Are You Marketing Your “Self” or Providing Information? /// Yogilebrity as Mind Colonizer

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!

Flyer for Bikini Kill show providing information.

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.

11 comments

  1. So, guess what? I totally hear you. Really, I do. This is why I intend for my heirs to try to convince the world that my proprietary yoga-fusion movement with breath awareness practice, which they will possibly to probably promote as my legacy–has a philosophy that supports the cutesy name of the practice, to back it up. If the author or promoter of the practice is the least bit intellectual and/or not quite telegenic–the philosophy is mind-colonization tool #1. I didn’t need any guru to tell me that. Just had to look around at what Kathryn Budig labels her look-at-me workout for gymnastics class dropouts (originally called “Aim True” yoga)and note that there is, indeed, a “philosophy” behind THAT … [though maybe some desperate souls would consider Budig a guru]

    If my face cream plays the philosophy game, but does nothing extra for my aging skin … well, like Earth Energy Reader said, yup–this is commodification. The difference is, though, an air-tight, syllogistic philosophy could be a form of information, too.

    Not exactly yoga, though. No Hindu Gods were either promoted or harmed in that production

  2. so much illusion to present truth

    1) Your undergrad degree is TOTALLY getting a run for its money.
    2) I SEE YOU!
    3) 🙂

  3. Mind-colonization tool #2 Try and convince the soon-to-be mind-colonized, that their system of living does not work, and has no chance in H-E-double hockey sticks of ever working–as in the way Dr. Phil used to say, “How’s that working out for you?”

    It does not take your being a Texan with that down-home logic for you as a mind-colonizer to do an East Coast variation of same …

    Beyond that, I’m still working on it …

  4. Damn. My shoulders had hiked up!

  5. LOL. Ready for the 3rd, the final, and the toughest. Yes, #3 – Mind-colonization tool.
    Play favorites and dumb everything down. Those are easy to do. Your personal services are at the service of the highest bidder. But, beyond that, make sure that only those without any beginner’s mind get appreciated publicly.

    Because this is the West, and in NO way will competition—at least under the table, in the smoky back-rooms, or at the after-party—be discouraged. Yup. Make a big deal about the 3rd limb of yoga. Harking back to Mind-colonization tool #1 — Ignore most of your public’s entreaties about Scripture (even if you know it) or totally dumb it down and don’t assume any of your public has any intelligence.

    So, with #3 we are in the aesthetic sphere and no longer in the spiritual sphere of “yoga” – the answers to “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!” become “yes”.

    I find it hard to think that even my former yoga teacher, however mercenary she is, could ever engage in mind-colonization tool #3 … which explains why I found it extremely hard to leave a studio THAT HADN’T WORKED FOR ME … a yoga teacher has to be really beyond redemption to go that far … I still think fondly about the woman from time to time … but I will check back in a few years and find out where her mind is when she has to help pay the mortgage and support a family …

  6. Thaddeus

    It’s like figuring out if you are up in front of people to serve God, or be God. It’s a razor’s edge on good days.

  7. __MikeG__

    No one needs to pick because the new age “many named god” double speak fails both intellectually and emotionally.

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