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Yoga Journal Catches Flak From Hindu Scholars for ‘Inappropriate’ Yoga Videos

in Ethics, YD News

rajan-zed-ogden-yjUht oh, we smell trouble. Some of you may recall the sleaziest, and let’s face it, one of the dimmest of yogs we’ve seen, Mr. Ogden: the Inappropriate Yoga Guy. He was an internet sensation on the youtube, and Yoga Journal snapped him up to be “guest editor” in their humorous online video series, which definitely received some divided reviews. We found the funny in it, and actually thought it somewhat surprising that our long-bearded brethren YJ decided to indulge on such an off-color and tip-toey controversial character and storyline.

Well it was only a matter of time before the critics came a-hollerin! And though some YJ readers may have found it offensive, it’s the Hindu statesman that has the loudest bark. Indeed, Rajan Zed, a Nevadan and president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, has come out against the videos and Yoga Journal’s “mockery of the age old and revered system”. Oops.

When did lampooning become a medium to honor a 5,000-year-old tradition,” Rajan Zed asked.

You know what though? We think YJ did it all in good spirit and this is probably a good indication of the culture/generation clash here in the modern yoga world. (btw, we’re totally waiting for the Zed penned YD hate mail!)

Besides, Zed has a record of chastising other religion-related “disinformation” like when he criticized the filmmakers of Angels & Demons or when he launched a spam email campaign against The Love Guru.

Maybe it wasn’t the best move for Yoga Journal? leave that crass to the snarky blogland. heh.

[Thaindian News]

EarlierYoga Journal Prudently Hires Guest Editor ‘Inappropriate Yoga Guy’

46 comments… add one
  • I think almost all satire would be outlawed if it couldn’t make fun of sacred cows (no Hindu pun intended).

    I’m sure there’s a line somewhere. But I think with humor it really has to be pretty much anything goes, unless it’s truly mean-spirited and deliberately harmful in some way.

    Inappropriate Yoga Guy doesn’t even come close to meeting that standard! (Borat, on the other hand, might be a different story.)

    Bob W.

  • There’s a word for people who object to anyone with a humorous or different take on their revered traditions: fundamentalist. And, as far as I’m concerned, irking fundamentalists is a sign of a healthy spiritual practice…

  • as I said at another blog, that vid is not making fun of yoga, only phony baloney “yogis” and guys who are total idiots.

    Rajan Zed is the same type of Hindu who wanted Richard Gere thrown in jail because he kissed a Bollywood star in public in India. go ahead. google it.

  • I thoroughly enjoyed watching Odgen on YJ’s website, although I believe the fundamentalist objection to Yoga Journal is a real opportunity to look into the marketing of yoga. While I believe “The Inappropriate Yoga Guy” to be a harmless spoof, only poking fun at the inauthentic yogi, I do agree that many yoga publications have gone “soft”, or rather, “silly” in their representation of the ancient practice of divine union.

    Just my opinion

  • Hey, how can you live with yourself–calling yourself “YogaDork”, thereby making a mockery 5,000 years of Yoga tradition?

    You should be ashamed.

    Bob W.

  • I thought Ogden was hilarious! Sure, YJ’s motives in creating the whole thing aren’t entirely clear – perhaps they’re trying to crack a different part of the market that doesn’t usually buy YJ. Or perhaps they’re just taking a pot shot at themselves for the fun? Who knows?

    But I woulda thought that Indian dude (all respects of course) has much better things to do. And hey, is he gonna complain about the western depiction of yoga when it involves scantily clad skinny white chicks? Or is it just Ogden that gets under his skin.

    Wait… shouldn’t of mentioned getting under the skin in light of previous comment about scantily clad women… ohh… okay, I’m going now…

  • You know, to be honest I dont find the videos that funny….but I dont find them to be a big problem either.

    Yoga is becoming mainstream in many ways. In a few ways that is a great thing, and in a few ways it may be a bad thing.

    People who want to stick to the spiritual aspect of it and really get in touch with themselves will benefit more. People who want to use it to get a flatter stomach or meet girls at the gym, so be it. They will not get the deeper understanding or appreciation, and nothing that is said will change that.

    There are different yoga practices out there, different ways to do it, and different ways to look at it. In my eyes these videos are just as ign that Yoga has indeed become accepted. Just like how TV shows arent popular until they have been made fun of on SNL.

  • Wait, What?? Yoga is a “age old and revered system”??? I though it was just Pilates practiced with more expensive clothes. Who knew????

