judith hanson lasater to yoga journal: no more sexy yoga ads!

Aug 4, 2010 by

Kathryn Budig (photographed by Jasper Johal) gets almost naked to sell "Toesox."

In the September issue of Yoga Journal, Judith Hanson Lasater, one of the magazine’s founders (and a long-time contributor), stated in a letter her concern about the magazine and its advertising policy.

She writes: “I’m concerned about ads that have stimulated both confusion and sadness in me about where the magazine is now and where it is headed. I am confused because I do not understand how photos of naked or half-naked women are connected with the sale of practice products for asana, an important part of yoga. These pictures do not teach the viewer about yoga practice or themselves. They aren’t even about the celebration of the beauty of the human body or the beauty of the poses, which I support. These ads are just about selling a product. This approach is something I thought belonged (unfortunately) to the larger culture, but not in Yoga Journal.”

From a glance at Judith’s Facebook Fanpage, she’s not the only person feeling this way. Her page is full of supportive comments from people who have similar issues with Yoga Journal’s advertising policy, and the representation of yoga.

Judith concludes her letter with a call to action. “I feel sad because it seems that Yoga Journal has become just another voice for the status quo and not for elevating us to the higher values of yoga: spiritual integration, compassion and selfless service. My request is that Yoga Journal doesn’t run ads with photos that exploit the sexuality of young women in order to sell products or more magazines.”

Will they listen? Hats off to Judith for having the courage to speak out against sexualized yoga advertising! As she says on her Facebook page: “‘Yes’ to nudity and the gorgeous human body; ‘no’ to using it to sell yoga!” Oh yeah!

Stay tuned for an exclusive interview with Judith Hanson Lasater here on it’s all yoga, baby, as we continue the conversation.

54 Comments

  1. I have so much respect for Judith and her commitment to all eight limbs of yoga, not just the physical practice. I’m very grateful for her willingness to speak out in defense of yoga’s larger meaning, and in defense of non-exploitative, graceful ways of raising public awareness about yoga. And here’s to the “gorgeous human body” not being exploited to sell products!

  2. please ask her to include the diet ads in her well-deserved query into the ethical implications of yj’s advertising. i think the diet ads pair with the half-naked ads: here is what you wish you could look like, here’s how. budig has a gorgeous human body, but i would like to see a naked woman with beautiful, healthy curves (heck, why not, beautiful fat!) on a page celebrating the annamaya kosha.

  3. Beautiful…not that the marketers will listen, but I’m glad she’s using her significant voice and presence to make the point.

  4. Linda-Sama

    I absolutely LOVED her letter!! I think that really says a lot when a founder of YJ says that they are out of line with those ads.

    I am sick and tired of seeing young, white, skinny women advertise yoga AS IF the are the only ones who do yoga. I think those ToeSox ads are the worst! Women complain about seeing half-naked women selling anything else and say it’s exploitation….how are yoga ads any different that use the same tactic?

    I think the ads for Kripalu are the best — they use all colors, all ages, and all sizes of people.

    • Willie Solig

      Take some laxative ;-)

      That ad for toesox is beautiful! She is Beautiful.

      Now I am getting the magazine to look at beautiful bodies in motion.

      Life is good, Namaste.

  5. Am I the only one who doesn’t get it? As far as I’m concerned, the point of yoga is to live in this world. It’s about BEING HUMAN! I do yoga. It doesn’t make me different from someone else who doesn’t do yoga… not really. I screw up. I fall on my face. I say stupid things… Doing yoga doesn’t save me from that. And the type of marketing Judith is describing works for yoga products because yoga students are HUMAN… Isn’t yoga supposed to celebrate our human-ness? We’re not enlightened. We look at gorgeous, naked Kathryn Budig and think either “I want to be her” or “I want to be WITH her.” But we can’t. So we buy her socks–and maybe they remind us to breathe a little deeper and live a little more mindfully. So what?

    Advertisements aren’t about supposed to “teach the viewer about the yoga practice or themselves.” Ads are supposed to sell something. I don’t know about everyone else, but this “viewer” can tell the difference between an ad and an article.

