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.

In the switch-​​over, they broke 50-​​some links, min­i­mum. I’m sure that there are even more bro­ken links because my link checker has not had a chance to go through my whole site, close to a thou­sand posts and another 50 pages.  I will have to check each bro­ken YJ link and to find the new URL, if it exists. This hic­cup engen­ders hours of work, time that I’d rather spend hold­ing my life together, prac­tic­ing yoga or writ­ing on my blog.

Dumb and dumber

Cover art for Yoga Journal
May 1975

This kind of incom­pe­tence does not have to hap­pen. Web­sites go through redesigns and tech­nol­ogy tran­si­tions all the time, and the gold stan­dard is “Don’t alien­ate your loyal read­ers who are link­ing to your site.” They are flush­ing 10 years of good­will down the drain.  It’s easy to plan for auto­mated redi­rects to valid pages under the new design. Per­haps, it’s not the edi­tors who goofed, but the hired tech­ni­cal staff or web design team.

I’ve been pushed into mak­ing a deci­sion. I am not renew­ing my print sub­scrip­tion of Joga Your­nal, which will run out this month. I will switch over to a Ama­zon Kin­dle sub­scrip­tion, which allows me to pay on a pre-​​issue basis. I may not get the dirt-​​cheap price that you can some­times obtain, but I will be mon­i­tor­ing the edi­to­r­ial team’s per­for­mance and qual­ity assur­ance and drop them com­pletely if this shit continues.

Yoga is a dif­fer­ent mar­ket than it was 10 years ago when there were a hand­ful of mag­a­zines and web­sites that focuses on the prac­tice. Yoga Jour­nal was a touch­stone.  Now, there are hun­dreds of qual­ity web­sites from all over the world. There are thou­sands of blogs writ­ten by first-​​class mas­ter teach­ers, instruc­tors, prac­ti­tion­ers and intel­lec­tu­als. I have more than a dozen select sites that I regret I can’t read regularly.

I’ve already spent too much time fum­ing about this inci­dent by writ­ing this blog entry.

Closure for Yoga: The Art of Transformation in Cleveland

Yoga: The Art of Trans­for­ma­tion will end its stay at the Cleve­land Museum of Art on Sep­tem­ber 7. It opened on June 22. It also had a term at the Asian Art Museum in San Fran­cisco, Feb­ru­ary 21-​​May 25.  Thus will end the ground-​​breaking exhibit of Indian art and yoga that the Smithsonian’s Freer-​​​​Sackler Gallery put together.  Debra Dia­mond, the exhibit cura­tor, and a long list of col­lab­o­ra­tors and sup­port­ers should be pleased with its recep­tion around the coun­try. The videos from the “Yoga and Visual Cul­ture: An Inter­dis­ci­pli­nary Sym­po­sium” in Novem­ber last year are avail­able online.

Sonya Quin­tanilla, the Cura­tor of Indian and South­east Asian Art at the Cleve­land Museum of Art, nar­rated the exhibit, accom­pa­nied by some pic­tures of the displays.

A com­plete list­ing of all 12 episodes are avail­able. A sum­mary of the exhibit was pub­lished in the museum mag­a­zine. Below is a sam­pling of some of the arti­cles and other media that came out about the exhibit.

  • Review at the San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle (SFGate) – February 22
  • SF Exam­iner gets chippy
  • Yoga Times review
  • LA Yoga review
  • San Jose Mer­cury News review
  • Iyen­gar Yoga com­ments
  • Yoga and Joy­ful Liv­ing notes
  • Cleve­land News and Her­ald review

Among sev­eral videos at the Asian Art Museum in April was the fol­low­ing on The mod­ern sci­ence of yoga :

Spe­cial Insight

I chanced across  the Under the Spell of Yoga by William Dal­rym­ple who has writ­ten many books on India. His New York Review of Books arti­cle is about the exhibit and the cat­a­logue. He’s tapped the deep cul­tural stream of India so he is at ease in dis­cussing yoga and the sig­nif­i­cance of the yoga art. It’s a long read, with also touches on a cou­ple of other books, but it’s worth the effort.

