I hate Yoga Journal

Published on May 4, 2011 by      Print
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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.


 

Filed under: Soulless Hippies | Zombie Yoga and Tagged:

55 Comments !

  1. Nancy A says:


    Hi Amelia! I share lots of the same issues with YJ that you do. In addition to the ads I have problems with the image of perfection they present which to me is completely against what is yoga. I wrote about them months ago at Elephant Journal and protested their push for perfection here:

    http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/02/fight-the-power-a-plea-to-yoga-journal/

    and also here are some words to chew on from my teacher and pal Sadie Nardini:

    http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/02/yoga-journal-covers-who-really-calls-the-shots/

    But despite the hundred + people who responded to these articles there probably won’t be much change at the magazine. Why? Because people want to see the beautiful in their pages, the five finalists of the cover model contest (voted by the PUBLIC) are further evidence of this trend. On the same note if the ads are selling products then they will continue to remain in the magazine. Kathryn Budig keeps showing up naked even after the whole bruhaha and my guess is that Toe Sox enjoyed every minute of the free publicity.

    Of course I don’t agree at all and as a yoga teacher who has many astounding yogi students who are not models I am struggling about whether to keep subscribing after my free year ends. I also have issues about products being advertised as being connected to yoga when they are clearly not. My students ask me about them and I often have to answer with an I don’t know which often makes me feel like some how I missed the memo on their worth during my 200H.

    It should be noted by the way that Judith Lasater has specifically addressed the Kathryn Budig Toe Sox ads by telling people they were NOT the source of her letter. Another ad in the magazine was the initial impetus for her to write.

    Response posted on May 4th, 2011 , 9:20 am Reply
    • Amelia Catone says:


      Thank you Nancy Shazam Pants for your very thoughtful reply (and links!! and Public Enemy references!!). I hear you on the conundrum of advertising revenue –> profit –> publication –> nonsensical drivel. What if we started our own yoga ‘zine a la *hip mama*? They seem to do pretty well… we can put whoever we’d like on the cover. And he/she could even be naked if he/she wanted to be :-) [for the record I'll reiterate that I have no problem with Kathryn Budig or her phenomenally fascinating and capable body]

  2. Sharon Frost says:


    I’m afraid it’s true that Amelia has ruined her chances in that talent search.

    I realized I had a problem with YJ when the number of years I’ve been hating it far exceeded the number of years I sort of liked it. And the magazine seems to reproduce itself. Every time I take a stack down to our building’s book exchange in the laundry room I find another little cache under a bookshelf, like a nest of mice.

    • Amelia Catone says:


      Sharon at first I thought you meant “reproduce itself” figuratively, as in they put out the same ideas cyclically but with different flashy headings… then I realized you meant literally, like wet Gremlins after midnight.

  3. Joslyn Hamilton says:


    My main problem with YJ is not ethical; it’s creative:
    It’s boring as eff.

    • Liska says:


      Because it’s as formulaic as Cosmo, but only 40% as trashy?

      It would be a better magazine with one good, solid anatomy article and 30 pages of naked Toe Sox ads. And a crossword. I do like me some crosswords in my periodicals.

    • Chrissy says:


      Boring as Eff is right, and full of people who look they spent 6 years in wheel….Good God! I must also add that I always wondered why Katherine Budig was never dressed in her adds….I celebrate the female form but really….she needs a body sock to go with her toe sox

      Response posted on May 4th, 2011 , 2:10 pm Reply
    • Thursdayyoga.com says:


      Thank God; yes, it’s boring as eff. And getting back to my idealism, truth is not boring. Yoga Journal is just Mademoiselle or Cosmo or Shape. I don’t really know because even when I was a dumb teenager, I never read Mademoiselle or Cosmo. I know, I almost sound like I could be telling a non-truth.

      I wrote a pretty decent critique, I must say

      http://thursdayyoga.com/blog/pop-yoga/

      Thanks recovering yogi for actually entertaining me,
      Renee

      Response posted on May 4th, 2011 , 9:43 pm Reply
      • Amelia Catone says:


        ThursdayYoga! We are kindred. You’re more sophisticated in your approach, yet still I have a yogablog crush on you. Add to “pop” yoga, the idea of “tanning booth yoga.” This is how a friend of mine described a studio she attended where the teacher was clicking away text messages while the students were in savasana.

  4. Brie says:


    Oh my God. You are hilarious! LOVE this.