    • Erica, I think perhaps you do not get it, and I’m sad to say I doubt you are not the only one! Authentic yoga has always “gone against the stream” in terms of going against the status quo. The original yogis were critical of the Brahmin priests, and their monopoly on the Vedas. These ‘kevalin,’ ‘munis’ and ‘sramanas’ were the ‘counter-culture’ of their time.

      The whole point of yoga is to free us from conditioning, and one aspect of that is the freedom from grasping and clinging. Capitalism is built upon the creation of ever more desires, that create a false sense of lack. As you so eloquently put it, we see these images and feel that we lack something that if we had would make us happy. Wanting to be Kathryn Budig is about as un-yogic a desire as I can imagine, and I truly hope you were not made to feel that way from seeing the ad. Worse, I hope that knowing you can’t be her, you don’t really think having her socks will make you happier!

      The sad truth is, perhaps you DO feel this way. And if so, the ad has worked it’s devious ‘magic.’ Because, Erica, what authentic Yoga would teach you is that you — just as you are, are perfect and whole lacking nothing! Yoga would teach you that all you need to be is Erica; the best and fullest expression of your unique self you can be. AND that is never achieved by wanting to be any one else, nor is it attained by possessing anything in particular.

      So yes, ads are to sell something, but they are rarely selling what they say they are. Your own statement shows it’s not about the socks. What is being sold is a pipe-dream; a mirage; a panacea for the duhkha that permeates the unawakened life. Yoga’s whole purpose is to directly address that duhkha at its root: avidya, the ignorance, or misperception of who/what you/we are, which is boundless, luminous and utterly free!

      • I get that yoga teaches us that we’re perfect as we are, but isn’t PART of what makes us the way we are sometimes a feeling of inadequacy? It’s human nature to want things we don’t have, right? So that’s where the whole “perfect as you are” philosophy gets fuzzy for me…

        Regardless, I don’t have a problem with the ads because I don’t look to media to teach me about yoga. I look to my teachers and my internal wisdom, sure. But not media–and certainly not advertisements. Anyone who does will be gravely disappointed, I’m afraid, because teaching yoga is never the purpose of any ad.

        For the record, I don’t plan to ever buy socks to practice yoga in because I don’t understand the need for them.

      • Wow…Thank you for posting such a succinct and thoughtful response. You got right to the point of the whole advertising dilemma and its inherent conflict with the purpose of yoga. Advertising feeds the human tendency to desire. That is its entire purpose. Yoga (not asana, but all eight limbs) is about dismantling the mechanisms and structures that obscure our inherent wholeness. The yamas and niyamas include several practices that directly address desire, in particular, asteya, aparigraha and santosha. But all eight limbs support freedom from desire. Thank you for saying this so beautifully.

      • actually, my issue isn’t the “inherent human-ness” of yoga or what the (ahem, Billion dollar) advertising industry taps into… but using women to sell a product. There is a lot of research that link the media and advertising industry with disordered body image, eating habits and eating disorders (for further details and information please see The National Eating Disorder Information site: http://www.nedic.ca/ or http://www.about-face.org to start).
        Using a woman’s body as an object to “sell” a product is not cool. Nor is it healthy to continue a culture so inherently focused on the external.

        so although it would be nice if we could assume everyone was immune to these advertisements, the sad truth is that it’s a billion dollar industry because it works.
        On average we see hundreds of ads per day, and a large percentage of them have a message on female beauty.

      • Erica, I’ve taken time to respond to your post because to tell you the truth I was a bit taken aback. You ask a deeply profound question, but also reveal what may be an all too common misunderstanding of the teaching of ‘inherent perfection.’

        First, your question echoes that of the great 14th century Zen Master, Dogen, who asked, “If we are already buddha, why must we practice?” He was so enveloped in this ‘life koan,’ that he went to China to study with the great Zen Masters of the time. His resolution, and the foundation of a whole school of Zen, hinges on the idea that we do not practice to become buddha, but that practice is the expression of our buddha-nature.

        That said, one day Sazuki Roshi looked out at the meditation hall filled with students and said, “Each of you is perfect the way you are… And you can use a little improvement.”

