YOGILEBRITIES DESERVE THE SPOTLIGHT. LET’S GIVE IT TO THEM: YAMA Talent’s Ava Taylor Responds to the Criticism /// Obvies We Respond Back

AvaTaylor

The other day, YAMA Talent founder, Ava Taylor, posted a response to “elitist yogi’s” [sic] who have allegedly criticized her, her yoga talent agency, and the yoga teachers she represents. The post can be read in full here.

In the beginning of the post Ava lists a number of accusations by people she says “think that they know the only true & right way to yoga.” She does not call out the offenders by name, but rather refers to what I imagine to be specific accusations lobbed against her and her patrons. She states:

“Whether it is not wanting to sleep on someone’s couch when teaching at a studio (Diva!), being on TV saying “Pat” in reference to Patanjali (Fame seeker/dumbing down yoga!), having an agent help them manage their business, (Yoga isn’t a business!  Commercialization is wrong!), seeking opportunity rather than waiting around for it to happen to you (You’re teaching for the wrong reason!), or, actually expecting someone to pay you because they signed a contract agreeing to.  (You can’t dress like that in class, you can’t rap that mantra – I can go on for hours about all the negative ish [sic] I have heard very talented capable people having about what they dislike about someone else’s yoga.”

As can be seen, the offenses come across as rather tame. Here we have references to jesting about a person’s verbiage, arguing against commercialism, mocking pretentiousness, and challenging entitled notions of wealth, all of which seem pretty standard fare for a dynamic public discourse about public figures promoting their public agendas publicly about the increasingly public practice of yoga. And, while for some the level of mockery and criticism might seem to be unwarranted, it is important to remember that the criticism is largely directed at a pop cultural meme known as “commercial yoga culture,” the face of which is embodied in the yogilebrity, the support, in part, founded on talent agency platforms. For as Ava Taylor states:

“I am doing everything in my power to create a world where being healthy is worthy of celebrity….”

It would take years to catalog the extent to which people have been criticizing and, more importantly, poking fun at public figures, celebrities, and the world of commerce that supports both. We see this in caricatures….

HH The Dalai Lama

HH The Dalai Lama

Détournement…

The_Coca_Cola_series_final

And, memes….

Slags_o_136345

Sometimes these acts are done just for fun….

3329679539_0474f1df03

Other times as a form of social critique….

TA_Detournment_AbbyRd

All have their merits, as all fall squarely within the diverse tradition of graphic social commentary. And, when done with acerbic wit and razor sharp humor, critiques of public figures of upward mobility can take on an almost revolutionary appeal and has the effect of changing the tides of society’s trajectory.

What’s telling about Ava’s response, however, is that she seems to see herself and her business as somehow outside the realm of mockery. That her, it, and the celebrity yoga instructors she promotes are somehow unworthy of critique, both funny, serious, or satirical, unworthy of being at the receiving end of social commentary:

“[H]ow dare we (conscious individuals) waste time criticizing our fellow yogi’s who are working incredibly hard in their own way to bring these tools and messages to the masses? It is only a detriment to focus on throwing stones rather than supporting one another to grow our [sic] all our respective yoga businesses (and for the record, if you’re getting paid to teach, you DO have a yoga business).”

Rather than seeing the criticism against her “talent” as valid critiques against what many feel to be an aggressive commercialism, Ava chooses to read public response as an affront to her missionistic tendencies, her noble desire to, as she states later in the piece, have the tree of yoga “flower, bloom, and broaden its reach.” That somehow Ava’s mission is simply to “spread the good word.” With statements like these, we are lead to believe that Ava’s mission is irrefutable and, ultimately, pure.

This is curious as Ava criticizes those whom she suggests as being yoga purists “quite fond of being outspoken regarding how ‘non-yogic’ they perceive my company or clients to be.” She calls out people who “think they know the only true & right way to yoga.” In essence, Ava is stating that those who wish to define yoga for another are in the wrong.

Now, I don’t have the numbers, and I’m way too lazy to go and round them up, but I’d bet my mother that commercial yoga culture spends more time explicitly defining what yoga is, and with a bigger budget supporting it, than a few random commentors on yoga blogs or a site like The Babarazzi.

On the contrary, commercial yoga culture is rife with declaratives of what yoga is. “Yoga is about expressing yourself.” “Yoga is about freedom.” “Yoga is about being who you really are.” “Yoga is about standing up for what’s right.” “Yoga is….” “Yoga is….” “Yoga is….” Commercial yoga culture uses such empty language in order to cast a feel-good net far and wide so as to catch as many potential consumers as possible. Were commercial yoga culture to stop defining yoga in terms so loose that yoga became literally anything consumers wanted it to be, commercial yoga culture would risk alienating those with expendable incomes. In effect, it is bad business for commercial yoga culture to allow yoga to be anything less than, well, everything.

But, Ava does not seem to be interested in challenging that agenda. According to Ava’s piece, when it comes to commercialism, she would rather replace one product for another:

“Someone is going to be on TV with a message – imprinting and influencing your family, it may as well be a positive one. I’d rather have them hearing about Pat [Patanjali] than Lindsay [Lohan].” [brackets added]

Setting aside the defeatist tone, what’s interesting about the above statement, in addition to its irony, is that it shows how, despite her wanting to create a world where “Pat” is promoted over “Lindsay,” Ava fails to realize that her business, a business that aims to market the personalities of yoga teachers, replicates the culture that creates “Lindsay.” And yet, it should come as no surprise to know that “Lindsay” *is* because commercial culture *is*. If reforming the market is what you’re after, than Lindsay is not what is needed to be replaced. The celebrity culture that created Lindsay is where you should be looking. But, that is hard to do, if looking at celebrity culture means you will have to look at yourself.