  5. Julie says:


    The ads along with the recent “what to wear” articles have really turned me off. It really is nothing better than something to skim through while using the potty :(

    Response posted on May 4th, 2011 , 3:44 pm Reply
    • Amelia Catone says:


      Julie how are your movements? I hope you’re not getting through an *entire* YJ while using the potty, because then I’d recommend the acidophilus pearls featured on page 35 or flora balance on page 84. But really I guess even if you were a super-fast pooper you’d still have enough time to get the gist… if you can’t joke about poo what can you joke about!??!

      Response posted on May 4th, 2011 , 5:49 pm Reply
  6. Wendy Ness says:


    Wow, I’m a little stunned at the hostility towards Yoga Journal. I enjoy some of the articles in YJ and some I do not enjoy. I’m sure it is not easy to walk the razors edge as far as advertising and Yoga. HATE is such a strong word and I’m not sure that I would apply this IMMENSE word to Yoga Journal. I might use it to proclaim my aversion to WAR and CRUELTY, as in “I HATE WAR.”

    I am all for “Feminist Art” and the ads for Toe Soxs I view as art. I personally am not offended by the ads and I am more likely to buy Toe Soxs just for the shear joy of loving the beauty of the naked female form. I shall celebrate and practice Yoga with nothing on but my Toe Soxs in honor of the nude female form!

    So much to love in this world, so little time.

    Response posted on May 4th, 2011 , 4:33 pm Reply
    • Amelia Catone says:


      I definitely hate war too. And I’ll say again I’m cool with Kathryn Budig. Hope to meet her someday and give her high five.

      Response posted on May 4th, 2011 , 5:41 pm Reply
    • Chrissy says:


      I think that it’s all good if Amelia “hates” YJ, because we all have our thing. And honestly the ads are not a huge deal, just a distraction. Everyone has their personal view of what art is, so if the ads inspire you to buy toe sox and practice nude, rock it out…they just do not inspire me the same way which is , again ,all good …I would love to see Katherine sequence into some of the poses that I see in the ads because they are cool, and my curious mind wants to know where to begin….I’ll just do so clothed ;)
      With love comes honesty, and to be frank I agree with Amelia that a magazine that is packed with ad after ad is a bit much, but again, it is my choice what I expose myself to so I no longer subscribe

      Response posted on May 4th, 2011 , 7:25 pm Reply
      • Liska says:


        Ah, now their website does have some good info on it… including some features from Ms Budig herself describing how to get into those gorgeous contorted forms :)

        Response posted on May 5th, 2011 , 3:52 am Reply
        • Chrissy says:


          I will check that out Liska….
          I’m just trying to figure out what to tell my husband after he sees holes kicked in the drywall after I have a Katherine Budig moment after the kids go to bed ;)

          • Liska says:


            As long as you’re kicking those holes in the wall wearing nothing but toe socks, I’m sure he’ll get over it ;)

            Response posted on May 5th, 2011 , 7:03 pm Reply
    • Joslyn Hamilton says:


      I hate mushrooms. I actually wish there was a stronger word for the way I feel about mushrooms. Hating inanimate objects and ideas does not, IMHO, preclude the room for love in one’s heart.

      Response posted on May 4th, 2011 , 7:27 pm Reply
      • Wendy Ness says:


        Maybe this webpage should be called “The Bitter Yogi”. How does one “recover “if the heart is bitter?

        • Yogini5 says:


          Easy, you stay away from that which makes you bitter in the first place. You have to have a raised consciousness to see through the bull$hit. This is the bitterness borne of a raised conciousness (and I am not talking samadhi here) and from righteous indignation ..

          At least I hope so. I am too busy, too prole; maybe too literal-minded to see this merely as above-it-all satire … and I LIKE satire …

          Response posted on May 5th, 2011 , 7:30 pm Reply
      • Chrissy says:


        I agree Joslyn….you can hate the little things and it is OK! While we are hating… I hate Cilantro….it tastes like soap and makes me break out in hives….yet I am not bitter…not in the least…and as you well know, I love this site.

        • Joslyn Hamilton says:


          It’s okay to hate cilantro too! Lots of people do! I’m definitely not bitter about yoga or anything else. But I do think it’s easy to confuse straight-up East Coast humor with bitterness if you don’t have it in ya.

          • Amelia Catone says:


            JOSLYN you got it right… I totally forgot the lost-in-translation factor of my East Coast vernacular. I kind of thought my post was downright jovial. Perhaps I could employ a translator for this or the next one. Or maybe we should have left in the ad for the Mansy… nothing says “harmless” like a hirsute man in virabhadrasana I wearing a nutsling.

