Our Resonse to J Brown’s “Yoga Student’s Bill o’ Rights” /// Consumers are Manufactured /// Bills of Rights are Often Presumptuous

Recently, yoga commenter, J Brown, posted an article on ye olde YogaDork discussing yoga blogs responding to commercial yoga culture, as well as outlining a list of “rights” that (potential) yoga students have. While there be things that Brown and Babs have in common with regards to yoga commercial culture, there are a few aspects of his piece, specifically, notions of consumer power, capitalism, and the “Bill of Rights” itself, that we find worthy of retort.

Let us begin with a comment on “informed consumers”:

“Fact is, regardless of the commodity, industry only exists where there is a consumer to be had. So, it stands to reason that a predominance of educated and informed consumers can reflexively shape an industry.”

One need only watch a single sexy episode of Mad Men to see how consumers are not simply predestined entities waiting around to purchase commodities, but are rather manufactured into “consumers” by commodity pushers. It would appear from Brown’s statement that humanity is simply a consumer-in-waiting, however, it is our belief that humanity has been transformed into consumers by the the consumer industry, simply because that is how the consumer industry makes money. [Read varying takes on “creating consumers” here, here, and here].

In short, a “Squagel” will not sell unless a community of “Squagel lovers” is created by “Squagel makers” to, in fact, buy Squagels.

In our opinion, Brown gives too much credit to the consumer body, reasserting, admittedly, to a degree, what has become the myth of modern capitalism:

People will not buy what they do not want.

What happens if the consumer body no longer knows what it does or does not want, because they have been effectively brainwashed into wanting any and everything they can get their hands on? What if, as anarcho-primitivists tends to suggest, the entire concept of “the consumer” is a manufactured entity? What if our “nature,” that undefinable playground, is to not identify as a consumer at all, but rather to participate freely in nature’s chaotic non-economy? Wouldn’t it be nice if yoga helped de–consumer the public, rather than reinforce it? Wouldn’t it be splendid if yoga became a safe space, in effect THE space, for pursuing personal, intimate, and immediate relationships with lightning bugs?

Instead, Brown perpetuates the idea that yoga is something that must remain well-integrated into market culture, albeit with more “integrity.”

“For those who wish to see Yoga presented with greater integrity and authenticity, our best bet is to offer some form of proactive empowerment directly to the yoga consumer.”

As we understand it, representation, by design, freezes an always-already fluidity of meaning imbedded within the thing itself. What the hell does that mean? By presenting yoga in one way or another in order to convince people of its worth, people attempt to extricate it from the world, clean it up, show it in the right light, and put a nice hat on it. It is our belief that this is not only not possible, but also not necessary.

To us, yoga is best “represented” by the act of practicing it, and not by dressing it up for consumer consumption. Practice your practice and be a good person, and when someone asks you about what you do, talk to them about it. If they are interested, show them your yoga practice. Talk to them in simple unassuming language about how it has effected you. But, don’t talk too much. Be humble. Be sincere. Be human. And, maybe a new student and future lineage holder will be born. If not, that’s ok too.

We also question the very possibility of “empowering consumers.” Could it be that by identifying as a consumer a person gives up any power he/she had to begin with? When people discuss the “consumer power of the female,” who ultimately benefits? Women relegated to the role of commodity hoarder? Or, the businesses selling the product. Think about it: Who do you think is reading studies on women’s purchasing trends? Women or businesses hoping to sell to women?

Brown goes on to define what he believes to be a helpful list of “rights” that well-discerning students might engage with when seeking out a sustainable yoga practice. It reads as follows:

Yoga Student’s Bill of Rights
As a yoga student you have the right to:

– Be personally introduced to your instructor
– A safe and courteous instructor who is attentive to your needs
– A knowledgeable instructor who instills confidence
– Decline to be pushed into anything that feels wrong to you
– Not be compared to anyone or made to feel small
– Ask questions and get sufficient answers
– Feel comfortable and that you are among friends
– Be discerning and make your own determinations

Personally, I find these “rights” to be a bit vanilla, if ultimately, very limiting. They’re nice if you’re talking about traits you’d like to see in a watercolor painting instructor, but for someone who might play the most significant role in helping you unpack the greatest lie ever told, I find these “rights” to be rather…quaint. Then again, when I think of practicing yoga, I don’t think of a yoga studio with cookie-cutter teachers parsed out between ten different rooms. I don’t think of “front desks.” Nor do I think of Veria TV.

I “imagine” liberation. I “imagine” God. I “imagine” coming into immediate contact with that thing we call “the self” forever filtering Love through a mosaic of fears, wants, wishes, hopes, likes, and dislikes. I suppose it would be nice to have a “courteous” teacher on hand, but sometimes niceties just ain’t gonna cut it.

Below you will find Brown’s “rights” listed with our short commentary beneath each. At which point the article ends. Truth is, we could go on and on and on, but that eventually gets a bit much. Hopefully, you get the idea:

1. Be personally introduced to your instructor
Sorry to start off with such a non-bang, but, honestly, I’m not really sure what this means. What’s the other option here? Introduced to your teacher via satellite? Explain yourself!