  • I just had this image in my head of sending YogaDawg to an ashram in the Himalayas for a few months with a video crew!

  • Now that a funny idea Bob:) Sponsors anyone??

  • Raj

    I agree with Drew that Yoga means different to different people. People get attracted to whole Yoga thing for various reasons including getting a flat tummy. People are making new definitions of Yoga every day.

    I don’t know who is right or wrong but it’s amazing how many people are bringing Yoga into their lives. I guess it would be more appropriate to mention “Yogasanas” instead of Yoga.

    Everyone knows the true meaning of Yoga, its origins, why it was invented. The authenticity of Yoga will remain the same for the true seekers of the TRUTH.


  • I also endorse “Diversity is good for Yoga” and “Live and let live”.
    There have been some great debates on this subject on the Yoga Journal Community. Here’s an excerpt from my latest comment–on a blog in which someone jokingly suggest creating something called “Ballet Yoga” and another member objected to the endless stream of new varieties:

    “I personally don’t understand why it has to be one or the other–purity or diversity. Some write as though there were a limited Yoga pie that must be somehow protected from intruders.

    In reality the Yoga pie is infinitely expandable. So it can accomodate whatever diversity the world throws at it.

    There is infinite room in the Yoga world for both the deeply spiritual and traditional approach and the lighthearted, anything goes approach of Ballet Yoga or the even more extreme uproarious spoofs of fellow member YogaDawg.

    Since the pie is infinite, why not enjoy them all? There’s nothing to protect. Let those who want to be traditional and serious be so, and those that don’t, don’t.

    I like them all.”

    Bob W. (www.myyogabook.wordpress.com)

  • yati

    The underlying problem is not one’s personal taste in humor, it is the distortion, commercialization, exploitation of the sacred yoga practices that compose Hinduism and sects. There is nothing wrong w/ stretching, exercising etc, but calling it ‘yoga’ is unethical. ‘Ogden’ is as phoney as the phoney “yogis” and “yoginis,” that laugh at him, thinking they are less foolish. They ignore the common sense and FACTS, of what yoga really is, because it is not comfortable to their egocentric fake yoga practice. The various Yogas (Karma Yoga, Bhakti Y., Hatha Y. etc) are the progressive religious/spiritual practices to yoke/yuj/yog, link Atmana to Brahman, basic Hindu tenet. Hatha Yoga, often misrepresented and referred to a just ‘yoga’, are worshipful postures w/i Hinduism.
    ~Sanskrit: The ancient language of the Hindus [Webster’s] Note: all subsequent terms are Sanskrit (Skr.) and thus Hindu
    ~Aum/Om: The most sacred syllable in Hinduism [Oxford World Religions]
    ~yoga: Skr. “Hinduism” [Webster’s]
    ~yoga: Oneness of Atmana and Brahman [Dict. of Skr. Names]
    ~yogi/yogini: (male/female) Hindu Ascetic [Oxford World Rel.]
    ~Atmana: Skr. Self/Spirit; Hinduism [Webster’s]
    ~Brahman: Skr. Hindu Religion [Webster’s]
    ~yoga: Skr. A Hindu discipline [Oxford Am. Dict.]
    ~ yoga: Skr. A system of Hindu religious philosophy [Thorndike Barnhardt]
    ~yoga: Skr. general term for spiritual disciplines in Hinduism [Columbia Encyclopedia]
    ~Swami: Skr. Title of respect of a (Hindu) Holy man or teacher. [Oxford World Religions]
    ~Guru: Skr. A teacher of worldly skills…more often of religious knowledge…liberation (Moksa). [Oxford World religions]
    ~Moksa: Release/liberation – the fourth and ultimate goal of Hinduism. [Oxf. World Religion]
    ~Veda Skr. The most ancient sacred literature of the Hindus. [Webster’s]
    ~The first recorded evidence of the Skr. word “yoga” is found in the Vedas.”Seers of the vast illumined Seer yogically control their minds and intelligence.” Rig Veda V.81.
    ~Upanishads: Text in Hinduism which ends or completes the Vedic corpus (body of [Hindu] laws)[Oxf. World Religions]

  • *wandering around*

    Oh… hey look! Someone dropped something

    *peers in the box*

    Hey! I think its someone’s sense of humour.

