is not a sane human being. In fact, she’s bat shit crazy. Aren’t all cult leaders a bit off their rockers? Anyone who has ever met her, taken her class or even just looked at her picture can tell that. Not that I’m saying that’s an excuse for her behavior and the behavior she encourages in her followers, but you can’t rationalize with a crazy person. I’m sure in her demented mind they were just “Blissing out with Ganesh and goddess mother earth”
    And it’s sad that her followers don’t know the difference between wrong and right but that’s the first sign you’re in a cult…you don’t think for yourself anymore.

    • Hey, Marcella. Thanks for the comment. If you don’t mind, I’m going to challenge this a bit.

      We’re very sensitive to the use of the word “cult” around here. Most often, it is thrown around very haphazardly, and it’s actually a very careless thing to do. Using the word “cult” to describe LL or Anusara, et al. suggests that people involved have little to no agency of their own. I completely disagree, and personally don’t think LL is a cult even slightly. That seems outlandish to me. In so doing, you also take responsibility off of the people/students who maintain the structures of mainstream yogi studios and scenes. Unless you’re stretching the term’s semiotic limits to include all of society, which I think would diminish the charge of the word, it seems that the word is being misused here.

      Like almost every single celebriyogi teacher I have ever come across, DF has almost no power whatsoever. NONE. Any sway she or any other celebriyogi has over discourse or personal interest (which is nominal, as our site has not-so-humbly proven) is 100% given to them by willing, dare I say, very sane people, and is almost entirely facilitated by fabricated “spiritual” markets and advertising. In short, celebriyogis–yoga instructors who market their own personality well beyond the teachings (for argument’s sake)–are not cult leaders, but brands. Commodities. Products. Twinkies. Ring Dings. Doritos. Etc. They need to be dealt with in the same fashion we deal with products that are of a similar design. RECALL!

      Make sense?

      Also, we ask that our commentors refrain from making psychological assessments of other people. See the bottom of this page for more info.

    • Marcella Bucci

      Good point Baba, I apologize for mis-using the word cult. I think I’m just still so bothered by the recent happenings at Diamond Ranch. Which is indeed a cult, right?
      I’m also so damn sick of students worshipping Yoga teachers, especially ones whom I know first hand are not very nice and don’t practice the “peace, love and granola” that they are preaching.

      Also apologize for any psychological assessment of a celebrity Yoga teacher. It’s just so easy when they behave like they are coocko for coco puffs!

      I hear what you’re saying and I agree.
      Why you so smart?

  24. If I see Dana do another hand balance pose I’m gonna barf.

  25. Linda-Sama

    I would love to hear a response from LL about this…just for the hell of it…. would love to know their justification for climbing on top of Ganesha….

  26. annikalei

    at this point in the game, i guess i’m an old-school LL person. i haven’t practiced there, hell, even lived in nyc for over 6 years. i’m going back for the summit, mostly so i can see my one good friend from yoga school. and i like the creativity of the classes – they are solidly sequenced, and fun to move through. at least they were… the last time i was in new york, the pace of the classes was frantic, and there were a lot more made up poses, a.k.a “signature poses,” and please don’t get me started on the idea of a “signature pose.” during my time in teacher training there was always a bit of… i guess you could call it “dramatic flair” about the teachers, and the students who were buying into it were rewarded with attention and teaching spots. but in and amongst the performative nature of some of the senior teachers (and one “co-creator”), there were some truly deep and knowledgeable teachers. no one talks about jasmine very much, but i’ve found her classes and her teachings and her personality to be much more real. many of the best teachers have left the studio since i’ve been there, and i’ll be seeking them out, too. i guess i’m approaching my return to LL for the summit with major apprehension (which this picture heightens). it never seemed so glitzy and shallow back when i went there… i’m a little nervous to see how badly they’ve sold out.

  27. can we go back to basics?

    whateves: I understand where your father is coming from, but it really doesn’t justify the trivialization of everything yoga and “spiritual” in the western society…

    linda-sama: I would love to hear LL’s response to this too…

    annikalei: “signature pose” idea to me seems to be about the ego… which is so NOT yoga… LOL

    thanks Babarazzi for keeping it real!

  28. Daniel

    It’s a murti and merely shakti, the outward manifestation of paramashiva, which in turn is no different than the two girls, as taught by Trika/pratyabijn). They may be ignorant of hindu tradition, or maybe they are making a statement like when Shankara washed the feet of a shudra?(probably not, but ya never know?)

    It’s just as ignorant to make the comments I see here, because apparently the word yoga and it’s philosophy is lost.

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