2. A safe and courteous instructor who is attentive to your needs
Face it, people. Your most significant teachers will not always be yoga’s version of Ned Flanders. I once met a “realized” person who was quite annoying, rude, contradictory, and totally condescending. And yet, I think I learned more about myself in interactions with said realized being than I have with any other teacher. Did I stick with this guru? Nah. I think he went nuts and choked on a bowl of Fruit Loops. But, man, was that the thing that turned it around for me! Thank God he wasn’t nice, or I’d still be a jerk.

3. A knowledgeable instructor who instills confidence
I’ll take the knowledgeable part, but I don’t think it’s best to wait around for a teacher to instill anything in a student. A little advice from The Babarazzi to you: Your confidence—the inherent knowledge that you are always already God-Love—is alive and well buried deep within your postured self expression. Remove the veils and let it shine! Just don’t be an asshole about it.

4. Decline to be pushed into anything that feels wrong to you
Or, make a big mistake and get injured because you were afraid to say “enough,” and learn one of the biggest lessons of your life concerning your own attachment to concepts such as “progress,” “advancement,” “pleasing others,” and “not looking weak.” Teachings will come in all forms. Pay attention!

5. Not be compared to anyone or made to feel small
I mean, if your teacher is more dick than deity, than bounce. But if your guru is more deity than dick, but still kinda prick, well, do what ya gotta do. Get the teachings where you find them. Don’t sell your sell soul, but be willing to barter for better aspects of your self.

6. Ask questions and get sufficient answers
Duh.

7. Feel comfortable and that you are among friends
Seriously.If this shit were about being comfortable and making friends, there’d be no reason for this shit, period. Get a Slanket and order some pizzas. You’ll have both comfort and friends in minutes.

8. Be discerning and make your own determinations
In short, be an adult.

51 comments

  1. Your #2 and #5 are spot-on. MY example of your #2–seriously–had not choked, he got ‘kicked upstairs’ or whatever the rough equivalent is in the yoga-industrial complex. BIG TIME. But, generally speaking, a yogi will learn from a nice one … maybe not at the same speed … but she’ll have more fun doing it … and actually might learn faster when there is no mutual-revulsion involved …

    Yes, I agree that the commercial world creates its own demand. It’s not a case of me caveman me want squagel. But a lot of that is called “civilization”. Your #8 comes in handy here.

    I see you avoid some of the important issues about advertising – brace yourself: http://www.itsallyogababy.com/its-another-sexy-yoga-video-by-equinox-brace-yourselves/

    • “But, generally speaking, a yogi will learn from a nice one … maybe not at the same speed … but she’ll have more fun doing it … and actually might learn faster when there is no mutual-revulsion involved …”

      Definitely possible. I hope it was clear that we were merely offering counter examples of possible routes to “opening” that would be more or less occluded were people to take on Brown’s “rights” in any serious fashion.

  2. J Brown needs to read up on Edward Bernays, the “father” of modern marketing techniques and how really many of these companies are around to “create” needs of stuff you don’t really need in the first place but are there primarily to create a person into a consumer and therefore fatten up the coffers of industry.

    Also, there doesn’t seem to be much of a distinction here between “instructor” and “studio” (or gym or fitness center etc.) I’ve seen studios keep instructors of questionable repute on staff because they “had a following” and therefore brought money into the studio, never mind that some of these instructors were harassing or embarrassing clients in class. I’ve also seen some fantastic instructors get the axe because they weren’t charismatic enough to suit the studio’s bottom line. One need only look at something like the Yoga Alliance to see how much they are “defending” the rights of yoga students. Or not.

    PS: They make Snuggies for dogs now too!

    • Thanks for the video, EER! Will need to peep it later!

    • amphibi1yogini

      That doc – lengthy but brilliant – was applauding it in spots!

      My mind may be malleable, but I can smell a manipulation from a mile away … as with anything else, the business/company that gets this too-poor-to-be-a-true-“experiential” thus defaulting to “i-am-me’er” (from that doc) from sincere intentions will have my repeat (and earned) business …

      Just got finished also watching Beautiful Losers again, as well

  3. Chai Fan

    “Thank God he wasn’t nice, or I’d still be a jerk.” That made me laugh really hard! gotta remember to hold off on the coffee sipping when I read some of your stuff- It ends up all over the computer. But nothing goes together better than fresh early morning Babs and a fresh cup of coffee…

  4. Linda-Sama

    after reading J. Brown’s and your posts, for some reason the words of Kausthub Desikachar came to mind. I was at KYM this year and Kausthub lectured on this: http://lindasyoga.com/2012/03/31/transformation-in-yoga-philosophy-a-lecture-by-kausthub-desikachar-3712/

    A student asked him how does one find a teacher as he described. He said, instead, “ask yourself if you’re ready to be a student.”

    maybe that should be the first question and everything else will follow.

  5. wondering

    video blogs are just really dull and somehow strike me as incredibly ego-maniacal, for those wanting to be seen and heard… as for myself I don’t need any one person or organization for that matter defining yoga, or students rights, or what to buy, wear, think, etc. etc. etc.

