Was anyone truly surprised when it came out recently that John Friend, founder of Anusara, is a bit of a playboy? Exploitation of female yogis has been a problem in yoga ever since it came to America, with charges of sexual impropriety and outright harassment against “gurus” such as Muktananda, Amrit Desai (who was kicked out of the ashram he founded), and even Yogi Bhajan (who brought my beloved Kundalini Yoga to America).
In this environment, where women are often made very vulnerable in a teacher/student relationship, we really need to be careful about male predators in a world that is currently dominated by women. Unfortunately, the current trend in yoga is to make it about shallow things like “becoming more sexy.” It’s even worse when women become part and parcel to the objectification of women in yoga. When I critique this trend, such as what yoga model Tara Stiles is doing, inevitably, some clueless man will come and comment that I am just “jealous and bitter.”
There is never, ever any acknowledgment of the greater problem. Never. The issue, for them, always comes down to this: If you don’t like the trend towards sexploitation in yoga, if you don’t like Tara Stiles selling yoga as “sexy,” if you don’t like Ana Brett showing her nipples off in a Kundalini Yoga DVD, you are “jealous and bitter.”
Here’s the latest comment I got on my Tara Stiles critique. The guy spends half his comment giving me a psych evaluation. I’ll post his comment in italics and my responses in bold:
It does come of as jealous and bitter, very much so. The lengthy and verbose denial further deepens the mire. Oh so unattractive.
I’m sorry you aren’t getting my point after I explained it in length, and yet, ironically, your comment to me in response is one of the longest I’ve received on my blog…by the way, I’m really not interested in being “attractive” to you. Believe it or not, we women actually have other things that fulfill us besides being “attractive” to every man who comes across our paths!
With all due respect, the 200hr and 500hr certifications are generic and ubiquitous. I have seen any number of “certified” inept calisthenics instructors parading as yoga teachers. Most of them list their their “x”hr certifications in a laundry list of qualifications ranging from hatha to kundalini to tae bo. I guess if you claim to have a range of yoga mart energetic healing techniques, it makes you more authentic.
Have you ever done a 200 or 500 hour yoga training? If you had, you would not dismiss it so cavalierly. It’s a lot of hard work.
What amuses me are the underlying emotional issues that you have with your body and aging that peek out, albeit unintended in your original post and rebuttals.
No, I think you are projecting your own misogynistic views onto me. Given that I’ve had many males come onto this blog to claim “jealousy” each time I critique sexploitation in yoga, I’m fairly certain most of you think I’m ugly, fat, and sit at home crying as I eat ice cream and bon-bons.
My question to you is as follows: Have you ever been a women? Do you know what it’s like to be objectified by men? Have you ever been to a dance club where men you didn’t know came up to you and physically assaulted you by sticking their hard dick into your ass as they tried to body-grind you from behind without your permission? (I’m not talking about gay clubs. Though, maybe you can go to one and get a sense of what I’m talking about).
Have you ever been sexually harassed? Have you ever felt unsafe around men because you were a target for being young and attractive? Have you ever walked down the street and had some creepy guy catcall you and stop his car to chat you up? Have you ever had men be interested in you solely for your body and your looks? Because I have. And if I’m “bitter” about anything, it’s most assuredly not because I’ve been fat and ugly all my life, but because I’ve been used and tossed aside by men who only wanted me for my body. Do I want women to be recognized for more than just their looks? Damn right. And it’s not because I am “jealous” about someone being prettier than I am. It’s about wanting to be more than just my looks.
I doubt you’ll understand that though.
What clinched the deal for me was actually attending several classes at Strala yoga. The fact is this: Tara can teach. Her classes rock, they are down to earth and FAIRLY safe.
I have experienced all sorts of classes over the last 15 years and have a fair idea of instructors capabilities. A lot of amazing teachers had devoted a life to practicing yoga as a way of life instead of accumulating meaningless certifications. Dharma Mittra, BKS Iyengar, Vanda Scaravelli to name a few have never heard of 200 hr or 500hr certifications.
Initially, I was going to write that I was glad you feel you are getting something out of Tara’s teaching, though my main issue with her is how she markets herself and yoga, not what she does in her classes. But as I’ve analyzed your comment more, I can’t help but get a strange feeling that you are protesting on her behalf way too much. I have to wonder why you are so attached to vehemently defending her here. Why are you going to see her as opposed to another teacher? Is it because you want your yoga teacher to be young and pretty? Maybe you wanted to have a “model” as your teacher?
