Tag Archives: Yoga Journal

Messages From Your Mother

 

My friend’s kid got roofied at a bar in Santa Monica on Halloween. She spent the night in the E.R. I told my mother who snapped,

“What was she doing in a bar? Girls don’t go to bars to stay out of trouble!”

“WHAT!” She’s a quiet girl, a delicate girl who mostly stays home with her dog and worries about everything. I ask my mother why she isn’t supposed to go to a bar and why it’s her fault someone put something in her drink.  She was having a glass of wine with a girlfriend. They were in costumes to celebrate Halloween. Did they have to stay home in Burkas?   “She should have known better says my mother. Everyone knows what people are doing these days. It’s all over the news.”

This is the attitude of someone born in an era when men were in charge and women were taught to use female skills to manipulate, deflect and manage them. My mother was taught that men will be men and it is a women’s job to be smart enough to navigate that world. It was a weird combination of male worship and a testament to women’s superior wit

Why were men worshiped? Because they had the power.  Men have been in power since God was declared a man.

In a pre-feminist world where the men were in power, a smart woman would be wise to tether herself to one of them like a lobster crate to a buoy. Getting that man was a competitive field and more than that; every women knew what another woman was capable of because all women were taught to be manipulative. Women were taught implicitly or directly that worth was tied to seduction and seduction was a competitive art. The enemy wasn’t an aggressive man. Aggression in men indicated courage. The enemy was the siren who was after him when you’d already planted your flag.  That woman’s aggression made her a hussy.

That was the case in the socio-economic metropolitan New York I was raised in.  Things may have been different in diverse cultures around this country but I doubt there wasn’t some provocation for women to sharpen their  skills.

Here in Nashville Bible Belt values aren’t exclusively chauvinistic I guess but many faiths are a memorandum to women to please and place their men first. If you really believe it is God’s will won’t you resent the woman who tows another line?  I mean that woman could be trouble.

Even sister wives fight for the head seat at the polygamist husband’s table. Being favorite is fleeting and you don’t get a say but an ambitious sister wife isn’t going to roll over so fast.

On the other hand, a friend who describes her family as Appalachian American tells me that the women did all the work and the men were shiftless. There was no competition among women to win a man. Who would want one?

Me too applies to most women to some extent. Most women have had men prevail upon them at least once in a way that was unsavory.  On the other hand almost every woman I know has purposely made herself attractive to get the attention of men. I remember the first time I realized that no man even glanced at me as I crossed the room and I felt like part of me had died. I was no longer desirable. And then what was I? I am aware that even though my husband loves me and probably will forever that he has been proud of having a woman who turned men’s heads. Will I seem less valuable?

 

Women stronger than me, women who run the world, no nonsense women will say you are as valuable as you believe. Your worth is not defined by others.  Well, yes and no. Personally, no, my worth is not defined by you. But in the marketplace hire me world where we are selling ourselves for profit so to speak………

Oh I can hear the gasps of horror but tell me this. Why did the women who hated Hillary scream, “How dare she” when clearly Trump was a hundred times more a criminal than she could ever be.

How dare she

And then they’d go after her pants suits. 

You know what that sentiment indicates?  It indicates a competitive bias as if life is a game of duck duck goose and some woman is not going to have a chair and it’s not going to be you. It’s a sense of paucity. How dare she think she can get to the head of the line? We’re not even in the line why should she be? Who does she think she is?!

 

It is perhaps jealousy. We know our places who does she think she is.  To some extent sexism. She’s a conniving manipulator. But Trump the man who made a fortune as such, who stole and preyed on the poor and bragged about prevailing on a system that let others take the fall for his greedy mistakes? Nope, no how dare he for Trump. He is Trump. She is Hillary. See?

Why?

He’s a man doing what men do.  He’s a fighter and a fighter is a hero and a fighting woman is a screamer.

What woman has not been accused of screaming at a man when speaking emphatically to a man who is screaming his head off?

But men have been allowed to be bullies and bosses since God was declared a man and it’s time they were called on that. That’s more than sexual transgressions. It’s a transgression of power.