    • That’s your judgment talking. I have one. I admit I’m not easy on the eyes. My vlog is about nutrition, not yoga. And I care for my viewers.

      Plus, I don’t consider myself to have an ego, just excited about and in service to imparting information …

      • wondering

        what’s the difference between an opinion, a judgement, a comment, a personal thought, sharing of nutritional, yogic, pet food info, a blabbity blab on a blog ?

        • amphibi1yogini

          When your blog goes video (which mine did temporarily) it’s a whole other ball game. And if this bores you, mine might really bore you.

  6. Sheryl

    Oh my, what a bunch of entitled sissy-pantses we are. “I have a RIGHT to a sweet and smiley yoga teacher. I have a RIGHT to be presented with a gluten-free banana muffin after each class and to have the instructor do that thing my mom used to do where she rubbed her fingertips really lightly over my bare back and I felt all warm and goosebumpy. And if I leave class insufficiently able to Follow My Bliss or Be the Best Me I Can Be then my RIGHTS have been violated.”

    What we have, I believe, are responsibilities. The responsibility to be big boys and girls. The responsibility to understand what yoga is and decide if it’s the correct path for us. The responsibility to have some basic awareness of our own existential shit and, if necessary, to find the teacher who will do what it takes to get us to the place where we can reach shoulder deep into our own dark squishy innards and yank out all that ugliness for the world to see.

    Enjoy your muffins, everyone!

  7. Thaddeus

    Bravo Babs. While I rarely find you straying from the mark, there are simply those moments when you shoot the eye out of the fish with lazer-like Arjuna precision that I wish I had said/thought your written words. This is one of those times.

    For me the true stand-out is “the greatest lie ever told” in reference to the “mayaic” self. Pure gold. But I think the thread of this piece captures the nature and direction of The Babrazzi “project” in an accesible, straightforward, no nonsense manner.

    Thank you as also for your service.

  8. Bobcat

    Wow what a deep and insightful piece. This is why I read the Babarazzi. Also, the comments are always entertaining and give me many perspectives to include and reflect.

  9. Hey Babarazzi- I was hoping you would respond. Here is my response to your response:

    I appreciate your anarchist viewpoint and analysis, we are not entirely in disagreement. However, perhaps you missed the line where I wrote: “My point in this has less to do with social activism and more to do with needing to feel that everything is not entirely rigged to only benefit the proverbial bottom line. Even if it is rigged that way, I want to encourage the sort of thinking that at least makes it seem possible for human beings to still do right by themselves.”

    As to some of your specific points:

    -The notion that “industry only exists where there is a consumer be had” does not suggest that humanity is a “consumer-in-waiting”, it merely acknowledges the conventional reality that we all are complicit in.

    -You say that I am giving too much credit to the consumer body (which is composed of human beings) and suggest that everyone is brainwashed. Which is it? Are we “consumers-in-waiting” or not? Yoga can potentially “de-consumer” us by shifting awareness and priorities but only if people can actually find there way past the fluff to competent teachers.

    -Your nit-pic-ing of the phrase “Yoga presented” is maybe a little silly. If you are a professional yoga teacher or run a center then you have to present your work to the public in one way or another. This does not freeze the fluidity of meaning imbedded in yoga. As you rightly point out, only individuals can come to the meaning of yoga in themselves and outward presentations are irrelevant. There are many media outlets that are offering representations of yoga that are antithetical to yoga. Offering alternate presentations that might encourage people to see beyond the misinformation is not going to diminish yoga in the least. The Babarazzi is a presentation of yoga . Are you freezing the fluidity of meaning?

    – The Bill of Rights I proposed was intended to be vanilla. They have to be, in order to allow for broad diversity of philosophy that exists within yoga. Speaking of which, the philosophy of “liberation”, “god” and “the self” you mention is specific to classical interpretations and considerably more “limiting” then my vanilla proposals. There has always been “householder” traditions of yoga. Some would say these traditions predate the classical models (albeit unsubstantiated with texts due to the fact that yoga was only an oral tradition for so long.) The concepts of source and seen as one, mutual teacher/student relationships, and the union of opposites are not the same as the idea of liberation or transcendence (see video.) And the “householder” approach is equally relevant to people today as it may have been to people living in the Indus River Valley five thousand years ago.

    -You scoff at my suggestion that students have a right to be introduced to their teachers. However, how many people who are going to yoga classes regularly have been introduced to their teacher? Less than you think. And if this were a principle embraced by the public, it would likely do away with the Wanderlust and Baktifest kind of events that you have often taken rightful issue with. The simple act of a teacher introducing themselves to their students, no different then would be common courtesy were we to meet at a public gathering, does make an inherent difference in the yoga practice that ensues.

    – Just because you were able to learn something despite the fact that your teacher was inattentive, annoying, rude, contradictory and totally condescending is not a strong case for teachers being that way. Again, you are drawing upon a classical model that may be appropriate for monks but not so much for regular folks. And being an attentive teacher who actually cares about students doesn’t make you Ned Flanders.

    – If confidence only comes from the inherent knowledge that we are already “God-love” then good teachers are the ones who help instill that knowledge in us. No?