And, this is where the philosophical dead end that is “conscious consumerism” comes into focus—where the idea that if we simply swap out a supposedly unhealthy product with a supposedly righteous one falls short of rectifying the problem of hyper-consumerism. Capitalism, while a fine enough system of exchange on the one hand, is ill-suited when placed in a context of rampant inequality. A supply-and-demand economic wreaks havoc on marginalized communities who create a hell of a lot of demand, but can not necessarily afford the supply unless it is manufactured to be of less quality or by less restricted labor practices, which, as you can imagine, simply creates more inequality.

Nevertheless, Ava believes that her public platform, and the public platforms of her most well-marketed personalities, are, for some reason, untouchable. Apparently, the only thing Ava’s roster of yogilebrites deserve is a pat on the back. The projection of an objectified personality and its schtick must be accepted, revered, and congratulated on a job well done. To Ava, critique is a detrimental “waste of time.” But who, or rather what, is really being criticized?

The human being is far too complex to market adequately, so it is required to essentialize the human in order to make it sellable. To this end celebrity culture promotes personalities. It deals in a humanity objectified. It does not promote human beings as that would not be cost-effective—too many unforeseeable outliers floating around. In order to rectify this potential disaster, celebrity culture must first bifurcate the human in order to separate out a marketable “self” or personality from the human. From there, an audience well-versed in pop cultural memes takes over. This is how someone like Mr Rogers can simultaneously be both “Mr Rogers the Human Who Helps Children,” and “Mr Rogers the Hilarious Pop Cultural Icon Who Was Obsessed with Befriending His Neighbors and Changing His Shoes.” In the same way, a person like Sadie Nardini can be both a great anatomy-based yoga instructor, as well as a walking “rockstar” schtick. The difference between Mr Rogers and Sadie is that Mr Rogers, while arguably a celebrity, did not suggest that his status was somehow a direct manifestation of child welfare, while Sadie continues to try and convince the public that “having a summer body” is, in and of itself, “yogic.” And, when the criticisms come, it’s on the defensive they go.

And, here is where the real issue lies. Celebrity yoga culture simply does not like having fingers pointed at it. It does not like being questioned or being seen. But, contrary to what Ava may see as a rising tide of unwarranted criticism by a growing cadre of yoga purists, what we here at The Babarazzi see occurring is something that we had hoped would happen as a result of our project. Commercial yoga culture, and celebrity yoga culture in particular, is becoming more and more isolated from the greater culture of yoga. It is becoming more and more seen. Up until now, commercial and celebrity yoga culture have been so enmeshed within the great culture of yoga practice so as to seem synonymous with it. People are now beginning to see that participating in commercial yoga culture and promoting the celebrity yoga teachers that ride its back are options. Specifically, celebrity yoga culture is becoming more and more a “style” of yoga, much like Bikram Yoga, Power Yoga, or Chair Yoga. A person can now choose to engage in a practice lead by a charismatic self-obsessed skin-sack of narcissism, or chose something less “celebrified.” We believe this to be a good thing.

We believe that celebrity yoga culture deserves to be seen. In fact, in this respect, we are on the side of celebrity yoga culture. We want yogilebrities and their commercial ventures to come into focus, come out in the open and be paraded around like the celebrities they wish to be. Icons require display cases. Performers need to perform. We want yogilebrites to shine in as many technicolors as can be imagined. For only when we can see yogilebrities in plain site will we have the ability to purposefully ignore them.

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BONUS TRACK:

82 comments

  1. amphibi1yogini

    Yup, let them hide in plain sight. Until you get too close to an impromptu “exhibition” and one of them falls on you… Gravity does hurt.

    It finally happened to me. At Times Square. The solstice a few days ago.

    But it’s proof that I have finally advanced in my practice of non-commercial yoga …

    Anyway lesson learned.
    Newton’s Law of Gravity. What goes up must surely come down.

    When upscale people that support all this start getting insulin resistance, like I’d bypassed on my way to disease… then it’s on to the Cross-Fit stars …

  2. amphibi1yogini

    “The difference between Mr Rogers and Sadie is that Mr Rogers, while arguably a celebrity, did not suggest that his status was somehow a direct manifestation of child welfare”

    I could speak to that, implicitly. One of my family members owned a little day care center for a long time, and Mr. Rogers was her guiding light. But she knew, deep down, just who her clientele were … (“these careerist women!”, “not home with their young kids”) …

    , while Sadie continues to try and convince the public that “having a summer body” is, in and of itself, “yogic.” And don’t get me started on some of the more neo-colonialist, noblesse oblige karma yoga types … Here you’re just talking about hatha yoga … I know you’ve already spoken about karma yoga …

    Somehow, child welfare of the underserved child, as well, is conflated in all this, too, though …

  3. Chai Fan

    For someone so sure of what she is doing, she sure comes off as defensive. Its a condescending tone to those her criticize her, and she can’t even pull that off well.

    I am also sick of hearing about “the revolution”, yoga as a revolution. As something that has been around for so long (since “Pat”, barf by the way, established something), wouldn’t it have already revolutionized something? I see yoga as a personal practice of self-discipline. Maybe towards self-improvement. Though I have been around the yoga thing long enough to see that it doesn’t necessarily make someone a better person. Sometimes it even does the opposite. But if you have some kind of discipline, it can maybe make one feel better. And I stick with it because for the most part it works for me.

    Anyway, the whole “revolutionary” thing is just another selling point. And, There are plenty of good people out there, going through their own personal journey of becoming a better person or finding clarity who will never touch a yoga mat. Those however many millions (“the masses”) she claims wanting to bring yoga to, and not just yoga in general but yoga with her roster of yoga-lebrities-maybe best to let them be! At this point they know yoga is there and will come to it if they want to. (oh, yeah, some of them have bank accounts).

    Great piece.

  4. Bostonyogi

    New reader. Love your blog. Keep the truth coming!

  5. the moment already came

    Slow Clap.

    • Wait. That’s negative, right?

      • the moment already came

        What?! Really? Aw, crap…I have been using the slow clap to express thoughtful admiration growing to enthusiastic championing for years now. What does it really imply?

