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Yoga Journal Editor-in-Chief Responds to Body Image Issue

in YD News

yoga-journal-sept14-coverEarlier this week YogaDork posted on Yoga Journal’s latest body images issues, aka major problems. In the latest September YJ magazine, an article highlights women with curves, but instead of celebrating them, they’re singled out as flaws and we’re given tips on just the right way to hide them. In short, they got the positive body image thing all wrong. In response, the yoga community has erupted in a chain reaction of frustration, disappointment and cancelled subscriptions. Not exactly the way YJ, with its new Editor-in-Chief, smaller staff, and new look would want to kick things off, we assume.

But apparently we’ve all spoken pretty loudly prompting current Editor-in-Chief, Carin Gorrell, to take a moment to briefly comment on the post and respond to the criticism. Here’s what she had to say:

Carin Gorrell from Yoga Journal here. Thank you for your post, I appreciate all feedback, both positive and negative, and try to learn from it. Our sincere intention with the “Love Your Curves” story was to celebrate women’s bodies, definitely not to shame them, and I’m happy that the images of beautiful yoga teachers support that intention. But I’m unhappy if we gave the impression that people’s body shapes need to be concealed, which was not our intention. I also recognize that the labels we chose to represent women’s bodies, which were intended to help readers to find their way in to the story quickly, fail to celebrate the uniqueness of every woman’s body. I’m committed to tackling hard topics like body image and want to do it in a way that moves the conversation forward. Thank you again for your thoughts and comments. Please know that I’m listening.

Gorrell has also promised to answer our interview questions that have been dangling about since our request late last year soon after she was named EIC. The questions can be found included in this previous post, as well as pasted again below.

It’s our intention to continue to help progress the positive body image movement in yoga, and by doing so we wish to provide YJ a chance to speak about their mission and vision as we continue to move forward, and this yoga, as we know it, continues to evolve.


These are the unchanged questions from December 2013. (If you have any further questions or thoughts to add please share them in the comments):

-How long have you been practicing yoga?

-What was the application process like at Yoga Journal? Did you apply or did they seek you out?

-How have you been settling into your new position and surroundings?

-What were some of your proudest moments from your previous career positions?

-What’s your favorite part about the YJ as it is now?

-What are you most excited to add, change or improve as the new Editor In Chief?

-Where do you see the magazine (print and online) heading? What is your vision for the future of YJ?

-There’s been an ongoing discussion about body image in the yoga community, and the need for better representations of real “yoga bodies” in mass media. With YJ being the largest and most well-known yoga magazine, it’s often at the center of the criticism for perpetuating a certain look/body type/age/race/sex of yoga practitioner, often as the Yoga Journal cover model. Do you have any insight or comment on that?

-With a new EIC coming from Self magazine there have been concerns that YJ will start leaning more towards being a fitness & diet magazine. What would you say to those concerned readers?

-Advertising is necessary in the structure of the magazine business, but it can sometimes enter questionable territory. Do you or will you have any supervision over what ads are placed in the magazine? Do you feel that they have any influence over the integrity of the magazine and the brand?

-In the press release announcing your arrival as new EIC, it was said by senior VP of AIM that the editorial in both the magazine and online will be “refreshed” and that you will be helping to “meet the needs of the modern yogi, while respecting the great traditions of yoga and Yoga Journal.” Can you share what you think that means today and maybe a few examples of how you might help bridge the modern and the traditional in this next generation of the magazine?

-What do you see is Yoga Journal’s role and purpose in yoga culture as it expands and evolves?

-Do you have a favorite yoga pose?

-Have you practiced yoga in the office yet?



33 comments… add one
  • Great work, YD. I hope she does in fact answer those questions. Hers must be a tough gig: magazines sort of have to be aspirational in order to sell copies, but there’s such a fine line between inspiring and alienating people.

    Especially people like me, with big arses and body dysmorphia issues. And there are so many of us 🙂

  • S.

