Archive for April, 2009

Yoga Teacher: Speed Eater!

This is one of those can’t-believe-it stories.

Yesterday, a gorgeous, long-awaited spring day, Bay Ridge, NY’s Ivy Bakery held a cupcake eating contest. Who won? A yoga teacher! How did she do it? Discipline! Focus! Metabolism!

Cupcake eating contest winner

image: Pace for News. The New York Daily News reports:

“Nancy Cummings, the first-place winner, said that her role as a yoga instructor gave her what it took to be the champion.

“I am disciplined and focused and I can digest them faster,” said the slender 31-year-old brunette from Bay Ridge, who dipped each little chocolate cake into a glass of water before shoving it whole into her mouth.”

Yoga mama, you are all that and then some. Love the dipping strategy. Raccoon-like!

Love the Pink Jumpsuit

In March 2007, I met Tao Porchon-Lynch, a 93-year old yoga teacher in Westchester. Not only did she teach yoga, she taught it at…. Equinox gym! Where she was a very popular teacher!  I took her class.  Though I could barely hear her whispery voice above the gym’s thump-thump-thump, she was fascinating company.

Last week, Tao’s contemporary in Australia, Bette Calman, turned up in the news.

At 83, Bette is still popping into crow pose, lotus, and headstand. Doesn’t she look smashing in that pink jump suit? And–great hair.

Bette Calman

Above, the honorable Mrs. Calman in peacock pose.

London’s Daily Mail reports, “While others her age complain about aches and pains, Mrs Calman focuses on getting tough balancing manoeuvres right.

…. She can also put her head between her knees and hold her ankles, putting her inflexible grandchildren to shame.”

Oh, those inflexible grandchildren! Call Bikram Choudry posthaste!

Bette Calman2

Bette Calman 3

Bette Calman 4

(Yoga Dork reports on yet another oldy-but-goody–this time a 90-yr old yoga teacher, in Tom’s River, NJ.)

Mine and TIME’s–Too Close for Comfort?

Last Sunday, in a fit of paranoia, it seemed as if the Yoga Journal blog, Yoga Buzz, had scooped my post on the AskMen.com issue (whether meathead dudes should do yoga).

But a friendly note from Yoga Buzz online editor Erica Rodefer clarified that it was just a coincidence. Great blogging minds thinking alike etc etc. Okay, that’s cool.

However, it quickly became clear that I had sensed the future (putting my yogic skills to work!).

On Wednesday, April 15, Time Magazine’s article on Yoga and Psychotherpay cited many of my sources and clearly drew from the story structure of the piece I wrote for GAIA Magazine in November 2008!!! ACK!

Read and compare:  Mine and Theirs Too close for comfort? I thought so.

I’m flattered to be imitated but this goes too far.

For now, my complaint has reached the Time Mag health editor and I hope to hear her update on the situation this week. If journalists don’t take pains to avoid stepping on each other’s toes, what are we doing exactly?

[UPDATE: Moving on from the toxicity of the situation, I edited the original post. After the sting faded, there were some interesting meta questions embedded here: journalistically speaking, must mainstream trendspotting rely so heavily on the legwork of others? As a friend pointed out, at what point does one venue’s coverage become a stolen idea for another venue? Also implicit here is the question of what happens when yoga bounces into the mainstream? No longer rarified, what are the parameters of representation? To be continued…]

Yoga Clothes Go Starbucks

After reading Yoga Dork last week, I have to admit that my love affair with LuluLemon must come to an end. It’s embarassing. The clothing is so well made, lasts forever, fits well, breathes well, but it’s just too trendy.

When LLLMN set up shop in NY in 2006 (I wrote about it for TimeOutNY), I knew my time was running out. True to form, they quickly swept the city. As a Canuck, I’d already begun wearing their clothes in 2002, when no one here cared. (Vancouverites cared though; my friends called it attire for teeny-boppers. They couldn’t believe I wore it; they wouldn’t go near it themselves.)

But now it’s like I’m a freaking ad. It’s just not cool. (And you can’t black out that ubiquitous shiny silver logo, I’ve tried.)

Now, just to cement my fears, Forbes announces that Christine Day, former head of Starbucks’ Asia Pacific Group, is heading up LuluLemon as CEO, making the standardized latte culture–standardized yoga culture link ultra clear. Uh oh.

Forbes says, “Lululemon fits Day’s easygoing personality and seriousness of purpose. And, like the one-time coffee juggernaut, the yoga-centric clothing company focuses on cult-like customer loyalty; thorough, mandatory staff training on new products and customer service; and innovative marketing.”

Sigh. Innovative, yes, but just a bit too clubby.

Luckily at Easter brunch today I heard about Yoga Army, an LA-based yoga wear company. Only problem is, none of their dresses look like anything I could wear to class. Yoga Army is a “yoga look” for out on the town. “Yoga street,” as one of my brunch companions noted. (But how “street” is a red-silk, one-shoulder dress at $594? Or a fringed-leather vest for $200?)

Yoga Army

Yoga Army was smart: it dispensed with the yoga.