Yoga master BKS Iyengar leaves this life

It’s a sad day when we have to bid farewell to one of the cor­ner­stones of mod­ern yoga as prac­ticed around the world. BKS Iyen­gar died of kid­ney fail­ure on August 20 in Pune, India:

BKS Iyen­gar, who helped bring yoga to the West, has died
Iyen­gar had been ill for weeks, accord­ing to the Times of India, and had been suf­fer­ing from heart prob­lems. Admit­ted to the hos­pi­tal on August 12, Iyengar’s con­di­tion had wors­ened in recent days, and he was put on dialysis.

There will be an out­pour­ing of grief, grat­i­tude and remem­brances, as well as attempts to take stock of the state of yoga with the death of one of the three major Indian prop­a­ga­tors ( Pat­tabhi Jois died in 2009 and TKV Desikachar is in ill health) who took the man­tle from T. Krish­na­macharya. Iyen­gar left a legacy of lit­er­a­ture about hatha yoga, pranayama and other tech­niques, as well as a focus on the health-​​giving poten­tial from the practice.

I’ll prob­a­bly have more to say later.

Featured treatment of macho yoga

I don’t have much time right now to cri­tique this arti­cle from the NYTimes Mag­a­zine about Dia­mond Dal­las Page and his macho ver­sion of yoga:

The Rise of Beef­cake Yoga
Together, Page and Aaron devel­oped a hybrid of Ash­tanga, a pop­u­lar “power” yoga, and Iyen­gar, a more ther­a­peu­tic form. Page added some strength-​​building moves for key mus­cles groups — the quads, the core — and also built in tra­di­tional cal­is­then­ics, includ­ing push-​​ups. He incor­po­rated some­thing he calls “dynamic resis­tance,” which calls for engag­ing all of the body’s mus­cles and then mov­ing against that ten­sion. And he tried to avoid all that namaste stuff. “That’s the first thing that makes peo­ple go, ‘That’s too froufrou,’ ” he says. “There’s cer­tain yoga ter­mi­nol­ogy that I don’t use. I want to make peo­ple laugh.”

The Amer­i­can mix­ing bowl or melt­ing pot or what­ever else you want to label it is intro­duc­ing new influ­ences into yoga prac­tice. More are on the way. What­ever floats your boat seems to be the rule.

Should Yoga Be Exempt from the “Yoga Tax”?

Now that yoga stu­dios in the Dis­trict of Colum­bia have been lumped together with fit­ness cen­ters and tan­ning stu­dios for the pur­pose of pay­ing the local sales tax, some advo­cates are advanc­ing the argu­ment that yoga is not really (or exclu­sively) a phys­i­cal fitness activity.

City Desk Should Yoga Be Exempt from the “Yoga Tax”?
The Yoga Alliance, a national non­profit yoga advo­cacy orga­ni­za­tion that boasts more than 50,000 reg­is­tered yoga instruc­tors as mem­bers, argues that yoga is not actu­ally a fit­ness pro­gram and should be exempt from the new sales tax that has come to be known as the “Yoga Tax.”

This whole debate gets into the shift­ing def­i­n­i­tion of yoga in the U.S. main­stream cul­ture and mar­ket­place. On one side, Chris­t­ian crit­ics say that yoga is a reli­gious pros­e­ly­tiz­ing activ­ity. The coun­ter­ar­gu­ment is that it’s not reli­gious, spir­i­tual at most, and, more commonly, physical as prac­ticed in the United States. Oth­ers lament that the “yoga indus­try” is mak­ing bil­lions of dol­lars a year, which con­tra­dicts the whole claim that yoga stu­dios should be exempt from sales taxes.

Aging carries a surchage

I took my first yoga class in 12 days. It was a sim­ple hatha class at Thrive Yoga with Jane Stel­boum. Some would con­sider it a leisurely paced class; oth­ers would walk out because it did not include any major vinyasa sequences. It knocked the beje­sus out of me. We held war­rior II and lunges for what seemed like ages. I took child’s pose in sur­ren­der. As I write this, my hips, groin and back are aching. It is a phys­i­cal pain that would intim­i­date a novice because yoga is sup­posed to be exer­cise for wimps.

Because I’ve bro­ken through mul­ti­ple lay­ers of hard­ened fas­cia and let the yoga poses and align­ment seep into my mus­cle mem­ory, I find that I sink into the poses deeper. Because I’ve main­tained my range of move­ment with my main­te­nance rou­tines of stretch­ing and restora­tive, I dive into a hatha pose with­out instinc­tive resis­tance push­ing back. So when I dig that deep, I’m expos­ing whole bun­dles of mus­cles that have rarely been extended like this from a pos­ture of weakness.