        I have to go apologize to so many people now. Fucking Internet, I don’t know how to use this thing. I just learned about butthurt yesterday. I thought it was literally describing a hurt butt.

        • Well, at first I thought, “Slow clap means good.” But asked another Babarazzi within earshot who thought a slow clap meant not good. I suppose it could go either way.

          What’s funny is that the slow clap came right around the moment I thought to myself, “I am the greatest writer of all time.” So, it was a very sweet form of humbling. But, now that I know it was congratulatory in nature, I can pick up my crown again. Winter is coming.

          • the moment already came

            Apparently the slow clap is a far more multivalent term than I had imagined:

            The Slow Clap:
            1) In film and television, a response to the hero’s climactic speech wherein the audience transitions from stunned silence to unanimous support through gradually a escalating clap.

            2) An ironic, or more often sarcastic, variation on the first, wherein a mocking listener claps slowly to express disagreement or contempt with the speaker’s point.

            3) The leisurely acquisition of gonorrhea.

            I was commenting with the first meaning in mind… Okay, also a little of the third. I’m sorry, I should have told you before we started blogging, but you know how excited I get when you post.

          • jorge

            the slow clap is ALWAYS good!!! its like a post-apocalyptic victory cry. big in the 80s particularly. here’s my favorite, still brings tears:

            oh ya, great article. thanks for the post.

          • Holy shit. Totally forgot about this movie. Gotta re-watch.

  6. Yoga_Dude

    Ms. Taylor needs to acknowledge that she want to change the fundamental relationship between the student and the teacher, a relationship that has defined the connection between the Guru and the Student. I would imagine that most here at one time sought something and that something turned out to be yoga. As prospective students, we had a void and filled that void by seeking out and establishing a yoga practice.

    Ms. Taylor wants to put up a sign that says “the answer to your question is yoga….which can be found via on of my clients.” Changing yoga from a student driven model to a teacher driven model, in my opinion, disregards the need for the student to come to the realization that a yoga practice (however that is accomplished) is the best answer for them at that time. It is an attempt to establish shift from quality to quantity.

    Moving from self-selection to a cattle call will be a interesting time for yoga. With all things as the pendulum shifts from orthodox yoga to yoga-lebrities, there will be a counter shift down the road to “traditional yoga” as taught by XYZ with teachers touting ties to a lineage (Jois, Iyengar, Sivananda, etc…) to prove that they are the real deal. This will lead to schisms similar to what is found in the marshal arts world.

    Market saturation is a wonderful cleansing mechanism.

    Sorry for my babbling.

    I hope everyone has a wonderful practice today.

  7. Fred Rogers was an ordained minister as well.
    Ava’s rant reeks of bourgeoisie entitlement cloaked in faux-sanctimony and condescension. I don’t think she (and most people who take offence to this blog) understands that Babs is actually anarchist in essence. So of course her diatribe comes across that way. They are capitalist apologists and instead of examining their own premises, just go along with the system and further it.

  8. Susan Tanner

    “Whatever you are to begin with, yoga makes you MORE of that. So, if you start out an a$$hole, you become a flexible a$$hole.” (My particular favorite somewhat famous yoga celebrity quote.)

  9. Thank you, thank you. When I sat on the toilet the other morning reading Ava’s letter in my email in box, I started getting constipated thinking of how long it was going to take me to write back to her, to clarify my angry, muddled, frustrated first response. A succinct “fuck you” would obviously seem kinda nasty. So thank you so much for taking the time to write so brilliantly everything I wish I could have.Reading this was like taking the perfect shit. Xxx

  10. This is what makes Babarazzi great.

    “a business that aims to market the personalities of yoga teachers, replicates the culture that creates ‘Lindsay.'”

    I find this most interesting. And leads me to the question: Is there a way for yoga teachers to market what they do that does not replicate the culture that creates Lindsay? If so, what is the difference?

    Most of all, I wholeheartedly second the observation that people are beginning to see clearly that they have a choice as to what “style” they engage. Ten years ago, when I told someone at a party that I was a yoga teacher, the most common response was: “what is yoga?” Nowadays, when I am at a party and someone learns I am a yoga teacher, they ask: “Oh Really? What kind of yoga do you teach?”

    I agree, it a good thing. Lets bring it all to light and be discerning:
    http://yogijbrown.com/2013/01/not-your-parents-yoga/

  11. Garuda

    If you would like extra credit for spreading the word about healthy living, get in line sister

  12. Greenpoint

    The Spectacle of Yoga indeed, that’s what AT is really pushin’/sellin’….she needs some Guy Debord to help her see more clearly, or she probably is distinctly aware of what she is doing and the last thing she wants to do is actually “see it” for what it is…

    all these definitions they throw around of yoga are carefully selected, for the more they can mean anything, the more they mean nothing, which in the hyper commercial world of anything is exactly what you want (if you’re the pusher)….

  13. Your Mother

    Thank goodness for Yoga Journal’s commitment to the yogilebrity. If it weren’t for them putting Sean Corn on their cover with an in depth interview years ago, I honestly may have never found my way into a yoga class. Fortunately, 13 years have passed and I’m more committed to this path than ever before. Think of how many times YJ has been copied since their first subscription. It’s just a matter of time before we have yoga talent agencies popping up across the globe. Yogilebrities are surfacing worldwide, and they have always been an important part of yoga culture. That’s right folks. I hate to brake it to you, but yogilebrities have been here from the beginning, and there’s no good reason for that to all of a sudden change thousands of years into it.

    When will you be writing about the first and greatest yogilebrities of all? How about the celebrity status of Vivekananda after his talk in Chicago? Or the way Krishnamacharya was brought to celebrity status worldwide by his followers, as have so many teachers of yoga, both in and out of India. Yogilebrities have been around as long as yoga has. In truth, this may be one of the reasons that yoga is still around today, and gaining in popularity. As unfortunate as it may be, the decline of the yogilebrity will be the decline of the global yoga population as a whole.