Not so for the LA labels Beyond Yoga (at the mind-bending URL, www.iambeyond.com), OmGirl (includes a T with a charity bent), all mentioned in Los Angeles Magazine, March 2009, where lifestyle and yoga creepily creep together.

And once-small companies such as Blue Canoe and Hyde (Hyde has product endorsement from Deepak Chopra front and center on their home page) seem to aspire to similar ends as the now gigantic LLLMN—so does that make buying them just the same sin under a different label?

(And speaking of labels, the price-tags on all of these organic, single-source, almost edible threads are s-t-e-e-p—no cheaper that the Big Lemon’s.)

So, what’s a non-label-loving girl to do? Take refuge in American Apparel and call that anonymity? Wear Nike like a rebel?

Doga… Done.

I’m suprised that the NYTimes ran the Yoga for Dogs piece: this topic has been done, done, done. That’s all I have to say.

Doga in Seattle

Doga in Seattle. Photo by Stuart Isett for the NYTimes

Men & Yoga: Lovers, Hater, Boobs

On AskMen.com, the relationship columnist and the fitness columnist duke it out on why men should—or should not—do yoga.

Man in warrior

It’s a real-men-don’t-eat-quiche kind of discussion with dumb-ass humour, dude stereotyping, and the assumption that men are compulsively two-dimensional.

Both pro- and con- columnists seem to be protecting some faked-up fragile male ego that could be emasculated by words like “teacup” and phrases like, “how do you feel?” All pretty ridiculous considering that yoga was originally conceived by men for men. It just seems like these writers don’t actually do yoga.

Here’s a quote from the pro-yoga, fitness writer Kevin Neeld: “Before we’re tarred and feathered by women in leotards and men that own all of Yanni’s CDs, hear us out. We love yoga, but it’s a tool to be used for very specific purposes.” Yeah, we know who’s the tool here, Kevin.

Also: “A well-designed yoga routine provides a great dynamic stretch and muscular activation series to use before other forms of training or just to mix into your day to get you out of a chair for a few minutes.”

Please don’t call that yoga.

Man in lotus

images from askmen.com

The anti-yoga writer, Chris Illuminati, relies on jokes that revolve around 1. getting some and 2. not getting laughed at by the guys. But he does manage to list four reasons why men shouldn’t and don’t do yoga (Yoga Journal, are you listening?). They are dumb, but they might be a little bit true:

1. Real men don’t carry mats. Okay, point taken– I don’t like to carry a yoga mat either.

2. No man should bend that way. Illuminati writes, “A workout should involve the release of aggression through the movement of weights or the scoring of points.” Should is a strong word, Chris.

3. There are too many phrases to remember. “Men don’t like to think.”

4. Yoga makes you look like a stalker. “Even if you are 100% interested in actually taking yoga, you will just look like the creepy guy in the back of class who might just be staring at every woman’s backside.” Dude, see Ogden (last post).

We’ve got all these issues covered, over here in the yoga world, boys. Which makes me wonder: what are you doing over there at AskMen?

Oh, I know. Thinking about boobs.

“It might be a little more guy-friendly if the instructor said “bend over like you are picking up a quarter” or “react like you just threw your back out and can’t stand straight.” If an instructor is telling me to get in the downward dog after a tittibhasana, I’m just going to lie down on my stomach, because those words conjure up naughty thoughts, creating what is frequently referred to as the “living wood.”

Inappropriate Yoga Guy “Edits” Yoga Journal

To mark April Fool’s Day, Yoga Journal sent out a fake press release announcing that Inappropriate Yoga Guy, the crotch-grabbing, breast-oggling liability called Ogden, would be installed for a 6-month editorship at Yoga Journal, the giant of yoga magazines.

Of course, it’s a traffic-driving spoof to get a younger demographic on to the magazine’s site. It’s also an ad for the 5-part web series on Odgen at the helm at YJ. View the laugh-out-loud trailer here:

Beginning last Wednesday, the first episode of the series is available on the YJ Web site. See episode 1 here. ( See episode 2 here!)

Notable excerpts from the YJ press release: “Tough times demand creative solutions. In a surprise move that is already rocking the magazine industry, Yoga Journal Magazine announces it has hired Ogden, also known as “The Inappropriate Yoga Guy,” as its new editor.

Ogden, the YouTube sensation, already has millions of fans who have watched him bumble his way though yoga classes, offending his female classmates and annoying those around him.”

Anyone who can dream up the cover line ‘Yoga and Knives: What Took Us So Long?’ is truly a publishing genius,” says Patricia Fox, Yoga Journal’s General Manager.

“It’s no secret that in this economy, magazines have taken a hit. We are certain that Ogden’s unique character and consistent record of thinking outside the box will not only increase revenue, but also bring tens of thousands of new users and readers to our website and magazine.”

With Ogden’s high-jinx now front and center on the ultra-yoga corp’s site, maybe we’ll see a jump in the number of dudes doing yoga. Or, ahem, checking it out.

(FYI about 700,000 more men were practicing yoga in 2008 compared to 2004, according to—you guessed it—Yoga Journal’s own demographic studies.)