    *wanders back to my floating lotus bookshelf filled with serious books on yoga, Sanksrit and yogic philosophy*

  • YD, in October I’m going to a talk at the Theosophical Society (national headquarters in my area) entitled “Is American Yoga in Crisis?”, the tag line being “tonight is a wake-up call to yoga’s highest aspirations.”

    tee-hee. can’t wait! 😉

  • Sorry, mangled that last link. Look it up on Amazon:

    Babar’s Yoga for Elephants by Laurent de Brunhoff. Now the truth can finally be revealed–Yoga was originally developed by elephants and only adopted by humans many years later.

    Bob W.

  • This is really cute, if you haven’t already seen it.

    Yoga Action Squad: http://yogaactionsquad.com/episode2.html

    • This is an arltcie that makes you think “never thought of that!”

  • Satire of modern yoga like Ogden doesn’t bother me: the people who make me cranky are the ones that forget Lila is also an aspect of the Supreme. Playfulness and humor can shine a light on less appealing aspects of the yoga world far more deftly than angry denunciation.

    More here.

  • Yeah, what BoP said. “Lila”, nice!

  • yati

    BIRDOFPARODOX “Lila”, “playfulness” and “humor” all have their time and place, but not at the expense of other people and religions, which often happens when people think it’s justified to do what ever they want…remember slavery, women’s rights, Holocaust,etc. Many people thought it was quite humorous to degrade someone or thing because of their own incorrect beliefs. YES, there is also a time/place to be protective, “angry” and to “denounce” perpetrators of unethical, “adharmic” actions. Actually, it is quite called for to “denounce” that people steal from Hinduism its sacred practices, then uprooting it so its meaning is distorted. We now see it with words like yoga, swastika, mantra, guru, etc., now becoming difficult to use correctly or safely. Some ex., calling a wine tasting-Communion or swim classes-Baptism…no humor in that to Christians, just an insult and watering down of their sacred beliefs. It would be wrong for a Hindu not to defend his religion in an appropriate manner. Hopefully, most would do their duty to protect their religion, family, home, etc. With the presentation of FACTS in my last comment, perhaps others involved in the spurious yoga industry, which ironically is full “of paradox,” will re-evaluate…stretch, exercise, relax, breathe all one wants, but it is not yoga when removed (stolen) from Hinduism.

  • Yati,

    It might just be my opinion, but invoking slavery, women’s rights and the Holocaust in the face of a comedian invalidates every sound argument you’ve made previously. See Godwin’s Law.

    Religious satire has existed longer than we have (or yoga, for that matter). The Holy Fool is a powerful archetype, apeing his own faith to provide deeper understanding. I’m not Christian, but I live in the Bible belt, and I’ve never heard the examples you’ve cited used.

    However, I think you’ve lost the point: Ogden is not making fun of Classical Yoga. The Ogden series is making fun of the people who HAVE ALREADY diluted the texts and practices. It’s not a mockery of Hinduism; it’s a mockery of people who haphazardly apply yogic veneer to an unexamined life. Culture always shapes a religious text or practice, but common threads remain. I may not have the cultural background to support it, but it makes the Upanishads no less poignant, the Bhagavad Gita retains its resonance, even if I am not Hindu.

    Here’s the real question here, though: the word stealing keeps cropping up in your posts. Do you believe that all modern western yogis are stealing from Hinduism’s wellspring? Because I think that really is the clincher as to how/if I keep up the discourse.

    P.S. Please don’t use “jerk quotes,” reinforced with CAPITALS EMPHASIZING YOUR INITIAL POINT, which imply (to a person who spends most of her time online) you believe yours is the only valid opinion in these comments.

  • Enlightenment … what happened to the “light”?

    As a stand-up comic hired by Yoga Journal to be the entertainment for their Estes Park conference, I take offense at these God-d*mned holy reverent people.

    My belief is … that beliefs are like diapers, they cover our asses and hold in all our B.S. self-righteousness.

    I beg you, kind Hindu sir! Stop insulting my ancient religion: Laughing and deflating the significance of all of it!

    Inappropriate Yoga Guy was good work.

  • vanda.

    Loved your show at Yoga Journal Conference in Lake Geneva. One of the absolute highlights of the conference.

    I defy anyone to remain the slightest bit serious during your show.

    Bob W.

  • Thanks, Bob. You have fun posts!

    I’ve done enough work to know what a self-righteous ass I can be. I “find the funny” in knowing that all human beings are trapped in their P.O.V. to some degree or other … trapped in our belief systems and trapped in our belief syatems ABOUT our belief systems.