        Yes, feelings of inadequacy (like any feeling) is part of human nature. Wanting things we don’t have is part of human nature. But I think you confuse acceptance with resignation by stopping with that thought. Greed, hatred, ignorance are all ‘part of human nature,’ along with murder, rape, incest etc. And along with love, compassion, wisdom. The fact is, ‘wanting what we don’t have’ is literally how the Buddha expressed one of the causes of duhkha! And as Patanjali and all the great yogis have taught, if yoga is about anything (and it’s NOT about having a tight ass) it’s about freedom from duhkha. Remember ‘the suffering that has not yet arisen can be prevented’

        This means we accept that yes, this craving (or any other citta-samskara) arises. We don’t suppress or deny the craving. Nor do we express it by acting it out. Yoga is the yoking, the taking the backward step from reacting from and out of that conditioned samskara. It isn’t the resigning of ourselves to it! If we simply resign ourselves to all the aspects of ‘human nature’ that cause suffering, you’ve undermined the whole purpose of Yoga.

        “Human Nature,” itself is ‘empty’ of any inherent, independent existence. It is itself a human construct. And because of this, human nature, and each of us can change! AND it takes effort (abhyasa) and letting go (vairagya).

        The meditative question is “Who is it that is perfect as you are?” Deep the question alive.

        Thank you!
        frank jude

  6. Thank you to Judith Lasater! Finally, someone speaking the truth rather than just accepting our process of commodifying yoga. I hope we can still recognize yoga through all the “sexy” pasted all over it by advertisers and others “going with the flow”. Yoga, itself is not sexy and shouldn’t be. Yoga is going into peace–a nourishing, recharging, vitalizing place.

  7. Linda-Sama

    I wrote a letter to YJ about the irony of a diet ad in an issue that had a story about how yoga is “good medicine.” they emailed me and asked permission to print my letter. I said sure. but it never was in the magazine.

  8. OMGoodness … Can’t wait! Big things are happening … Shifts culturally! I LOVE it!

  9. Is Judith attached to a fixed idea of what yoga is?

    If the mag isn’t delivering to expectations… Is it the mag or our expectations that need to shift? Which is within our control?

    Maybe it’s time for a new voice of yoga?

    Maybe yj has had it’s day?

    Used to subscribe, ads didn’t resonate, moved on to subscribing to yoga blogs… Some awesome writing & insight out there in the yogaspere… And starting my own online yoga magazine. Why not?

    • What a great thought! You are absolutely right, KL. At the least, blogs are the evolving voice of yoga. They’re free, uncensored, and open to all. Love ‘em.

  10. I noticed this letter in YJ & was impressed by it. I’m glad to see that it’s getting more airtime in the blogosphere & look forward to the interview. It would be nice to have Judith’s take on the “what’s the big deal” position articulated by Erica. I think that people’s reactions on these kinds of issues are so preset that it can be difficult to dialog when we don’t share the same starting point. My view is that we need to put something like this ad in its larger cultural context. When you’re constantly barraged with similar images encouraging you to believe that your life would be great if only you could be “with” or “like” the air-brushed, fake-perfection image of the ad, then whether you realize it or not it’s very undermining to truly embracing yourself – as well as others, as no one really fits the ideal projected in the ads. Yoga, I believe, can and should counter this whole dynamic, not simply go along with the dominant culture.

  11. jenifer

    I really have no problem with the ads in and of themselves, or whether or not they ‘fit’ in yoga journal, but some years ago, i gave up on yoga journal because of how i felt after reading it.

    Like Cosmo and People, i started to feel inadequate after reading yoga journal. with Cosmo, i’m always inadequate because i don’t have sex the way that others do, or wear my pubic hair a certain way, or what have you! in people, i’m comparing myself to people who are gifted clothes and given a lot of money to have pictures taken. it’s something. but i always felt like i was lacking when i read those, so i stopped reading them over 20 years ago.

    but i loved yoga journal. i could read it cover to cover, savor it, and even loved reading the advertisements! i wanted to know what was going on, including those ads. LOL

    but then it changed. i don’t know how, why, or when exactly, but the whole tone of the magazine seemed to switch from celebrating and exploring yoga to “i’m not good enough because i’m not attending X retreat or conference or yoga studio with Y teachers” and “i’m not good enough because i don’t have X prop, or Y pair of shoes to slip on after class”–which usually cost about $80-100 anyway.

