Yoga Journal Talent Search — By the Numbers. | elephant journal

I spied this list over at Elephant Journal. Readers will note that I have a vested interest in the outcome, as I have a friend in the running. We were just talking about this before class this morning, during which her full Vashistasana was very “shri.”*

On February 1st, Yoga Journal kicked off a nationwide online “talent search contest” to find its next model.

©2011 Yoga Journal

To enter, applicants were asked to provide the following:  their name, style (presumably referring to the type of yoga practiced), teacher, the number of years spent practicing, what they’re inspired by, and a photo “show[ing] off a pose you’ve mastered.”

Until April 15th, readers are able to cast votes for their favorite contestants.  Five finalists with the most votes will win Athleta gear, and one will be featured in the September 2011 issue of Yoga Journal.

The following index includes actual data submitted by applicants of the 2011 Yoga Journal Talent Search (YJTS), and various other Internet sources, where noted.

via Yoga Journal Talent Search — By the Numbers. | elephant journal.

Snark” may well be the opposite of shri, and it seems to come in spades over at Recovering Yogi, which hosts the list of “Words We Loathe and Abhor,” which figures prominently in the EJ post. Seriously? Whatever happened to ahimsa? And what, specifically, do they have against John Friend? Given the great power and beauty of internet trackbacks, this blog too, may be coming to a Recovering Yogi list near you.

This isn’t the first time I’ve engaged the Recovering Yogi mindset on terminology. The “Words We Loath and Abhor” page explicitly links to a post on the term “manifesting” (“The Difference Between Manifesting and Gardening“).  The post concludes that the term is “is one of the top five catchwords that people in the pseudo-spiritual scene are conditioned to use these days. ‘Manifest’ is an all-encompassing verb/adjective/noun that implies harnessing the alleged Power of Positive Thinking in order to achieve our egocentric desires.”

That’s not what I read in Anodea Judith’s Wheels of Life: A User’s Guide to the Chakra System (1997; 1986). I said so, in a reply to Joslyn Hamilton’s post.

The way I read this, the idea of manifesting predates “The Secret” in Anodea Judith’s book on the chakra system “Wheels of Life.” It’s perfectly sensible to see gardening as manifesting in this view. The liberating current is one that moves toward expanded consciousness from the root to the crown chakra, while the manifesting one moves the opposite way. Liberation is toward freedom from constraints, and manifesting is toward limitation. These currents can be likened to the nonduality of spirit and matter so alien to the Western view. Again, the liberating current is toward spirit, and the manifesting one moves toward matter. Our consciousness may give us a creative idea, but we have to work to give it form. So hard work and dirty fingernails are perfectly appropriate expressions of the manifesting current expressed by this view. The “power of positive thinking” is probably unduly Western in privileging consciousness over matter in a way that Judith’s formulation is not. Judith’s formulation is more in line with the Shiva-Shakti Shaivism embraced by Anusara yoga. Further, this seems not inconsistent with the Taoist view, which has influenced some variants of Buddhism.

Hamilton seemed a bit taken aback by this, citing the worthy goals of simplicity, clarity and the diversity of perspectives.


I do agree that one can be creative and use the word “manifest” in virtually any context if one really wants to. As a writer, though, I am an advocate of being clear and communicative. In this regard, it makes more sense to say I was gardening… yes?

My rejoinder follows.

Are we simply telling a story about gardening, or are we trying to write a reflection in a spiritual journal?

I do most appreciate yoga teachers who can use “skillful means,” perhaps by metaphor, to convey often complex truths. Of course, at one level, you were gardening. I do agree that some are sometimes clearly “jargoning.” My background is in sociology, and my heart is warmed by those who in their writing try to avoid the jargon which abounds in the discipline. You are right to critique repetition and overuse of the term.

My point, I suppose, is that some readers of Elephant Journal may understand the manifesting current precisely as the point you are trying to make, that the seed does not spring forth simply from your imagination. I’ve never understood setting an intention as mere desire. For example, I’ve long had the desire to kick up into handstand, and I’ve had the ability longer than my fear would allow. I used to dream, literally, of driving a standard shift car. When I got behind the wheel, or more accurately, when I was finaly poised above the clutch, I first flubbed many a hill. Imagining one can do something is (only) half the battle.