    – I am fundamentally opposed to any deification of teachers. Teachers are “nothing more than a friend, and nothing less than a friend.”

    – If it were obvious that people have the right to ask questions of their teachers then people would not feel so intimidated to engage their teachers, who are often maintaining some degree of anonymity and make people feel small for asking a “dumb” question. I think you are giving the public (and teachers) too much credit here.

    – Once again, your philosophy of yoga where we are not supposed to feel comfortable or among friends, in my opinion, is fundamentally flawed. Yes, most of us are not comfortable or feeling among friends and the purpose of yoga practice is to address this. However, a practice ritual that does not feel that way is unlikely to encourage it. Are you suggesting that the way for us to feel more in harmony with life is to do practice that is uncomfortable and happens in unsupportive environments? Good luck with that.

    Lastly, I wrote this piece thinking specifically of Babarazzi. I am a fan of what you do. I appreciate the strong criticism you offer and the sharp edges your commenters share. However, I question whether simply excoriating the exploits of others can have any impact if it is not also accompanied by some practical and useful suggestions. It is simply not realistic to think that we are going to somehow “return to the forest.” We are living in the world we live in and, given the harsh realities this presents us with, there is nothing “sissy” about wanting to help ourselves and others. I am curious to know how you would like to see Yoga in the marketplace. Or would you prefer that it were not in the marketplace at all? Sorry, there is no putting the cat back in the bag.

    Nonetheless, thanks for furthering a substantive conversation.

    • Sorry I’m late, everyone! Let’s see if I can speak to some of these…

      “However, perhaps you missed the line where I wrote: “My point in this has less to do with social activism and more to do with needing to feel that everything is not entirely rigged to only benefit the proverbial bottom line. Even if it is rigged that way, I want to encourage the sort of thinking that at least makes it seem possible for human beings to still do right by themselves.”

      Nope. Saw the line. Just not sure how it challenges anything we said.

      “The notion that “industry only exists where there is a consumer be had” does not suggest that humanity is a “consumer-in-waiting”, it merely acknowledges the conventional reality that we all are complicit in.”

      No. However, it does end short, as there is a lot more that goes into how consumers are constructed, an analysis that would ultimately shift the focus of your piece, IMHO.

      “You say that I am giving too much credit to the consumer body (which is composed of human beings) and suggest that everyone is brainwashed. Which is it? Are we “consumers-in-waiting” or not? Yoga can potentially “de-consumer” us by shifting awareness and priorities but only if people can actually find there way past the fluff to competent teachers.”

      It is my belief that present day consumers had to be taught to be such. Not only taught, but convinced. I think this is well-documented in other areas. “Reading media,” “creating consumers,” and all the rest. I’m sure Zizek goes into it, and no doubt Baudrillard & co. (if we go back a few decades).I’m sure ol’ Chompsky goes there, but I admit, he is not my specialty.

      “Your nit-pic-ing of the phrase “Yoga presented” is maybe a little silly.”

      Presenting yoga to an interested person is entirely different than repackaging a practice for commercial distribution. Representation always cuts the fat. We all do it. But, it’s very important to know so.

      The Bill of Rights I proposed was intended to be vanilla. They have to be, in order to allow for broad diversity of philosophy that exists within yoga.”

      This is a fundamental difference we share. Attempting to speak in universal terms or language is more or less impossible from the perspective of a human with limits of perception. This is especially true for white males, but applies to everyone probably. It also seems to be something white males love to do (just thinking aloud here). It’s better to simply be sincere and admit one’s own limits. Then just talk to people. “Grand plans” are usually a lot less grand than we’d like to believe.

      “There has always been “householder” traditions of yoga.”

      Your distinction between “householder” and “monk” is really unfortunate. I like to think the householder (so-called) has access to everything a monk has. I like to think “crazy wisdom” happens everywhere. I know it happens over here!

      “Just because you were able to learn something despite the fact that your teacher was inattentive, annoying, rude, contradictory and totally condescending is not a strong case for teachers being that way.”

      Important distinction: I’m not saying teachers should be that way. I’m saying your “Bill of Rights” creates an environment where varying manifestations of “liberation” (etc.) can not occur. You take the greater happenings of expansion and funnel them through some weird let’s-be-nice-fest. I’m much more interested in the let’s-be-open-to-what-comes-up-and-still-keep-our-wits-about-us-unless-our-own-wits-get-in-the-way-fest. Dig me?

      “Again, you are drawing upon a classical model that may be appropriate for monks but not so much for regular folks.”

      Again, this is a really unfortunate distinction, in my opinion.

      “I am fundamentally opposed to any deification of teachers. Teachers are “nothing more than a friend, and nothing less than a friend.”

      How unfortunate again! I like to think advaita vedanta has made room for deities to manifest in many bodies!

      “Are you suggesting that the way for us to feel more in harmony with life is to do practice that is uncomfortable and happens in unsupportive environments?”

      Nope. Just showing how your take makes for a variety of experiences that happen “off the mat” to in fact not happen. You’re limiting the possibilities with your appeal to “friendliness” Being nice and kind is base level, son. That’s the standard. What’s next???