    • amphibi1yogini

      Yes, it will be a test of individual mettle. Could you live in a world without such “inspiration from without”, and as someone not practicing yoga in a cave or in an underground ashram, with authentic Hindu yogis–have the discipline to keep it together … on your own?

      That is the question of the hour, and it bears being posed (pardon the pun)….

      http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/05/why-i-quit-the-yoga-business-nina-mel/

    • Garuda

      Yo Mama Dont Dance…and Yo Daddy dont Rock and roll.
      But Walt Whitman did Rock:

      I CELEBRATE myself;
      And what I assume you shall assume;
      For every atom belonging to me, as good belongs to you.

      I loafe and invite my Soul;
      I lean and loafe at my ease, observing a spear of summer grass. 5

      Houses and rooms are full of perfumes—the shelves are crowded with perfumes;
      I breathe the fragrance myself, and know it and like it;
      The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.

      The atmosphere is not a perfume—it has no taste of the distillation—it is odorless;
      It is for my mouth forever—I am in love with it; 10
      I will go to the bank by the wood, and become undisguised and naked;
      I am mad for it to be in contact with me.

      The smoke of my own breath;
      Echoes, ripples, buzz’d whispers, love-root, silk-thread, crotch and vine;
      My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart, the passing of blood and air through my lungs; 15
      The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore, and dark-color’d sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn;
      The sound of the belch’d words of my voice, words loos’d to the eddies of the wind;
      A few light kisses, a few embraces, a reaching around of arms;
      The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs wag;
      The delight alone, or in the rush of the streets, or along the fields and hill-sides; 20
      The feeling of health, the full-noon trill, the song of me rising from bed and meeting the sun.

      Have you reckon’d a thousand acres much? have you reckon’d the earth much?
      Have you practis’d so long to learn to read?
      Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?

      Stop this day and night with me, and you shall possess the origin of all poems; 25
      You shall possess the good of the earth and sun—(there are millions of suns left;)
      You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books;
      You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me:
      You shall listen to all sides, and filter them from yourself.

      I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the beginning and the end; 30
      But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.

      There was never any more inception than there is now,
      Nor any more youth or age than there is now;
      And will never be any more perfection than there is now,
      Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now. 35

      Urge, and urge, and urge;
      Always the procreant urge of the world.

      Out of the dimness opposite equals advance—always substance and increase, always sex;
      Always a knit of identity—always distinction—always a breed of life.

      To elaborate is no avail—learn’d and unlearn’d feel that it is so. 40

      Sure as the most certain sure, plumb in the uprights, well entretied, braced in the beams,
      Stout as a horse, affectionate, haughty, electrical,
      I and this mystery, here we stand.

    • Hi, Your Mother. Great comment. Two things:

      1. “How about the celebrity status of Vivekananda after his talk in Chicago? Or the way Krishnamacharya was brought to celebrity status worldwide by his followers…”

      For better or worse, the site deals almost exclusively with contemporary yoga culture, as our little homepage slogan states: “Giving contemporary yoga culture the star treatment.” Examining yoga culture as a whole is simply too big a project for us. It is the contemporary commercial manifestation that interests us most. There are, of course, a few recent books on the subject you may check out if you’re interested. The Subtle Body in particular comes to mind. In addition, Aghori Babarazzi is working on a book that includes a short, but sweet, reference to the yoga agent as it pertains to the “founding fathers” of contemporary yoga asana practice.

      2. “[T]he decline of the yogilebrity will be the decline of the global yoga population as a whole.”

      It is our opinion that something else will, as it always does, fill this vacuum. As we’ve said before, yoga practice is not our concern here. Yoga has “survived” for arguably thousands of years in one form or another. I have no reason to believe that the passing of yogilebrity culture into the abyss will have any discernible effect on “awareness” or “self-development.” And, if yoga does go away, perhaps we will all start doing Qi Gong. Wouldn’t be the worst thing. Personally, I am less interested in the form of my practice, and more in its “effects,” so to speak. Consequently, I am willing to try anything that is said to “work.” As such, I have no interest in “protecting” yoga, or making it “flourish,” or proselytizing it to the masses. My only interest, and this is a highly personal one, is to see people feel/experience/examine their bodies with a finer lens, an experience that I hope would lead to a more refined appreciation of how these bodies interact in/with its environment (eating, sleeping, moving, breathing, flexing, contracting, softening, lengthening, etc.). (For a slightly different take on this matter, please see this Babarazzi piece on breakdancing).

      Thanks for stopping by!

      • Your Mother

        Well thanks for the compliment, but it certainly took you long enough. I’m used to seeing your replies to comments much sooner. Truth be told, I suppose the slow clap thread was much more entertaining than my comment. My feelings are not hurt.

        Unfortunately, there will never be a “passing of yogilebrity into the abyss,” as you wish to believe. It was there in the beginning, it will be there till the end. I’m happy that you seem to recognize this to some degree.

        But I’ll admit – it is nice to think that these teachings may someday survive on their own, without big personalities, like Yogananda & Iyengar, helping to spread them along their way. Perhaps there is a chance that by staying humble, soft spoken, and out of media or the greater public’s eye, these teachings of yoga may be able to continue reaching the masses as they have over the past 15yrs.

        The majority of those practicing yoga in the west, wouldn’t be doing so if it weren’t for the rise of the yogilebrity. If a practitioner’s personal practice hasn’t been inspired by a yogilebrity, you can guarantee that one of their teachers or the owner of the studio that they practice in, has been inspired by one. Yogi Bajan was the yogilebrity who ultimately inspired the yoga studio I currently practice at. Pratabhi Jois was the yogilebrity who inspired the studio down the street. Iyengar’s yogilebrity inspired the studio a few blocks away. Baron Baptiste is the yogilebrity who inspired the studio on the north side, and Ann Forest’s yogilebrity inspired a studio on the south side. I thank yoga for the yogilebrity.

