Raw, adjective: 6. ignorant, inexperienced, or untrained: a raw recruit.

Controversy brewing in the yoga blogosphere over the recent NYT profile of supposed "rebel yogi" Tara Stiles. Not sure exactly what makes this pretty-lady yoga teacher a rebel: that she doesn't really use Sanskrit? That she wears sweatpants? That she's 29 and vaguely trained? That she uses social media to spread the yogic gospel?

The whole thing seems to me a bit of an overstatement. Stiles, with her emphasis on weight-loss, asana, no-bullshit teaching and supposedly anti-elitist priorities, really just reflects growing trends in the industry right now. I'd argue that the real rebels in the biz are the ones saying: fuck expensive classes. Fuck expensive pants. Fuck photoshoots. Let it be about the practice. Let it be about the mind. Let it be about the song, the breath, the stillness, the service.

It's easy to market yoga as the latest-and-greatest workout trend. A capitalist no-brainer, really. And many of us in the so-called "scene" realize that asana - a purely physical asana practice, with few philosophical intentions - can be an incredible gateway into the more holistic meditative and spiritual aspects of yoga. And that's fine. We all get there somehow. But - but - if you really wanna talk about rebels here, talk about the folks who are eschewing overpriced conferences and rejecting glowingly-lit videos and fancy retreats and celebrity clientele. Talk about the folks who are running donation-based studios and emphasizing bhakti and service and love over all else. Talk about the folks who use the yoga practice as a reminder that we find balance and strength and softness on the mat so that we can in turn take those skills and qualities into our lives off the mat. Talk about the folks who understand "yoga" to mean a union of rich and poor, old and young, healthy and sick, English-speaking and not.

Because there's your rebellion. There's your good intention in practice. The being a model-turned-yoga-teacher, the skipping-the-Sanskrit, it's not really out of the ordinary at all, you see. It's quite mainstream, quite safe, quite easy. Gimme more passion, more fire, more edge, New York Times, before you really try to anoint someone a rebel yogi. Because they're out there. They're chanting. They're serving. They're swimming upstream. You just haven't found them yet.

Tara Stiles's Brand of Rebel Yoga Draws Claims of Heresy (NYT)


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