      “It is simply not realistic to think that we are going to somehow “return to the forest.” We are living in the world we live in and, given the harsh realities this presents us with, there is nothing “sissy” about wanting to help ourselves and others. I am curious to know how you would like to see Yoga in the marketplace. Or would you prefer that it were not in the marketplace at all? Sorry, there is no putting the cat back in the bag.”

      Why do you have such an affinity for thingd not being possible?

      • Alright. I think I see where you are coming from now. In fairness, the reason that I pointed you to that line is because I never really intended my list of general ideas to be a literal prescription for anything, merely a device to provoke inquiry, I was modeling it on that sticker in the taxicab. In my response, I may have been reveling just a little too much in the intellectual play of point by point countering and wasn’t really thinking of my “Bill of Rights” as anything more than a “modest proposal” of sorts.

        Also, making a distinction between ascetic and householder traditions, or liberation versus the given condition is not something new. The vedantists were debating the same thing (Kevala-Radical Nondual, Vishishta-Qualified Nondual, Dvaita-Thesitic Duality.) Or simply look at different translations of Samkhya. You can have 24, 25 or 26 principles depending. For me personally, making these distinctions was important.

        In fact, I am so with you on the “let’s-be-open-to-what-comes-up-and-still-keep-our-wits-about-us-unless-our-own-wits-get-in-the-way-fest.” Make me one of those shirts too. Sounds more radical than qualified, more 24 principle purusha/prikriti are one rather than 25 where they are separate to me. That doesn’t sound like there are some people who are more spiritually heightened then others and that we have to seek for some unknown other in order to be liberated. Indeed, “crazy wisdom” does happen everywhere and not just in those who subscribe to the misconceptions of male doctrine holders. That’s exactly my point.

        Where I think you may have got me some is with the idea that a superficial platitude about being kind is absolutely limiting. I’m really not one for pussy-footing around stuff or reducing things to niceties. I am in agreement with “the moment already came” and interested in “Yoga that helps me be more aware of the constructs I am participating in and more skillful within them.” I have to look back at the piece and see if I am guilty of being a bit too cute. Having said that, I still am gonna represent for friendliness. It doesn’t have to be bullshit. I maintain that, despite it all, being authentic and nurturing is still the fuckin coolest thing you can do.

        Honestly, I am flattered and excited that you saw the piece and decided to give it the Baba treatment. But don’t you have to make a decent amount of money or have a DVD or something before you get to be part of yoga culture and deserve star treatment? Or does the simple joy of seeing if you can write 800 words or so a month that might be interesting or useful to someone count? It seems it would. Cheers.

        p.s. For whatever its worth, I’m right over here in Brooklyn six days a week. If you ever wanted to stop by for a practice and some chat (as my guest – free of charge), your anonymity in the yoga blogosphere is safe with me. Discerning practitioners like yourself are my favorite sort of people.

        • Typically, the requirement for Babarazzi inspection is to have a DVD, a big loud A-type personality mouth, or intense haircut, (preferably all the above), but once in a while we make an exception for the lil’ guy.

          Nah, we’re interested in how people bump up against commercialized yoga [thanks amphibi for the term!], and your BOR seemed to fit the bill. That, and we didn’t have anything else to write about that day! 🙂

          Not to mention, you can see it spurs a lot of discussion. People typically don’t like others speaking for them, so it’s bound to raise a few hairs on the backs of Baba readers.

          Anyway, I have a “Part 2” piece that we might throw up this week. It’s way shorter and more convivial. Will see…

          Thanks for playing along!

  10. J

    “…the conventional reality that we all are complicit in.” ?

    -Speak for yourself.

    “The Babarazzi is a presentation of yoga”?

    -Clearly you don’t regularly read this blog, or at the very least, need to re-read it a BIT more attentively.

    • J- When I say “conventional reality we are all complicit in”, I am referring to a collective humanity and how each individuals actions play into the universal reality we are all experiencing.

      Also, from the babarrazzi “about” page (which has been edited considerably since last I looked: “….with a specific focus on contemporary commercial YOGA culture.” Regardless of its intention to be critical of the media or offer satire, still sounds like a presentation of yoga to me.

  11. itstrue

    J brown, I am not so interested in the first part of babs argument, however I feel that the bill of rights seem to be about stroking and pleasing the student which as a teacher and a householder does seem weak. I don’t think the argument againsy the bill of rights are for classical monk yogis at all, in fact any regular person on a real and deep spiritual path should have their asses kicked just enough to grow. Your bill of rights seem to speak to a very entitled western perspective of feeling good all the time. Peace

    • itstrue- Encouraging people to make informed choices about their yoga practice is not “stroking and pleasing” anyone. I have written extensively on holding teachers and centers to higher standards as well. The fact that you feel that people need to have their “asses kicked” in order to learn yoga is an example of your predilection towards the classical philosophies (householder or not.) To a “radical nondualist”, being comfortable and feeling that you are among friends is the appropriate context for a yoga practice and does not imply that we are supposed to feel good all the time. Are you suggesting that the ancient adage of “no steps need to be taken” is nothing more than a entitled western perspective?