I heard an interesting podcast last night that conveys a critique of popular conceptions of genius. In particular, though I am in no way a hockey fan, or a fan of most spectator sports, I enjoyed the story of Wayne Gretsky. In the critic’s view, Gretsky was so great because he so loved the sport. Eating, sleeping, and breathing it, he did it. A lot.

Thich Nhat Hahn said that the real miracle is not to walk on water or air, but on earth, alive in the present moment. This is the place your yogi friend’s “new agey” comment would reach me (were I having a good day, not caught up with climate change, poverty, war, or the BP disaster).

Today in my “Modern Social Thought” class, a course on sociological theory, we considered the work of Pierre Bourdieu. We considered it carefully, and I tried to give it its due. But at the end of that segment of class, I did share with my students that for subjective, nonacademic reasons, Bourdieu’s pessimism was not my ma tasse de thé.

We sociologists are a cantankerous, critical and snarky lot. We wrote the book on “conditioning,” which we call “socialization.” Expect that what I write about the power of positive thinking will have gone through the wringer before it gets here. It will always have been considered, neither accepted nor rejected facilely or uncritically for a quick chuckle. As Mario Cuomo said in his now famous speech to the 1984 Democratic National Convention,

We must get the American public to look past the glitter, beyond the showmanship, to the reality, the hard substance of things. And we’ll do it not so much with speeches that will bring people to their feet as with speeches that bring people to their senses. (Source

*While my own attempt was much more humble, it still made me feel elated.


About Richard Hudak

I am Senior Adjunct Faculty in Sociology at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, and I have been a practitioner of Anusara™ yoga. I have completed 200 hours of teacher training within its diaspora community, consistent with its philosophy and alignment principles.
This entry was posted in Discoveries, Quotations and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Yoga Journal Talent Search — By the Numbers. | elephant journal

  1. With over 2,000 contestants, I’m pretty sure we all have friends in the running. The point is to poke fun of our serious yogi selves. I’d venture to say that without humor, we have nothing – not even ahimsa. But I always appreciate an opposing perspective! Thanks for the share.

  2. Richard Hudak says:

    Thanks for you reply, I do really appreciate dialog. I spend most of my time trying to figure out how to engendered it among my students. Parker Palmer suggests that a healthy creative tension does the trick.

    In other words, in the interests of full disclosure, I am engaged in a bit of a polemic here myself. In truth, I did find many of the facts both eye-opening and amusing. I think the great diversity of yoga accounts for both its beauty and its strength. You are right that we would be nowhere without humor.

    In my peace work, I have come across many veterans opposed to the occupations. Sometimes, I detect a certain weariness among them, particularly the older ones. I suppose I identify with that weariness. In the summer courses I teach on social movements, we pause at the end to consider the costs of struggle, particularly to individuals. A few years back, at the meetings of the Association for Humanist Sociology I was on my way out the door when I ran into some veterans of the civil rights struggle. I was very privileged to sit and talk a while about their experiences. It was particularly salient how so many of them seem to be leaving us too soon. Contention, while clearly necessary, takes a toll. Can we do more to avoid contention within an enterprise which itself has strived to be properly understood in the US context?

    Having spent much of my adult life in contention, either academic settings, under artificial duress created in a business environment, or in struggling for peace and social justice, I suppose I find appealing a certain existential courage, the variant of “positive thinking” with which I can live. I am somewhat similarly weary, but am refreshed by such alternatively courageous perspectives.

    In addition, while I have identified my own chosen style of yoga, promote it vigorously and joyfully, and avoid particular others like the plague, I feel very uncomfortable tearing down the choices of others. Rather, it feels appropriate to say what is “my path,” and “not my path.”

    Lastly, I have formally studied the recovery movement. I am at once sympathetic to and critical of it. Its culture, like any other, is an adaptation to its environment. Like any other, its culture also contributes to the transformation of its environment. I think that at this critical juncture in history, we need to be mindful of the ways in which the yoga culture (to the extent that it can be thought of as unitary in any way) both has adapted to and may yet transform the wider culture. “Truth is one, the paths are many,” as Gandhiji said. Therefore I think the folks at Recovering Yogi share this goal of mindfulness, and again, welcome dialog.

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