neal pollack, an unlikely but awesome yoga spokesperson

Neal Pollack, looking more flexible than one might expect.

It gives me faith to know that Neal Pollack, the author of Stretch: The Unlikely Making of a Yoga Dude, is out there talking about yoga in the dark nooks and crannies of the American subculture. In his recent interview on The Bat Segundo Show, Neal is appropriately humble, neurotic, self-deprecating and honest. His voice reclaims yoga from the beautiful and flexible women, with their perfect postures, flawless smiles and flowing locks, and presents the practice as something that anyone can do.

Self-described as “just a guy lumbering through a bunch of yoga poses trying to calm his mind,” Neal gracefully lumbers through a bunch of tough questions. I always enjoy interviews conducted in a non-yoga context (The Bat Segundo Show is a cultural and literary podcast, with a fantastic line-up of previous guests) because I feel they illuminate aspects of the practice that those of us in the trenches may overlook.

For example, the interviewer asks Neal why he gives so much attention to bodily functions in the book. “If you’re going to write a yoga comedy,” Neal replies, “you have to have a farting scene.” To illustrate a point, of course.

Some other highlights:

  • Neal’s repeated reference to his audience as “yoga people.”
  • His observation that the North American yoga scene is “an absurd culture.” He notes that the intersection of east and west is a source of endless comedy.
  • The discussion about yoga journalism ~ Neal was asked why there isn’t the same kind of in-depth journalism of yoga as there is of other fields, like politics. To which he responded that it doesn’t need to be covered every day by a beat reporter. He also alluded to recent “controversies” in the yoga world, which the interviewer found fascinating.

Listen to the full interview here.

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  1. i gotta say, i found the interview a bit weird. Just in that the interviewer guy kept asking the most ridiculous questions- and although Neil did address them in a self-deprecating way… i really just wanted him to own up a bit more to the reasons why he chose to do so many things.
    Like instead of saying “I dunno” for so much, or flip flopping on his choice of words in the book, or agreeing that maybe he was too hard on himself, or following along with the doubting tone of the interviewer with regards to, well everything (most frustrating was the classism discussion).

    I look forward to reading his book, it sounds fantastic and I do agree that he would be a great spokesperson… I just don’t think that he is right yet…

    • yeah, i hear what you’re saying. and I have to admit that I like the weirdness and awkwardness. I actually found the interviewer to be well-informed, and he seemed to have given his questions serious consideration. there was also a shift about halfway through the interview, where the interviewer wasn’t grilling him so much and seemed to be learning something, or at least intrigued.

      mostly, I’m interested in seeing a “yoga author” being interviewed beyond the borders of yoga media, and to hear a different perspective. I’m also charmed by the idea of a yoga teacher who doesn’t act like they have all the answers or are sharing some grand wisdom.

      • you know, i think interviews make me nervous or something- i’m pretty reactive to how the guest is treated or responds- perhaps it’s something to do with my limited experience with journalism or something. Because of that I don’t think I really appreciate the shift in conversation, i was just so primed from all the first part that I was more sensitive to any doubt or questioning in the last part.

        I agree with you on a perspective of yoga from someone who isn’t pretending to be some fouffy guru who is enlightened and perfect. It’s nice. I was just not happy with how he didn’t seem to be able to have a position with regards to his book and his choices. Regardless of if they were with regards to yoga or not.

  2. Hi, Roseanne and EcoYogini.

    I can relate to both of your reactions here. I thought the reviewer was really good a pushing Neal into uncomfortable places and not letting off the hook easily. I kind of like Neal’s honesty and self-effacing qualities, but I can understand why the critics are so hard on him, too, and why Eco found the interview frustrating.

    I get the feeling this particular interviewer was not much of a fan. He seems to be asking, “How could you go through all these terrific experiences and get so little out of it!” But I kind of admire Neal for taking it all in such good humor.

    Mixed feelings for me, kind of reflecting both of yours. I haven’t read his books, so I’m unable to make any judgment about them. I guess this interview doesn’t make me want to run out and buy one.

    Bob W.

    • yes! I would say that you capture better what I was trying to say. Thank you. 🙂

      But I kinda had the opposite reaction in that now I want to buy and read his yoga book…. just to see what the interviewer was commenting about. So i guess the interview did have a result with regards to marketing….