      • It is ME … it sure is stroking me. But I am an older lady; and I have been under plenty of stress with my home life … yes HOUSEholder life … I’m not some cosseted yuppie who needs self-mortifying kick-butt yoga in order to get their non-sexual dom-sub–like fix. As I once read in a Recovering Yogi article (an old one before they went all literary on me …) to teachers: DON’T teach to me as if I am on perma-retreat !

        But, sure – with yoga I grow. My home practice, nearly 2 hours long, is about 65% yoga …

        I don’t dare venture to another yoga studio. The last one I’d been to about a year ago, is neo old-school hatha… they’re not so professional (I’d even gotten mildly injured in a class)… but still I’d go back there. Only there. And in nearly a heartbeat, too.

        Okay, I’m a wuss. But I think by now, I am entitled.

      • gross

        i think we can get our asses kicked even if we are comfortable and among friends. if a teacher doesn’t push you in some way, call it mean or nicely or by offering higher perspective, or shattering your habitual thought or physical patterns, etc, then they aren’t a teacher. but liking the other people in the room, or at least not hating them, definitely makes for a more frequent connection to a practice with others. is OBVIOUS i would not be going to take a yoga class at Yoga Vida where its a bunch of self-righteous 20-somethings that are confused into thinking they are doing something special or revolutionary for practicing “yoga”. at the iyengar institute for example, there are a bunch of old (white & wealthy) people thinking they are special for practicing yoga in the “only way with a true lineage”, and instead they just steal your props w/o a 2nd thought, totally relying on your good yoga behavior to not call them out on it. what to do? ignore people as best you can, hope there is a teacher good enough to bring your perspective to a higher platform, have the balls to introduce yourself to a teacher (or take class frequently enough that you HAVE to meet the teacher), and hope that teacher attracts people you can stand (which probably means they look like you, and have some degree of consciousness or self-awareness). all this shiz is exhausting.

  12. J

    I admit I initially wrote the above post in a form that parsed each of your posts. I deleted most of it and just posted the above two because I think the Babarazzi, should they choose to, would do a much better job than I might.

    Instead I offer this:

    Let’s say one speaks French. If one spoke French fluently, whether as their first language or through years of arduous and uncomfortable study, then one would never, EVER confuse French with English spoken with a French accent. Anyone speaking English with a heavy French accent, casually referencing French history, facilely referencing French art and philosophy, and posturing with a baguette and a beret IS STILL SPEAKING ENGLISH. And anyone who speaks French will not for a second be confused.

    Baba, in my opinion… you speak lovely French.

    • Your French analogy doesn’t really make sense to me. I think you are trying to say something about people who are not authentic in their yoga but, in respect to my blog post (not just the “bill of rights” that Babarazzi quotes), I’m not sure of what your point is.

  13. the moment already came

    Setting aside the deep ironies of living in New York City and writing a blog that calls on the anarcho-primitivists for backup, the argument you set up seems to rest on a dichotomy that may be false: either consumers drive the creation of markets or, as you suggest, marketers drive the creation of consumers. But could it also be true that marketers and consumers co-create through dialogue? If, as you say, consumers are effectively brainwashed, then they buy whatever they are told to buy. But this is not always or necessarily even often the case. More products fail than succeed by far, and the notion that products are invented by businesses devoid of meaningful interaction with consumers is really, really outdated. Even the WSJ article you cite makes note of this: the creation of PUR water purifier was created in response to a vital need assessed through rigorous dialogue with several communities (and it failed). And while Squagels may be inexplicably here to stay, our history is chock full of equally ludicrous products that tanked for lack of interest. Hand me that Crystal Pepsi, will you?

    I also hear a faint classism, and patriarchy in the kind of argument that companies are brainwashing consumers; the washees described are usually the uneducated, the poor, women, or those in third world countries–invariably someone “other” than the speaker (who has presumably become immune to the brainwashing which none of us are immune to?)

    That said, the conversation, such as it is, between business and the consumer, does seem heavily lopsided. The leverage that businesses can exert over what the individual encounters is no doubt frustrating, and realizing how inconsequential you are from the perspective of a business should be downright depressing. But then again welcome to the world; from a world perspective you’re pretty inconsequential too. Which has led plenty of people to respond by trying to gather and organize in such a way as to be of consequence, to business, government, and apparently, yoga. Gathering, change, and constructing any kind of shared values or philosophy seem to require a lot of communication. Which is to say, a lot of “representing.” And it leads some folks to bail out and revolt, like noted anarcho-primitivist Ted Kaczynski. (Cheap shot, I know, but as a philosophy it has a deep, dark edge).

    I understand that the anarcho-primitivists place a huge priority on direct experience of the thing itself over any symbolic representation of the thing. So do many traditions of yoga, and it seems you do too. Your symbolic representation of communing with fireflies was, however, lovely and inspiring. But there’s an interesting tension in there too; I see it in your post, and in anarcho-primitivism and in a lot of what passes as “dharma talk” nowadays. On the one hand, this desire for direct experience unsullied by symbolic representation has you leaning toward an almost libertarian, infinitely individualistic attitude that seems to say, “I got my samadhi, fuck y’all.” On the other hand, you write a blog expressing dissatisfaction with beliefs about yoga you do not share and the capitalist idolatry for signifier over signified, and you seem to enjoy it when others take refuge in the community created by your symbolic representation.

