How the 1988 Crystal Light Championships Compare to Contemporary Commercial Yoga Culture

Whenever I watch this video of the 1988 Crystal Light Aerobic Championships, which is often, I keep wondering why it reminds me of the contemporary commercial yoga scene.

Take a look:

And then take a look again:

Now, here’s what I came up with:

Basically the two scenes are identical, with the exception of the way the practice is presented. So, while aerobics projects a much more “exuberant” facade, commercial yoga tends to project a more humble reserve only couched in exuberance. Also, there’s something surprisingly honest about the Aerobic Championships, whereas with commercial yoga culture there’s always this feeling of being lied to.

However, there are, of course, many similarities. Both embrace corporate sponsorship. Both emphasize a person’s health, flexibility, and body image. Both will ultimately be seen as uncomfortably dated and irrelevant, serving only as retro fodder for the youth of the next generation to ridicule or appropriate. Both would like to dominate the commercial health market. And, both assume that when they do, they will do so forever.

Fortunately, for those of us who sometimes feel bombarded by ad campaigns and branding, this has never been the case for any product.


  1. As a frustrated step aerobics teacher of an era way back when, I applaud this sentiment.
    Words can no longer express ….

    Update: I still do yoga, though I do it only at home. I migrated over to pilates. Maybe they are future superstars where I go. Maybe not. But I don’t get the impression that they are gunning for that.

    Former pilates teacher had gone “Hollywood” in a way, but she remains unchanged in attitude. Soooo yogic!

  2. Bryan

    Partying partying partying YEAH fun fun fun fun fun fun fun looking forward to the next claaaaaaaasssssssss

  3. Thaddeus

    One glaring difference you forgot to mention is the large number of minorities (and men) present at the aerobics championship which is only made all the more visible by their overwhelming absence in the yoga video.

    Also of note, Alan Thicke doesn’t actually need to coerce love from the crowd Dana Flynn style, because for some reason people in the eighties really liked him. Maybe it has to do with the fact that he had such skilled writers, which would explain why Dana has to think so hard to put together her glib comments.

    And why is it exactly that the majority of Ms. Kasey’s videos are more intro and promotion than content? I mean, at least with the aerobic championship you got to see a lot, and I mean a lot, (I sat through the whole 7:21 seconds of it) aerobics. I don’t recall so much yoga in Kasey’s video.

    • The minority/gender discrepancy was something we noticed as well, Thaddeus!

      Just like the other day, you’ve tapped into our fumbled edits.

      • Thaddeus

        Thankfully, it’s not a competition. Besides, you’re doing all the hard work, for which I am very grateful. I could even wax cheesy and say, Baba…you’re the wind beneath my wings…

  4. Yoga Observer

    Thank you for making me laugh Baba. I don’t want to take away from your point here but LOVE the Aerobic Championship video that you watch often.

  5. There’s actually less hocking of crap in the aerobics championship than in the yoga video, just the quick plug of the sponsor at the end, as opposed to the whole “Manduka is awesome and giving away free mats!” shtick. Sad.

  6. Yup. Aerobics had been democratic. But then again, it had been just a “fitness program”, not a purported lifestyle. Oh, and when was the last time you heard or saw showbiz celebrities saying they “got that body” from, say, BOSU aerobics or hitting their Hi-Low Class?

    Celebrities DON’T admit to doing anything arcane like that!

  7. Em

    The most telling part of the video was in the end, when after waxing rhapsodic about the generousness of Manduka in donating 10% of their proceeds through September, they flashed a promo code that you have to use in order to apply the charity. If I understood that correctly, how f’ed up is that? Marketing is so crunk.

  8. Yogically speaking

    I really want one of those wide-bodied Manduka “John Friend Series” yoga mats as a souvenir? I actually want two. One is for me and the other is to put it into a time capsule so that future civilizations might know why ours failed to survive?

    I’m going to put the John Friend Manduka mat right next to my Gaiam Life mat that salutes US Navy Seal Team 6 for killing Osama Bin Laden. It has a huge pulsating red heart on it and reads “I HEART Seal Team 6”. There’s an inscription, too:

    “Show your love and support for our military elite. These are the guys who finally got Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.”

    There was a time when you could order this mat online at the special discount rate of $29.99.

    I love when the yoga industry takes the time to salute its civilian and military heroes and with special tribute products.. It makes me realize that I am part of something vast and meaningful. It also makes proud to be an American,


  9. Yogically – Since manduka pulled all its promo vids JF signature merch. is now only available here – why not go take a look?

  10. Yogically speaking

    I love that John Friend also designed T-shirts for women — both regular and “form-fitting.” He certainly spent a lo of time trying to get those T-shirts off. Sadly, we probably missed out on a special “Blazing Solar Flames” bikini line he was developing to finance the Encinitas Yoga Wicca Center.

  11. Leslie

    I simply can’t stop watching this…it’s so awesome and so awful at the same time! I wish it was on an endless loop so I wouldn’t have to keep starting it over! 🙂

  12. Pingback: Can History Save Yoga? | body divine yoga

  13. Garuda

    I can’t figure out which is Gay-er, ( not that that’s a bad thing), The men’s onesy unitards or the fact that I watched all 7 minutes….That doesn’t make me gay, does it?…Alan Thicke with canned laughter is only funny because Family Home Video and Bob Saggett were the predecessor to Aghori Babbarrazzi. Maybe they are one in the same. Hmmmm


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