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Yoga or Advil

in YogOpinions


by J. Brown

Exploitation of yoga in advertising is nothing new. When a product wants to associate with a low-stress or healthy lifestyle, invariably, the commercial features people doing yoga poses. Increasing popularity of yoga makes the marketing demographic undeniable.

A recent Advil campaign has taken this phenomenon to another level. Instead of merely showing imagery of yoga practice, there is an actual yoga teacher addressing the camera directly as spokesperson. She says:

“If I have any soreness, I’m not going to be able to do my job. Once I take Advil, I’ll be able to finish my day and finish off strong. I always find myself going back to Advil. It really works.”

In a previous post, Mind-Body Connection Optional?, I expressed views regarding appropriate practice and drew some distinctions between physical fitness and Yoga. I want to acknowledge that, even in the course of an appropriate practice, there is sometimes an amount of soreness that is felt as a body is conditioned. Also, I don’t think there is anything fundamentally wrong with taking Advil. In fact, I’m sure there are occasions when two Advil might be quite a blessing.

However, if a yoga teacher’s work is making them sore to the point that it actually impedes their ability to do their job then I feel compelled to suggest that something is awry in that teachers yoga. I can’t escape the strong opinion that effective yoga practice would prevent a need for taking Advil, not create it.

In talking with some students about the commercial, the question of Tapas came up. The Sanskrit word, Tapas, is usually translated as “burning” or “fire” and is often associated with the heat that is generated in practice and the notion that this heat is burning away impurities in the system. The term is bandied around a lot in “hot” yoga classes and attributed to all the sweating. Some suggest that pain is Tapas.

In my experience, there is an amount of warmth that a practice produces but I don’t think that sweating means all the toxins are going out of a persons body and I question the wisdom of conflating pain with Tapas. I tend to think of Tapas in a broader sense. Like many Sanskrit words, Tapas is not just a literal meaning but a principle: “The removal of difficulty.”

Overworking a body to the extent that a healthy functioning is impeded, requiring Advil to get through the day, and referring to discomfort, that has been needlessly created, as Tapas is the kind of thing that makes me crazy.

Don’t we already have enough self-inflicted problems being utilized to exploit people these days?

In many respects, Yoga and Advil don’t make sense together. Masking pain may be warranted in some circumstances but, generally speaking, Yoga is a means of addressing pain. That’s going to be kinda hard to do if I’m popping Advil all the time.

If I treat myself with care and a nurturing sentiment, I tend not to be sore in the least. This may not sell many pain killers but it’s a much safer bet in the long run.


J. Brown is a yoga teacher, writer and founder of Abhyasa Yoga Center in Brooklyn, NY.  His writing has been featured in Yoga Therapy in Practice, Yoga Therapy Today and the International Journal of Yoga Therapy.  Visit his website at yogijbrown.com.


Previous articles by J. Brown:


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28 comments… add one
  • I completely agree with you regarding yoga being an inappropriate place for popping pain medication for general pain! I saw this commercial and thought the same thing. I’ve practice with aches and soreness from the day before, but once you hit the point of pain (i.e. my hip joint hurts from taking it too far in pigeon the day before), then it is time to rest. Listen to your body. You can’t hear it if you block it out with over the counter pain medications.

  • Fulana

    Thank you! Sometimes it seems like teachers as well as students know nothing about how the lymphatic system the kidneys, and the lungs filter out toxins from the body!!!! and don’t know what a minute amount of other than water comes out in sweat–negligible. Sweat is more a safety mechanism to prevent overheating and a traditional suffering/bonding ritual (usually male)in cultures from Native American to Russian/Ashkenazi. For many athletic or would-be athletic people, it’s a signifier that they are (over)achieving, related to “NoPain, NoGain.” Sweating also evokes memories of working and playing so hard you reach a state of pleasurable exhaustion, similar to after sex, which not so coincidentally a major path to relaxation for many who’ve never practiced self-study or to non-harming of themselves or others—-and may never absorb let alone hear about these “shortcuts” to calmness if their teacher is maxxing out her 15 minutes frequent flying, stressing her home/life balance, stuck sitting in traffic commuting—-all the things that really cause the pain, not the asana!!!
    The ad reminded me of all the “weekend warriors” I used to windsurf ,cycle & sail with who were sedentary all week & then went all out in repetitive sports all weekend, popping Advil with pride because it showed they were going “all out” in macho competition with themselves & the other guys. I sure hope this teacher has, in reality, the support and skills to teach without having to shock & awe her students by demoing the “most advanced” poses , that she has a following based on teaching her students how to nurture as well as challenge their bodies, and that she read the warnings on prolonged use of Advil & try a few less quick fixes.

