Cowgirl Commentary on the Latest Yoga Drama

Here we go again! The latest yoga drama doesn’t involve Lululemon, just so you know. The bastion of all-things-yoga before it was hip, Yoga Journal, has now been added to the mix. (Oh wait. That does mean Lululemon is involved…)

Everyone has their panties in a bunch over the latest issue, over three main things: 1. the new editor is the former editor of SELF. Which apparently is as controversial a publication as Cosmo, and seems to totally disqualify her from anything having to do with yoga; 2. Hilaria Baldwin on the cover; 3. body shaming in an article that provides tips on how to hide butt dimples, among other things.

In case you missed it, here are some of the highlights:
Why my butt dimples just unsubscribed from Yoga Journal
Really, Yoga Journal?
Yoga Journal has a Major Body Image Issue, and By Issue, I Mean Problem

I know nothing about the new editor’s yoga qualifications or lack thereof. I would imagine that previous publishing experience was a must for the editor-in-chief position, and at least it wasn’t at Cosmo. Comparing SELF to YJ is not the real issue here. And Hilaria, well, maybe she is a really great teacher, but let’s be honest: she married into celebrity yogi status. Way to be on the right yoga mat at the right time, girl. Celebriyogis, as YogaDork calls them, do dancer pose in 5 inch heels. (Recall Tara Stiles practicing bridge pose in CFM heels for the W Hotel yoga whatever-that-was earlier this year.)

What I want to focus on here is the body shaming. But, I read the article “Love Your Curves” a few times, and I’m going to go out on a limb here: I really don’t think it’s that bad. It’s not really this article that has pissed everyone off. It’s bigger than butt dimples.

YJ tries – the first line in the article is “Yoga isn’t about achieving the perfect body – it’s for every body”. OK yes they bring up what they call “common body confidence sappers”, such as “butt dimples” and “thicker thighs”…but I will admit that one of the “YJ reader’s style questions” (NOTE: these questions are said to come from the READERS themselves!) applies to me. The fact that I don’t want to show too much cleavage doesn’t mean I don’t love my breasts; it means I don’t want them all over the place during my yoga practice.

Over the last few years I have felt a nagging dissatisfaction every time I read YJ. I felt kind of empty afterwards, like I didn’t learn anything new, or that every page was pretty much the same. Which has been one of the ongoing complaints that has just kept gaining momentum – all the models are skinny white chicks or skinny white guys in shorty shorts. The opening act when you first turn the cover is always one of those double page Hard Tail ads, aka yoga soft porn. Where’s the diversity? Where are the bodies of all shapes and sizes, ages and backgrounds?

The true appeal of yoga is that everyone can do it, for pretty much their entire lives. That is the message I want to teach. This is the message YJ should run with. Of course the practice will change and evolve – we won’t all be doing scorpion pose in our 60s (or, ever. which is fine too), or adding in a handstand with every vinyasa. The more teachers subscribe to the small subset of acrobatic yoga as being the only one worth practicing, the more people that will get discouraged and even worse, hurt. My hardcore, party-trick Ashtanga days ended when I became pregnant. Some would argue I was never hardcore. Who the hell cares? I practice what feels good and works for my body, what makes my body healthier. And that has been a moving target over the years, as is to be expected. Yoga is for everyone, damn it; that is why so many of us have dedicated big parts of our lives to practicing and sharing it. Not for the fleeting yoga selfie moment of the peak pose of our lifetime, but for the lifetime of opportunity to be healthier and happier.

Because strong, healthy bodies are sexy, no matter what shape – that’s what I want to teach my daughter, and the wide range of women that attend my retreats. A few years ago, I had someone on retreat who if judged only by appearances would have been labeled overweight. Let me tell you, her practice kicked asana. She was incredibly strong and beautiful. Yoga gives every body the gift of strength and beauty that is appropriate for their age, body type, etc. YJ does not need to conform to other women’s magazines’ message of unattainable, airbrushed appearances; after all, its main topic is not fashion and beauty. It needs to celebrate that strength and beauty come in all shapes, sizes, and ages, and that yoga is a wonderful way to showcase that.

I think that these are the messages YJ needs to convey in the entire magazine, not just in one good-intentioned article. YJ has lost sight of this by falling victim to publishing pressures, and the yoga community is objecting. What I don’t want to see is an ongoing visual representation of people who do yoga as being only thin, young white women whose practice qualifies them to be Cirque du Soleil performers. There are curvy pears with butt dimples “rockin’ [their] classic body type” that should be all over the pages of YJ. I want to see a cover model that represents dedication to the teachings of yoga, vs. someone who landed there because she married a movie star.

It’s an easy fix, really – YJ just needs to keep it real.