‘Pride and ego are everywhere’

I haven’t seen it during the past month its been online, but apparently Namaste, Bitches is rolling along with 160,000 views. And now a story in the New York Times.

Why am I telling you? Mainly because Eddie Stern is quoted:

“The ancient guru-shishya relationship in India was meant to offset inappropriate behavior,” said Eddie Stern, a veteran New York-based yoga instructor who has a long list of celebrity students, including Madonna. “Without the system of checks and balances that the teacher, or guru, is supposed to provide, the student can become proud, and that feeling of pride leads to the subtle idea that ‘I am free to behave as I want,’ which is not spirituality, but hedonism.”

The series sounds like what you expect: a parody of some of the worst aspects of the yoga industrial complex.

There’s a link to the series in the Times story, but it is pretty easy to find.

Posted by Steve

‘Real thing that made Iyengar special was that his focus on the physicality of yoga’

If you haven’t noticed already, BKS Iyengar would have turned 97 today. (Check the Google Doodle for an all-too-easy Kapotasana.) TIME magazine looks back on Iyengar’s influence:

In 1947, despite the fact that many celebrities (Aldous Huxley, for example) had become fans of yoga, TIME noted that it was “still as mystifying as Sanskrit to the average American.” Those who did practice yoga outside of its homeland tended to be more interested in its spiritual benefits than its physical ones; even the Beatles, who helped make the name of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi world famous in the late 1960s, were open to changing their philosophies and not just their bodies.

That was right around the time that Iyengar released his 1966 book.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

More coverage: Telegraph, Mirror, Christian Science Monitor.

Posted by Steve

Richmond City Jail abruptly cancels its yoga program

Well, this isn’t the type of news I’d want to break into our semi-retirement to report. But…

Apparently, the much-lauded yoga program run by Robbie Norris in Richmond has been shut down. You can find our past coverage here.

And here’s the report from Style Weekly:

The reason, according to the jail, is that instructor Robbie Norris breached the rules for volunteer conduct. But he says the jail was merely seeking an excuse to terminate the program, which had been on the verge of a planned expansion.

Sarah Scarbrough, internal program director at the jail, says an internal investigation found that Norris breached “several of those code of conduct protocols.”

She declines to name which policies were violated, but says that because of the nature of his work, Norris was given a pass on a particular rule that requires a foot of distance between volunteers and inmates.


Norris says Scarbrough reprimanded him for going to his classes without an escort, but he says he only followed deputies’ orders — if they told him to get off the elevator alone and walk to the desk, he did. Norris says he did nothing inappropriate, and that the jail is choosing to enforce the regulations now. His requests for an explanation have gone unanswered, he says.

You can read more at the link, including some ideas of what might be behind the sudden decision. Robbie — as you might expect — is trying to find a new avenue to help inmates and others out. Here’s hoping he finds one soon.

Posted by Steve

Why yoga isn’t cultural appropriation and when you can catch ‘Yoga Hosers’

I’ll just encourage you to read this piece at Slate by Michelle Goldberg, who wrote the recent biography of Indra Devi. She discounts the recent cancellation of a yoga class at the University of Ottawa over cries of cultural appropriation. The key idea:

In the case of yoga, it completely ignores the agency of Indians themselves, who have been making a concerted effort to export yoga to the West since the late 19th century.

Back then, Indians saw getting Westerners interested in yoga as a way of undermining British colonialism. Britain’s colonial administrators tended to be contemptuous of Indian religion; indeed, they treated the purported backwardness of Indian thought and culture as justification for their continued rule. Indian nationalists believed, rightly, that if they could popularize their spiritual practices in the West, they would win support for independence.

That makes sense. And she notes such efforts still exist, such as the International Day of Yoga push by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

On a decidedly different topic — or maybe not, maybe it is a form of cultural appropriation — we know when Kevin Smith’s movie Yoga Hosers will have its premiere: at Sundance.


Did you get in your daily cultural appropriation?

It’s hard not to deliver this one with comment, so I suppose I’ll first say that my natural sympathies lie with the victimized and the marginalize. And I’m very cognizant of how easy it is to judge someone based on your own experiences and biases.

I also remember the value of calling power into question as a youngster. It is a critical part of the growing process; I tend to suspect those who didn’t go through that phase are the ones who cause the most problems when they are adults.