    and i’m not a particularly sensitive person, the fact is, i know that i’m bombarded with advertising all the time. But, i also know that it does affect me. I gave up TV, i’m cautious about movies, i am selective with magazines. i’m even selective online and with newspapers. i am constantly watching to see if i feel inadequate because i am comparing myself to something false–the advertising.

    on the flip side, it’s not advertising that is at fault, it’s really just my reaction to it. so i’m not going to say “this or that shouldn’t be this way or that way.” rather, i simply opt out.

    and in our yoga studio and holistic health center, we switched around what magazines are available. in fact, we are moving toward ‘no magazines.’ instead, we offer photographic books with positive phrases and quotes, poetry and short story books, and sketch books with colored pencils for our clients to utilize while they wait an average of 5-10 minutes for their class or treatment.

    this shift has really changed the atmosphere. what was once a place where people hid behind trashy magazines and didn’t speak, now people share images, talk abut phrases or poems, or add beauty to a drawing that another person began. Receptionists chat with clients during their time, rather than people disparaging strangers in magazines, or falsely comparing themselves to them.

    of course, as a business, we also advertise–so we are part of the equation of advertising. but we hope it helps people feel good, and when they come in, we hope they enjoy a few moments without an advertisement telling them they aren’t good enough.

    • Joy

      I loved what you just wrote, because this is EXACTLY what I’ve felt after thumbing through the pages of my subscription this year. As a single mother stretching in her sweats in a small bedroom after I put my little one down at night, I am NOT inspired by the person who writes a little article about how she simply couldn’t work it out with hubbie until they both went to India to meditate together… Yuck. I will not renew my subscription.

  12. Yes yes yes!! About time!!! Please can we have curvy, coloured, tattooed, non-flexible and hell, even male yogis on the cover too please :)

    If things can change in the US it might just stop the trend in the UK to follow suit. Granted some magazines are still brilliant at potraying people from all walks of life but some are going the YJ way. And it makes me not want to write for them.

    I love Judith. I did a training weekend in London with her a couple of years ago and it was awesome!

  13. Erica:

    We look at gorgeous, naked Kathryn Budig and think “I want to be her.”

    Believe me, I have a totally different reaction when I see Kathryn nude….but then I just focus on her socks. Perhaps yogis are rebelling against the image of a yogi as portrayed by Yoga Journal and those ads with the hot bods are slightly insulting because some expect the ads to be as uplifting as yoga itself (ads can be uplifting and still sell yoga crap and not cater to our base instincts, can’t they?) Afterall YJ is not Cosmo, or is it? As far as I’m concerned, I don’t have a problem with those ads because I just read the articles…:)

  14. roselil

    Come on please, Yoga Journal never was anything but “just another voice for the status quo and not for elevating us to the higher values of yoga” so why all the fuss.

    Not that I would ever need toesox for anything so the ad doesn’t sell the product to me, but I think the photo shows a beautiful body in a beautiful pose and this simply pleases my eyes. I also cannot help admiring the clever choice of asana that allows the placement of leg and arms to cover the distinctive female parts of her body.

    I guess the shooting must have been a lot of fun and I give my kudos to Kathryn for modeling in a photo creating so much controversy. Great job!

  15. Damn, maybe YJ already got the message because Kathryn is wearing clothes in the latest ad there…sigh….:(

  16. Couldn’t agree more with all of the above. And anyway, yoga socks? Really???

  17. Yeah, I used to just love YJ but have been feeling that it is targeting a demographic that I don’t fit in, even though I love yoga, study yoga, teach yoga, and live yoga as best I can.
    I have so much respect for Judith and what she says here. Right on!

  18. I have a subscription to YJ and I’ve been considering cancelling it because I do feel like the ads have taken over the content. I also feel the same way about other magazines to which I have already cancelled subscriptions. Further, I watch mainly premium channels on cable that are ad free.

    While I have grown weary of seeing nudity used in everything from ads to celebrity interviews to TV programming, mostly I’m just tired of the amount of advertising that we are surrounded by in our media heavy world.