    I bring it up because I feel that same tension, and I also enjoy the refuge. I’ve got one foot organizing and one foot dis-organizing. It’s an interesting fence to straddle, and sometimes the friction really gets me off. But sometimes I just end up with splinters in my taint.

    I’m reminded of this one book, you might have read it, where this one guy in the middle of a battlefield says to another guy sobbing in his chariot: “You cannot avoid this battle. Your own nature will drive you to it.” I can’t remember what it’s called, but I know you can find it at Barnes & Noble.

    • Hi. I think ideas that are exciting or inspiring or interesting or seemingly-unique to a person, regardless of their source (ex. anarch-prim), may be employed by anyone coming from any environment. I’d also say that the entire anrach-prim debate is “ironic” under your rubric. A so-called “civilized” person, critiquing “civilized” existence is, in a way, just starting from where you are.

      Hello. I think your understanding of how the market maintains itself is fine enough, only that it starts a bit late in the game (as per my discussion of it). I’m speaking more to how humanity might have had to be taught to in fact “be” a consumer in the first place.

      Good day. I don’t think I or anyone else on this side of the screen considers his/herself to be outside the constructed-consumer paradigm. We have varying levels of participation, but I certainly wasn’t referring to “poor people.” Your words, friend.

      Good morning. I certainly don’t have any feelings of “I got my samadhi. Fuck all y’all.” I don’t think I’ve ever thought that eve. Our project has always been framed as an addition to the already yoga blog discourse. We’ve said that elsewhere, and I believe it’s come up in our upcoming interview with Where is My Guru? Taking a strong stance in order to balance (IMHO) the discussion does not nec. lead to weird libertarian individualisms.

      Although, I will say that were I to live in a commune, I’d probably spend a lot of time NOT planning potlucks.

      • the moment already came

        So many salutations! I forget there are several of you huddled around the screen, making mischief together.

        I do think there’s a level of irony to any conversation in which cultured people are criticizing culture. But I agree, that doesn’t mean those conversations aren’t also useful or awesome or available to anyone. Yet the reflexive oddity of it still makes me giggle: “Within this box is contained the means for disassembling the box.”

        And looking again, I’d also agree that you weren’t setting up a discussion that put you outside the constructed-consumer paradigm. That was my reaction perhaps, to a line of thought I’ve seen too many times before, and one that makes me a bit impulsively barfy. But you took it another direction — mad props.

        Which brings me to a bit of what I think I’m really gunning for, and what I didn’t realize fully until y’all bounced it back (which makes me grateful that you reply, and articulately, and often). Anyhoo, it’s this:

        You write, “Wouldn’t it be nice if yoga helped de–consumer the public?” I think it does, it can, and it has. I don’t think yoga has to get up very early in the morning to pull off a task like that. But what I would ALSO like is yoga that helps consumer me, or yoga that helps culture me or civilize me, or whatever. Yoga that helps me be more aware of the constructs I am participating in and more skillful within them, what my agency is in there, what is beyond my control, what have I been taught, what are my choices, etc.

        Do I think J Brown’s bill-whatever does that? Heck no, not by a longshot. But I acknowledge the impulse. And I think what I’m reacting to most in your post is this implicit notion that because things like consumer behavior are “taught,” (I agree) they are somehow inferior or should be rejected (I don’t agree). Lots of useful things are taught constructs–like yoga. I think constructs like consumerism come with incredible potential and incredible problems. All the more reason I’m hopeful that yoga can help me navigate–in both directions.

        So yes, I want yoga to help me reconnect with my “nature,” exactly as you define it above. High five, up top? And I want yoga to help me get more, not less engaged in all the messy shitshow too. Down low… too slow?

        • I think you bring up a solid point, specifically the one about yoga and skillful means. I also think that were we discussing this in person over a drink of something special we’d have a spirited discussion with disagreements, agreements, laughs, and a great hug at the end!

        • the moment already came

          Oooh, I bet we would. It’s so tempting…but we’re both so anonymous. Would it ruin the romance?

          • Definitely. However, even boring old vanilla “householders” can get wild and nuts with masks and skulls. Be creative! Don’t let them turn the householder tradition into Bed Bath & Beyond.

        • The thing is, yoga needs the initial map. The map is not the territory. (Korzybski) Without the map I could spend a decade trying to explore my “territory”–cobbling movement patterns together, philosophies together, pranayama techniques together – if uninstructed by so little as a book (note: this book need not be contemporary or bought new, etc.) or a stupid, commercialized website (but I finally threw you over, FACEBOOK!).