For nearly two weeks, I’ve shirked yoga class for what seemed like valid rea­sons (work, fam­ily, writ­ing projects, sched­ule con­flicts, can­celled classes, laziness, and rea­sons that I don’t want to con­fess in pub­lic), and I never picked up the slack with my home prac­tice. And I was already in a deep deficit of phys­i­cal con­di­tion­ing. I am not even talk­ing about recov­er­ing my sta­mina to what it was a year ago, after yoga teacher train­ing, or three years ago when my par­ents health started going bad.

I swear I will not let this hap­pen to me again (he said for the umpteenth time since tak­ing up yoga!)!  Only 10 min­utes, 20 min­utes of vinyasa or weight-​​bearing poses on non-​​class days would go along way to sus­tain­ing performance.

At work, on the yoga mat, in front of a com­puter screen or with a blank sheet of paper and pen in hand, wher­ever, I am dis­cov­er­ing that aging car­ries a sur­charge. I am going to be 65 years old in seven weeks. My body and mind degrade auto­mat­i­cally, notice­ably, relent­lessly, unless I make a con­scious effort to cul­ti­vate resilience and hardiness.

Post­script: the pain hurts less the morn­ing after.

Curvy Yoga founder Anna Guest-​​Jelley to teach a class in DC

I think this news is just as big as Shiva Rea or any other big-​​name yoga teacher giv­ing a work­shop in the DC area. Curvy Yoga founder Anna Guest-​​Jelley will teach a class in D.C. :

 The Wash­ing­ton Post says:
Anna Guest-​​Jelley thought some­thing was wrong with her body, so she went on 65 dif­fer­ent diets. Then, 15 years ago, she tried some­thing that actu­ally made her feel bet­ter: yoga.

But instruc­tors didn’t always know what to do with her larger frame, and prod­ded her into uncom­fort­able, squished posi­tions. Guest-​​Jelley remem­bers think­ing, “This isn’t being talked about. I must be the only one who expe­ri­ences it,” she says.

So the Nashville, Tenn., res­i­dent got teacher train­ing and devel­oped Curvy Yoga ( Since 2010, Guest-​​Jelley has cer­ti­fied 158 instruc­tors world­wide — includ­ing one in D.C. and two in Alexan­dria — in her hatha-​​based body-​​positive yoga for peo­ple of all shapes and sizes. She’ll teach a class in D.C. next week.


Small victories, distant defeats

Today — I mean, yes­ter­day — I made myself go to the fit­ness cen­ter on the first floor of my work­place and put in an hour on the sta­tion­ary bike and the ellip­ti­cal trainer. I had already put in a full day of work, plus an hour of online train­ing, so I told myself I could not let myself slide another day with­out get­ting some exercise.

Or I could keep going down to the base­ment garage  and drive off to restora­tive yoga class and chill out. But I would prob­a­bly talk myself out of restora­tive because I should really get my prana flowing.

So get­ting out of the ele­va­tor, I turned left, walked down a long cor­ri­dor and ended up in the fit­ness room., watch­ing the depress­ing news on CNN about Isreal/​Palestina and Ukraine and…  I worked up a sweat and did not attempt to read or lis­ten to music.

Then, I got home, had din­ner and found myself sit­ting in front of the TV, sucked into watch­ing Front­line: Endgame about our wrong­headed adven­tures in Iraq over the past decade. I wanted to go upstairs to do some­thing pro­duc­tive, or med­i­tate, or do some restora­tive yoga, or my pranayama, or my bed­time sequence of ten­sion releas­ing stretches.

But I sat there par­a­lyzed by the sheer grav­ity of America’s involve­ment in Iraq and the scars that it’s left on our men, this coun­try and the Mid­dle East. And in my small way, I had sur­vived that tragedy.

I finally climbed the stairs, sat in my study, and started office busy-​​work. Mid­night and I started writ­ing this blog. What can I write about?

I did not go to my yoga class today. I did put in an hour of aer­o­bic train­ing. I made appoint­ments to get new glasses and check my teeth. I did put in a pro­duc­tive day at the office, turn­ing another professional’s tor­tured tech­ni­cal prose into some­thing that made sense. I did not dis­cover any shin­ing truth in my journey. I did not fuck up the world in any trau­matic way. For most humans, that daily entry in life’s ledger would yield a profit.

