summer yoga body: sadie nardini’s facebook ad campaign

This ad has turned up in my FB sidebar lately.

Pretty much every time I log onto Facebook lately, this ad has turned up in the sidebar. I actually clicked the link and went to a page selling an online course called Lose Weight and Look Younger With Yoga. Regularly $59, it’s now on sale for $39 (and you can only purchase it, or even read the details, by signing in through your Facebook account).

I posted the ad on the IAYB Facebook fan page, prompting a lively discussion. Here are some of the highlights:

Jessica Seletti: I personally find it sad that yoga is sold as any other slimming fitness programme. It looks like the mind & spirit component went out of the window to target those who don’t believe in chanting and meditation and just want to look young and slim…but why call it yoga then?

Carol Horton: This sort of marketing counteracts the best of what yoga has to offer us today. “Getting a Summer Yoga Body” is all about feeling that you need to conform to look like some externally generated ideal. That takes you in the opposite direction from learning to listen to, and respect and appreciate your own body.

Charlotte Bell: These ads reinforce the idea that yoga is all about the body to begin with. If the yoga that brings you to the mat is simply reinforcing our cultural obsession with body image, it’s not going to change anything. Yoga is supposed to help us unhook from delusions, not reinforce them.

Steph Abbott: I dislike the association of “skinny and yoga.” Let’s face it, the weight loss industry will tap into whatever is big right now and yoga is a 6 billion dollar business in America. So there you have it. I my students want to talk about diet, I ask if they would be open first to changing the language to “lifestyle” then we can have a more positive discussion. [some comments have been edited, slightly.]

This ad is problematic, for all the reasons pointed out above. It targets one of the most deep-rooted desires of many North American women and uses it to sell yoga. The ad didn’t turn up there randomly – like all Facebook ads, it was designed and paid for. As the Facebook Advertising primer states: “Reach over 800 million people where they connect and share.” This ad’s presence is very deliberate and it turns up on my Facebook newsfeed because I search and talk about yoga a lot.

It’s not the first time that Sadie Nardini has used weight loss in the marketing of her yoga online trainings, workshops and products. I just Googled “yoga for weight loss,” and the fifth unpaid result was Sadie Nardini’s YouTube channel. Search “yoga for weight loss” on Nardini’s YouTube channel and there are 98 results (it was clearly an early SEO strategy, as many of the videos from 3+ years ago were titled some variant of WEIGHT LOSS YOGA).

While defenders of Nardini claim that her practice is about more than weight loss, and most practitioners agree that yoga is more than weight loss, Nardini has tapped into the fact that yoga strengthens physical and emotional core muscles.

What do you think of the Facebook ad? And how do you feel about the blatant use of the promise of weight loss in yoga marketing?

Update: As of 5pm April 20, the ad copy had been changed to: 14 Day Yoga Detox and Empowerment Course, Get healthier and fit on all levels in just 14 days with Sadie Nardini.

49 Comments

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  1. It’s awful that yoga has been dragged into our dirty capitalist system. At least Yoga for the People charges $10/class and stresses that everyone is welcome. they try to make it more about yoga, even though it’s a business, than something disgusting and twisted like getting a “summer yoga body.” my respect for sadie nardini? <>

  2. what is the difference between a “lose weight and look younger” campaign v. Tara Stiles’ “slim calm sexy” book campaign? Nothing as far as I can see.

    Both buy into the idea that women are never good enough. Never. I heard comic Kathy Griffin say that in Hollywood, no one is every beautiful enough.

    oh, but I forgot….in America, all “yoga” is good yoga…..

    • I’m not sure what you mean by your last comment. “In America, all “yoga” is good yoga…”
      In my book, presenting “slim” as an ideal to be strived for, sexualizing a spiritual practice, or marketing weight loss methods as “yoga” is not yoga at all, and is certainly not good yoga.
      In truth, there is no difference between this and Tina Stiles book. Both are try to sell based on aesthetics and not practice. Its my hope that the “fad” part of yoga will pass and the heart of yoga practice will continue to thrive in American as it as for almost 100 years.