          I don’t miss those adjustments that gave me a complex. Alignment cues may need to be refreshed, but I don’t miss even those …

          However, with the consumerism comes the act of going back to someone else’s map again and again for the purpose of … what? Pretending the yoga studio is a party venue, or another “third place”. [Some DO need to get away to the “third place”. I, personally, do not … despite loud and bangy neighbors in a crowded New York space …] For $1.95 I am getting all the “third place” I could use at a Starbucks …

          If I am caught in the commercial web, I am not very caught in it.
          But at my age, I do not want that decade. I cut the time down by a factor of 2.5 … with books, some classes taken sparsely over years, and dvd …

  14. @ the moment already came, thanks for the perspective. But can we compare Bhagavad Gita – the book with yoga practice? You may need Barnes & Noble or Amazon to purchase the book but you don’t need a comercial places or figures in order to practice yoga. Hence, commercial yoga is not a battlefield for people who actually practice yoga. Sell your yoga trademarks, books, DVDs, classes, workshops, retreats, conferences, clothes, mats, etc. all you want. Heck, open a yoga studio franchise and see if I care. Just don’t forget that they are not really yoga. And be grateful that the Babarazzi is here to remind you so.

    • amphibi1yogini

      This comparing commercialized yoga (I call it “commercialized” instead of “commercial”, because it IS sneaky, dynamic, and subliminal) to yoga–is like Korzybski – you know, General Semantics; i.e., “the map is not the territory”

      Pretty meta stuff …

  15. Yoga Dude

    This thread is moving and shaking. Very nice.

    I like the picture on the home page of the dog that links to this thread. It gives me hope that people care enough about such a creature to be that creative in order to give the dog a better life.

    I like that.

    Sorry, that I all I have to add.

  16. DVD? More accurately, a popular download/streaming site … well, my own serviceable, nearly commercializable routine gets quite repetitious …

  17. J

    “You take the greater happenings of expansion and funnel them through some weird let’s-be-nice-fest. I’m much more interested in the let’s-be-open-to-what-comes-up-and-still-keep-our-wits-about-us-unless-our-own-wits-get-in-the-way-fest”

    I’m going to have a t-shirt printed that says this.

  18. Yoga Observer

    Let’s talk about something else for a while as it is happening tonight. Is anyone else curious about and somewhat disgusted by Lululemon sponsoring the Gospel of Sweat http://www.yoganonymous.com/featured-event/lululemon-elena-brower-gospel-of-sweat-new-york-city-yoga-fitness-events/ at one of New York’s most prestigious and beautiful churches?

    • Yoga Whelp

      Lululemon would sponsor a festive night of “Yoga in the Gas Chambers” in the old Dachau death camp in Germany if it helped them move “product.” And even a pretend Jew like Elena Brower would headline the event and introduce the Duck Walk Pose if it promised to generate fresh publicity. Does that answer your question? Jama Jama Hey!

      • Yoga Whelp

        The “Gospel of Sweat” is a soft-core version of the “Ecstasy of Pee,” one of the trademark “sacred” Tantric practices of the European porn cult MISA. It’s an attempt to fetishize the body – including it’s liquid excretions – as the very source of “Divinity.” I see all such fetishizations as inscribed within a commercial aesthetic and praxis that leads to psychic domination and control. The idea is to bypass the mind and its critical faculties to achieve an immediacy that allows for complete surrender and absorption, but using the Enlightenment-speak of “detachment” and “being in the moment.” The only thing missing is the Fuhrer – or the Guru. In MISA, the Ecstasy of Pee is overseen, and directed, by the Supreme Leader, Gregorio Bivolaru. More on this at another time…

        • You mean as in drinking your own? As in Suzanne Morrison’s memoir, Yoga Bitch?

          That really means her guru from out there in Seattle, drew from that arcane source …
          I really hope it isn’t um… “golden showers” – but rather that one …
          Just proves my point about the parallels of yoga to S&M, and I don’t want such disgusting points proven …

          [Yeah, some of us …50 Shades of Gray … ? I could care less!]

        • Yoga Whelp

          MISA celebrates female “urinary orgasm” as the height of Tantric yoga self-expression for women. Its porn films feature male partners encouraging women to squirt their urine like the Old Faithful Geyser at Yosemite! The men then eagerly “catch” Shakti’s nectar, while the yoga angels sing. Yes, it’s transcendent! I suspect they buckets of water before they film.

  19. Natalie

    J. Brown’s list of rights for students forgot the fragrance free addendum! How about wearing only turquoise on Monday? How about introducing yourself to your yoga instructor if she/he looks busy for whatever reason at the beginning or end of the class? Perhaps the first thing on J. Brown’s list should include being a student who wants more than a passive, spoon-fed, take me to the water, commercially led yoga class experience. More about the actual practice of yoga and less about how to find ways to feel OK about the fact that yoga as a commodity in the marketplace is just that. Let’s accept it, if we choose to practice in large public commercial yoga studios. The continuing practice of preciousness around the exchange of commerce in the North American yoga world has become increasingly annoying, at least it has for me. I am grateful for all of my teachers, not all of them are making me feel like I am their BFF, but I am not looking for that when I am learning from them. As much as I love your blog, Baba, it’s time for me to take a break from all of this, at least for the foreseeable future. I can’t read one more person’s opinion of what yoga is or is not. I would rather practice. OM SHANTI

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