  19. I am so glad to finally see someone with some weight in the yoga world step up and address this. I have been blogging about this for some time at Trueconfessionsofayogateacher.com. We are in the process of doing a photoshoot to help break the idea that I am too fat, too old, too inflexible, too out of shape to do yoga. I am rounding up all of my untypical yoga bodies and have photographers that have donated their time to this project so that we can help educate people that yoga is not about form but function and that it is available to every body!

  20. Advertising pays for content. Print journalism is floundering, and, as they lose subscribers they have to shore up their budgets with advertising fees.

    Women are an easy target (Why is a good question), so the magazines fill up with articles about what is wrong with you and how their sponsors’ products that will solve these problems. Advertisers need you to feel inadequate so that you will buy what they are selling. That’s why you see perfect bodies, beautiful locations, gorgeous products.

    Hasn’t anyone watched Mad Men? Marketing 101…

    However you personally interpret a supple, nude body hawking yoga socks is one thing. But the bigger message, and the one reaches my older, new-to-yoga students, is that yoga is for the young, skinny, and flexible. That it’s all arm balances and inversions…because that is all they see.

    This is why I’m so proud of Judith and hope that maybe, just maybe, the resulting discussion will be the trickle that starts the deluge…

  21. Linda-Sama

    Brenda, you are right on!

    of course it’s Marketing 101. using a naked woman to advertise yoga socks (which no one really needs, give me a break…advertising CREATES needs, that is also Marketing 101) is not any different from a naked woman draped over a car to sell it. why is it any different just because it’s an ad for yoga — a naked body to sell something is a naked body whether it’s perfume, a car, clothes, whatever.

    and stop with the “oh, how artistic” nonsense. in this advertising culture, a naked body = sex and throughout the history of advertising, sex sells. Madison Ave. discovered that eons ago!

    and as Brenda says about her students, my students have said the same thing: the way yoga is sold in America is that you have to be white, skinny, uber-flexible, and young AND be able to put your leg behind your neck and do a sick arm balance at the same time.

    it is really sad to hear first time students say “oh, I’m not (fill in the blank) to do (fill in the blank.) they walk into class already feeling inadequate!! what’s wrong with that picture?

    thank goodness the way I advertise my yoga allays their fears so that they are able to step into a yoga class to discover that yoga is not about how it is portrayed in yoga advertising in America.

    • Judith is right, as always. Love her! For those of you that don’t get it, here is the deal in clear language:

      It is NEVER okay to use women’s bodies to sell ANYTHING EVER. Not in Yoga Journal or any other medium. If you don’t get this, then learn about the awful things that are being done to women all over the world right now because people view them as objects. Think about it.

      Then, here are my questions:

      Why is it that it used to be when yogis and yoga teachers grew old they were venerated for their knowledge and experience? But now nobody old is ever in YJ except for maybe Iyengar or Pattabhis Jois?
      Why is it okay for male yoga teachers to have pot bellies and squishy butts and not okay for women yoga teachers?
      YJ told me that they only print pictures that are “aspirational” but truly, is it everyone’s aspiration to be a 20-something skinny mini? Isn’t yoga supposed to help us expand our aspirational sensibilities?

  22. You are right, Linda and Brenda, advertisers have used sex, explicit or implied, to sell products forever. It absolutely does play on people’s feelings of inadequacy and that is what prompts people to invest in products they may or may not need.

    Fortunately, not every yoga business does this. I’ll start with a disclaimer: I’ve been associated with Hugger Mugger Yoga Products since their beginnings, so I admit to some bias. Especially in the past few years, HM has returned to using yogis of all ages and sizes in their catalogs. A 71-year-old student of mine graced the cover of their catalog in 2009. I very much appreciate that they have always used yoga practitioners, not models, in their catalogs, and some are young, some slender, some middle-aged to seniors, some not so slender.

  23. Gef

    I have to say that these are beautiful picture of nude yoga – a lot more beautiful than most YJ pictures – from the composition and the natural feel to them.