        P.S – I’ve been doing Qi Gong for years. I’ll be eager to read your blog dedicated to the rise of the Qi Gonglebrity. I give it another decade at least. The Thai Chi-lebrity should be coming around a bit sooner.

        • We do have lives off this god forsaken deathbox of light. Not to mention, when u write a post that takes hours to finish, you try and let the kids do the rest of the talking. Which, if you haven’t noticed, is well taken care of around here. We love the Krazy Babz Kidz Crue!

          • Your Mother

            Good to know you have a life away from anonymity. There may still be hope for your cause yet. Please let me know where the application is for joining the Krazy Babz Kidz Crue. I’ve always wanted to be a part of the cool kids club that gets to pick on those with popularity. Thanks for making this possible for us.

          • Oh you can defs be in the club! Although, sending all those lists of brown people we’re supposed to run after and criticize, ’cause hey its not fair to the whites, doesn’t get u in any faster. But, again. The fact that you are here means you can stay.

      • Your Mother

        Wow! I’m honored. It’s rare for you to show hurt feelings. Please feel free to humor me by denying this.

        But, I’m confused. Are you referring to Indians as brown people. I, being a brown person myself, find great offense to this. If you mean Indian, type Indian. If you feel as though I was leading you to criticize some of the greatest and most Famous master teachers in yoga, stop trying to read so deep between the lines. It’s time to step back and witness consciousness as it observes itself.

        Why don’t we start over again, and leave the distasteful remarks offline?

    • Chai Fan

      Would somebody PLEASE PLEASE think of the global yoga tribe!!

      • Do yogilebrities exist in other countries to the extent of the US/Canada? If so, I’d like to hear about it.

        • Your Mother

          Here’s one of my all time faves since your interested. According to Wikipedia, “Swami Ramdev is best known for popularizing yoga among health conscious Indians through his mass yoga camps and TV shows.”
          His show is my fave when killing time in India or Nepal around the tube. Enjoy!

          • I meant are there celebrity yoga instructors in other parts of the world who are trying to sell their yoga clothes, yoga mats, yoga podcasts, fitness bootcamp DVD’s, expensive retreats at high-end holiday villas in exotic locations (not ashrams). I’m wondering how much all of the aforementioned is a North American phenomena or if it is more widespread.

        • Your Mother

          Yes. In fact there are celebrity yoga instructors in other parts of the world who are trying to sell their yoga products and high end retreats as a way to make a living. Satya Sai Baba is another who comes to mind. Who doesn’t love Sai Baba’s Nag Champa incense? http://www.fiveandten.jp/?pid=15848866

        • Mellie

          EER I’m in Australia, and no, the rabid rise of the yogilebrity has not yet hit our shores. Although we adopt most of our “culture” from the US, we have what is called the “tall poppy syndrome” – when somebody gets too big for their boots and prances around like a puffed up peacock attempting to fly to the highest roof , they get pulled back down to earth pretty fast. Generalising here but most Australians can smell bullshit a mile away.

          • amphibi1yogini

            I can believe it in the case of Simon Borg-Olivier … he’s got an international reputation, but like many other Aussie yogalebrities, I’m pretty sure he’s had to fight his way (and with more substance offered) to recognition …

          • Your Mother

            Mellie – I find your peacock saying to be fascinating, however, after a quick google search, I easily found almost a dozen wannabe yogilebrities in Australia. The fact that there happens to be an Australian Yoga Journal doesn’t help the support of your claim.

            Examples of Australian wannabe yogilebrity based on media coverage, books, dvd’s, endorsements, high end retreats: Jessie Chapman, Yolanda Pettianato, Simon Borg Oliver, Louise Wiggins, Dominique Santana Salerno, and many more. Apparently even Miranda Kerr is turning into quite the Aussie Yogilebrity according to the internet. Our American equivalent would be Christy Turlington.

            I considered leaving Donna Farhi off of this list since she’s from New Zeland, however NZ is so close to AU, and she happens to be one of the biggest names out there. She was also the first yogilebriy I had ever heard of, and still happens to be my fave.

          • Mellie

            Your Mother , New Zealand is close to Australia, just like Canada is close to the US, but NZ ain’t Australia, it’s a bona fide country unto itself, gee, it’s even got its own government and prime minister! Feel free to check up on Google. And sorry, never heard of Ms Pettianato or Ms Salerno, their talent agencies obviously are not doing a good enough job with their PR. Simon and Louise have been around for a loooong time and proven themselves, don’t know about Jessie’s credentials. And Miranda Kerr saying she “does” yoga? Well, you know that those who talk it, ain’t it.
            Oh you must have missed the words “generalising here” at the end of my comments.

          • Your Mother

            Oh Sweetie. Canada isn’t just close to the U.S, we actually share a huge boarder line with them. My point was within the fact that, Yes, yogilebrity culture has for sure hit the AU shores, and no westernized country is safe from this. Not just your shores, but many others, like New Zealand, Korea, Japan, even Singapore, obviously none of which are within AU. My apologies for any hurt feelings that have stemmed from the misreading of New Zealand as a part of Australia, within my previous comment.
            Someone I had forgotten to add to the Aussielebrity list is, Mr. Robbie Baldwin. Regardless of the Aussie public interest in yoga culture, or whether you personally have heard of them or not, it is clear from their internet offerings that the before mentioned list of Aussie’s are doing their best to fit into the role of yogilebrity, regardless of who’s listening.

          • Your Mother

            Aussi Yogilebrities continue to pop up all over my internet. Apparently the Aussilebrity is more popular in Singapore than the AU shores. Amy Landry is a good example. Anytime Yoga Journal shows up, the yogilebrity isn’t far behind.

    • The P

      I’m confused?? Why would you buy/read an issue of Yoga Journal if you had never been to a yoga class or had any introduction or interest in yoga? What lead you to pick up the mag in the first place? Was it Sean Corn’s hair? She does have great hair!