Sexuality and attractiveness play a huge part of our market value. There are calls for change and from my industry there are plenty but look at the yoga community. Even the damn Yoga Journal couldn’t keep up its attempt to be a beacon of change by celebrating “regular” bodies. Back to the bendy babes because people want to buy a promise of the future that is better than their present.  In a buyer’s world where magazine pictures are for the imagination more than reality it makes sense that there are only a sprinkle of average bodies to placate the P.C. police. And just shoot me but I don’t really give a damn because I don’t expect us all to wear olive green uniforms and greet one another as comrade. That’s not in this country’s DNA. I think our mission it to disabuse the abusers of their right to abuse the power of the louder or the luckier or the most ambitious.

In a country where continuous “progress” is the goal, even the human body is expected to step it up and up and up. It’s not my dream. Was it dreamed of by men only? Capitalism? I wonder. Is that entrepreneurial spirit also the spirit that qualifies us and frightens us that we will be left behind? Is that responsible for men’s power over women?

 

We are not the same. We will be assessed and even willfully suspending judgment we will be judged. Men and women will hopefully not be the same but preserve the best of our differences for a glorious attraction, a synchronized dance to prolong the species.

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I’m here in an upscale resort. La Costa has been the home of the well tanned and well healed for decades which now includes the douche bag poser Deepak Chopra who’s made his yoga center here.

I come to see my folks whose home is on the grounds adjacent. They keep a membership to the place so I make use of the fitness center. I don’t generally enjoy other people’s yoga classes so I disregard the wealth of yoga offerings and spin instead as Toli, the Greek god of a spin coach brings playlists of dance trance mash ups that give an hour of sweat and effort purpose.

 

He’s talking to a member when I walk in and hear, “I’m sick of all this political correctness. Men are dogs. We’ll always be dogs. We’re animals. Look at nature. You can’t change nature and women are who they are too.” I stick my nose in like an uninvited puppy and notice the irony.

But we’re not animals, we’re people, I say. No difference, he counters.

 

There is difference of course and other than facts of specific limitations of species I can say with certainty that the thing that separates us is manners. And I in fact have taught my dog manners as well.

Manners are a funny thing, perceived as stuffy and superficial now by many but I was raised and continue to believe that manners are kindness. Manners are respect. Manners mean self control and concern for others. Manners require sensitivity. Slow down passing someone walking a dog. Don’t use your cell phone when you’re with other people. Return phone calls. Purposefully show appreciation. Hold the door for the next person. Use your blinker. Make way for other cars on the road. Ask me if I’d like some of what you’re having and offer a drink to the guy working outside your house on a hot day. Elbows off the table? O.K., so what. Leave the toilet seat up? Hell no.

And you don’t get to act like an ape in heat when you feel like it. You manage that shit. Manners are management.

But it’s not all on men.

I’ve come to the class again. It’s a different group today. All women.  All middle aged women who seem to know each other and they know Toli too.

He takes his sweat shirt off as class begins and the women confirm their approval with cat calls. They carry on for much of the class in what you’d call innocent flirting but it’s kind of obnoxious. He doesn’t seem to mind. Then the door opens and a woman rushes in with a mad grin on her face. I have seen her do this before. It’s her thing.  Hard stocky muscles strain her lycra costume to its breaking point. She could offer any one of the bird like women on the bikes half her bottom and have plenty left. She’s aping a hip hop routine to the pounding music flinging her ass in Toli’s face like Angel Food McSpade to Mr. Natural.

She looks like a woman you’d never notice among the pickup line moms, the woman ignored by the clique who talks loudly and constantly anyway in her attempt to be noticed.  The aerobics teacher from the studio she escaped from rushes in and hauls her out. She’s dancing all the while. (I am a writer and my job is description. Don’t discredit me for the above unless you want a world where people go unnoticed just to avoid harsh depiction.)

Class is winding down and Toli trades the rave music for a slow soul George Michaels. “I’m never gonna dance again, guilty feet ain’t got no rhythm.

 

“OOOOOOh  Toli,you want to make out?”  They all giggle and join in the jeers. I picture crows baiting a hawk.