    • Yogini5


  • NCDan

    I agree with the above.
    Another pernicious effect of this commercial is that it may encourage students to medicate themselves with pain pills before coming to class. This makes it more likely that they will hurt themselves, since they’ll be less sensitive to their body’s pain signals.

  • Yogini5

    Please explain to me the phenomenon of certain practices that choose to use China Gel as a prominent during-class liniment …

  • I’m glad you commented on this Advil ad! It gives people the wrong idea about yoga, and, as someone who teaches many classes a week, it’s laughable to think I’d depend on Advil to get through my day!

    “Yoga shouldn’t hurt”. This was stated very clearly, more than once, in a brilliant workshop given by Anusara Yoga Teacher Andrew Rivin, at my studio this July. (Andrew is married to Anusara Goddess, Desiree Rumbaugh, and humbly calls himself “her waterboy”.) He was lovingly exacting in what he expected of each of the participants, and, I must say, I went deeper into poses than I ever had, and nothing hurt! Andrew went on to explain he finally understands, his wife is right, if your practice is tweaking you over time, you need to change how you are practicing.

    Yoga should get you out of pain, and somethings wrong if that’s not the case.
    Suzanne Lynch
    Saratoga Springs Yoga

    • Janet

      And I don’t Like the womens voice she sounds like a smoker And I know that she’s an actress but she wouldn’t sell me on Advil and pain from yoga this commercial must go and I will try to get it taken off

  • I;d love any comments & feedback on my recent thesis project (soon to be it’s own non profit web site…Sensible Sweat ~ Redefining Hot Yoga. Namaste~

    • Ryan

      TL/DR cause it’s my bedtime. But I will read & respond. Actually I think I know some people who go to Evolution Yoga. I should check it out next time is visit my brother who lives nearby.

  • Some teacher training program must not be explaining to the trainees that you need to demonstrate safely and without hammering into your body’s available limits all the time, the asymmetry that we fall into by habit is not our friend. I’ll be forever grateful to my teacher telling us that when we teach it’s about the students and their practice, we the teacher practices on our own time.

  • Fulana

    Jessica, part of it is the conviction that a balanced sequence will work out the kinks and prepare anyone for the “target pose,” that all you need is a few sun salutations and/or a hot room to prepare to “play with your edge, and that in every pose everyone should bend/push just a little deeper and/or harder every time —-even if you know nothing about whether they have high blood pressure, hot flashes, tendonitis or other ongoing reasons they need encouragement to back off at times rather than a “personal best” or competitive atmosphere pushing to make their unique body mirror the teacher’s demo of the most advanced version of the pose.
    Trained dancers, dancers, gymnasts & athletes tend to be good at simply copying a model demo, but the best teachers will show how to get in & out of several versions of a pose and even gently guide those they see learn best with tactile assistance or their trained eye notices have obvious difficulties.

  • I saw this commercial and found it interesting. I think it’s mostly a tactic on the part of marketers to say that Advil can’t be that bad for you if a hippy/crunchy yoga person takes it! “Painkillers as part of a healthy lifestyle” type thing. Most fascinating to me is that yoga must be getting more mainstream than ever…
    Thanks for the great blog!

  • abbylou

    This particular ad is just part of the formula that has been used in painkiller campaigns during the past decade or so. I remember ads that substituted a school bus driver and some kind of “female executive” for the yoga instructor.

    As much as I hate it, I do sometimes take Ibuprofen for cramps and bad headaches. I never take it for pain from yoga. I try to listen to my body and not do things that cause my body pain. I have gotten better about it. I have learned the hard way that too much bendiness is bad. I modify my practice when necessary.

  • Jason

    There was an Aleve commercial a couple years ago that went like this:

    (Middle Aged Man) “I used to get backaches, but then my wife taught me yoga!”

