Saturday, August 7, 2010

What next?

I was going to upload part 2 of my “Those Darn Philosophers” when it struck me that there is unfinished business. Judith Lasater wrote a letter of protest to Yoga Journal. As a prominent person in the field, she knew (or ought to have known) that her gambit would attract a great deal of attention. She didn’t think that the magazine editors would publish her letter. They did. She got a lot of positive feedback online. My question is: What next?

What should Judith do now? Does she have an Arjuna in her? Should she organize a letter-writing campaign? A protest march on the Yoga Journal offices? Or what? I am open to your input. Sure I have my own ideas, but I have the reputation of being something of a rebel and want to hold back for now. When we feel that something is wrong, should we take action? Or should yogis and yoginis be passive spectators? Please voice your opinion!



  1. Hi Georg, I work for a small local newspaper and magazine so I have a small ionsight.
    Creating a dialog is very good, when public opinion becomes known, the editorial meetings at Yoga Journal may look to profile at least their editorial content like they aren't selling out. Face it, it takes money to publish a magazine so there is nothing wrong with advertising as long as the editorial and advertising take defined sides of the table. In other words, when the right hand doesn't talk to the left hand (editorial and advertising aren't in kahoots) it frees up the editorial department to be less stagey and profile interesting yogas, sadhana techniques, retreats, and teachings without worrying about whether they get advertising from it. In addition, if the advertising department doesn't have a say in what the editorial department writes, its more like free speech and less corporate.
    Kind Regards, Melissa

  2. I canceled my subscription to YJ years ago. Simple solution for me.

  3. Georg,
    Is there any way you could link to this letter on your blog? I do not know what the letter said. Is there a way to find it?

  4. Okay, Georg. I'll 'leap into the pit!'

    I seem to recall that in speaking of the ethical foundations of yoga (at least as found in Patanjali, and in reference to the 'great vow' of yama), three kinds of instrumentality are enumerated by Patanjali. The great vow can be broken by 1) doing a wrong or unskillfu/unwholesome action directly; 2) causing such an unskillful action to be done by another; and 3) to be approved of.

    According to my understanding, according to this third category, if someone witnesses an act they feel is wrong, and they refrain from speaking out, they to some extent bear the karmic result. If we remain passive -- whether it's because we approve, are callously indifferent, or wish to avoid 'getting into trouble' or 'rocking the boat,' then according to Yogic moral understanding, we are in part 'guilty' or perhaps better put ' partly responsible' for the unwholesome act.

    Of course, this must be tempered with wisdom and compassion and our action should ideally be motivated from these rather than from partisan ideology. But still, rather then the passive navel-gazing caricature of the yogin, the moral underpinning of Yoga is indeed one of 'engagement.'

    frank jude

  5. Frank, thanks for leaping, though it wasn't much of a pit. You won't be breaking your legs! I do agree that whatever we do as engaged yogis/yoginis must observe nonharming (ahimsa).

    I think the best solution to this is indeed to unsubscribe to Yoga Journal. That's a loud and clear message.

    Melissa, I was editor of both a quarterly and simultaneously a monthly (spiritual) magazine for several years (a total of 200 pages each quarter). I've also published and edited my own newsletter. In other words, I know about the economic side of publishing. But, heck, a Yoga magazine ought to have standards that dovetail with Yoga's ethics. Otherwise, the editors should agree to publish a playboy-type magazine.

  6. Using high fashion and sensuality to market yoga creates serious potential pitfalls, and it also lures people into yoga who might otherwise, never have been 'attracted' to it. The thing is, yoga holds it's own and finds it's way into our hearts. In yoga, people awaken in some way, whether some days seem like belly crawling downward spirals, clear that we 'need' a new outfit, while other days, allow the soft realization of the different shades of green in our trees. The mat calls us back, and lifts our consciousness, even when we resist. And, there are plenty of classes and magazines for that matter, from which to 'choose' . I feel yoga is growing and from it, most people are finding ways to heal themselves, even if for them that means losing weight and wearing a fancy outfit, and being a kinder person while wearing it. If assumptions are made about who people are, and we presume to understand their deep motivations from that, isn't that reverse snobbery? Isn't the urge to judge, to make oneself higher also being compelled by a presumed hierarchy? And isn't yoga about seeing people as whole?

    It's a concern, and a deep question: allowing the evolution of yoga to continue to grow at this beautiful logarithmic pace knowing that we don't necessarily feel grace with some of the strategies being used, or, make a stampede to try to keep it pure and authentic knowing that it will cost an enormous amount of our precious time which could otherwise be used to teach and promote yoga, and create the publicity that we believe will catapult our communities into a higher consciousness. Can we find a common thread that doesn't include judging the clothes people wear or their conception of spirituality. Is it really so bad, for the word 'spirituality' to be the enchanting buzzword, that it has become?

    I think we have to ask ourselves again and again, what is the point of this movement toward yoga? Is there a 'spiritual agenda'? Do any of us know how yoga 'should' look? And if it needs side door entrances, to lure people into presence for themselves, and humanness for each other, can we look right through the packages, trusting humanity and wholeness so much that we know that eventually, most who took the side doors, will end up in the front room?

    -Sherry Brourman

  7. Mare, you can find Judith's letter at the following link (copy and paste):!/note.php?note_id=413482503993&id=329012723872&ref=mf

  8. Please everyone watch what nutriments you are putting into your body, senses, mind, and intellect (and I'll try to do the same!). I agree that much of modern yoga is deeply saddening, but we should not allow ourselves to dwell on others' shortcomings. We should practice authentic spirituality and guide them with love, according to their needs and our capacities. Slow down, listen to Mother Earth, study the scriptures and modern spiritual teachers, and be the change you wish to see in the world.
    Om peace peace peace