Tag Archives: Yoga Journal

Yoga Journal cleans up its link mess

Following up on a note I posted a month ago, I wanted to clarify that all links to Yoga Journal articles are working correctly. The web development team probably put in a forwarding protocol that automatically sends the visitor from my site to the linked YJ web page. Of course, that it should have implemented that mechanism before switching over from the old site because the new design had been available as a beta for months. Luckily for me, the mix-up happened just as I was about to head off for vacation and did not have time to start correcting all the bad links that were showing up. Now that I’m back, I see that all YJ links on this site seem to be working.

Now if they could only find the right balance between being an advertising vehicle and the most prominent yoga advocate for the United States.  If only there was an app for that.

Yoga Journal just screwed me royal

Cover art for Yoga Journal
September 2010

I’ve been a subscriber to Yoga Journal since I started my practice, about 10 years ago. I’ve read all their issues, cover to cover, except for the past year when things have gotten a bit hectic. But I’ve kept stacking the issues on my desk for future reading. The back issues fill up a bookcase shelf in my study.

More importantly, I’ve cited the magazine hundreds of times, to their pose listing, features, cover stories and other articles. I’ve even defended the magazine’s reliance on advertising to survive in a competitive marketplace. I saw it as a necessary barometer of yoga’s influence in American mainstream culture.

Today, the new editors of Joga Yournal released their “beta” edition of their website, designed to be more graphically optimized and ad-friendly.  I found this message after trying to load a JY link:

File Not Found
The page you are looking for might have been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable.

Please try the following:

  • Check your spelling
  • Return to the home page
  • Click the Back button

Talk about playing dumb. They know why I got a 404 error.

Continue reading Yoga Journal just screwed me royal

A new market study released about the US yoga market

Now we have a more current version of the market study about Yoga in America to tear our garments and lament the commercialization of yoga:

New Study Find More Than 20 Million Yogis in U.S. “The latest Yoga in America study shows that 20.4 million Americans practice yoga, compared to 15.8 million from the previous 2008 study, an increase of 29 percent. In addition, practitioners spend $10.3 billion a year on yoga classes and products, including equipment, clothing, vacations and media. The previous estimate from the 2008 study was $5.7 billion.”

I wrote about this previous version last year, It’s just money but who’s counting. What has been made public this time is just a press release. Yoga Journal will probably publish a longer piece in a coming issue of the magazine. At least now, we won’t have to cite the pre-Great Recession 2008 figures.

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?

An honor and a discovery

it’s all about the yoga, baby (aka, rosanne) just honored me by designating my History through the covers of Yoga Journal as one of the top 15 yoga posts of 2010.  Just imagine the company that puts me in: YogaDork, Namaste, BitchesThink Body Electric… and the list goes on.   That’s a lot of prana following through those pages. I haven’t had this kind of honor since Yahoo put my gci275.com on the site of the day list bacvk in 2003.

While we’re on the subject of Yoga Journal’s history, you can see the full archive at Google Books, with the last issue being December, 2008 and the Practice at Home Guide (2009).  Truly amazing! I have not check each and every one, but there they are, with all their content and in full color (except early issues when it was black and white, plus a color cover).  Is this legal?

It’s just money but who’s counting

Photo: a hand mudra during meditation
A classic hand mudra during meditation closes the energy circuits

Whenever the New York Times starts publishing multiple articles on yoga (two articles in less than a week; see the previous two blog entries), it usually portends a major existential crisis for the U.S. yoga community. The attention from major media is another indication that yoga is dipping into the American mainstream and losing its authenticity.

One of the central bugaboos for many commentators is that yoga  now means big bucks. Just look at some of  recent articles: The Future of YogaHow Yoga Sold Out (WSJ’s Speakeasy blog, written by  Stephanie Syman) and YogaDork’s Who Will Save Yoga?. Somewhere in these articles you’ll find a statement like “…yoga is a $6 billion industry with some 16 million American followers.”