          • Chrissy says:


            I think that you nailed it Joslyn….it is an East Coast thing…so yes, Amelia, from one Bostonian to another….I get you girl and DID see the post as jovial…..PHEW….I was worried that the whole world was wearing their happy hats ;) (this too
            being a joke ;) ;) ;) )

            Response posted on May 5th, 2011 , 1:15 pm Reply
          • Leslie says:


            I hate cilantro too! Tastes like soap and ruins any dish it touches. I don’t think it’s necessarily an east coast thing (I’m from the south and think this is heelarious). I think it’s a not-taking-everything-so-seriously-and-simply-having-a-sense-of-humor thing.

            Response posted on May 6th, 2011 , 7:27 am Reply
  7. Don says:


    Hi Amelia,

    Your article is spot on and thank you for the reference to my article! When I first started subscribing to Yoga Journal, I was filled with hope that it would be a great supplement to my practice. I was highly disappointed when I realized that I would never look as good in that Hard Tail outfit as the 20-something young thing does on the back cover. :D

    Response posted on May 4th, 2011 , 6:13 pm Reply
    • Amelia Catone says:


      Don I would love to see your booty in some low-rise Hard Tail pants in like Eka Pada Koundiyanasana or something… better yet, forget the Hard Tail, how would you feel about your birthday suit and Toe Sox? (jokes!! all in good fun)

      Response posted on May 4th, 2011 , 6:47 pm Reply
  8. Mary Ellen says:


    I wanted to like this post but felt dragged down by what felt a bitter rant. This has been complained about in numerous blogs before and you don’t seem to bring anything new to the discussion.

    Response posted on May 5th, 2011 , 6:18 am Reply
    • Wendy Ness says:


      Mary Ellen,

      DITTO! I’d like to recover from the wounding experience I’ve had with yoga but mostly I find bitter, judgmental, angry posts here.

      “Tears, sorrow, and disappointment are bitter, but wisdom is the comforter in all psychic suffering. Indeed, bitterness and wisdom form a pair of alternatives: where there is bitterness, wisdom is lacking; and where wisdom is, there can be no bitterness” ~ Carl Jung

      Response posted on May 5th, 2011 , 7:45 am Reply
      • Chrissy says:


        What I see are many thoughtful, honest posts by people who are sharing one of their life stories….my story wasn’t bitter, it was just about my personal growing pains ( and joys), which we all have as people who truly are “out there” interacting with others. In fact, that is what ALL of the posts have in common….they share thoughts and history. If they seem snarky, eh what can you do ?
        Life isn’t always clean and pretty, however I am seeing a trend toward finger pointing when a person has an issue and is blatant in their distaste for something. It is my feeling that we all have to deal with negativity at some point in our path, what you do after is what matters. IDK….I guess that I saw Amelia’s humor and fun spirit in her post…

        • Amelia Catone says:


          A wise person once told me that if you feel like you have to defend yourself to someone, you agree with her on some level. Thanks for seeing the post for what it is, Chrissy! I definitely wasn’t wounded by Yoga Journal, hahaha… and I’m proud to say that after many years I’ve healed from the real wound (maybe I’ll write about that someday for RY) and part of that healing has *definitely* included laughing at all there is to laugh about in this absurd yoga world (of which I consider myself a proud part!).

          • Chrissy says:


            Well said Amelia!
            And good for you! I am all about finding the humor in life and could not live well without laughter and teasing. There is just a demographic out there that is super serious, and while I celebrate all differences, I can say that I am not one of the serious people, which is fine because the world would be boring indeed if we all agreed and were the same.
            I believe that one can be snarky ( if it is in a humorous way) , silly, sarcastic, caustic, witty, well spoken, honest and clear without being bitter. Talking about itvwhen things suck is what deletes bitterness, which is why this site rocks!

            Response posted on May 5th, 2011 , 1:25 pm Reply
      • Kimberly Johnson says:


        Mary Ellen and Wendy,

        There is a difference between yoga and the yoga world. Yoga is awesome. The yoga world is a mess. If you are in it long enough, you too will experience the hypocrisy and bad behavior that causes one to look critically at a world which is trying to project itself as above. And it is harsh when you realize it is often times landing well below the mark with the “outside world”.

        If this is the wrong website for you, don’t read it. There ARE plenty of people concerned, and even invested, in highlighting all of the positives of both yoga and the yoga world.

        I personally find it intelligent, refreshing, and healing to hear other people’s points off view. It’s about pluralism and biodiversity- not buying some pre-packaged idea of what it means to be spiritual or “yogic”.

        • Chrissy says:


          Amen Kimberly,
          Being witty does not make a person bitter…I have found that the truly bitter are the ones who bottle it all up. If you shake a soda it will eventually explode….I think that it is the same when you deny all things hard, scary , or yes, EEE ghads…NEGATIVE ( cue in the scary music lol), you too will explode. I say get it out there, which in the end makes more space for joy.

