While reading the comments on yesterday’s yogilebrity branding article I started thinking about the possible differences between “marketing” and “the act of providing information,” as well as how to navigate between the two. I’m also a bit sensitive to the fact that whenever we The Babarazzi talk about issues surrounding the commercial aspect of yoga culture, some people put us in a “purist box” either admiringly so or with a contesting grumble. The truth is, while we are certainly critical of yoga culture’s emphasis on the promotion of “self,” we also understand the need for people to at times publicize the fact that they exist and might have something to offer.
We’ve been asked on a number of occasions how a thoughtful yoga instructor might market oneself “without being a total douche,” so to speak (you can listen to Aghori’s talk with Where is My Guru for his spiel on this [@ min. 66:00]). While at first this may seem like an impossible task wrought with embarrassing twists and conformist turns, in the end it all comes down to reframing how you think about what it is you’re actually doing.
For starters, next time you’re about to make a flyer, website, or Facebook event, trying telling yourself “I’m just presenting information.” From there simply ask yourself, What information is relevant? Is your name relevant? Is your picture? Is your bio? Is your waist size? Don’t be too harsh. Some of that might be very relevant!
Because marketing and branding is so intertwined with everything we do, it’s often hard for people to even realize that they’re thinking in commercialist terms even when they’re not intending to do so. Just going along thoughtlessly about how you present yourself will so often end up manifesting an overly branded/marketed presentation if for no other reason that branding and marketing have been shoved down our collective throats since, at least, the Fifties. To counter this thrust you need to get a little pro-active in the thought process. You can’t be lazy and just assume that years of being an awesome person will somehow make for anti-commodity-fetish promotional pieces.
It’s kinda like what political activist Ward Churchill said about the Euro-American colonized mind and its relationship to lost indigenous European traditions:
“What we have to understand is that in order for Europeans to do what they have done to virtually all non-Europeans, all non-Westerners on the planet, [is that] they had to colonize themselves. These colonizers are colonized…. Euro-Americans have got to psychologically and intellectually reverse the process of colonization, to find out what went wrong for them clear back in the beginning. And then they can begin to recover knowledge of [their own indigenous traditions], to bring about the decolonialization of Europe itself, most of all the European mind.”
—Ward Churchill, as interviewed in Listening to the Land (ed. Derrick Jensen)
As Churchill states, the mind of the colonizer can itself be colonized by itself. It is my belief that so to can the mind of non-celebrity yoga practitioner be colonized by the yogilebrity mind, since it is this mind that so deeply permeates yoga culture. Admittedly, sometimes it’s hard to realize. Sometimes it’s like not noticing that you’re constantly hiking your shoulders up, that you walk around with your shoulders wedged up around your ears, and not even knowing it. Similarly, many people who might otherwise be anti-yogilebrities may not realize the extent to which the celebriyogi model has, in effect, colonized his/her own psyche.
My suggestion is to take a few moments throughout the day this week to check in on this. First, ask yourself, Am I hiking up my shoulders? Then release them, ’cause you probably are. Then when you’re done, and you’re about to make a flyer for your upcoming workshop in Tulum, simply ask yourself, Am I presenting information, or am I trying to sell myself?
Then relax your shoulders again, ’cause they’ve probably crept back up.