      I started yoga in a gym because I was into working out. I went deeper because I’ve always had the spiritual seeker thing going on. I sampled the popular yogilebrities at some point with DVDs (really VHS’s at that point) and even had a brief subscription to Yoga Journal. It was shallow, i got bored and simply kept on with the local classes and then found my way to some scholars and legitimately knowledgable and informed folks. You don’t need yogalebrities to bring you to yoga at all.

      One thing I will say regarding “celebrity” status of earlier yogis .. go into a gym yoga class and ask if anyone knows who Vivekananda or Krishnamacharya is and I would be willing to bet you get few if any takers.They may have been know in smaller esoteric circles back in the day but they were never mainstream celebrities. Ask people who Jack LaLane was and the majority of people will know. Household name and all that.

      • amphibi1yogini

        And how many who know who Jack LaLanne was, would know who Bernarr McFadden was … ?

        • The P

          Sure, but did MacFadden ever reach the level of widespread recognition and long term popularity (i.e., celebrity) that LaLanne did? He certainly was a pioneer in the culture of health and fitness in the west (as well as publishing and other business ventures) and well known in certain circles in his time. LaLanne’s name is recognized more often today because of both his contributions to the health and fitness industry and the celebrity footprint he left behind – the long running television shows, the books and diets, the merchandizing that is still going on today (google juicer and it’s one of the top brands that show up, name recognition). I’m sure the advent of widespread television certainly helped LaLanne gain a level of broader popularity and name recognition that was not available to MacFadden in his time.

          Now, would Vivekananda or Krishnamacharya fall into the category of celebrity (that’s what we’re talking about here yoga celebrity – yogilebrity? To me they seem more like MacFadden in that they were pioneers, forerunners, groundbreakers; but celebrities, I don’t know that I buy that.

      • Your Mother

        Since you asked, my first reading of Yoga Journal was at a friends house.
        At the time, I was not interested in yoga, or really anything that had to do with health and wellness.
        Yes, Sean has fabulous hair.
        I also started taking classes in a gym, but have never had a subscription to YJ as you have.
        I had never heard of Jack LaLane, but thanks for introducing us. I’m guessing most body builders haven’t heard of Sean Corn. Truthfully, most yogi’s in India haven’t heard of Sean Corn, just as most yogi’s in the states haven’t heard of Indian yogilebrity Shrii Shrii Anandamuri. The idea of being “mainstream” changes with time and location.

        • The P

          Mainstream — Products and services which are readily available to and appealing to the general public, as opposed to being of interest only to a very specific subset of the public. This definition does not change with time or location but, of course, the products, services and public appeal do. Neither Vivekananda nor Krishnamacharya were in the mainstream (in the west, at least) during their time the way the current crew of yogilebrities are today (20 million practicing yoga in the US as of 2012, not too far off from 24 mill playing soccer in US, yoga studios are ubiquitous in just about every city, about as mainstream as you can get).

          It’s a bit ludicrous to draw parallels between contemporary commercial asana teachers selling overpriced work out clothing and weight loss DVDs and the teachings shared by Vivekananda and Krishnamacharya. They were sharing a legacy not trying to capitalize on a popular trend to create passive income and personal wealth (not that there haven’t been gurus and yogis in India and elsewhere who have done just that).

          • Your Mother

            Yogilebrities can be created be someone other than the yogilebrity themselves. The Babarazzi, for example, is currently a leading force behind the creation of the yogilebrity. I wouldn’t know who half of these yogilebrities were if The Babarazzi didn’t put them on such a high pedestal.

          • We don’t create them. We highlight them. Give them some help. It’s the least we can do.

          • Your Mother

            I had never heard of a yogilebrity till finding the Babarazzi months ago. Kudos for coining the term. In fact, I hadn’t yet heard of most teachers highlighted on this blog, but have since researched many of them. Some I’ve subscribed to newsletters, youtube channels, blogs etc. Your giving them more than a little help. In some circles you may be highlighting the yogilebrity, but in others, your creating them, as hard as that may be to acknowledge.

          • Oh, Your mother. We don’t really care. Create them. Promote them. Mock them. Love them. It’s the spectacle of commerce. Peeps can decide for themselves. If a celebrity yoga instructor is what makes you happy, by all means. I like Uniqlo underwear. We all have our things.

            But, again. If what you get from here is a better knowledge, and possible appreciation, of yogilebrities, a term we did not coin I am sorry to say, than that is cool by me. Seriously.

    • I think it is a stretch to draw a direct parallel between the status that Krishnamacharya held in his time and the yogalebrity of today that spawned Babs. TK was a sincere scholar who died a deeply frustrated man, unable to escape the confines of Brahman culture. He wasn’t selling anything. And his son TKVD explicitly avoided becoming a yogalebrity, even though folks tried to make him into one he easily could have. (That the grandson did not follow in their footsteps is another tragic story.) The point is that Babs is onto something here. There is some aspect of “contemporary yoga culture” that is specific to the times we share. Parsing the meld of yoga and markets is really the only way to consider what is happening and any possible ways forward.

      Having said that, there is a strong case to be made that yoga celebrity status is on the decline. I have been sneaking in a gig here and there at some “mainstream” spots over the years and last month I was amazed at the sparse selections in the gift shop. As far as I can tell, the yoga DVD is dead. When was the last time here anyone actually purchased a DVD? No more money in DVD’s = no more yoga DVD’s. Its all going online and via Skype now, my friends. And there is a definite turn towards keeping things “in house” and more local. Honestly, yogalebrities don’t seem to have the same draw they once did. Folks are often just as happy to have their week of transformation and renewal with the lovely people who live right where they do.

      Ultimately, I agree that threads run through us crazy humans throughout time. Question is whether we might add something worthwhile to the slurry.

      • Your Mother

        It’s true. Krishnamacharya is a stretch from the less humbled yogilebrity of today. My point was simply that yogis have been taken to celebrity status for as long as yoga has been around, and that it’s their fans who bring them to that status, regardless of their marketing ventures. Any biography of Krishnamacharya will highlight his humble approach to life and his teachings, but it will also highlight his fame throughout and after his life. Plenty of people have made money off of the use of Krishnamarcharya’s name. Yogananda and Yogi Bajan happened to have both support in numbers and marketing, the same as many yogilebrities today.

