On April 13, 2009, I created a wordpress.com account & unceremoniously launched a little blog onto the already-crowded Internet. I had lost my job at a yoga magazine, ascent, just a few days prior. I spent my first weekend of unemployment knitting a rainbow baby blanket and watching America’s Next Top Model. I was sad about the magazine closing, but also excited about starting a new phase in my life.
After three years of editing other people’s writing, I was eager to see what I had to think and say about yoga in North America. I had no idea anybody else would be interested. But 5 YEARS & 700 POSTS LATER the little blog is alive and kicking, causing trouble in just the right way while also celebrating and supporting awesome yoga projects around the continent.
A few minutes after publishing my first blog post (aptly titled, “my first blog post!”), I received my first comment. I don’t even know how the guy found my little newborn blog, but he did and liked it enough to leave a comment, encouraging me to continue blogging. When I reread that first post, I’m surprised by how clearly I defined the intention for IAYB: “This will be a blog about yoga, obv, and whatever else interests me.”
I cringe a little when I read those early posts. I was clearly finding my voice, and my writing was all over the place. I didn’t share my posts or even tell anybody that I had started a blog. It was my secret project, and I worked on it in my dark little apartment after French class and lazy summer afternoons hanging out in parks.
Gradually I started to comment on other blogs and gain more confidence in what I had to say about yoga. During those early months, I connected with YogaDork, Yoga for Cynics (Jay Winston), Linda’s Yoga Journey (Linda Sama Karl), EcoYogini (Lisa Spinney-Huston), Grounding Thru the Sit Bones (Brenda P), Brooks Hall, YogaDawg and the legendary Bob Weisenberg (who was a newbie to the yoga world and just self-published a book, Yoga in America). Things were a little different then, as the community of yoga bloggers was much smaller and vocal.
Things didn’t really take off until the great Rainbeau Mars adventure in fall 2009. During my Internet wanderings, I came her “Adidas Yoga” class at one of the Yoga Journal conference and was like, WTF? I wrote a simple post, which immediately went near-viral and caught the attention of Mars herself, who left long rambling comments, justifying her relationship with adidas and her efforts to make them “go sustainable.”
The Fun Years
With this heated, yet somehow respectful, conversation, I got an inkling of IAYB’s raison d’être: to challenge and confront the rapid commercialization of yoga. Also, to stimulate discussion among intelligent and thoughtful yoga practitioners. The purpose and focus of the blog has evolved (I’m now less concerned about commercialization and more interested in activism, social justice and the body politic), but at the core is my fascination with the strange tension between yoga’s roots and how the practice is expressed in Western culture.
The Rainbow Mars conversation was the first of many adventures. Here are some of my other favourites from over the years:
Toesoxgate – In the summer of 2010, respected yoga teacher Judith Hanson Lasater wrote a letter to Yoga Journal stating her concern of the magazine’s policy of publishing ads that use women’s naked bodies to sell yoga products. IAYB was the first to blog about the letter, posting it alongside a ToeSox ad to illustrate Lasater’s point. The photo (and Kathryn Budig, the model) became the subject of the conversation, although at essence it was really about how women’s bodies are commodified both in yoga and mainstream cultures.
Yoga Journal and the Hyatt Boycott – A friend in San Francisco alerted me to labour activists unsuccessful attempts to reach out to the SF yoga community in the summer of 2012. Apparently there was a global boycott of Hyatt Hotels, and union organizers and activists were trying to convince Yoga Journal to find another location for its annual SF conference (one of five or so national conferences, and the only one taking place at a Hyatt). I wrote a blog post about it, then followed up with an interview with an activist and hotel worker right before the January 2013 conference. Suddenly the yoga community woke up. (Note: the Hyatt Boycott ended in July 2013.)
Sadie Nardini’s “summer yoga body” advertising – I couldn’t resist pointing out how problematic a ubiquitous springtime Facebook ad for one of Sadie Nardini’s courses was, and calling her out for unabashedly capitalizing on body shaming tactics to sell her course. As usual, things got fun when Nardini jumped in the conversation, came up with her own definition of “weight loss,” and then changed the ad copy. (Note: I continued to play on Nardini’s constant use of the “yoga body” to market her work, and then we accidentally became BFFs when I took on her 21-day yoga and meal plan.)
Boldly Into the Future
Of course, it’s fun to cause trouble and be a disrupter. But the best part of IAYB is the people I’ve connected with from all over the place – some that I’ve even met in person and collaborated with. I’m so grateful that the blog has connected me with excellent yoga thinkers, activists and innovators like Carol Horton, Matthew Remski, Jill Miller, Mark Singleton, Charlotte Bell, Sandy Blaine, the Yoga Service Council, New Leaf Yoga, goodyoga in NYC, Loren Fishman, Rodmell Press, Be Scofield/Decolonizing Yoga, Aghori Babarazzi, SAAPYA, Kula Yoga in Toronto, Tiina Veer/Yoga for Round Bodies, Global Mind Body and many many more that I’m forgetting here.
The landscape of the yoga blogosphere has changed over the past five years. The initial intimate community of active bloggers has expanded and diversified and fragmented and strengthened. Some of the old relationships have fallen to the wayside, some have moved on to new things, and some new voices have emerged. The conversation has moved from blog comment sections to Facebook (for better or worse). The level of dialogue and discussion has become more sophisticated, and yet more chaotic and baffling.
All I know is that the online yoga community is more active now than ever, and I can’t wait to see what the next five years will bring.