Writing

Archive for September, 2009

Celebrity Yoga Teachers: A Contradiction in Terms?

At a Yoga Journal conference in San Francisco a few years ago, Gwen Soffer of Philadelphia found herself in an elevator with someone she thought she knew. But as much as she tried, she couldn’t place her.

“I said, ‘Where do I know you from? You look so familiar. Is it from a yoga workshop somewhere, or from Philly?’ The woman admitted she’d been in a lot of magazines.

“Then someone elbowed me and said, ‘It’s Ana Forrest!’ just as she got off the elevator. I tried to joke it off. It was like any other celebrity sighting.”

While we’ve long known that celebrities such as Sting, Madonna, Christy Turlington, and Willem Dafoe do yoga, we now have to acknowledge that yoga teachers can be celebrities in their own right.

This phenomenon raises a conundrum for all of us in the yoga world: How do we reconcile the marketing power and media-friendly images of big-name teachers– think of Rodney Yee, Shiva Rea, Sean Corne, Bikram Choudry, Baron Baptiste–with the precepts of yoga? After all, yoga teaches us to develop a genuine awareness of self—whether that’s through working the body in asana or calming the mind in pranayama and meditation—in order to decrease the strife of the individual ego. And that pretty much nixes self-interest as a viable option for a yoga teacher.
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