      • No, J Brown, the yoga DVD is very much alive … as an adjunct to the wood pulp publishing offerings of current yoga fusion celebrities such as Jillian Michaels, Mandy Ingber, Diamond Dallas Page, Bob Harper, Mike McArdle, Kristin McGee, and yes, even Kimberly Fowler … the focus has moved off the yoga-only bunch once those ironic Gen Xers find they are a little too old/busy, etc. for the woo-woo and trying to learn handstand and ready for some fusion action …

      • Tooco

        Just one issue with this J. Brown:
        Where do you get that Krishnamacharya died “a deeply frustrated man”? From my study with direct students of Krishnamacharya I have never heard this judgement of his mental or emotional state in later years or at death. I don’t interpret his biographies in this way either. That he was unable to “escape the confines of Brahman (sic.) culture” sounds like an enormous – and deeply culturally prejudiced – value judgement to me. Who’s to say that Krishnamacharya experienced Brahmin culture as confining and wanted to escape anything? When you die do I have to say you died frustrated because you hadn’t managed to escape the confines of North American culture?

        • Tooco- I have been doing some research on TK for a book and the assessment that he was frustrated comes from people who were there and observed him in his final years. Most of the biographies are more in reverence than offering any sociological analysis. The idea that he was bound by his culture is not a criticism of the culture that he loved, but more to the injustices that he observed (i.e. his pioneering of woman having rights.) It is safe to say that I am equally “unable to escape the confines” of my North American culture all the same. The pursuit of yogi’s has always served as a leavening. But the tides of culture often tend against.

  14. This post is like a big Pat on the back from Mary Poppins–practically perfect. And the funny thing is that in respect to yoga culture’s casting of the giant “Yoga is…” net, the YS (as it is extant today) does the opposite. “Yoga is the cession of the fluctuations of the mind.” So yoga is…nothing. Not even Buddha could end the fluctuations of his mind because it includes Right Knowledge, Wrong Knowledge, Imagination, Sleep and Memory. So yoga doesn’t exist. It may be non-existent but it doesn’t exist, and that means Pat suggested we cast out the net of Yoga as a non-existent net. Of course, the people promoting the Patanjali myth and a counterfeit version of the YS do the opposite. Of course. That’s perfect too in its craziness. But, being an asshole, I still say it’s better to replace an “old chestnut” with a new one, which means swapping the Pat myth for Gonika myth I have uncovered. (I’ve already explained that one here and it was basically ignored as usual–just as it was on ej. Same crowd I guess. Kidding.).

    • Garuda

      I guess if you wish to chase a myth…have at it…all roads lead away from heaven. The Ones they put on altars knew and realized it, some of them paid with their lives, and for what? To have their realizations deposited into “The Myth Pile”. OK.
      The moral tenets of the YS or Buddhism are not rules, they are noble strategies. A matrix on which the practitioner can hang their coat, get outta their mind/ bodies and just be without abandoning life altogether.

      • »The moral tenets of the YS or Buddhism are not rules, they are noble strategies.«

        I like that. I think they serve well as rules for those who are still seeing themselves as somehow separate and in control, as pretty much all of us do, at least to begin with. We discard them prematurely at our peril.

  15. So, Garuda, you aren’t chasing a myth every time you reference the Pat in connection with the YS? And while you state that chasing a myth down the road is no worse than any other chasing down any other road, the implied criticism is still there. I like mythology. I like mythology the way Robert Svaboda likes mythology. Have you ever read the “The Greatness of Saturn?” Brilliant. Well interpreted, myths convey deeper truths than science. That’s why a piece of great mythology is the real connector to raja yoga (original yoga), a piece of great science fiction (celestrial beings gave yoga to humankind) is the real connector to bhakti yoga, and a buried piece of great poetry (the original YS) is the real connector to jnana yoga, a great piece of religiosity is the real connector to karma yoga, and real yogic science is the real connector to hatha yoga. The hierarchy takes us from mythology down to science. But the hierarchy reverses in terms of inclusiveness and accessibility (Love) because everyone can understand yogic science (the idea that Yoga comes from a non-existent Field of Knowledge) and only a few adepts (the Rishis) could understand yogic mythology (the idea that Shiva gave yoga to humankind). That makes hatha yoga Yoga’s crowning evolutionary achievement.

    • Garuda

      That is a lot to chew on. I might offer that the Akashic Field was accessed by Edgar Cayce and documented quite well. After reading quite a few of his notes on the clinical studies, there was no mention of Rishis.
      There is a constant running through most of the Argle Bargle ( thank you Justice Scalia). It is that the Field of awareness that is spoken of is Un-Nameable. Any religiosity around it is a superimposition of some mind

      • Garuda

        I dont really care if the YS were penned by Patanjali, or Yogi Berra,,,ok not Yogi Berra. The lineage of the sutras has little to do with their efficacy. To quote a great Baseball/Yoga sage:
        IN THEORY, THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THEORY AND PRACTICE.
        IN PRACTICE, THERE IS. ~ Yogi Berra

        • I’ll try one more time, G. It’s not about whether you care who authored the sutras. And I commend you for being all about practice. Cool. But if you think the sutras have efficacy, then you relate to them as an expression of consciousness–even if the relating is casual or even negative. Lots of people hate the Sutras. Lots of people don’t think Pat existed. In respect to Gonika, it doesn’t matter. The lineage of the sutras may have little to do with their efficacy. But the sutras are about consciousness and if they have taught us anything about consciousness, it’s that we affect consciousness through belief–both conscious and unconscious. So it actually would matter to you if Yoga Berra authored the Sutras. Be honest, it would. Perhaps you would respect them more since you appreciate him as a sage, but no matter how objective you tried to be, it would change the way you relate to the sutras if you connected them to a modern baseball sage rather than an ancient mythological one. And while you are absolutely correct that I’m swapping one myth for another, since we are affected by the myth–whether or not we recognize it–we might as well relate things to a better interpretation of the myth. The Gonika myth is better in every conceivable way and since we do refer to the author of the YS so much, why not make a change? It’s a thousand times better in respect to gender politics. It also makes more sense in connection to the myth itself, which becomes silly as a story of origin. Gonika gave birth to Patanjali in her palm. A patanjali is a fallen prayer–a poem if you will. I love the WW poem you posited here. So it wasn’t a snake-boy in her palm. It was Knowledge in the form of a poem. I know you don’t care about those last parts, but we’re affected anyway, and now are you starting to feel me? A little? Don’t you think WW would have loved my Vonnegut avatar?