These figures comes out of Yoga Journal‘s 2008 Yoga in America study. Journalists love the YJ figures because they come from a reputable source, confirm that yoga has moved beyond niche status, and impute the value of their own reporting on the topic (“My editor did not send me out to write a human interest feature about an ex-hippie.”). Continue reading It’s just money but who’s counting

History through the covers of Yoga Journal

Cover art for Yoga Journal
May 1975

Because this year is Yoga Journal‘s 35th anniversary, the magazine has been celebrating the milestone. Among them, they brought together all the cover art of Yoga Journal. Then they wanted visitors to pick the best all time, the most intriguing, the most inspiring and the favorite vintage. I did not vote because it seemed to be pointless exercise. But I did go through all 220 issues and began a reflection that came to some interesting conclusions. I’ve been a subscriber since 2004 (I have them all) and usually read it within a week of arrival. Stephanie Syman used the progress of Yoga Journal as a barometer of the discipline in the United States in her book, The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America.

The California Yoga Teachers Association started and owned Yoga Journal for the next 23 years. At its humble start in 1975, Yoga Journal looked completely amateurish (those were the days of photocopying the print run) and then gradually shifted to modestly acceptable for a niche magazine.

In late 1979, the magazine covers took a quantum leap in quality, becoming a professionally produced identifiable brand (or it may have reflected publishing tastes of the time). I don’t know anything about its content. I’m just speaking of its covers. [MLS: You can see the contents of all issues up to 2009 at Googlebook. The marvels of the Internet.] Continue reading History through the covers of Yoga Journal

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.

Thoughts on yoga as a business

I finally got my September/October issue of Yoga Journal. It has already been out on the news stands for a month, but my subscription did not arrive. I had to give it a decent time to see if it would finally showed up. When it didn’t, I went out and bought a copy. The issue is a full 200 pages long and comes with a DVD promoting the new yoga instructional video series starring Natasha Rizopoulos, with medical commentary by Dr. Timothy McCall. Plus, a Winter issue of Balanced Living (a kind of bonus publication) has just arrived too. Plans are to turn it into a stand-alone magazine next year.

This brings me to a line of thought that’s been on my mind. I’ve noticed commentary in yoga forums and blogs that Yoga Journal has strayed from its original humble beginnings in 1975. It now has a circulation of 310,000 readers, up three fold since 1998, and attracts mainstream advertisers, like Clairol and Sutter House wine, as well as the more typical ads for yoga clothing, vacations and training programs. Yoga Journal holds several conferences a year. Its new publisher, Lynn Lehmkuhl, honed her skills as the publisher of Ladies’ Home Journal, and some critics quip that the magazine is starting to look like it. In other words, it’s becoming a big business.

I think Yoga Journal is embarked on a spiritual path that is as difficult as being a celibate monk. As a former journalist who lived off what he wrote, I fully appreciate the difficulty of turning a publication into a viable enterprise that appeals to a broad readership and also interests advertisers. Sustaining a commercially viable publication focusing on yoga requires a keen sense of business as well as a loyalty to the core values of yoga.

In Western capitalist, materialist society, it’s a tough fit. As strange as it may seem, you can have just much “semi”-independence if you have a strong commercial product that has broken out of the pack and has a diversified advertising base, rather than a non-profit always drumming up donation. Once you decide to be a for-profit organization, you can’t say that you’re only going to make a little money. You have to prepare for a market downturn or competition from other publications or media.

As yoga moms, rat-race burnouts and other members of this emerging group become an identifiable segment of the market, the stronger the trend of absorbing and co-opting yoga into mainstream culture.

For those who miss the day when Yoga Journal was untainted by commercialism, they can get their daily ration of purity at many of the yoga websites and blogs that are maintained without any money-making interest.

Flex time in yoga and science

I keep coming back to an article, What science Can Teach Us About Flexibility by Fernando Pagés Ruiz, appearing in the Yoga Journal March/April 2000 issue. It’s a long read, but it goes into the details of what happens to your muscles, and, more importantly, tendons, ligaments, and muscle fascia when you’re stretching.

This reference comes to mind because I went to my Friday evening yoga class and discovered that there was a substitute instructor. She led us in a few sun salutations and then spent the rest of the class doing some Pilates exercises. I don’t know whether it was the newness of the exercises, the emphasis on forward bends (pressure on my lumbar area), the different approach of Pilates or the lack of careful planning for the combination of positions. I ended up not feeling the normal release I get after a class. This morning, I woke up and my lower back had stiffened up.