      A girl can dream.

  3. I took an online training with Sadie Nardini, and I have to say she has really valuable points about anatomy and skillful alignment, I learned a ton through that training.
    That said, I am a tad disappointed around the whole detox / calorie-burning / weight-loss yoga she’s been promoting for a while now. To be honest, I would like to know what a “summer yoga body” is (rhetorical question really), and for someone otherwise advocating being true to yourself it doesn’t sound, well, aligned (pun intented).

  4. I have an all-seasons and all ages yoga body. I have it right now. The secret is getting on my mat.

    Which I have to do to exorcise this latest assault that reminded me of the one major thing I did not like about yoga in the gym, before I took it up at a studio …

    The style at the gym had been nice and forgiving, but the teacher brought up getting the “bikini body”; as a lap swimmer at that time, I thought much more about functional swim tanks, thankyouverymuch ….

  5. I used to practice with Sadie in her NYC studio, so, I know that she personally does not believe that people “should” be a certain shape. I don’t understand the marketing of weight-loss so much, well, I do understand it from a marketing perspective, but I do agree it doesn’t “align” with the idea of actual body- and/or true self-acceptance.

    Across the board, you hear women (and some yoga teachers) discussing the importance of accepting themselves and in another breath they are talking about how to keep/shave pounds off. I don’t think women are aware of what they’re saying/implying when they have this discussion, and it’s not entirely their fault. Women are programmed to obsess about weight (and cellulite, wrinkles, any signs of aging what-so-ever, stretch marks, pimples, basically railing against anything that is totally natural in the human body…), they (we) don’t even realize how self-effacing it is. Just last night on Facebook someone posted this quote that said:

    “A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about beauty, [it is] an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one.” -Naomi Wolf

    Sort of off-topic but, it is ingrained in media and society that women should worry about and “perfect” their bodies. Furthermore, a lot of the time, either she is considered a “bitch” for “perfecting” all of the the points of what is considered to be “beautiful” (this goes especially for beautiful women that have something to say that might shake things up), or she isn’t good enough because she hasn’t attained a certain look. It is one of the many mixed messages women are faced with.

    I agree with the other commenter, Sadie has really deep insight into Asana techniques that totally transformed my physical practice and the way that I cue in my own classes, and I love her for that. She also helped me immensely on a deeper level. I was lucky to get to practice with her before she became a traveling Yoga teacher, because I know she is not all about the physical, she helped me through a really tough time with her words in class over the years. I think the people that didn’t practice with her in NYC don’t know that her practice and her teaching style are more about spiritual transformation than physical. Although, I haven’t had the chance to take a class with her since sometime in 2010, so I’m not sure if she’s changed what she talks about in class?

    However, I do cringe whenever she (or any yoga teacher) make it a point to discuss weight-loss, especially for the sake of getting a “beach body” (dude, all you need for a beach body is to get in a bathingsuit and go on a beach, there you have it, a “beach body”).

    I guess when you are at a certain level and you have people paying you and who want to promote you, they know “weight-loss” is a big seller so I guess that’s what happens? I know Sadie lost 40 pounds doing Yoga, and maybe she feels happier in her own body at this lighter weight (everyone is meant to be a certain weight, that’s why some bigger people have a lot of difficulty keeping weight off, because that is the size they are supposed to be naturally; just like when smaller men try to bulk up, if they stop lifting weights and taking supplements, they will go back to their naturally smaller frame) and maybe wants to help others that might be in the same boat?

    I don’t know, I just think Yoga teachers, specifically, ought to spread the word about body acceptance, (as opposed to selling weight-loss techniques) if we can’t truly accept our bodies for what they are, we can never connect with the True Self inside the vessel. I actually wrote a blog about negative self-talk and body acceptance and how it affects those around us last year (http://missbernklau.blogspot.com/2011/08/081711-talkin-shit-about-pretty-sunset.html).