Still… this one may push me close to the edge of reason. A free yoga class at the University of Ottawa has been canceled due to concerns about cultural appropriation. The best coverage is from the Ottawa Sun:

Student leaders have pulled the mat out from 60 University of Ottawa students, ending a free on-campus yoga class over fears the teachings could be seen as a form of “cultural appropriation.”

Jennifer Scharf, who has been offering free weekly yoga instruction to students since 2008, says she was shocked when told in September the program would be suspended, and saddened when she learned of the reasoning.

Staff at the Centre for Students with Disabilities believe that “while yoga is a really great idea and accessible and great for students … there are cultural issues of implication involved in the practice,” according to an email from the centre.


Acting student federation president Romeo Ahimakin denied the decision resulted from a complaint.

Ahimakin said the student federation put the yoga session on hiatus while they consult with students “to make it better, more accessible and more inclusive to certain groups of people that feel left out in yoga-like spaces. … We are trying to have those sessions done in a way in which students are aware of where the spiritual and cultural aspects come from, so that these sessions are done in a respectful manner.”

Scharf offered a compromise, suggesting she change the name from yoga to “mindful stretching,” since that would reflect the content of the program and would “literally change nothing about the course.”

That compromise wasn’t enough.

I’m going to follow up my comment about the value of youthful challenging of power; one of the important lessons from doing so is the self-realization that results. I.e. coming to understand what you don’t know. That may be a factor here.

Posted by Steve

Your Iyengar guide to yoga poses on planes

You can tell — I’ve found — who the yogis are when traveling to India on the long, near day-long flight (from the U.S., at least). They get up a lot; you’ll find them around the bathrooms stretching; they might have their mat in their carry-on.

Writing from experience, it makes a lot of difference.

Now, if those yogis see this (meaning what I’m about to link you to), you’ll really be able to pick them out. Because they will be doing these Iyengar-inspired “in-flight” yoga poses:

Now, experts have created an in-flight yoga guide which helps keep the body supple during long haul flights and relieves tension in nervous fliers.

The ‘Yoga in the Sky’ guide was created by travel website Expedia.co.uk, which enlisted chartered physiotherapist and certified yoga teacher Dr Christopher Norris and experts from Iyengar Yoga Deutschland.

‘The benefits of practising in-flight yoga are extensive,’ Dr Norris said.

The link comes with handy-dandy illustrations.

Posted by Steve

One list of the best and worst places to be a yoga teacher in the U.S.

Thumbtack — a site that connects folks seeking services with people who offer them — has put together a list of the best and worst places in the United States to be a yoga teacher. Along with the average price for a private yoga class and the growth of yoga in any city or area, it also included its own metric, the Market Opportunity Index:

The MOI is an index of the number of requests per active professional on Thumbtack in that market. The more requests per professional, the more opportunity there is for pros to come in and clean up by meeting excess demand. The more saturated the market is, the fewer requests there are per yoga instructor, and the harder it is for a yoga instructor to find work in that market.

The best places to be? Nashville, San Antonio and Kansas City, Mo. The worst? Springfield, Ma., Oxnard, Calif (just northwest of Los Angeles), and Hartford, Ct. San Diego is also pretty low on the list.

Posted by Steve

New study: If nothing else, yoga’s got a great placebo effect

A new study from the Centers for Disease Control suggests that of popular alternative wellness activities, yoga beats natural supplements and chiropractic care.

Link to the study is here. Its distilled down here:

Not only are yoga enthusiasts much more likely to report that their downward dogs and tree poses improve their physical and mental health, they are also more likely to report that yoga motivated them to adopt healthier behaviors, such as eating more nutritiously and doing more aerobic exercise.

Indeed, the study found people who take up yoga are four times more likely to say the practice inspired them to eat healthier and three times more likely to say it encouraged them to run, walk or do some other kind of regular physical activity than those who take supplements or receive chiropractic treatments.


There is no good evidence-based research to support claims that any of these complementary practices boost the body’s immune system or improve memory or other thinking skills. Yet many of the people surveyed perceived that they did — a finding that likely reflects the placebo effect.

Indeed, 82 percent of the yoga practitioners, and about 67 percent of the users of supplements and spinal manipulation said their overall health had been improved because of the complementary practices.