    Using these photo in a sox ad – that is kind of weird, especially since she is normally not using the grip of the sox in most pictures. Being a yoga magazine that promote ads like that ~ that becomes even weirder. I must say that if a yoga magazine would have these pictures to depict nude yoga without being an ad ~ that would almost be understandable – but the use of nakedness to sell sox is really questionable – on top of that, it looks really like a bad product!

  24. Ghislaine

    On Judith Lasater’s letter: I really like the way NonViolent Communication helps express with authenticity, clarity and courage (Satya), and also helps remain unharmful (Ahimsa). Thank you Judith for speaking out your truth. I strongly recommend reading Judith’s recent publication: What We Say Matters.

  25. Has anyone asked Kathryn Budig or ToeSox for *their* response?

  26. Personally, I have a problem with ads that show women to be overly thin as some sort of ideal. That said, I don’t have a problem with the Toesox ads. Kathyrn is warm, funny, sweet, loves to cook (and eat), isn’t pencil-thin, and Jasper Johal is one of yoga’s most tasteful and remarkable photographers. Perhaps Judith, who I respect deeply, is thinking of other ads?

    Like many things, it’s all about “How” nudity or sexy is presented—not whether or not it is. If it’s done in an uplifted, humorous, real manner—kudos. If it’s done cheaply, skeezily, tackily—well boo. That said, either way, as Jennifer says in comments here, http://www.elephantjournal.com/2010/08/own-your-sexy/ it’s our job to separate our self-esteem from media or any outside source.

    • thanks for weighing in, waylon. but i just have to say that this conversation is not about toesox’s ads. this is about something bigger, something systemic. i pulled the pic above simply b/c i thought it represented an example of the type of advertising judith is talking about.

      i posted this pic b/c i couldn’t find an image online of the pic i wanted to use, which is from the current issue of yoga journal, of a topless woman in some bent kneed twist advertising their upcoming conference in florida. there were several other ads in this issue that displayed near naked women.

      yes, the toesox ad is clever and i’m sure kathryn is a lovely person, but i’m bored with (and angered by) cleverness being a simple excuse to justify this kind of imagery. no matter how tasteful, arty or tongue-in-cheek it is, it’s still a picture of a naked woman in an advanced yoga posture selling a useless yoga product (does the world need yoga socks??? seriously?).

      the problem here is not only naked women being used to sell yoga products; the problem is that naked women are being used to sell *everything*. as cyndi lee so awesomely said: “It is NEVER okay to use women’s bodies to sell ANYTHING EVER. Not in Yoga Journal or any other medium. If you don’t get this, then learn about the awful things that are being done to women all over the world right now because people view them as objects.”

      the fact that the people who create and sell yoga products perpetuate this is especially disheartening b/c yoga is a practice built on ethics and responsible living. it has much to offer the world right now, if the world will stop seeing it as products and profit.

      • Thanks for this post, Roseanne. I had feared the issue of “nudity” would cloud the greater issue. And of course it seems to be doing that, so hopefully your post can help re-orient the topic.

        Part of this I think, is that we are like fish in water, so inundated with sexist advertising (and here I mean the use of women’s bodies to sell product) that we no longer ‘see’ it. But not seeing is avidya, and yoga is the ‘bell of mindfulness’ waking us from avidya…., or at least that’s what it is meant to be.

        thanks
        frank jude

  27. abbylou

    I honestly had no idea who Judith Hanson Lasater was, as I am terrible with names. I clicked on the link to her website and realized I signed up to study the Yoga Sutras with her a week from tomorrow. Weird. I agree whoeheartedly with her letter.

  28. As a yoga teacher of teen girls, the exploitation of women in yoga ads has been an issue for years. I struggle with wanting to share yoga media and magazines with them, yet do not want to perpetuate any objectification of women.

    I can see a few different angles on the situation. On one hand, I agree with Judith and, even more so, applaud her for speaking out. I agree that Yoga Journal has an opportunity to elevate the conversation about yoga. I’d love to see a drastic change in advertising standards for the magazine, including the prices! With such huge corporate interests, like car companies, able to pay top dollar, some of us who have created products to support practice simply can’t afford to advertise in the Journal. So, an ad for our teen yoga practice DVD is left out of the equation in lieu of ads for things such as diet pills. Hmmm.