Ironically I actually support your right to be jealous and bitter. Absolutely, the girl is young, has some serious celebrity endorsements (I don’t particularly care, but in this commercial day and age….You get the picture). She has a following, has a personal brand (personally I dont give a damn about that either). Tara has money, her significant other is a cool yogi (A serious and good teacher in his own right). Hell she really does have it going on, and jealousy would be warranted and perfectly understandable. This is America and we divide the world into losers and winners ( I do not agree, but then again, I simply live here), she is the present it girl, however temporary and you are a never could be.
Obviously, you do care about her being the “it girl,” because here and at the end of your comment you slam me for being “a never could be.” You would only throw out that snarky insult if you were yourself attached to celebrity and fame. Look, I left Los Angeles because I got tired of all that crap. I really don’t care to be famous. Trust me on that one.
What is worrisome really is your flat out lack of acceptance that you are just as susceptible to jealousy and bitterness as anyone else. To say that you are not motivated in the slightest by any of these is ridiculous. Satya and Swadhyaya are something you may have encountered in your vaunted 200hr certification.
Nope, I’m not jealous of Tara. She, like many other women who have built their careers and self-esteem off of their beauty, will be into a shock when she hits 40 and suddenly she’s no longer the “it girl.” (It might happen sooner than that.) How is she going to feel when her husband leaves her for a younger “model”? When she’s no longer given media attention because she’s just another average-looking middle-aged woman? Look at how Demi Moore has destroyed herself over her focus on staying young. She’s had to go to rehab. She’s a mess. She can’t let go of her youth and beauty and she has nothing to replace it. No, I don’t envy those women at all.
Yes, there will be feedback on a public forum. If you voice your opinion shrilly and stridently, the echoes will be shrill and strident too. To consider yourself above any such reproach because you own this blog is another reflection of your denial. You have been deluded by a glittering piece of commercial drivel to voice your say, without having taken the time to experience the person underneath.
I’m not sure what you mean by “glittering piece of commercial drivel” – are you referring to Tara’s book on yoga? At any rate, given your righteous outrage over any critique of Tara, it’s ironic that you’d lambaste me for my own feedback of her. She’s a public figure, and is also therefore not above “reproach.” As for experiencing “the person underneath” – have you experienced “the person underneath” in Tara? I doubt you have, if you’ve just shown up for her public yoga classes. If you’ve experienced more…well…I don’t know, something about what you said suggests to me you have some sort of unhealthy attachment/projection in regards to her. I’ll give you a clue, in case you’ve got a bit of White Knight fantasies going on with her: She’s just not that into you. If she’s nice to you after yoga class, it’s because you are her customer.
See if you can take a class with Tara, if it helps you face the uncomfortable feelings in your self, you may just come out a changed person. Changed for the better that is.
Ummm yeah…this is where you sound like someone who has joined a cult or something. I had people say this kind of stuff to me about Landmark Forum. “You have to go experience it yourself to be able to judge!” Umm, no thank you, I don’t need to travel to New York just to appease your angst that I don’t like the Tara Stiles style of sexploitative yoga marketing.
By the way, I did check the IP address you posted your comment from, and it originated in “Richardson, Texas.” So it does seem like you must have gone way out of your way to attend a class of hers. Which kind of confirms my suspicion you’ve got some Tara Stiles Stalking going on here.
Yes Steph, we do get it. We really do. You are a generic item on the bottom shelf at yogamart, she has her own store.
No, you don’t get it. At all. But you couldn’t leave without another insult over the fact that I am not a famous yoga teacher, even though you claim to not be swayed by such things. Sorry to burst your bubble. I am not interested in being a famous yoga teacher…I am not interested in being a full-time yoga teacher, period. I only teach one class per week right now, to old people, as my seva. I do it out of the goodness of my heart. I do it because I enjoy it, and I get great joy in working with the elderly. And trust me, my elderly yoga students are one-thousand times “cooler” to me than Tara Stiles ever will be.
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It’s pretty clear to me, after going through this guy’s comment line-by-line, that his interest in Tara Stiles is more than in just her being a “great” yoga teacher. Whether or not he’s admitted to himself his attraction to her, and his anger at other women, it’s probably a good idea to be aware of the types of projection that our students might be doing in class. This guy professes an intimacy with Tara that I doubt he has in the real world. In this sense, I have to wonder…are young female yoga students possibly setting themselves up for sticky situations with male students? Are there any women yoga teachers out there who have had men become obsessed with them? Have you been “stalked” by your yoga student? Or, if you are a female yoga student yourself and not a teacher, have you felt “creeped out” by any men in your class? If so, I’d like to hear your story. Please comment below.