Published May 4, 09 AM
By Amelia Catone
There, I said it.
HATE it. I used to love it, about a decade ago before they had ads for Oil of Olay and probiotic products for all the white women suffering from IBS who read Yoga Journal religiously. Sorry (fellow) white women. Sorry IBS sufferers.
Usually I don’t actively hate on yoga phonies; I simply sidestep them. Not to say that I am growing a beard and committing myself to life in an ashram (both would be miracles), but having been a former henchwoman for a yoga phony, I do my best to keep as much distance as possible. I readily admit that I was so burned by phonies in the past that my scarred skin is still thin and my phoniness radar hypersensitive.
I don’t subscribe to YJ—they send it to me for free because I have liability insurance through them. I’ve asked to have my subscription canceled, but it seems they can’t divest the two. (Please don’t revoke my liability insurance, Yoga Journal.)
I try, every month.
I open it up hoping to find inspiration, or at least avoid annoyance, but by page three I’m usually annoyed. So many ads. So many stupid ads. Not even thinly-veiled ads for esoteric things that will help you to achieve enlightenment faster (like a zen alarm clock), but just ads for pet food (because white ladies have cats) and Subarus (in case they also happen to live in Vermont or Colorado). The articles might as well be ads for how to navigate the relationship with your ex-husband and his new wife and their cat, how to help people in other countries learn to make baskets and Christmas ornaments, and how not to fart while doing that really challenging pose that blew out your knee last year.
[I will say that I do enjoy the Sally Kempton articles. She’s a real white ladies’ lady.]
I am not the only one with her Lulus in a twist over the ads. In a letter to the editor last year, YJ founder Judith Hanson Lasater took aim at those ToeSox ads featuring Kathryn “Booty” Budig:
Finally, I feel sad because it seems that Yoga Journal has become just another voice for the status quo and not for elevating us to the higher values of yoga: spiritual integration, compassion and selfless service.My request is that Yoga Journal doesn’t run ads with photos that exploit the sexuality of young women in order to sell products or more magazines.
I have no problem with Kathryn and her beautiful bod in chiaroscuro. But it’s like those couches they provide in the dressing rooms of Anthropologie: a little gesture to the hetero man who is being dragged through something he’s not really into. The photos of Budig in YJ are that little nugget for him as he picks up the only reading material in his girlfriend’s bathroom. They don’t make me want to buy ToeSox.
Hanson Lasater very astutely points out here and in her follow-up interview just what is most aggravating to me about Yoga Journal: that it’s just so typical.
Beyond safe, beyond superficial, it’s the tofu of periodicals. A very expensive fair-trade non-GMO organic tofu made by virgins in the hills of Japan kind of tofu, but it still tastes like not much. Why bother? I usually feel dumber after trying to read through it.
As my fellow Recovering Yogi contributor Don Ogata reflects, “There’s an idealism and elitism rampant in this magazine that leaves a majority of yoga practitioners never being able to achieve what they read. I’d at least venture to say that 100% of the 53-year-old male Asian readers are being alienated by this approach.”
It’s like a brightly-colored samsara boomerang that ends up whacking you in the back of the head. Maybe that’s it: I need to be concussed to get down with the level of consumerism and superficiality pumped through each recycled soy ink-printed tofu-scented page. Maybe the avid readers (as if there is even anything left to read) of YJ are wandering in a fog of raw vegan-inspired candida and have not quite got the balance of their flora just right to be able to see that their yoga practice is not going to develop in proportion to the months of subscription. Get off the wheel, ladies. The last thing you need to add to your consciousness is one more false ideal to live up to.
About Amelia Catone
Amelia Catone has ruined her chances at winning the Yoga Journal talent search with the submission of this article. She calls Boston home.