    However, there is another nuanced angle that I’m seeing. The idea that just because a woman is naked, she is being exploited seems to “throw the baby out with bathwater,” in a sense. Women who feel empowered to be in the natural body state while posing does not necessarily mean they are being exploited. I understand the argument against using naked women to sell products. I just want to be sure we don’t also demonize nudity in the process.

    There are multitudes of images of naked women to be found all throughout ancient Eastern temples and tantric artwork. Were these statues attempting to “sell” something or celebrate something?

    At any rate, I am glad the conversation is open. I would also throw in that the exploitation of women AND men in yoga goes beyond objectifying gorgeous bodies. We continue to place a very few teachers up on a very high pedestal. The whole “yoga stars” phenomenon has become increasingly prevalent in yoga culture, to the point where every single yoga conference lists the same teachers, over and over again. Of course, these teachers are talented and worthy of the yoga communities support. I would like to see more inclusion though, and celebration of yoga practitioners, rather than building yoga teachers to celebrity status. Ideally, I’d love to see a conference or opportunity for practitioners to share their experiences in a more democratic type setting.

    • hi abby ~ thanks for jumping in, and for offering such a balanced and expansive perspective on the whole situation. i definitely agree with your final point, that objectifying gorgeous bodies and placing an elite group of teachers on a pedestal exploits women and men.

      it would be wonderful to have opportunities for practitioners to share experiences in open and safe spaces. definitely, the yoga blogosphere provides that to an extent. but nothing beats face-to-face interaction and dialogue.

  29. Andrew

    Whatever…..and for our sister Kathryn Budig…you shine on Girl…..Yoga is now also business and I will only debate criticism of this coming from someone who teaches for free…….any takers?

    • i teach free classes in my community twice a week. and please, this is not about KB, but about a systemic problem in culture with how women are exploited, and which yoga advertisers and magazines have unfortunately bought into.

      • Andrew

        Hi Girlwarrior…teaching for free is cool …and I am not saying that I don’t agree that Yoga has evolved into too much eye candy used by advertisers …however the human body is beautiful …even Michelangelo knew that …but I do get your point. And yeah I guess I felt bad for KB because she is at the center of this …but it’s all good…let’s all just up our smiles and spread the true hope of yoga that all are living a gentle more caring life….it will all work out and the true spirit shall remain…namaste

      • to quote judith: ‘Yes’ to nudity and the gorgeous human body; ‘no’ to using it to sell yoga!” if you had actually read the post, rather than just looked at the picture, you would have seen that and understood the positioning here.

        we don’t need to “feel bad” for KB ~ she’s not at the centre of anything. this is just an image of her, and this ad is a symbol. posing for that ad was her choice, she probably received plenty of money for it and she most likely isn’t paying attention to any of this.

  30. AND, I would add the alternative is not (only or necessarily) teaching for free. The teaching is one of ‘dana,’ or generosity. True Yoga/Dharma cannot be bought or sold because it cannot be owned. THAT’s part of it’s radicalness. Traditionally, the generosity was expressed through the sharing of the teachings and students supported their teachers with food, clothing — and as the merchant class in India grew — money. But it was not considered a ‘fee for service.’

    So now, living in a capitalist culture, the real-life question — if one chooses to engage with it — is how do we adapt this traditional understanding? What kind of marketing and advertising would honor the spirit of dana? What would “yoga advertising” look like?

    TO me, that’s much more interesting than all this tangential talk about Kathryn Budig, Toesox, nudity etc. These ads are just the catalyst to what I think is a long-overdue, much needed investigation and discussion.

    metta,
    frank jude

    • Andrew

      Well first of all…I confess I did not read the post as thoroughly as i obviously should have , my fault. Secondly .. nice zinger on your “rather than just looked at the picture” line. Seems to me you could have made your accurate point without that …Ok I pasted it again so I don’t forget. ‘Yes’ to nudity and the gorgeous human body; ‘no’ to using it to sell yoga!..I thought the ad was selling product…not Yoga per se…but I digress. …In any event the issue is ..no glamorizing the naked body to sell yoga….I agree. However as I originally stated Yoga is huge business now and business uses the tools they have always used. I wish it were not so. I don’t read those magazines …I don’t buy yoga sox and I don’t wear stretchy Yoga gear. My only point is the genie may now be out of the bottle ….so boycott the product ..boycott the magazine, keep up the good fight …raise awareness….. I’m with ya….I really am …even if I cannot read as well or express myself with your eloquence…..oh…and I still do like the picture….)
      Oh and btw …I think the average cost for an hour Yoga class is 20.00 ….peace