    It is clear from the latest issue what her vision of YJ is: to make as much money as possible featuring plastic Lululemon models. Favorite pose? Desposit checkasana.

  • I am glad this dialogue is opened. What remains, however for me anyway, is the partnership with LuLulemon. I don’t respect the company and would not support them. This follows now with their connection to YJ. Sorry, can’t just ignore that.

  • Sheila

    What aboutnthe smaller.staff? Do they practice yoga? Are they self aware? Or is it just a paycheck! Does YJ have a different business model than say Cosmo? Would you put someone who looks like BKS Ingyer on your cover? What is your mission and what three things are you working on this year to make that happen?

    • VQ2

      As long as they’re in the contemporary celebrity game; and adding in the spiritual element of the old YJ, would they even put someone like Deepak Chopra or Eckhart Tolle on the cover?

      Spirituality and meditation (both are quite related to yoga) are getting to be commercial, too ..

  • digiwonk

    I just got an email spam from YJ today with the headline: “Elena Brower’s beauty secret.” And that is the last straw. I did a workshop with Elena once. It was incredibly powerful, a really transformative thing for me, not because she is a beautiful person, but because of her teaching. I cried nearly nonstop for three days on something I had been blocking for years. Elena Brower had that impact on me. This email, assuming that it’s Brower’s ‘beauty secret’ I’m interested in, even if this is just some sort of click bait to lead me to some sort of inner beauty nonsense, is just deeply, deeply offensive.

    Come to that, Elena Brower is incredibly thin and incredibly tiny. That’s not something I’m trying to emulate, and I’d never get there even if I tried. Failed again, YJ.

    • VQ2

      Wondering how many of the opposite sex (who are a relatively untapped market for yoga, and have a lot of bucks to spend; as women do not make bank the way men do, sorry to say) would respond to Elena Brower’s “beauty secrets” ?

      • The Glorious Male Beast Within

        Elena Brower gives slithering reptiles a bad name. But consider this — she first partnered with Chip Wilson and Lululemon, then helped Jumpin’ Johnny Friend turn Anusara into a New Age cult. In the end, though, Brower only really recognizes one Supreme Cult — herself. Though she now has an entire flock of Yammering Yonis just like herself, who are forever grateful for her “inspiration.” This is how deadly spiritual viruses spread…..

        Who said Elena Brower is even “attractive”? That’s female allure talking to itself in the mirror — no male gaze even remotely nearby….

        THE BEAST

        • VQ2

          Well, Brower HAD been a fashion designer before she became a yoga luminary. Not that I am familiar with her design work. But someone, somewhere thought she was a trendsetter … I tip my hat off to creatives who, actually, help define “attractiveness” in the non-evo-biology sense …

      • Danny

        I have been subscribing to YJ for a number of years.. There are a few things I like it for, as in some very good recipes in Eating Wisely… But on a whole the magazine has been continuously going down hill and I will not be getting it anymore.. Men are very seldom addressed in any articles or ads for mens clothing (which is hard to find) and the closest they get from straying away from the perfect body, is when they have an article featuring yoga for pregnant women.. So I’m done with them..

    • Elizabeth

      I’m glad I’m not the only one. I just unsubscribed from Yoga Journal emails (or thought I did–I must be on different lists there?) because I’ve gotten one every day trying to sell me something. Another magazine. A line of clothing. Beauty products. Apparently they think I am reading Yoga Journal because I need “Cosmo for Bendy People.”

      I don’t need a fashion spread in my yoga magazine. I don’t need to read about trendy bags for carrying my mat. (If I did, I would look at the ads!) While we’re at it, I also don’t need a spread on detoxing/cleansing, since there is no science behind either and my kidneys and liver work just fine; instead, give me a healthy recipe.

      I wonder when my subscription is up, because it seems like it is time to say goodbye after 14+ years.