So what’s going on with women?  Is this the new female bonding?  I don’t trust it. Is the power of women the sorrow of feminism gone awry? Because feminism was a wake up call for both women and men but there were some short sighted back fires as is natural in any effort of collaboration of a body greater than one.

 

For years women didn’t speak out because they were as afraid of being attacked by other women as they were of being dismissed by the men. You might be familiar with the term slut shaming. Those oppressed have a history of siding with the oppressor over the victim if they think it will save them. It’s not all and not always but we’ve seen that side of our humanity made famous by Nazi collaborators.

Adherence to fascism continues today in other regimes and one can see it clearly in the present by studying the forgotten American who stands by Trump.  And of course that’s not just the “weaker sex”. It’s the weaker mind. Look at the Republican lapdogs that are an example of the coward crawling under the shrouds of the totalitarian to save their skins. Still, they are mostly men and the men still rule the nation and what woman feels powerful enough to fight that alone? Better to stand with the powerful.

 

Many of Trump’s followers are women who hated another woman so much they threw in with the guy who got drunk, fucked them on a one night stand and then pretended he didn’t know them when he saw them on the street.  Yes, that’s Trump, the entitled celebrity pussy grabber, the guy bringing back Christmas.

 

A common behavior of abused dogs is to crawl into the lap of the perpetrator in an effort to win favor. It’s a trait humans share. Enter Omarosa.

A woman who considered herself no one’s lap dog fell at the feet of the man she possessively called Donald when others called him Mr. Trump.  Omarosa was relegated to presidential pit bull after displaying, stanch loyalty and a sociopathic level of ruthlessness in his show The Apprentice. She was a symbol of the worst qualities of the “weaker sex”. There was no one she wouldn’t destroy to make her way to the feet of the dictator. I watched that show the season she was on and my interest in low brow television as I’ve told you before makes me a reliable source for sociological studies on the worst of us.

 

I don’t know what messages mothers are sending these days. Our kids have grown up online. They are depressed and neurotic. Relationships have new rules for many of them, modern rules.  I don’t think there is a real clear idea of what a man should be to a woman or a woman to a man. The lines are blurred and maybe that was the idea.

My sons are in their late twenties. They tell me that most women don’t ask them out but wait to be asked. They say they like a confident woman who isn’t afraid to ask for what she wants. They aren’t intimidated by someone making a good living and they like the small percent of girls who take the initiative. They tell me these are the girls who might be considered hippies and feminists. My oldest tells me that women he meets don’t seem capable of loving relationships because they don’t believe they are worthy of love. They are then suspicious of anyone loving them. After all, it’s got to be insincere. What messages are girls getting today that makes them feel so unworthy?

 

How should a girl, a woman act? How will she trust anything in this power worshiping world?  Will she go from one called victim to one called bitch? What would I tell a daughter? There’s always a game whether you realize it or not, whether you want that or not. Life is a series of calculations and relationships in which you are only in charge of your part. Find good friends and be a good friend. As for the mate she looks for? She needs a hero. And so does her man.

 

 

 

 

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Body Image, Discontentment and the New Yoga of Self Consciousness

~ THE NEW YOGA OF SELF CONSCIOUSNESS

The funny thing about Yoga Journal’s recent magazine on body image is that it was about body image. The Barbie bendy spandexed cover model cuties have begun to raise the shackles of some yoga practitioners. The initial response was for the infamous yoga toe sox advertisement model to step off her arm balance pedestal and onto the magazine’s cover presenting a thicker, rougher, updated version of herself. Behind the cover she advises the readers on how to deal with body image. I get that she’s a cover girl who assures us that ads are imagery that is not real or sustainable. But I wouldn’t think that a ‘body image’ issue in yoga that does not highlight the absence of culture, color, age or men has done a lofty job of representing the issue of appearance and inclusivity. This issue seems strictly about striking a dagger into the heart of unattainable physical perfection.

yoga-journal-kathryn-budig-oct14

We are stuck teetering on the edge of the pond obsessing over our reflection whether we love it or not. Yoga is a call to consciousness which means being aware. It seems the now popular practice of yoga has become a cattle call to self-consciousness, featuring a population that feels awkward, ill at ease and insecure. Maybe it’s time to dive below the surface.