  31. Anne Docherty

    That doesn’t look like an ad for socks, it is a beautiful photographic work of art. I can appreciate it for that, but I want the socks to keep my feet from slipping not to attempt to be the person in the picture. That picture doesn’t make me think “yeah, yoga socks!”

  32. TinyYogini

    Since when does “nude” = “sex”? Isn’t it up to us to separate the two? Because sex is not the thing I think of when I see a nude human form.

    As an artist, the image grabbed me right away…for it’s lighting, composition, the pose and form…it’s a beautiful photo. I don’t care about yoga sox, but it’s an advertisement, like it or not, and advertisements need your attention in order to sell their product. If all you can think about is sex when you see this ad, perhaps you should reflect on that, instead. I’d like to think I’m intelligent enough to take what I want from magazines and the advertisements in them. I don’t feel bad about my body, I’m not depressed, I’m okay with the fact that I can’t do that specific yoga pose, and I don’t want the socks. Namaste.

  33. Thanks for speaking up your mind Judith I support you all the way :)

  34. The “Red Mist” that has descended surrounding the nudity / commercialisation issue is as a result of people probably having done some form of Yoga for a little too long.

    Holding on too tightly to so called, “yogic principles” when we are beating others down might make us feel better but probably feels much the same as if we found ourselves blaming our own son or daughter for the unsurmountable debt and chronic pain and stress THEY have caused through our “caring” for him/her by sending them to the BEST college, helping them find the BEST job and be in the BEST company with others only to find that a few years down the line being unemployed and smoking dope was good enough for them.

    Sure – these are complex issues – but to my mind – the only thing that is capable of holding out both outcomes as being yoga is not some new, radical punked up, Yoga specialism eg. “Yoga for Dropouts”, (and I bet that is out there somewhere already) but quite simply – love (that is: in the “letting go” sense not in the messy, sexy sense that will cause the nude TOESOX pages to stick together afterwards) – and although I never have, (and never will) purchase a copy or even read YJ I know that I really do LOVE it – (again – in the “letting go” sense – btw: YJ editors take note – if I wanted art / porn YJ would not be the obvious choice) and yet obviously thats all it really wants from us – it wants us to pay for the “YJ experience” much as a hooker wants us to pay for a “BJ experience”.

    Yoga Journal is screaming “PLEASE LOVE ME” and yet we can’t bring ourselves to do that, because of our preferences and favouritisms – but thankfully it is just a bundle of paper with some ink that has been exploited – not a real person.

    “YOU ARE A TOY – A CHILDS PLAYTHING” (Woody to Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story)

    - and I think it is time for all of us to put down the toys and move on ?

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  11. Yoga: nudity and body image on sale? | Women's Views on News - [...] turned even more interesting with a blog’s use of the controversial Toe-Sox advertisement in one of its posts and …
  12. Nude/Sexualized Women in Yoga Ads « Kera's Blog - [...] Journal Co-founder Judith Hansen Lasater responded: “I’m concerned about ads that have stimulated both confusion and sadness in me …
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  16. In Defense of ToeSox |Prana Journal - [...] Han­son Lasater’s Face­book let­ter, It’s All Yoga, Baby’s por­trayal of the dis­pute no more sexy yoga ads! and toe­soxnude­gate: …
  17. Yoga Journal contest « - [...] poses. (For example, one of the original founders of YJ wrote an open letter to the editors, described here, critical …
  18. in review, the personal is still political « linda's yoga journey - [...] Lasater’s letter to Yoga Journal about how she felt about nudity in yoga advertising set the yoga blogosphere on …
  19. the girl effect: revolution girl style now - [...] I developed a hunger to see powerful and sexy women in public spaces. It also, obviously, informed my position …
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