    –cut to shot of man attempting a headstand–

    “Then I started getting headaches”

    “Aleve worked for both”

    In the words of Dan Savage (when talking about something completely different) “If it hurts, you’re not doing it right!”

    • I remember this commercial. I would put it in the “Yoga is stretching for girls.” category. The best/worst part was the expression on the guys face at the end while his girl friend was behind him doing Natarajasana.

      As a male yoga teacher, I have worked to dispel this stereotype but, I have to admit, the Aleve commercial made me laugh. I guess playing into stereotypes for humor sake doesn’t bother me as much as reinforcing self-inflicted harm.

  • Fulana

    Best repurposing of a Dan Savage aphorism today, Jason. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see affirmations gleaned from his columns & books sprinkled throughout blogs and yoga studio FB pages!
    Since no one has contextualized the “Yoga teacher” in the commercial(is she also a lawyer, ultramarathoner, studio owner, or otherwise overtasked, does she practice a style that rejects pranayama, aryuveda, thai massage, chanting, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and other typical yoga-related methods for preventing managing self/injury)I’m wondering—is she actually an actress playing a yoga teacher?

    • Jason

      She probably was an actress just playing a teacher. I was an extra in a TV pilot once that had a yoga scene. There were some yoga teachers but most of the actors I talked to said they didn’t practice, but they knew how to “do yoga for film”. It was disheartening to hear:(

    • Yogini5

      The answer is in her bio:

      “As a life-long athlete, Lacey grew a yearning for something to distract her from the stress of the real world. She had tried yoga before, yet didn’t get the physical challenge that she needed to keep in shape. Luckily, Lacey soon found her fix in a CorePower Yoga Sculpt class. She left her first class with a feeling of exhaustion and excitement.

      “Over the next few months, Lacey started to feel strength in her mind, body and soul. She decided to take her practice to the next level, and signed up for Yoga Sculpt Teacher Training. The anatomy, breath and body control as well as the creativity behind teaching Yoga Sculpt intrigued Lacey.

      “Some people run daily to train for marathons while Lacey enjoys using Yoga Sculpt to train her to tackle life; she loves being able to stay an athlete, yet still get the benefits of yoga with each class.”

      It doesn’t matter what the pill or potion is, the style she teaches is not natural enough in itself to fit in with her life, which is not spent lawyering or childrearing during the day, to boot …

  • Fulana

    Thanks, Yogini 5. I hadn’t caught her name. Since Advil is a heavy duty many side effects old school no longer so doctor recommended for recurring/ongoing aches & pains, I did think of the sports world where the young & fit don’t tend to worry about longterm effects, and sho nuff she is an avid athlete(which is what her body & vibe suggested) & primarily a trainer. Also a vegan who eats sushi once a week as an “indulgence?” :

    • Cdaniels

      “Since Advil is a heavy duty many side effects old school no longer so doctor recommended for recurring/ongoing aches & pains”
      Faluna, exactly what side effects do you mean? This statement really brings the conversation to a very different place. After all, J.Brown says “I’m sure there are occasions when two Advil might be quite a blessing.” Perhaps you are thinking of Tylenol(acetaminophen)? That particular medication causes many overdoses and is very hard on the liver. Advil (ibuprophen) is actually a much safer alternative!

  • Ryan

    Oh Lacey is so screwed. Bet her insurance just went thru the roof.

  • Fulana

    ?? Why, Ryan? anyhow, the CorePower Yoga Teacher Training Online is only $499!DVDs included!

    • Ryan

      Wait, let me put on my jerk hat…ok, here goes. So she just did a commercial. People get paid to promote products in commercials. The lady just got paid. So far so good. Now, some bad karma person watches the commercial, for a pain relief product. Hmmmm. Bad Karma person finds a class taught by this lady. Oh-no. Bad Karma person gets “injured” as a result of the class. Advil didn’t work. Bad Karma person gets paid. That is what my jerk hat tells me, I hope it is wrong.

  • Saarah401

    I recently read an interview with Lacey Calvert and she came across very arrogant and seemed very high on herself. It looks like she is thinking of herself as a model and a star yoga teacher when she has done nothing to contribute to the yoga community. And she is neither of the above. I am disappointed she is a representative of our community as it is so far off of our ideal.

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