For the past five years, IAYB has enthusiastically rounded up the “best” (quotation marks because it’s highly subjective) posts of the yoga blogosphere. This year, however, it’s a little more difficult.
One of the reasons is that there is less emphasis on individual posts. Or rather, that these posts carry less weight. Or maybe the yoga blogosphere carries less weight. I’m not sure. But I know that from 2011 to 2013, there was an energy and urgency to a loose collective of voices in the yoga world. Things felt fresh and exciting, the possibilities felt endless.
In 2014, it felt like writing and thinking about yoga reached a sort of stasis. Which isn’t a bad thing, necessarily. Rather, after a few years of turbulent growth and spunky talkback, it’s like yoga blogging finished college, got a decent job and settled down with a comfortable partner. The conversations have an ease and predictability – they still have an intelligence and critical discourse, but there have been few surprises or startling new voices.
Of course, maybe I’m just speaking from my own POV here. 2014 was a big year for me personally – I uprooted my community-centred Montreal life and moved to a small city on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. I spent a good chunk of the summer roaming around wild mountain villages and swimming in lakes, and then settled into cozy domesticity. I now spend my weekends hiking and going to gardening shops. I make nourishing slow cooker stews. I browse Craigslist for cheap furniture.
Yet I feel no connection to the west coast yoga scene and rely heavily on my eastern (Montreal/Toronto/NYC) peeps for a sense of community via social media. My practice has become very personal, introverted and nature-based. The cross-country transition was harder on IAYB than I expected. Those who pay close attention to things may have noticed that there are fewer posts on the blog itself, although I’m just as noisy on Twitter and Facebook (not Google+, however, despite a few attempts).
Anyway, let’s put aside ruminating on the future of yoga blogging for another time. This is a time to think about the past. 2014! What a year! Some have called it “the most dismal misery parade on record,” and yeah, that’s pretty true. Widespread racial unrest, state suppression of pro-democracy protests, increasing evidence of the effects of climate change, infectious disease outbreaks, missing airplanes, high-profile allegations of violence against women and sexual assault…
For a few years there, it seemed like yoga was facing the challenges of modern life head on, but this year it all seemed like too much. The yoga community, instead, seemed to retreat into a collective kurmasana. How do we stand up to the complexities and suffering of life? How do our practices prepare us for what we’re witnessing on a human and global scale?
To be determined. All things considered, the practice of yoga itself is in a good state, and there is more critical thinking and paradigm shifting than ever before. Here are some of the highlights and standouts of the year in yoga.
While the yoga community may not have responded to global turmoil, two very important practice-focused movements emerged in 2014, simultaneously critiquing and expanding yoga as we know it.
First up, Matthew Remski’s WAWADIA (What Are We Actually Doing in Asana) project, which aims to open up the conversation around yoga injuries. Remski has posted a fascinating and exhaustive series of essays and interviews, while also documenting crowdsourced experiences from both teachers and everyday practitioners. He’s been documenting his research and questions on his blog, and will compile everything in a highly anticipated book to be published in 2016.
The growing rumblings about the oppressive and limited representation of body types within yoga media and marketing culminated in the formation of the Yoga and Body Image Coalition. This is a united front of body image activists, size acceptance crusaders and diversity loving pioneers who aren’t just criticizing the detrimental portrayal of (mostly women’s) bodies in the media, but actively creating empowering and affirming alternatives. We expect great things from this collective.
During the post-Occupy years, the yoga and social justice movement gained some traction – however, it quieted down quite a bit this past year. It didn’t quite go away, but it seemed to have lost steam. Perhaps the yoga community found it easier to align itself with safe protests on Wall Street, but more difficult to show up when shit goes down in black suburban middle America. Jardana Peacock was one lone voice who called for racial justice, and she even created a convenient step-by-step guide.
The complexities of justice-based yoga and healing work (and how it intersects with privilege, white supremacy and faux decolonization), however, were articulated by Andi MacDonald in her long and thoughtful post on why she quit teaching yoga. It’s an important post. But I have to admit I was disappointed, that it feels like she gave up, that things became messy, so she quit and took off to the woods to grow kale and build cabins or whatever.
Fortunately, there were other long-standing voices of integrity who didn’t call it quits in 2014, who have continued to push their own boundaries and expand their work. Carol Horton remains a voice of reason, and her writing has taken on the bigger picture of where yoga is and where it’s going. Danielle Prohom Olson at Body Divine Yoga has given us fascinating explorations of the “yoga body” as cultural phenomenon (I return to her post, “Rewilding the Yoga Body,” over and over). And J. Brown challenges conventional wisdom about the benefits of classical yoga postures, while also offering strong and grounded reflections on teaching and community building.
So 2014 was the year of the yoga selfie. For the most part, yoga selfies are completely self-indulgent and tedious – but there are a few self-made social media stars who kept IAYB inspired and delighted throughout the year. They also point to ways that the conversation has moved beyond blogs and personal websites and on to sole social media platforms.
I’ve been crushing on Vegan Yoga Punk since the day he launched his FB fan page. He does yoga poses in an Iron Maiden shirt in front a TV with the hockey game on; posts detailed, healthy, yet disgusting (and completely endearing) food photos; and talks openly about his mental health struggles and recovery from alcoholism. It’s been purely inspiring to watch him move from Michigan to Austin, Texas and rebuild his life with enthusiasm and joy.
Instagram is full of blonde bendy nearly-naked babes, so when a fat black girl takes on crazy inversions in her underwear, it’s hard not to take notice. Jessamyn Stanley gained traction with her yoga selfies, and then quickly started engaging her followers with “size doesn’t matter” challenges and all-round body positivity. At one point (I can’t find the post), in response to a question about why she wasn’t losing weight despite her disciplined asana practice, she defiantly claimed that she doesn’t give a fuck about weight loss and eats what she wants when she wants. Although she’s gone on a bit of a fashion bend these days, she is still a curvy role model and a refreshing burst of authentic inspiration in a stale selfie scene.
Holding On, Letting Go
And it wouldn’t be an end-of-the-year roundup without mentioning the indefatigable YogaDork, who just keeps on keeping on (but seriously dude, it’s time for a responsive website), and paying tribute to The Babarazzi, who closed shop in January and is still sorely missed (by IAYB, at least). While I agree that Babs served their purpose and the joke was getting old, I revisit their final post regularly and imagine how Aghori would respond to current scandals and dramas in the yoga world. Things are definitely a little more boring without them.
Okay, so maybe 2014 wasn’t so bad! There is hope for the year ahead. See you in the blogosphere!