TEDx toronto & the world thinks yoga = a woman in her underwear upside downMichael Stone will be speaking at TEDx Toronto on September 26. TEDx are independently organized events under the TED brand, “designed to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level.”

In anticipation of his talk, TEDx released a teaser video. … Read more


TEDx toronto & the world thinks yoga = a woman in her underwear upside down

Michael Stone will be speaking at TEDx Toronto on September 26. TEDx are independently organized events under the TED brand, “designed to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level.”

In anticipation of his talk, TEDx released a teaser video. The two-minute video is slick and beautifully edited, with quick cuts, memorable images and clear narration by Stone as he gives us a taste of what he’ll be talking about (his journey to becoming a highly regarded dharma and yoga teacher, how waking up disrupts our accelerated culture, etc). The editing, pacing and narration create a sense of urgency and excitement.

We see childhood photos, nature scenes, Toronto street cars, Occupy stills, Buddha heads, dense urban streets. And synched with Stone telling us he trained to be a yoga teacher we get:

tedx-torontoIt’s the only woman and the only yoga pose in the whole video.

The video was produced by a digital media agency, Biz Media, and I’m sure is no reflection of TEDx or the content of Stone’s talk. They probably just Googled “yoga” and this still (which is from this Briohny Smyth video for Equinox) came up, and they were like, “That’s hot, let’s use it.”

Also problematic in the video: when Stone mentions his uncle in a mental institution, the accompanying shot is a “crazy person” in an asylum banging on a window. Perhaps the folks at Biz Media should brush on their visual culture theory.

But whatevs! I’m sure Michael Stone’s talk at TEDx Toronto will be fabulous, problematic promo aside. If you’re in Toronto you should go, September 26, at the Royal Conservatory of Music.

  1. Let’s make waking up sexy 🙂 . . . such are the cultural contradictions of yoga and meditation in contemporary North America.

    I agree, though, whatevs – I like the video despite its inherent, but culturally appropriate weirdness – go, Michael!

    • i’m glad we can agree that “whatevs” is becoming the perfect response to this stuff. i just had to lol when i caught that still in the video. sometimes that’s all you can do…

  2. Doesn’t the fact that there is only a single yoga shot actually make this less of an issue? I mean – I could understand if there were 4 such shots – all of them of this nature, but if we’re talking about one picture, it’s like trying to show all human races in a single face.

    That aside… I’m as excited as anyone to see Michael speak. 🙂


  3. This is sdvertising, it’s designed to grab attention. I don’t find anything objectionable about it. I think it’s a great promo vid when taken overall. I like Michael Stone and am looking forward to his talk, so thanks for letting me know!

  4. Hi Roseanne,

    My name is Dan and I am a partner at BizMedia. Thanks for the post and we are very sorry if this video doesn’t reflect good taste. It’s honestly unintentional. We have been volunteering to make the these TEDx Toronto teaser videos for 4 years now and it’s something we do because we are passionate about TEDx Toronto and it’s an opportunity for us to help share the amazing stories of the amazing people who are selected as speakers.

    The process of making these videos is really a massive undertaking. We have to sift through and organize thousands of video clips to be able to get enough footage to tell these stories and we are constantly on a time constraint to get edited versions out the door. Pair that with organizing all the shooting logistics with both the TEDx team and the speakers as well as managing a collaboration with Toronto Sound to do all the music composition and audio production / mastering – and at times making these can be a bit overbearing. But we do it because we love being a part of something awesome and our intention is not to offend anyone, or misrepresent any speakers, but to honour them and amplify their message.

    When we get our first cut done we often have a fresh pair of eyes watch the videos to see if the story we are trying to tell is clear and understandable. This doesn’t justify what you are criticizing. In fact, I am a bit embarrassed now that it’s out in the clear because our only intention is to make the speakers look good and add visual flair to their already impressive stories. But in the heat of the vicious deadlines and massive amount of editing work we put into creating this, perhaps we were acting too quickly and didn’t think about how some of this could be perceived.

    Once again, I would like to apologize. We put so much time and energy into making these videos because it is a labour of love. Our goal is to help share great ideas and to build excitement for an event that we think is important for our community. To have offended anyone really sucks – and it’s a lot more than a “whatevs” to us. I’m glad you enjoyed the rest of the video and we promise to be a little more careful going forward.