~Dysmorphia: From Greek, Bad Form

The current Mantra magazine has an article on the “yoga body” by Melanie Klein of “The Yoga and Body Image Coalition”. The author says …”yoga culture from advertisements to magazine covers increasingly cultivate normative expectations of “yoga body” by consistently presenting the same body type- from its lithe lean, toned, able-bodied, and hyper -bendy form to its white unblemished and youthful skin”.

{The following article was a four page photo spread of hyper-bendy, able- bodied unblemished white women demonstrating unattainable poses.}

~Should a Yoga Body Look Healthy?

The country is overweight and under toned. We eat crap. We sit too much. National spokesmen for better choices have been railing for years at the puffy population to get its vending machine mentality out of the schools and out of our fast food faces. We are becoming vessels for diabetes, heart attacks and depression.

What does healthy look like?

We idealize the vision of a yoga person because people want to believe that this will be them on yoga: no food issues, no weak choices, no mental anguish; someone who is non-threatening because she/he is so damn happy. We know it’s not literally us but it’s our totem and the symbol of possibility. Artists have idealized the human form since the time man had the wits to look past survival at his/her image. The current yoga population is not wholly apart from the greater population. Perhaps we do need idealized models of yoga of any ages, races, sex and colors. Idealized images are not meant to diminish but to inspire.

 

What is radical and what is a nod to mainstream beauty may be confusing. Melanie Klein is concerned that the homogenization of an image-idealized white female beauty- is antithetical to yoga’s rebellious underpinnings.

 

{I think of the ascetic vegan Jivamukti founder Sharon Gannon as the face of yoga rebellion and radicalism as she presses her agenda for modern yogis to live a certain lifestyle. She is the image of thin white and bendy. Maybe the tattoos make her seem less a less chaste descendent from the Mayflower but the austerity that creates her image, though not born from the same discipline that makes a super model, shares the discipline of diet that creates a look that is perhaps the face of rebellion against a habit of overindulgence. Surface can be deceiving}

 

 

~Yoga Journal

If yoga was once the practice of the rebellious in this country, the interpreter for that rebellion was Yoga Journal who took on the task of proving that yoga was not the anti-Christ. Maybe that’s why they’ve always had pictures of non-threatening people on the cover. I suppose that people who remember that are the ones that hope that the Journal will raise a banner now to show it is (metaphorically) the anti-Christ or at least anti-establishment by de-Barbifying those cover models.But maybe Yoga Journal is just giving Shape magazine yogis what they already buy in hopes to keep the magazine on the shelves. After all, if yoga has become fashionable, Yoga Journal is a fashion magazine. You have only to look at the ads to see what fashion of yoga is featured there.

How can something be the vehicle of rebellion when it has become a fashion and the fashion of the white middle class? And it’s mainly the fashion of women and women buy the magazine. Fashion sales don’t soar from representing; they soar from the promise of hope and change.

 

~Fashion

 Fa-shun

Noun: a popular trend, especially in styles of dress and ornament or manners of behavior. ~Vogue, trend, craze, rage, mania, fad, style, look, tendency, convention, custom, practice, thing

A manner of doing something ~Manner, way, method, mode, style, system, approach

Verb: To make into a particular or required form ~Fashioned construct, build, make manufacture, fabricate, tailor, cast, shape, form, mold, sculpt, forge

Does that sound like yoga?

 

The cover of Yoga Journal is the whipping boy for the content within which is a candy story of empty calories with one dusty shelf designated for Luna bars to appease the small segment of the population interested in something more sustaining. We’ve idealized the yoga image because we’ve idealized the yoga of looking and feeling good. The yoga some of us learned was not about either. It was about self awareness and self regulation. That does not require the image of anyone. Those Hindu gods are terrifying images. There is no chance we will take them for our own. They became married to the yoga culture. They manifest embodied energy. There is no spandex among them. We’ve replaced them with our own cultural icons which is a reflection of what we value. Are we embodying yoga or are we a yoga body?

