Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.

I'm a bit behind the times on the latest yoga dish, having been very busy of late drinking out of coconuts and sleeping on the beach. Ahem.

But there are a couple of hot topics that've been buzzing around the yoga-sphere these last few weeks, and if you're at all interested in the stuff beyond what happens on the mat, you owe yourselves a few minutes with these controversial stories:

1. The whole lululemon Ayn Rand "Who is John Galt?" marketing campaign hubbub. We've got all kinds of drama thanks to lulu's vague reference to Rand's Atlas Shrugged, which is, incidentally, a tome pretty steeped in notions of free market individualism — the kind of ideals some of us might argue are not particularly yogic, in terms of the denial of interrelation and whatnot. Here's a little background from the NY Times:
Lululemon Athletica, the retailer of yoga pants and hoodies, has long decorated shopping bags with slogans that appear to have been lifted from self-help books. But this month its bags have asked a question that some may find more provocative: “Who is John Galt?”

The question is the opening line of “Atlas Shrugged,” the novel by Ayn Rand that was published in 1957. Followers of Rand’s free market philosophy, which promotes the idea of individuals living for their self-interest and dismisses altruism, sometimes use the question to signal their allegiance.
As a shameless commie myself, you can imagine how I feel about the whole thing. It's quite troubling. Read up on it here at the NYT and at Yoga Dork, too. I could write a book. I will resist.

2. You've heard of the Yoga Alliance, right? It's that [very vague] umbrella-style accreditation association that's supposedly going to wrangle the wild, woolly world of yoga-teaching into something that looks like a systematized structure.

YA gets mixed reviews from both teachers and studios. Aspiring teachers complete their 200-hour training, thinking it'll give them a sheen of professional legitimacy once they can follow their name up with RYT ("Registered Yoga Teacher"). I've done it myself. Rachel Meyer, RYT. Doesn't mean a whole lot, though, really.

You see, the argument from prominent teachers like Bryan Kest and Baron Baptiste, who've distanced their training programs from Yoga Alliance affiliation in the past few years, is that the accreditation is so vague and loosely-enforced that it effectively means, well, nothing. And the steep annual dues the applicants pay for those three letters? No one really knows where that money goes, or if it accomplishes anything productive.

I've decided not to renew mine. No stress. I don't think those three letters will make me any better a teacher. And while the Yoga Alliance's intentions toward standardization seem honorable, it's such a vastly complicated undertaking to try to streamline such different traditions in this multifaceted profession, which involves playing the roles of country pastor, personal trainer, and motivational speaker, often all at once.

Recovering Yogi just featured a great deconstruction of this whole certification dilemma. Check it out. The article proffers that eternal question: what makes for a good yoga teacher? A certain number of hours spent in chakra contemplation? A helluva lot of anatomy knowledge at the expense of philosophy? Sweet-ass pecs and a killer tush? Who's to say? I say, go; read; talk amongst yourselves.

Here's a little teaser for you. Laura Riggs writes:
I have worked with many wonderful teachers who have opted to stay as far away from YA as possible and they are, in most cases, more qualified to guide a yoga class (or lead a teacher training) than many of the teachers currently listed in the YA registry. Reason being: YA lacks sufficient internal structure to monitor and hold the registered teachers and schools accountable in order to uphold the standards they have allegedly established. Furthermore, these so-called standards do not give any weight or bearing toward the qualifications actually needed to guide a yoga class in a knowledgeable, empowering, safe and ethical manner.
Whew. Gotcha.

3. Then, finally, my old boy Mr. B is at it again. What are we gonna do with him? Such a hot mess. More legal drama to do with branding and commodification and sequence-copyrighting and making a buck, I'm sad to say. Now the old guy's suing Yoga to the People (a.k.a. super well-intentioned donation-based model that originated in NYC and now has outposts here in SF and Berkeley, as well) for infringing upon his intellectual property.

Bikram's lawyer says YTTP is using Mr. B's own copyrighted sequencing and passing it off as the company's own:
“This 26-pose sequence already has a copyright....It’s like a series of dance steps; like the choreography in a musical. And musicals are copyrighted."
But Greg Gumucio, founder of YTTP, counters that
"This issue is much bigger than Bikram the man, much bigger than Bikram Yoga,” he wrote on his blog YogaTruth.org. “It is much larger than myself or Yoga to the People. This is about whether yoga asanas and the sequencing of asanas that are part of Traditional Knowledge will remain in the public domain for everyone to use, for everyone to teach, and for everyone to practice.”
Oy. Money and intellectual property and copyrighting and ancient history and all of it. For a practice that's supposed to be all about cutting out the drama in life, we've sure got a lot of it, eh? I blame the profit factor. Note that common branding/marketing theme in each of the above showdowns.

How to gracefully combine spirit and business, ethics and capitalism? You've got me. We'll keep practicing. One breath at a time. That's about all we can do. Well, that and drink. Heavily.

Lululemon Athletica Combines Ayn Rand and Yoga (NYT)
RYT, E-RYT, or RYS? BFD! (Recovering Yogi)
Bikram Sues Yoga to the People (Yoga Journal)


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