For the first "official" WTFFriday blog, I'm going to dip my toe in the Yoga Journal waters. I was originally going to post this in September but decided to wait because I read that Kathryn Budig was going to be featured in the October "Body Issue". I'm glad I waited. Simply asked...did Yoga Journal jump the shark? Opinion: Yes and less. September yes, October less so, but they are still going to have to work pretty hard to get Fonzi out of the water.
YJ is in the middle of a HUGE re-branding effort, of both the magazine and the website (Graphic Design opinion: The magazine is lovely. Cleaner, easier to follow, clear features but I feel pretty "meh..." about the website. Too much flash and I'm not a fan of the yellow. REALLY not a fan of the yellow). The September issue seemed to be the culmination of poor editorial decisions made by YJ over the past few years. Playing to advertisers; emphasising looks; importance of the acquistition of yoga "stuff"; homogenization of featured yogis; a decrease in discussion of philosophy; asana as fitness, etc., I could go on.
That issue highlighted Hilaria Baldwin on the cover, with a feature article and many pictures of her doing yoga on her roof. I get it, celebrity yogis sell lots of magazines. But honestly? I didn't find it either interesting or inspiring. I think doing yoga in heels is stupid. Seriously stupid. And dangerous. The bigger controversy was an article called "Love Your Curves". The article was definitely not about loving your curves. It was basically a fashion spread with tips on how to hide your perceived flaws, curves, bumps or bummer spots. Sort of a shaming article. You might expect that from Cosmo or Shape or Women's Health, which are all publications that-hope-you-will-buy-into-an-impossible-physical-standard-then-feel-bad-about-yourself-and-then-buy-crap-from-their-advertisers-that-is-not-good-for-you-so-you-might-lose-weight-to-feel-better-about-yourself. You do not expect that from the most widely read Yoga magazine on the planet.
In response, the yoga community had a collective apoplectic fit. Why? It's fairly simple. Yoga is not supposed to be about how you look when you practice but what you do when you practice. It's not about worrying about your muffin top or panty lines. It's not about coveting someone's cool tights or tank top. It's about the mental hoops you jump through while practicing asana. It's about finding (and sometimes struggling with) patience, kindness, ease and quiet with your inner dialog during your practice. Am I clear?
To her credit, the new Editor-in-Chief of YJ, Carin Gorrell, responded to criticism of the article on the blog YogaDork. I also think it's important to note that Gorrell's previous post was in fact, at Self magazine, as Features Director. See YJ public relations announcement here.
This month, Katherine Budig yogini and teacher, graces the cover. What they're calling "The Body Issue". At first glance it gives you hope. Here is Katherine Budig, minimally photoshopped, looking beautiful and strong with pantylines and all. But when you look closer, you see the cover numbers game: "15 poses...!"; "8 moves...!"; "3 food facts...!" and honestly, if you were to remove the yogasana specific pages, this magazine could be Self or Vegetarian Times or another fitness/nutrition magazine.
And, I did indeed feel a weird sense of irony when reading some of the quotes/interviews about yoga teachers accepting their aging bodies; curvy people being confident to practice in a crowded room; observing that the "21-day Vegan Diet Challenge" article was three pages before the "Shadow Side of Yoga" article, a piece on how some people suffering from eating disorders use asana and advertised fasting/dieting practices as part of their pathology. I feel like over the last couple of years, Yoga Journal played a part in perpetuating the very body image problems they seem to want to have a meaningful discussion about in this issue. Do they really? Ultimately I think it comes down to advertising dollars and what we, as a yoga consuming society are willing to accept as healthy/normal/beautiful when it comes to practicing yoga. What as practitioners and teachers, do we want to require from the giants of our industry? And make no mistake, Yoga is an industry. And I think one that is walking on a precipice.
So WTF YJ? Is it back to business as advertising usual once this whole image kerfuffle is done and over with? Or not?