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The population of exercise yogis discovers unexpected benefits when they come to yoga. If they come in because it’s fashionable, who cares? Is it because it attracts the wrong or a limited crowd? Critics say we want to show that yoga is for everybody and every body even the prevalent concern or at least the concern getting attention, is attractiveness. If the visual body is the main concern there are plenty of examples of people who are not the images at celebrity yoga events or on the cover of magazines.

 

There are average looking people everywhere who represent modern Western yoga. Lilias Folan, Judith Lasater, Beryl Bender Birch, Ana Forrest come quickly to mind; none of them idealized women but the main vision I have is Geeta Iyengar who is Indian, overweight, middle aged, dressed in men’s polo shirts and shorts that look like potato sack diapers and she limps. I won’t list more teachers and haven’t even mentioned the men, many who are more middle aged professors than personal trainers. I’m pointing to the yoga spokesmen of an older generation and a smaller population. Perhaps this population is being discounted, undervalued and overlooked in the complaint that yoga leaves out the image of regular looking people. But just by virtue of how many people do yoga now, plenty of fine role models and students are regular looking folks. Of course now that yoga is so popular we are not one regular looking group anyway. We are curvy, straight, stoned, gay, athletic, alignment, medical, spiritual, breathing, meditating, exercising, , bench pressing, chanting, hippie, corporate folks. What do we look like? Maybe part of the problem is that we are seeking our image in a reflection that is not our own.

 

~Is this a women’s issue or a yoga issue?

We’ve railed for years against the destruction of advertising that silently castigates girls for being too fat or not pretty enough by parading unattainable beauty in front of them in magazines, on billboards and television. It’s a destructive course and it would be healthier for all of us if we didn’t feel obliged to pay so much attention to outward appearances. Where outward appearance separates one from the other, beauty is and historically has been a weapon.

 

A new generation of teachers emerged from two elders. Three attractive women would create the first co-owned professional yoga studio in town. The most ambitious took the mantle of leader. I was there when she assured the others why they would pull the town’s business to their door: “They will come to us like moths to the flame”.

 

Men choose women. Men give women to other men for marriage. In this country, a pretty woman is a prize heifer. She has a shelf life. So women are insecure about their looks for good reason. Will removing good looking images change the game? I wonder.

 

If the issue for women is insecurity about looks maybe a representative of the yoga system shouldn’t be fanning the flames of insecurity. And maybe fashion magazines are not representative of the yoga system though there’s no winning in any forum if looking better is the game.

 

There’s only the insecurity of knowing that we can’t control the illusive nature of other’s opinions. Someone will always look, have a better house, car, husband; whatever. If that rattles our cages, seasickness will prevail.

 

“If you don’t become the ocean, you’ll be seasick every day.” ~ Leonard Cohen

 

I understand insecurity. One of the ways I deal with it is to try to make sense of the bigger picture. Then I choose my battles. I understand that here is a tension of self loathing that is a disease.

 

We’ve idealized the human form from the time our soul entered one. But most of us do not represent the ideal because the ideal is illusive and subjective. We’ve been told that we can get closer to something unknowable if we try and it is always out of reach: We do not feel worthy. We do not trust. We are not comfortable in our own skin. We may not even recognize that skin.

 

There is a hole in the heart; an epidemic of insecurity that encourages us to compare ourselves to others; how they look and what they have. There is a larger issue of class and capital system in our economy which burns by the fuel of desire. That machine depends on our insecurity. Every personal resistance against buying into the status quo is a rebellion. But rebellion is a lonely path when you go it alone. Then you are marginalized. I know something about that.

 

Yoga Journal’s image issue was heralded for hitting the issue of image in yoga head on but it was still the magazine of:

Eight moves to get flexible, 15 poses to wind down at night, 3 food facts, seven poses to find joy and balance, six tips for a pain free practice, the #1 way to feel more focused, six ways to glow from within, 24 natural beauty products with a nod to the readers that they need not be insecure about their looks.

 

Time to dive deeper.

