Yoga Journal contest

The yoga interweb is a-flutter with Yoga Journal’s cover model contest. The magazine will pluck one entrant out of obscurity and launch her into the big leagues with the September 2011 cover of Yoga Journal. I gather that recently there has been some upset that Yoga Journal  (YJ) has moved away from its roots, becoming more commercial, featuring on the magazine’s pages too many beautiful naked people in impossible poses. (For example, one of the founders of YJ wrote an open letter to the editors, described here, critical of sexy adverts.) My guess is that, amid the grumbling, YJ decided to stage this contest.

I can’t speak intelligently about the YJ controversy, as I haven’t read Yoga Journal in a while. I once had a subscription to YJ and would look forward each month’s issue like a kid at Christmas. However, one month I really read the book reviews section, and upon processing the words and their meanings for what may have been the first time, I got offended by the endlessly bland reviews. Take a view! as my former boss would say.

Yes, attractive people do grace the cover.

Anyway, the talent search is essentially a popularity contest. Of the 2566 entrants, the 5 people with the most reader votes will be finalists. Then editorial staff at YJ will choose the winner. Right now entrants are lobbying hard, via facebook, via email, via blogs, to get the most votes. My first reaction finds this selection process somewhat disappointing, as I had fantasies of an unknown yogi, having practiced without ego for 20 years in a dark room at home, winning the contest. Alas, this is not to be, as the winner will be among those that can get the e-votes out.

Oh well. I have enjoyed looking through the entries, showing all manner of poses, styles, and people (though they are mainly young women in tight clothing. I ain’t no perv, just calling it like I see it). See below for my faves. I am a sucker for any photo with an animal.

My favorites from the YJ contest

NYT manufactures a controversy about Tara Stiles

Yoga? Ms. Stiles in an american apparel ad.

Tara Stiles is a young, NYC-based yoga instructor. She is Deepak Chopra’s “personal instructor”, author of “Slim Calm Sexy Yoga,” and apparently great at getting press (with features in Elle, Lucky, InStyle, Esquire, and Men’s Health, according to her bio.)

Her most recent press coup is this article in the NY Times, which calls Ms. Stiles a “rebel” yoga instructor. It paints Ms. Stiles as a rebel in the yoga world because she teaches in a more physical, less philosophical style. She calls the sacrum the lower back. (Is being imprecise rebellious?) She refuses to name the studio where she trained because it was “not useful”. (Wouldn’t a 200 hour teacher training have had some sort of influence, good or bad?)

I find article silly because Ms. Stiles is hardly controversial–most yoga-ers in America learn yoga from teachers that ignore the philosophy and have had generic training. Ms Stiles is pretty and has an enormous number of free videos on youtube–all of which help her attract more Americans, especially dudes, to yoga. And some of these people, once attracted, may then decide to go deeper into the practice. This is good.

And, how to make this sound less callous than I mean it, I don’t think many yoga-ers beyond the hard core few expend much energy thinking about her, because: 1) she’s not a rebel, 2)  she’s not a strong presence in the yoga scene (how many have taken her class or read her book?), and 3) yoga people are too groovy to get judgmental in public. Indeed, when Yoga Journal blogged about the NYT article and asked if there was a controversy, most responses were a variation of “no, no controversy, to each her own.” (There has been much discussion of the article in the yogablogosphere. For example, here, here, here, here. I found NY-instructor Sadie Nardini’s post about the background machinations of Creative Artists Agency quite interesting). But still, I believe that the article misses its mark, because Ms Stiles is but a symptom of yoga’s growing pains as it becomes more mainstream in the U.S.

I commend the NYT on its attempt to root out the seedy underbelly of yoga–who doesn’t love a good controversy?–but the NYT needs to try harder. Perhaps more articles on cults or maybe something on inappropriate adjustments?

UPDATE: I went to her class. I enjoyed it.