Yet, when asked if these approaches had made it easier for them to cope with their health problems, less than 40 percent of the yoga practitioners and the spinal manipulation users and only 25 percent of the supplement users said yes.

That last paragraph sounds a weird note to me. Perhaps there’s something to the idea of “ease” that doesn’t translate. I suppose I wouldn’t say my yoga practice has made it easier — it perhaps has made me more effective at coping with things, but it isn’t easy to do so.

Of note: Across the board, yoga outscored taking supplements and chiropractic care in terms of people’s positive experiences and reactions.

Posted by Steve

Lululemon: ‘We are back’

Lululemon gets the fairly big New York Times treatment this weekend. If that really means the company is back — after a series of gaffes, flaps and sheer pants — is up to you. From the story:

Though largely still built around the peaceful practice of yoga, Lululemon has not given up the fight. Indeed, it seems to be doubling down on the devout yet irreverent corporate culture Mr. Wilson created, though he left the board earlier this year, after selling half of his stake in the company for about $845 million in 2014.

The gathering in the atrium, billed as a Pants Party, was in celebration of a new line of women’s bottoms, which remains the core product for Lululemon. The various designs have names like Naked and Held-in and are being marketed to steer women’s focus from how they look in the pants (not naked, one hopes) to how they feel in them. The atrium floor was decorated with stickers that read, “I feel more locked in than a harness on a roller coaster before it flips upside down,” and “I feel freer than a skinny dip under the midnight stars.”

After Ms. Poseley spoke, the company’s chief executive, Laurent Potdevin, whose résumé includes Toms, Burton Snowboards and (less congruously) LVMH, also took a turn. “Who but you would take our anchor business and turn it on its head?” he said approvingly, in his heavy French accent, to the crowd. “It’s the culture of innovation at its best.”


Mr. Potdevin’s strategy is essentially twofold: to grow the men’s business (recently with loosefitting pants designed to give their genitalia breathing room) and to expand globally. To accomplish this, he has brought on a new chief financial officer, as well as new executives to lead digital, “brand and community” and design — all men.

He also said he has tweaked the company culture, putting less pressure on employees to take, as they have for years, Landmark Forum personal-development seminars (though many still do, and the company pays for them, along with fitness classes).


The whole operation has been backed since 2014 by an in-house research and development lab, opened in the center of the Vancouver office and encased in glass walls that frost over to assure the privacy that innovation (formerly known as spitballing) requires. It is run by an internal team of engineers and scientists called Whitespace.

The lab is a Wonkaville for athleisure gear. There is a weather chamber that simulates extreme heat and humidity, letting the company determine the effect of elements on materials, seams and other details. There are washing machines to test how well garments withstand the spin cycle. And there is an enormous treadmill built into the floor, surrounded by video cameras to help map out the stretch of seams and — that bugaboo — coverage of material.

I had to include that middle part about the men’s clothing.

Posted by Steve

More changes. Maybe temporary (isn’t everything?)

A few more changes to announce here:

We won’t be posting daily anymore. Our practices, as we’ve discussed between us a lot, are at a point where we don’t feel like they lend themselves to much sharing. Practicing at home, plugging along, isn’t producing much we have felt to be of use to others.

Those who’ve read this blog know I’ve never been very comfortable thinking my practice has much to tell someone else.

And there also are enough other channels for people to share things; as I know I’ve mentioned, when we started this blog years back, folks weren’t using Facebook and Twitter (let alone Instagram or Snapchat) as they are now. If you want things, you can find them. Or, really, those things find you.

We’ve also over the years narrowed down our content; we try to get things to you that we think you might not see otherwise, things that somehow are mainstream enough you ought to know or things we think important — whatever that means. Something to deepen your practice; something to make you think; something to inspire.

We try to pass along things we think have real value. (Or occasionally, real humor or some counter to the heaviness of an Ashtanga practice.)

And the fact is, those things don’t come along every day.

But when they do, and when a practice happens that suggests something broader than just an individual “aha,” we’ll pass them on. A couple times a week? Maybe something like that.

Also, for me especially (not so much Bobbie, if at all her), I’m trying to take to heart something Tim Miller talked about during the Third Series training, which of course I heard second hand: Don’t let your practice become a prison. Too often, I think, getting a post up everyday feels more a prison and less a freedom.

Enough of that. For now, at least.

Posted by Steve