    Anyway…thanks for bringing this whole weight-loss issue up because it’s been bugging me.

    Shanti,
    Heather

  6. Gross!

    You know what? I designed a beautiful course to help people learn how to lean into healthier eating, a more fit body, a calm mind and learn the yoga poses in a two-week course. It was turned, without my knowledge or agreement, into all this superficial marketing. Your post is the first time I have seen this!

    I just wrote the owners of Udemy, where the course is housed, expressing my disappointment in their tactics, and requesting that they remove the course from their site entirely. I will re-post it in a more respectful form on my website.

    Just so you know, I LOVE the fact that a challenging yoga practice can help those who need to lose extra weight in order to be healthy and fit. I lost 40 pounds with yoga and healthy eating myself. But I am never, ever saying that skinnier and younger is better–only that those are some proven benefits of adding in yoga as your exercise form, for body–mind and spirit! I do not create any courses with only the body in mind.

    You can read them all and see that, for me, a TOTAL yoga body is one that is healthy inside and out, in the mind and the heart too! So you’ll get tons of inspirations, practical tools for living in balance and recipes to help with your vitality.

    The fact is, I do talk about all the benefits of yoga–look on my site and you’re going to see many. I aim to attract students who want to try yoga for any reason–body or not, and then of course it evolves us all into harmonizing our other levels as well.

    I want to thank you for posting this blog, so that I could try and clarify my intentions, and also address the ad campaign being undertaken on my behalf.

    xoxoSadie

    • hey sadie ~ thanks for jumping in here and i’m relieved to hear that this campaign wasn’t your intent or strategy. i can understand that when you have an army of PR people, it’s possible for your message to get skewered.

      it sounds like this blog post has alerted you to something that you didn’t support or agree with. awesome! it also illuminates the messaging challenges that yoga teachers may experience when they hand over marketing and promotions to external bodies.

      good for you for contacting Udemy and asking that your course be removed. keep us posted on what happens next.

    • Sadie,
      Thank you for addressing that Ad and requesting that it be removed.

    • Hey, Sadie. Did you really not see this, practically viral, ad on facebook? I’m not asking because I think you’re lying, but rather because I find it especially fantastic that Udemy was able to get this message out to soooooooo many people interested in yoga (EVERYONE I know has seen this ad), without you—the subject of the ad with a pretty significant realtime FB presence—ever seeing it. No one else even mentioned it to you???

      That is some frickin’ fancy magical advertising!

      • That is true, Barbarazzi.

        I’ve been filming a TV show all day, every day for the past 2 weeks, and I did not see this ad. Contrary to what some may think, I do not spend tons of time searching for myself on the Internet!

        Since I’ve asked Udemy to take it down, it’s pretty clear that I am opposed to the tone of the ads, so would I have seen them earlier, it would have been addressed earlier.

        Udemy is not my personal team, and we would not have OK’d it had we seen it. Some third party sites take liberties—maybe this will teach them not to.

        Be well,
        Sadie

        • Thanks, Sadie. That’s WILD! Udemy’s platform online seems pretty straight forward. Did they really go around you and create an ad with their own language without you knowing??? That seems crazy! Did you not give them the copy for the ad? Did they come up with the copy on their own? Who came up with the following copy:

          “LOSE WEIGHT AND LOOK YOUNGER WITH YOGA”

          “GET AND KEEP A SUMMER YOGA BODY WITH SADIE NARDINI”

          It seems like a suicidal business practice for them to design and create copy unconfirmed by the user. I only ask so others can know to avoid this company if at some point people would like to design a course using their platform.

          Any insight you could offer would be greatly appreciated. I’ve contacted Udemy in order to get their take. I hate knowing that someone is out there messing with instructors like this!

      • Just FYI, it’s possible that anyone with an ad blocker on their browser did not see it, as well. I use an ad blocker and don’t see any ads on Facebook, ever, at all. And FWIW, I’m not sad I missed this one (or any, actually).