Amen. Shalom. As-​​salamu alaykum. Namaste. Hallelujah!

Thieves in the Temple

This is not the first time that I’ve heard of theft in DC-​​area yoga stu­dios, but Amy Dara gives a first-​​hand account of con­fronting a team of purse thieves while teach­ing a class:

Maybe you’ve heard the chat­ter in the Wash­ing­ton, D.C. yoga com­mu­nity: there are two young women steal­ing wal­lets from stu­dents’ bags dur­ing yoga classes at D.C. Metro Area stu­dios. They’ve struck in Ten­ley­town, Bethesda, and Kens­ing­ton. They entered the stu­dio while I was teaching.

When stu­dents are on the mat, they are espe­cially vul­ner­a­ble because their focus is on their prac­tice, not their per­sonal belong­ings that may be stashed out­side the room, in the hall­way, in shelves or the dress­ing room. Stu­dio oper­a­tors may not turn up their alert­ness until the first inci­dent hap­pens; they trust their clients, too. Because most stu­dios have lim­ited space, it’s not always fea­si­ble to allow non-​​yoga items to clut­ter up the floor.

When I used to go to yoga in down­town DC after work, I arrived with my work para­pher­na­lia, includ­ing a lap­top. Now, I’ve got­ten into the habit of leav­ing my wallet, smartphone and non-​​essential items in my car when I go into the yoga stu­dio, not because of fear of theft, but a desire to lighten my load phys­i­cally and men­tally when prep­ping for class. Of course, that’s not pos­si­ble for peo­ple who don’t drive to class.

Some explaining to do….

What sparked my inter­est to get into frac­tured fairy tales as a writ­ing assignment?

Graphic: fairy godmother with wandI was raised on the Rocky and Bull­win­kle Show and I loved the “Frac­tured Fairy” Tale seg­ment. There are 91 car­toons in this series, all writ­ten by A.J. Jacobs (not the cur­rnt jour­nal­ist and best-​​selling author by that name), accord­ing to Brown­ie­locks. You can also find the orig­i­nals on YouTube. I loved the play­ful­ness with lan­guage and lib­er­ties taken with the stan­dard plots of the fairy tales. Just a quick Google search reveals many writ­ing prompts using the con­cept as a start­ing point, most for ele­men­tary school level, but not entirely.

In my teen years, I watched a Jew­ish come­dian (the face is in my head but not his name) who retold Bible sto­ries in a “frac­tured” style and I even took a few stabs at writ­ing comic scripts along those lines. It got me in trou­ble with sev­eral peo­ple in my dad’s con­gre­ga­tion who did not like the irreverence.

In col­lege, I ran into a free-​​spirited hip­pie who used ver­bal ren­di­tions of fairy tales to enter­tain young women (they loved him). I saw in him the seduc­tion of heroes, adven­tures, ogres and happy end­ings. As soon as our ways parted, I adopted the trick of telling sto­ries in fairy/​folk tale for­mat to influ­ence young women. I even used the fairy tale style in some of my poetry.

Years later, I returned to fairy tales after read­ing Bruno Bettelheim’s The Uses of Enchant­ment: The Mean­ing and Impor­tance of Fairy Tales. The Freudian psy­cho­analy­sis prob­a­bly served to put a more intel­lec­tual veneer on my fas­ci­na­tion for children’s sto­ries that tell big truths and hid­den plots. By then, I had my own kids. I bought a multiple-​​volume col­lec­tion of fairy tales from a fab­u­lous British mail-​​order book­store and read from them to my kids. The books still have their place in a book­case in my home.

This entry is turn­ing into a thread with beads knot­ted at dif­fer­ent dates on the time­line, half stream-​​of-​​consciousness, half the mean­der­ings of Googling ref­er­ences and char­ac­ters. What I really wanted to say is that I enjoyed the process of tak­ing a sto­ry­line and inter­weav­ing dia­logue and plot twists, tweak­ing the stiff orig­i­nal ver­sion to make it more res­o­nant to a 21st cen­tury mind. Update: for that mat­ter, each fairy tale can have so many ver­sions (bowd­ler­ized, sim­pli­fied, country-​​ and region-​​specific) that there is no real virtue in remain­ing faith­ful to the sin­gle plot. It is the story-​​telling that appeals to both the writer and the audience.