          • Garuda

            Not sure if you know who Yogi Berra is. He was a catcher for the New York Yankees
            Anywho, I will endeavor to persevere until I realize with abiding passion and indifference that the [I] that I refer to is Illusion and real at the same time. It is one thing to conceive, another to understand, but its a whole different ball game to realize THAT.
            I enjoy your posts. I hope Babbarrazzi lets you into the klub house. The dues are reasonable and the benefits of a good belly laugh outweigh about three years of SERIOUS YOGA PRACTICE…Peace

          • the moment already came

            Dearest Butt Hurt,
            First of all, I love that you have embraced this avatar. That is class.
            Nextly, since I’m one of the folks who responded to your original revisionist pitch awhile back, and since you’re still peddling it, I’d like to respond again, specifically to this part:

            “I’m swapping one myth for another, since we are affected by the myth–whether or not we recognize it–we might as well relate things to a better interpretation of the myth. The Gonika myth is better in every conceivable way.”

            I find your story convenient but not compelling. Convenient to the gender politics you like, and not compellingly connected to any meaningful evidence. And I find something queasy and very problematic about telling a story that basically says, “this awesome lady popped out some sacred wisdom but then some nasty dudes snatched it and dick-scribbled all over it,” when you have no evidence that that’s what actually happened.

            I get that the ladies have been put down for a good long time, and I get that you like the gasp-inducing sound that comes when we imagine that yet another piece of the feminine mystique was squashed by the sausage brigade. But when you say that’s a better story in every conceivable way, I disagree. I’d like you to conceive of the possibility that making up yet another story of feminine oppression detracts, not adds to the value of the myth by co-opting it for what appears to be your pet project. Which, no offense, is kinda what a lot of these yogalebrities are up to.

            Dude history has got to answer for a lot of real sordid shit– just because you like the notion that the fellas don’t know how to treat a lady don’t mean this time it’s true.

            That said, if something more compelling than what you’ve offered emerges, I will be the first one to jump up and go, “Can you believe this crazy shit about the Yoga Sutras?! And Butt Hurt called it before anyone else, what is he, a wizard, a genius?!” Until then, I’ve got both feet rooted in who the fuck cares?

          • Dear the moment already came,
            you make some good points. I think you’re right to keep an eye on the feminine mystique issue you describe so vividly and well. “Sausage brigade.” Nice. And I really do hear you there. Some of what made me sick about The Da Vinci Code was all syrupy feminist pandering. So I appreciate you calling me on that. And I don’t know how much more compelling you would find my more complete explanation, but (at the risk of revealing my true identity here), you can read the whole shabang on elephant journal. The post is called A Woman Authored the Yoga Sutra. If nothing else you might get a laugh out of how I manipulated an image of Patanjali to look like a woman.

          • the moment already came

            Butt Hurt–
            I actually did read your original–way back when it was posted on EJ, and for what it’s worth, I always found it really interesting and provocative, if problematic. I have even mentioned it in classes I teach covering the Sutras. And while it ultimately didn’t tip the scales for me, it certainly perked my ears up.

          • yogadas

            Good enough. Again, thanks to you and Garuda for the feedback.

  16. Hold on guys and gals, hold on! I’m on the road and I’m reading this post aloud to my husband, who is driving, and there are too many funny good things going on, like the “Leisurely acquisition of gonorreah”!
    And, Babs, while you are complimenting us–how bout adding my shit comment onto the list?
    Winter IS coming and I’m handing YOU the crown and fluffing up the cushion on the throne. Does it have a cushion?

  17. voxygen

    and there’s nothing “elitist” about Ava, pictured sitting in this humble establishment that serves wild boar – local and organic, mindfully butchered with hand-forged knives, respectful gratitude and artisanal flair

  18. Since my favorite left-handed Yogi Berra truism is “when you get to the fork in the road, take it,” I appreciate Garuda’s perspective stated above. Left-handed hitting catchers are hard to come by, but the Angels have one in development. He’s from Korea, not the Bronx, but if he plays really really well for say…I don’t know…ten years, then the Yankees (being today’s Yankees) will trade for him right when he’s out of gas.

    • Garuda

      What s his name? Where does he play now? I go to minor league games here and love watching prospects.

      • Hank Conger. He’s already playing for the Angels as a backup to Ianetta. I think Hank can be a really good hitter. Not the next Berra, but really good. The problem is his defense. The Angel coach is notoriously hard on good hitting catchers who can’t play D that well. Napoli for example. So we’ll see what happens.

  19. Doris

    Spot on. Excellent piece.

  20. Linda

    I haven’t read or written this level of deconstruction in a long time. And yes, she does deserve the criticism. As the late, great Art Buchwald once said: “I’m against anyone who’s in power.” All public figures should be subject to scrutiny.

  21. Doris

    Yes, we serve “wild boar.” ( Read “stressed out, miserable pig raised in horrific conditions but fed something organic.) Wild bore.

  22. novecho

    Yogi Berra….the original Yogi. I bought his extra wide yoga mat, his Catcher Glove Zafu, and joined his Kula

  23. Pingback: The Seduction of Spiritual Celebrity | Scientific News

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