  7. Thanks for quoting me in your blog post.

    I appreciate your willingness to address the yoga/weight loss issue. I don’t know Sadie, but from her writings I sense that she has a good head for promotion, and it seems like the emphasis on weight loss is a great way to bring in a more mainstream audience.

    I’ve written this before and will probably write it again, but it just makes me sad to see how yoga has been eviscerated in an attempt to make it more marketable. Yoga for weight loss is unhealthy on so many levels. Yes, becoming more sensitive to what is or isn’t healthy for your particular body is a welcome side effect of practice. That sensitivity can definitely lead to making healthier choices. But weight loss is not what asana is designed to do. In fact, asana is not nearly as effective for this as many other physical disciplines. Asana is designed to quiet the body/mind for meditation, a discipline that can free us from the notion that the body we’re in right now is somehow lacking or that there is such a thing as a summer yoga body.

    • eviscerated is the perfect word, Charlotte. just like Paul Grilley has said that for yoga to be palatable for Americans 20 or so years ago, anything spiritual had to be stripped out of it.

    • LOL @ yoga is “a discipline that can free us from the notion … that there is such a thing as a summer yoga body.” i know! i keep looking for one, and they’re just no where to be found!!! 🙁 (well said! Charlotte)

  8. My first thought was the matter of intent.

    I tend to think of the Buddhist parable about the Burning House from the Lotus Sutra and so I don’t have as much of a problem with talking about how yoga can help the body if that is the path that would bring people to practice yoga and to fuller spiritual growth as well.

    There are many paths to practice if some of them start from different areas I don’t believe in judging people as having “inferior” motives – I think that is just as destructive as judging their bodies.

    That said, it seemed it was intended just as cheap marketing ploy.

    I’m glad Sadie chimed in about it and cleared up this was not her intent.

  9. great discussion happening here! thanks to everyone for your comments. it’s great to see that sadie herself was willing to jump in and clarify her intentions. and even better, it’s good to see that the post brought how her work was being presented, unbeknownst to her.

    just to clarify some things here for myself: the intention with this post wasn’t to judge sadie and her work, but to bring attention to what i saw as an incongruency. i’ve never taken a class or workshop with sadie, although i am intrigued by what i’ve heard from other people. i only know her online presence, and i have noticed a “weight loss/yoga body” theme throughout (although, as others have noted, this is not unusual and there are many other teachers/marketers who capitalize on this).

    nor is the intention to judge the people who are drawn to yoga because they want to lose weight. it’s not about judging practitioner’s motives, but about monitoring and criticizing MARKETER’S motives.

  10. Hey Roseanne… love the great discussion! As someone who has studied with Sadie and assisted her during a weekend at Kripalu I can say for a fact that weight loss has never been the focus of any of her workshops. She promotes health from the inside out and if one slims down as a result of her rocking asana sequences well that’s just an added benefit. The students in every workshop or weekend I’ve attended have been of all ages, all sizes, all colors and both genders. Each of us has been given equal attention and equal space to find our own practice within the concepts of Core Strength Vinyasa that Sadie teaches.

    I feel indebted to Sadie in a lot of ways because she, in addition to Ana Forrest, have championed the idea of finding your own niche and space on and off the mat. She teaches safety and individuality with care and fun. Never once has she suggested we look, feel or be a certain way. In fact she’s encouraged each of us to embrace where we are in that moment and in life, no matter what size we were/are. She celebrates uniqueness, individuality and rocking your own bad self. Additionally, he graciously meets, greets, shares and connects with every person she has in a class and almost NEVER forgets a name and a face. (It’s quite remarkable actually.) I have never seen her pay more attention to thin students or even remark upon someone’s appearance/size/shape, etc. It seems like a total non-issue to her.

    Sadie’s teaching for me as a yoga teacher has transformed what I bring to my students. I come to the mat from a place of strength and safety that was unavailable even after a 200h before I met her. She really has given everyone I come in contact with something beneficial in their practices through the things I’ve learned from her and now share as a teacher.

