Here’s how you respond to the NY Times article on Ashtanga

There’s a reason why the Senior Western Students — Guruji’s first generation students — are also all of our Senior Western Teachers.

They’ve learned a ton. And they — each in their own way — have developed ways to pass on the lessons from Guruji to us.

Case in point is Eddie Stern’s reaction to the NY Times piece from last week about how Ashtanga didn’t make the author skinny.

(Quick note: Stern was kind enough to link to us in response to some of our coverage of the piece, which we very much appreciate. I’m hopeful that being somewhere on his radar will not result in any additional Baddha Konasana adjustments!)

I think Stern’s response can be divided in two (which goes against the “not two, only one!” anchor to yoga, I realize). A humorous dismissal (keeping with that sense of humor that comes through via his blog) and then what amounts to a serious and significant take down. (That may be more aggressively put than it should be, but I think his reasoned response stands as a pretty stark contrast to what he says the author described as a “humor essay.”)

I’ll let you be the judge. But first, Stern’s own humorous take begins: “In all fairness, my sister Kara did find it very amusing that people apparently said my name in “hushed and reverent tones” – while I do what, she wondered? Quote Beavis and Butthead?”

Then, the serious:

Yoga as well has a life span – for some its usefulness persists for decades; others feel that they have done enough after a few months. What we should not do, however, is forget the highly philosophical and time-tested tradition that yoga has come from – by white-washing its power of transformation and purification in the Fashion & Style section.

So, when Robbie Norris, who has been teaching yoga for free in the Richmond City Jail for three and a half years, sent me this letter from Bryan Shull, one of his students serving time, I thought, man, this guy has landed himself in prison, but now he is working on himself, and has tapped into what yoga is truly about. In LA and in NY, we are in a different type of prison – of glamour, of beauty, of overwork, of struggling to succeed. We don’t need to do yoga to help us reach those ephemeral goals, we need it to help us see that they are ephemeral.

I highly, highly encourage you to click on the link above to Stern’s piece and read Shull’s letter. It, I guess, is really the right response to the Times article. It’s chilling, straight-to-the point and leaves little of Fashion or Style left in its wake.

Posted by Steve


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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

5 thoughts on “Here’s how you respond to the NY Times article on Ashtanga”

  1. Thank you, Eddie. Thank you, Steve. There is another of Bryan’s letters on my website, and more will be up soon. Every envelope and letter Bryan sends is a work of art. I’m so glad the yoga has resonated so deeply with Bryan. He remains very involved in his church / Christian faith, in AA, and in other wholesome efforts — but Bryan tells me his yoga practice is the foundation that supports all of these efforts and the glue that holds them all together.

    Robbie Norris

    1. Thanks Robbie for sending it on to Eddie so he could share it. Also, thanks for pointing out that Bryan still is “very involved” in his church; it feels like there’s been some focus lately that yoga and Christian faith are incompatible (to say the least). His story is a testament to the power of change for the good. We were glad to be able to spread the word a little more!


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