*Note to the reader. I edited out the pages on women and society. I did not feel it had a place here. Or it does.

 

 

 

 

 

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Rebel Yoga in the Year 2000: Never Heard of Tara Stiles

The Author

I don’t care about Tara Stiles. She has videos on the online magazine Women’s Health which they will not stop sending me despite my request to remove themselves from my life.  In my weaker moments I lack the will to delete without scanning though I know there will be nothing new in the Secret to a Longer Life or Five Super Foods You Can’t Live Without tips. So I have seen Tara Stiles revealed as the answer to yoga for everything. After she showed up a few times I learned to hit delete, not because she is horrible, but because she is nothing new and being slim is not a recommendation for a teaching video despite the inference that the yoga revealed will make you so. It will not.

But now The New York Times has described her as Rebel Yoga and that just makes me look bad. Or does it?

In the early nineties I created a class called the Bodymind Workout. It was a combination of dance and yoga choreographed to music. In those days music was not played in yoga classes and there was no class called yoga flow that I was aware of anyway. I was living in Los Angeles and the first time I saw a Vinyasa style class was when I was directed to a guy named Bryan Kest by a student who said Bryan was doing the yoga version of my class. I marched across the mountains to see what that could be about. (Hey! I created something unique.  Don’t even talk to me about this poser Bryan Kest!).  And there was this delightful guy leading a yoga class that MOVED like a dance. It was justification for doing yoga the way I liked to move and I’d never seen anything like it before. No one was questioning the purity of Bryan’s teaching which at the time was about getting people to challenge themselves at the edge of the physical plane in order to check themselves out. Maybe he should have had the moniker Rebel Yogi. But he didn’t, I did.

When I moved to Nashville I brought the Bodymind Workout with me. The name was getting used up and I had to dump it. Body mind, mind body was ubiquitous and shallow. So I called it Power Yoga (which later had to be dumped for other reasons) in homage to Bryan and began moving it into dancing yoga. I also taught yoga classes. I kept the music.  But I had entered a strongly yoga purist town and many of those folks thought I was demonizing yoga.  I thought they were the religious right of yoga and paid no attention. People were ready to loosen up and I ended up with a crowd of independent thinkers and well…. rebels.

Now I had done my yoga homework, studied hundreds of hours with senior teachers, did my reading, put my soul into the pursuit of learning a discipline but that didn’t mean I had to teach like everyone before me. And my students were ready for that. One night I named them Rebel Yogis and they said it was so because I was the Rebel leader. I ran with it.

Minister Becca Stevens, Guidance Counselor Jim Hartline, Poet Minton Sparks, Psychotherapist and Poet, Kenneth Robinson

In 2000 I created a calendar called Rebel Yogis: a Celebration of Students for the year 2001. I posed them in the walk of their lives and sent a copy to The Yoga Journal which they promoted. That got the attention of an author who was interested in one of my high profile clients and I ended up in the book Real Men Do Yoga. The Kripalu Center saw that and invited me to teach. Well, you can see where this could go. In my case it was nowhere because at the time I had no aspirations to joining the traveling circus of yoga superstars. I was content with my life and raising two boys. I thought the adulation of yoga teachers was silly. I don’t think I even thought of yoga as a career.

Heisman Trophy Pose by Tennessee Titan, Eddie George

Still, if I had been a young single woman at a time that yoga was already big business and anyone’s game and purism was a thing of the past and I was thrown into the limelight perhaps I would have become a commercial name. It’s all in the timing.

So, I don’t care about Tara Stiles fame or take on yoga. She’s not alone. She knows how to work the system which she clearly enjoys and she’s not hurting anyone. I can’t believe she has the nerve to call yoga slim, calm and sexy but I’ve got to say she’s walking the talk in the calm way she just follows her path. And after all, who am I to judge her? I used yoga in a class called the Bodymind Workout and if there’s one thing you could count on feeling in that class it was sexy! Despite the attention to sex and yoga these days, the fact is that sexiness is not necessarily about sex as much as personal power.  But that’s another topic.

(Published in Elephant Journal)

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