    Just had to speak up on her behalf because I know that this ad is definitely not the Sadie I know on the mat, off it or in person.

  11. This is such a great discussion! Thank you to Sadie for chiming in. I’ve done Sadie’s TT and the ad didn’t seem in line with her core message which is so much more than weight loss. That being said, whether it was Sadie’s doing or not, the ad is problematic, and is, as Roseanne has pointed out evidence of a larger issue with how yoga is marketed, not just in this instance. I think it’s a problem for “normal” yoga teachers, too, because we have students who come to class with certain expectations, or likewise who avoid class due to assumptions about what yoga is because of how it is being sold to the public in a general way. Did you count how many detox and supplement ads were in the latest issue of Yoga Journal? More than 20!

    I have a more lengthy response here:
    http://omchantress.com/content/whats-yoga-body

  12. As an advertising strategy, I’d be curious if something like this really works. If some one decides to attend a class in search of a yoga butt, and then is delighted to find something deeper. Or, if after a month, she (target audience) decides, “I don’t look anything like the chick on the cover” and trades yoga for Zumba. It would show whether the anything-that-gets-students-in argument is justified.

    Maybe it’s like telemarketing, if even four people decide to put their money down, then the advertising budget is justified. Even though it annoys the hell out of everyone else.

    If so, why stop at weight loss…yoga will find you a man, yoga will get you a better job, yoga makes hair stronger and more shiny, yoga makes your closet more organized…(have I missed any women’s magazine issues?)

    • The ends don’t justify the means. What is happening is that, in order to keep these people coming to class, the yoga has to stay superficial. Yes,when the meditation starts and they leave in droves, you retain one or two but it is better to have a pure message from the start and those who are ready for it will come. When the student is ready, the teacher will come.

      • Just to be clear…I find this kind of advertising insidious and loathsome. BUT, it is often defended as being okay, because it gets bodies on the mat. I just wonder if it really does. I’d be delighted if it was the other way around–some one looking to relieve stress finds strength and flexibility as a side affect.

        It certainly is inspiring to see the vox popoli (of the ‘net) get results in the course of one, short day…

  13. I have to admit that I’m relieved to hear Sadie not only rejecting the ad campaign but saying that she’ll take action to address it. I’ve enjoyed her intelligent engagement online and would have been really disappointed if she had instead made some lame argument defending the campaign on the grounds that it would bring more people to yoga or whatever. Hooray!

    That said, this just goes to show that mainstream marketing strategies WILL push yoga in the direction of unhealthy body obsessions UNLESS the yoga community takes action and actively opposes it. It’s just natural in this society at this time; if we want it to be different, we need to pay attention and take appropriate action – just as Sadie is doing here.

  14. What’s a “Yoga Body?” In my opinion, a “yoga body” is any body that has integrity of breath, body and mind. Changing diapers, doing dishes, cuddling your lover, sipping coffee, moving through a vinyasa flow; when breath, body and mind are in harmony, THAT is a yoga body!

    • I couldn’t agree more with your comment. When I really listen to my teachers, the persistent and clear message, across a landscape of bodies – of all shapes and sizes – is exactly this. “How am I living yoga today?”

  15. Awww…. A post after our own heart (thump-thump thump-thump). Thanks, itsallyogababy. 🙂

    Linda, et al., around The Babarazzi HQ we call this “Yoga Bleaching.” It is the act of using yoga or the image of yogic lifestyle to bleach an otherwise “unyogic” (use yr imagination) product/agenda/campaign of all its obvious lameness. We will be discussing the elements this new coinage in detail on our site very very soon.

    Thanks again!
    The Babarazzi

    • Great! I’d love to hear you define, once and for all for everyone, just what “unyogic” actually means. Or, for that matter, “yogic”. Looking forward to it.

      • That what the “quotes” were for and the statement “use your imagination.” “Unyogic” as a term is a time bomb. While a person could wager a guess, it’s probably best to only dip into that minefield. That’s for people to define for themselves. Not for us to define for them.

