Tag Archives: Judith Hanson Lasater

In Defense of ToeSox

ToeSox, the athletic apparel company that specializes in socks that fit five toes like a glove and have a sticky sole surface, was pilloried in the blogosphere a few months ago because it used two women au natural to model their merchandise. Kathryn Budig did ads that featured yoga poses. Carrie Macy did Pilates routines. Rarely mentioned was the photographer, Jasper Johal, who has specialized in the human form in various stages of undress — yoga, dance and fashion.

I have to admit that I’ve taken a peek at the ads in Yoga Journal. Of course, I have the excuse that I am an amateur photographer in love with the human body in a state of mindfulness. I was attracted by the challenge of capturing advanced asana without displaying any naughty parts.

For anyone living in a cave during August and September last year, here are a few pointers: Judith Hanson Lasater’s Facebook letter, It’s All Yoga, Baby’s portrayal of the dispute no more sexy yoga ads! and toesoxnudegate: the feminists & kathryn budig speak up, Elephant Journal and  JHN interview, or Yoga Journal’s defense with Naked Truth in response to JHN. Carol Horton’s take,  Naked Yoga Beauties Selling Stuff! Or, the Personal, the Political, and the Commodification of the Body.

I could not do justice to the diverse perspectives that came to bear on the issue, and there were many. But I’d like to come back to one aspect of the debate that did not get highlighted.  Some commentators sneered at ToeSox because this type of sock was not “standard-issue” yoga gear, and was therefore superfluous to the practice. ToeSox is merely exploiting yoga to flog conspicuous consumption and profit off objectifying women.

I started thinking, however, that there could be valid reasons to use grippy sole socks:

  • Modesty: Not everyone has feet that conform to classically shaped feet, or they may be sensitive to ridicule or just have a bad body image. I have seen people in yoga class who insist on keeping their socks on, and slide around on the mat.
  • Skin and nail conditions: Lots of people have reasons to hide their feet because various skin and nail diseases may disfigure their feet. These conditions can be resistant to treatment. Wearing clean socks to class (combined with a fungicide because these socks are not the equivalent of sanitized latex) would shield other yogis from possible infection.
  • Slick surfaces or slippery carpets: it’s a lot easier to fit a pair of socks in your carry-on than a yoga mat, even a travel mat. The ToeSox site points out that Pilates equipment can be slick.
  • Cold feet: poor circulation could make some people to bundle up their extremities (ToeSox also sells grippy gloves). I’ve practiced in a couple of rooms where I wished I’d had a pair of sox because a bad draft made my mat feel as if I’d pulled it out of the refrigerator.
  • Better than sneakers: in some gyms and fitness centers, people practice yoga in their athletic shoes so replacing sneakers with ToeSox is an improvement.

In defense of the company, ToeSox tries to do the right thing, supporting charities like the fight against breast cancer and sanctuaries for hard-to-place dogs and the Green Bus Project (an effort to share yoga and conscious living). The company uses organic cotton to protect the environment.

I guess what I am trying to say is that one of the virtues of a dynamic market economy is that it tends to respond to needs, even the niche demand of people who want to cover their feet (for whatever reason). Who are we to create even more obstacles to a yoga practice?

Dial-a-guru

Yoga Spirit [website has vanished without a trace] offers lectures by top-knotch yoga instructors via the phone at a modest cost (about $20 per hour):

Yoga Spirit’s tele-classes are live, interactive training classes conducted over the telephone through state-of-the-art teleconferencing bridge systems. You will receive timely knowledge, tools and techniques over the telephone that can benefit your life, teaching, practice and business immediately.

Among the teachers participating are Judith Hanson Lasater, Amy Weintraub, Elise Miller and Paul Grilley. Lat year they had Shiva Rea. Some of these lectures are for fellow yoga teachers who want to get insight into teaching certain techniques, but I could see any yoga practitioner get a lot out of the classes. If you are in a region that does not have many big-name teachers coming through your area and you can’t afford to go to a retreat or a yoga conference, then this would be a great chance to hear some interesting yoga experts.

If you can’t make it to the lecture at the appointed time, you will still pick up the class by listening to a recording.

More on Lotus

Alan Little has again come to the rescue with more advice on how to ready yourself to get into Padmasana (Lotus position) without injuring yourself. Coincidentally, last night I read an excellent article, “Yogi Beware: Hidden dangers can lurk within even the most familiar pose,” in February 2005 Yoga Journal by Judith Hanson Lasater. The article is not yet online or I would point to it. She also warns about three other poses: Paschimottanasana (seated forward bend), Marichyasana III (pose dedicated to the sage Marichi), and Chaturanga Dandasana (four-limbed staff pose).

Lasater’s article is useful because it points to other yoga poses that will help prepare you for Padmasana. She specifically mentions Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) and Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend), as well was others. In my case, I can’t get either of these positions right so I am far from attempting Lotus itself. The beauty of yoga is that there are a variety of poses that address the same muscle groups, some more advanced than others. In addition, there are modifications that can be made to poses to make them more approachable for beginners.

Like Alan, it may take me seven years (or more) to feel comfortable in Lotus pose. You start by accepting your own limits and use awareness to explore those limits without harming yourself. It’s not “no pain, no gain.” You patiently put in the time on the mat, and you will be rewarded in due course.

Getting hip — and showing my age

I am not a flexible yogi. If I had to make a list of areas I need to work on, I would end up with all the major joints in the body — from ankles to shoulders. But hips are up at the top of the list. I chanced across Hips Too Tight? If you’re having difficulty with forward bends, don’t assume it’s your hamstrings. Inflexible rotator muscles may be to blame. by Judith Hanson Lasiter. The article originally appeared in the January/February 2000 isssue of Yoga Journal, but this version also includes the photographs.