        • Barbara says:


          I agree with you wholeheartedly.

  9. Kat Mansfield says:


    Genius. Spot on. Other superlatives in that vein.

    Response posted on May 5th, 2011 , 7:22 am Reply
  10. Lisa Flavin says:


    YJ is to magazines what Price Chopper is to grocery stores. Plus, I don’t appreciate all the ads for bottled water due to fact that most people are well aware of what bottled water is costing the people our country rapes to bottle it. DUH.

  11. Mary Malone says:


    I don’t hate yoga journal…I even don’t feel the least bit annoyed by it! For me it is something like cosmo magazine…it definitely has its place within a specific audience, but for me is almost like fast food for the mind (sometimes a guilty pleasure I must admit). Since it is a major magazine and there aren’t a lot about yoga around, one may argue that it projects a wrong image of the yoga community making it look like something shallow, new agy, or aimed at white thin bendy woman. Of course that is almost like making judgements about the female gender interests based only on reading cosmo magazine.
    The problem is that there are few alternatives on the yoga community to YJ. I guess what we are lacking is some kind of other yoga magazine, more dense, more philosophical, more grounded to our reality and addressing the needs of people who practice yoga and live yoga every day. But would it really sell?

    • Chrissy says:


      I would buy that Mary :0)

      Response posted on May 5th, 2011 , 1:28 pm Reply
    • Andy says:


      I think Elephant Journal could be a viable alternative to YJ. They are a little broader (scattered?) than just the topic of yoga, but they have a nice brand that is not too gender-targetted… I don’t know, maybe Waylong L. will figure it out.

  12. Nancy LaNasa says:


    You can buy less expensive, and just as good, liability insurance elsewhere. And then your YJ problem will be solved.

    Response posted on May 5th, 2011 , 2:23 pm Reply
    • Amelia Catone says:


      Nancy do you have links to preferred insurers? I appreciate the problem-solving help.

      Response posted on May 5th, 2011 , 6:24 pm Reply
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    Response posted on May 8th, 2011 , 2:30 pm Reply
  14. Andy says:


    The biggest thing about Yoga Journal in its current incarnation that bothers me is that it is a full-on -Women’s- magazine. In targeting their core demographic, they are in turn helping to turn off a little less than half the population. It contributes to the unfortunate meme amongst American dudes that yoga is something their girlfriends do–a foofy activity not meant for them. Of course us guys secure in our masculinity know that is absurd, but to the stiff 35 year old ex athlete dude who is in a lot of pain and searching for a good way to stay in shape, the person that yoga would be perfect for, the Women’s Journal of Yoga is not helping matters.

    • Andy says:


      as a follow up, I did not mean to come off as anti woman. I happen to love the ratios of most yoga classes. I just tend to think of yoga as a non gender specific thing, and YJ is pretty darn gender specific, despite the token male cover model recently.

      Is it a creator of this disparity or merely a reflection of it? Hmmm

  15. Crystal @YogiCrystal says:


    Love this post and your complete honesty! I admit that I have had similar feelings about YJ lately and totally see where you are coming from and agree with one of the commenters above, it’s starting to read like a Cosmo (and that’s something I definitely do not read).

  16. 6 Awesome Yoga Blogs | Atlanta Yoga Scene says:


    [...] Recovering Yogi–A refuge of the disenfranchised yogi. Extreme hilarity abounds with posts like “Words we Loathe and Abhor” and “I hate Yoga Journal.” [...]

  17. jess says:


    YES! Loved this. Such a riot…you know it really gets my goat that they MAKE you subscribe in order to maintain your liability insurance. I called up and spoke to a nice woman for a very long time because I wanted to sever my YJ membership and “just the insurance thank you ma’am” and there is no way to just get insured. Racket. Also, I must say I dig the Sal Kempton too. Not that I even remotely try to assimilate her deep ass mediation practices, I just like to read them ‘cuz they’re nice.

  18. Swami Param says:


    Three important points about real Yoga:
    1. Real Yoga is Hinduism.
    2. Taught by Hindus
    3. Not for a fee.

    Obviously the phony yoga of today is so because it strikes out on all three counts.
    This phony yoga has given birth to all the non-sense in the name of yoga today.

    Of course, lazy and ignorant Hindus (and those with nefarious agendas) are at fault for the complete distortion of the sacred Hindu/Yoga teachings and practices.

    If anyone wants to discuss this matter, feel free to e-mail: classyoga@aol.com

  19. Bianca says:


    there are other liability insurance companies out there that don’t force you to receive that product peddling magazine!!!

  20. Arjay says:


    YJ lost me the day they ran a full-page Hydroxycut ad. Like, really??

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