  16. good to know that SN didn’t have anything to do with the tone of the ad….kudos….

  17. What a great post and big kudos indeed to Sadie for replying!

    I’ve always dug your work Sadie, and am v.keen to do your online TT (as I’m based in Aus and won’t be heading to NY any time soon!). I’ve used some of your techniques in my own practice and when I teach, and I want to thank you for the changes they have helped me make 🙂

    I saw these ads on FB a little while ago and was a bit disappointed. I mean, I get that its good to get ppl doing yoga, and I’m behind Sadie making a living from doing what she does best, but yeah the copy felt a little cheap. Glad to hear its been changed now!! So good to know that Sadie’s still a real person and humble too 🙂

    Thanks IAYB and Sadie!

  18. I saw this ad and clicked on it.

    I clicked on it and was lead to Sadie’s stuff on Udemy. Did I think it was a cheesy ad, sure.. I thought that that’s the first time Sadie’s done FB ads that I have known of, I was a little surprised. Was I disappointed… No! what the heck for? I know who Sadie is and what she stands for.

    I’ve practised yoga with Sadie on-line since 2008. I have all her DVD’s except 1, I have read her book, articles and FB posts, I completed her at home CSVY Teacher Training… And never had I ever gotten the impression that Sadie was selling yoga out… Not once.
    I found Sadie when I was empty, depressed (had given birth to a son and couldn’t shake the weight off) and I literally loathed myself… big time!

    I couldn’t do 10 mins of yoga. But Sadie’s message & encouragement for self fulfilment lifted me out of depression. I would do Sadie’s YouTube vids every day while baby had a nap! I got strong, I lost weight, I tossed my anti depressants away, I read her book, my spirits were lifted and I began to remember who I was once again.

    You tell me how that’s not yoga? She showed me how to take responsibility for my self, to stop making excuses and blaming everyone else.

    The truth is… that yes, her style helps you to lose weight. It’s a fact. I lost 10Kg doing her style. What’s the big deal with that being mentioned & even used to promote what she does? There is more than one way/end to enter all other aspects that yoga is.
    She spoke to me through the physicality. If she started chanting in the classical style… I would have thought she’s just another zealot, hippy praying for world peace.
    Instead I found inner peace through her actively posting videos for me (thousands of miles away from the US) and for thousands of others to do. You tell me which one is going to change the world?

    Last year I was certified as a Yoga teacher. A lot of it was BS. Some of it was amazing. I learnt more doing Sadie’s at home TT and Immersions than the actual yoga school I attended (sorry to say) & paid R27000 for (If I had the guts…I would ask for my money back & rather use it to travel to the states to really study with Sadie if I had the Chance). I spent R2000 on Sadie’s TT.

    Any-ways
    Peace you’ll
    Madelain Burgoyne

  19. Hi all,

    I wanted to report back and let you know that I have had a great discussion about the course advertisements with Pedro from Udemy.
    I have to say, he was immediately very open to changing the ads, on his dime, and was upset himself that they were upsetting people.

    Apparently, they extracted the weight loss and anti-aging benefits of my (and many) yoga style, and failed to give a broader, more mind-body-spirit view of the 14-day program. As they did not run the ad copy by me first, I didn’t have a chance to let them know this more superficial focus would not fly with we yogis–including me.

    He nor his marketing team understood the yoga world, so the marketing campaign came from a well-meaning, but uneducated place. and this conversation has helped them evolve in their sensitivity and grasp of why we all practice this discipline, instead of, say, the Stairmaster.

    I, as always, remain committed to bringing the practice of yoga to students in a way that shows them all the practical benefits, on all levels. As such, I helped Usemy re-write the ad copy to reflect the full spectrum of the course’s offering, including detox, fitness and empowerment.

    Needless to say, I will be working more closely with them from here on out.

    Thanks again for being the change…and helping point out a place where I, too, can do the same.

    Xo!
    Sadie

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