    Feel free to reach out if you want. Always available to discuss.


    • hi dan ~ thanks for your comment. i understand that it’s challenging to work under deadlines and pressures, and it’s amazing that you’re doing this work on a volunteer basis.

      i wasn’t necessarily offended by the image, but, as you know, images have power and tell a story. it’s just interesting to me because a single split-second picture says a lot about cultural perceptions of yoga. it also stood out for me because that image doesn’t represent michael’s work at all.

      a big part of IAYB’s mission and mandate is to call out for greater diversity and inclusivity in the yoga community. part of this work is calling out images in popular culture that reinforce a limited idea of what yoga is and who practices it. this is one such incidence.

      anyway, thanks again for the apology and taking the time to respond.

      • I just wanted to add, while you may not be thrilled that this is the only shot chosen to reflect yoga, you claim that she is also the only woman in the video – and you are very mistaken. There are many, including many close up shots of one person alone, and they are various women, during shots of meditations and video of rallies. :/ I think you are simply being too sensitive, and worst case scenario, the designers of this video are trying to meet people where they are. You have to do that to get people interested, and once they are there, you help them see that there is so much more. To do otherwise may lose the common person, or the person not interested in TED talks, or to merely preach to the choir, which would be a waste frankly.

        Cheers, and hugs, and love,
        Ashley Sue

  5. Now we know the real secret to Michael’s success–he was a marketing guy!

    I like the video, and I know it will be a great TED talk. Looking forward to it.

    Bob W.

  6. I don’t think Dan or anyone at Biz Media have anything to apologize for. It’s a beautiful image and who are we to pass judgement on what a person wears while they practice. It’s 2013 and if a female wants to practice in shorts and a bra top so be it.

    Rather than critizing/judging the image and Briohny for being in her “underwear” shouldn’t we be supporting her choice and freedom to wear what she wants.

    My yoga may not necessarily be your yoga but who am I to critize and pass judgement on somebody else.

    If the image in question does not properly reflect Michael’s work I would ask why he is speaking at a TEDx event in the first place? Considering one has to “apply” just to attend and then hope that they are accepted. One could argue that TEDx events are elitist events that only accepts people that are deemed interesting enough to attend.

    To be honest I’m not as familiar with Michael’s current work as some of his past work but I do know that if I want to listen to Michael speak I can do that for free directly from his website rather than pay $150 for a ticket just to hear him speak at TEDx.

  7. Roseanne, thank you for digging into these issues and bringing them up in your blog. It’s good practice!

    Nice to see sincerity and humility in Dan’s response. It sounds like it’s a learning process for him.

    I support a woman’s choice to wear what she wishes, but I think that is not the issue here. Over-sexualization of a woman’s body in the media does not support, I think, a woman’s right to choose what she wears. The emphasis in yoga advertising tends to be toward portraying the practice in the form of young, fit, female bodies in little clothing, which leads to a feeling of exclusion of a large degree of the population from the practice. The more emphasis on the exterior shape of the body in relation to a sexualized image, the more we are missing the point of practice. The best yoga teachers I’ve had do not fit the stereotype. The greatest ones I’ve had have been in aging bodies. And the worthwhile teachers are not judged for their bodies, but for their characters, which takes years to appreciate and could never be revealed in a media clip.

    I wholly disagree that advertising needs to be fast paced, moving from image to image in order to sustain attention and draw in an audience. My experience is the opposite – the mass amounts of images distracts and confuses me, and my desire now leans to turning away. Why not produce a video that reflects the deeper values that Michael Stone represents in his teachings? Stillness, for example. Patience. Discernment. Depth and seriousness of formal practice. Maybe it’s me, but the jumping around seems to contradict what Michael says at the end: there’s something wrong with “the out of control momentum of our culture.”

    And to see how deeply wrong our culture can be, check out this ridiculous advertisement intended to draw girls to science. If you stand behind this and say, well, “I think this video just supports a girl’s right to choose to wear what she wants”, then you are missing the point. A woman is not the shape of her body; her value should not be determined by how well she fits into sexy clothes. The media needs to wise up and no longer participate in the oppression. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g032MPrSjFA

    • yes yes yes! thanks for jumping in, nancy!

    • :/ I fear that comparing these two videos in any capacity is incredibly unfair. I say this as someone who’s spent time studying marketing, loves advertising genius, and as a feminist. Just a thought…

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