    I once did a workshop standing inside the inquiry, “Am I arrogant?” and found out I was. A hell of a lot. BUT I wouldn’t have known unless I asked.

    Ram Das says “One has to know one is trapped before one can get free”.

    Humor is one of those keys to get you out of the trap, everyone knows that. Except for that guy in Nevada. He’s trying to control the people around him so he can have the experience of being “respected”. There’s a faster path to the experience of respect, Hindu dude!

    I love my opinions about Hinduism and yoga, too … but scream them out to the ocean, all your precious opinions about your beliefs, and see how important your opinions are in the light of all eternity.

  • In case you don’t know the mighty Vanda Mikoloski, she is the funniest stand up comic on the planet and former yoga teacher to the Dixie Chicks. She does quantum/metaphysical comedy and I once flew across the country to catch her act at the Bodhi Tree in Hollywood. Catch her show if you have the opportunity.

  • Couldn’t agree more, YogaDawg. Vanda brought the house down in Lake Geneva, on a program packed of other very funny people, she was the biggest star.

  • awwwww…. You guys! Thanks. Come see me at estyes park ypoga Journal conference. It’ll be funnier!

    • It\’s imperavtie that more people make this exact point.

  • vanda, I honestly don’t think that’s possible (that you could be even funnier than Lake Geneva)!

  • yati

    Birdofparadox “invalidates every sound argument you’ve made previously” I believe would be an oxymoron. As to Godwins Law, how unimportant is that point…especially since in G.L., comparisons are justified in proper context…here one of extreme discrimination by the masses and ensuing downward sloping consequences. In this case, Hindu sacred practices ripped from their source and masked as non/Hindu and non-religious …spiritual at best…mass denial, confusion. From Patanjali, Yoga Sutras (again,one of six orthodox philosophies of Hinduism) Pada I, Sutra 9, “Word knowledge devoid of facts is delusion.” My issue, that perhaps not made clear, was not challenging one tastes in humor but the whole phoney yoga movement. That movement is devoid of facts, thus Vikalpa (delusion). The fact is the yogas are the practices of Hinduism, one can’t have one w/o the other…it is not universal.
    “Culture always shapes a religious text or practice, but common threads remain.”…that is healthy, what we have here is not a cultural shaping/evolving, if that was the case the Yogas would be known as Hindu practices, and taught by qualified Hindu teachers to whomever wants to learn for no fee. Should a Hindu teach/provide Mass/Baptism, therefore a non-Hindu should not do similar with Bhakti Yoga, Hatha, Y., etc. In referring to Hindu texts or any religious texts, they may be poignant but it seems when people praise Upanishad/Gita many deny it is sacred Hindu text…severe discrimination. When you say “modern western yogis” that in itself is also an oxymoron…are they Hindu,ascetics, studying from Hindus? Concerning opinion vs. facts, my question to phoney “modern western yogis,” that includes the Ogdens and all the “yoga studio” population (they all ” haphazardly apply yogic veneer to an unexamined life), etc….show the facts that the yogas are not Hinduism. Old Hindu proverb summarizes this modern “yoga”…The blind leading the blind in the blind man shuffle.

  • Interesting that some are upset with Hindu’s being upset–see the contradiction? A sense of humor depends upon just that. It is tough to climb–easy to fall–easy to drag others down.

  • This site rocks!

  • I will also be selling “I Heart Yoga” ashtrays in the back of the room after my show at Estes Park.

    Love and Namaste and All,



    assume the mind as earth earth has innerlayers and outerlayers.the outerlayer is the crust which is very thin and yoga is only good to the outermostpart of mind . so dont say this is a very great exercise or meditation or whatever it may be . just study about islam study about soofism and how the soofis attained tha greatest state of mind even to make a dead man alive. just research abt the “vettum kuthum ratheeb”
    in kerala especially in malabar area so believe LAILAHAILLALLAH MUHAMMADARSOOLULLAH









  • Please, do not feed the trolls!

  • This “yoga movement” is, for the most part, absurd, childish … . What an insult to a great religion. Factually, real Yoga is Hinduism; taught by Hindus and not for a fee. To date, not one of these so-called “certified yoga teachers” has ever been able to face the most basic questions about what is real Yoga. It is big business–both money and ego. “The blind and the blind, in a blind dance shuffle.”

    Swami Param
    Dharma Yoga Ashram
    Classical Yoga Hindu Academy

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