Suck it, Adidas
By Sachie Alessio Heath
My name is Sachie Alessio Heath. I’m 5’3”, weigh 119 lbs. My mother is Spanish, my father Japanese. In that way I’m Spasian. In college I was a piano performance major who also played water polo and crew. I have practiced yoga for ten years; I’ve taught for four. I live in Los Angeles, so naturally I’m an actress. That’s my headshot below.
Last year, I received a call from Adidas, who approached me to be their Global Yoga Ambassador. A global yoga ambassador gets to travel around the world to different gyms, teaching and evangelizing the word of yoga. Basically, my second perfect job. (My first is starring in an action film. I’m a natural.) I was elated to hear I’d made the final cut. Adidas flew me to NYC to meet with their representative – let’s call her “Maria” – and to teach her yoga so that she could get a feel for my style. Maria said she loved the class and told me about the relief she felt with a sciatic issue that had been bothering her for years. We went to lunch after class to discuss possibilities.
At lunch, Maria talked about my strengths, Adidas-style: good teacher, knowledgeable, inspiring, with a global “look,” young without being too young. Toward the end of our conversation, she posed a fateful question: How can we market you?
Huh? I asked her what she meant. Maria explained that they needed to prove I was a good teacher with a bona fide paper trail. Which yoga-related websites or magazines had I been published in? Did I have certificates resembling diplomas that would make me more credible? You see, I would be following in the shelltoes of Elena Brower, a highly regarded Anusara teacher (with a dancer’s physique).
I returned to Los Angeles and crafted an impassioned letter, detailing my pedigree and beliefs about yoga. My Anusara Level 1 and Level 2 Teacher Trainings were with (among several talented others) Noah Maze, Tara Judelle, and Naime Jezzeny. I had taken over 200 hours of workshops with John Friend, Desiree Rumbaugh, Carlos Pomeda, Ross Rayburn, and Darren Rhodes – all household names in the Anusara community. My daily practice is with Annie Carpenter. My ongoing education is with Chloe Chung Misner of Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen’s Body-Mind Centering®. I taught at City Yoga, #1 on Huffington Post’s “Best Yoga Classes in Los Angeles.”
Then I worked the philosophical angle.
I explained that the yoga scene is filled with people preaching that to be a “real” yogi, you must be vegetarian, wear organic cotton, don mala beads and patchouli. You must have studied in India, resigned your material possessions, lived in an ashram, meditated in the Himalayas, and been hugged by Amma. I called bullshit on the idea that if you’re a size zero with a sick practice, you must be a great teacher. Or that having a celebrity following says something about you as a person.
“Screw it,” I wrote. That’s not the kind of yoga I know. It’s because of all of those preconceived notions that yoga remains inaccessible and inapproachable to many people. Yoga is a way of being that transcends schools of thought, and to borrow from Rumi, it lies “beyond the fields of right and wrong.”
And this is where I brought it all home: I reminded Adidas of their own ad campaign. I wrote, “Adidas asks, ‘Who are you as an individual?’” (Nice touch, right?) In my classes, I see a yogi population that wants to be recognized for its abilities and imperfections, a population who won’t be categorized into a stylized box and who may live an entire lifetime without living in an ashram, much less the desire to visit one, and yet they have the same chance of becoming enlightened as anyone.
Adidas, I said, It’s with this new wave of yoga that I identify. I eat meat, I adore animals. I love clothes and material possessions, and I don’t believe that living without anything will make me a better person. Evolving is a choice I make daily. I don’t believe in gurus. I think we all have the potential to be the best version of ourselves, and our greatest teacher is within. I believe that the most influential people of our time are cut from the same cloth. The Dalai Lama didn’t study to become inspirational; he simply speaks from his own experience.
I clicked SEND on my email and reflected. How’s that for a marketing campaign, Adidas?
A week later I received a response: “You’re too short.” Ouch.
In acting, it’s common to be turned away for not looking the part. Casting directors have a particular image in mind, and make no bones about it. You can say what you want about the entertainment industry’s superficiality, at least they’re up front about it.
But because this was about yoga, I suppose I assumed that Adidas would consider passion, drive, knowledge, and originality more important than say, being 5’6” or taller. My bad.
About Sachie Alessio Heath
Sachie Alessio Heath is a yoga teacher, actress, foodie, and action hero. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Josh, and their two adorable pit bulls, Sasha and Bruiser. She loves learning and sharing knowledge, and also happens to have a preternatural talent for impersonations. Follow her on Twitter and check out her website.