      • VQ2

        As someone not even bendy enough to be reading Women’s Health (instead, I read plain old Health magazine, which is not geared to guys & to which I have a lengthy subscription–and, yeah, even these guys have “Burn Fat Doing Yoga” on their current cover), I really, really heart that “Cosmo for Bendy People” remark …

        YJ would do better to own that it is competing with Oxygen magazine, rather than SELF (or Cosmo, for that matter), but for “bendy people”. They should target yoga as cross training for the hip-inflexible triathletes and runners; and leave off the pretzel poses, the trophy wives and the (perceived) glamor … OR (and this is just an idle thought) go all spiritual and stuff … kinda like old school …

        • ernest

          The company that owns YJ also owns Oxygen . Covering all the *fitness* bases. Meaning Yj is not a yoga magazine any more.

  • Yoga is not about how the body “looks” from the outside. It about how the body feels, from deep inside. The rest is commentary.

  • It’s a startling slide into oblivion when it comes to any intelligent yoga. But we shouldn’t despair because in the same way that some of the yoga super stars have fallen from grace and as Lulu brand has, Y/J is now joining the dissolution of the yoga that was and making space for yoga that is. We can build it.

  • stacey

    Can anyone recommend a good alternative to YJ? After 10 years of a semi regular yoga practice, I’d consider myself an intermediate yogi and one of the things I like about YJ is the regular features of the the basics and the mastery class. Those cues for making sure my foundation is strong and a pathway to building up to more challenging poses is extremely useful. But like everyone else, I’m not looking for another beauty magazine with some yoga flavor.

    • VQ2

      If you’re talking print mags, lots of luck. Maybe Rodale would resurrect Yoga Life mag-a-books (seasonally available), or expand Women’s Health beyond being the all-Tara channel …

      When I’d been into yoga, Yoga Life really saved my asana …

    • S.

      I am always happy with Yoga Rahasya and Yoga Samachar that are published by the Iyengar community. You have to be a member of IYNAUS to subscribe. That is about as real deal as yoga magazines get.

    • Elizabeth

      Yoga International is a good option. It is related to the Himalayan Institute, and has more in-depth coverage of non-asana yoga practices too. Also, there is some video content, I believe, on the website (which I think you can access if you are a member–I haven’t looked in awhile).

  • ..because we all know what Yoga Journal has turned into… https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10203947589986522&set=p.10203947589986522&type=1

    • VQ2

      Yoga Selfie really wants to do aspiration rather than inspiration. That’s the REAL name of the game. Have someone expensive, with REAL artistic talent.

      Have a highly-stylized Robert Sturman pic on the cover. THEN give those selfie hobbyists something to work up to! Fetishize the Selfie Lair, the Selfie Room, the Selfie Studio and the Selfie Grotto. May not kowtow to the Yamas or Niyamas (what’s are THOSE?) But Would sell a lot of tech equipment as well as private sessions, resorts, retreats and studios and be to the yoga devolution, the way Playboy was to the sexual revolution.

      • VQ2

        And put enough hot, older guys in Yoga Selfie (spare me those neurasthenic Ashtanga types, tho’ … my type has changed over the years) and I would read it … heh, heh … for the articles.

        The yoga chicks I could live without. When I was their age, I couldn’t be a b-girl and I hate them all ….

  • paul

    is yj going to be published on 100% recycled paper using plant based ink?
    what is ‘self’?
    is consciousness space?
    what role does (sacred) sound and silence play in the journal office?
    does the journal have an intent to be explicitly secular, or is there room in it for unapologetic, unqualified religious statements?
    who are the journal’s language and religion experts?
    in what sense is it a journal?
    why does it cost $6 when so much of it is ads?

  • Questions to EIC of YJ:
    – What pranayama, meditation, philosophy, history and anatomy training have you had?
    – What other credentials do you have to allow you to guide yoga journalists?
    – How often do you practice asana, pranayama and meditation?
    – Is offering self-help and beauty tips part of YJ’s mandate?
    – Will YJ join the Conde Nast family (e.g. Vogue, GQ, Vanity Fair, Allure, etc.) or is YJ a competitor?
    – Further to the above, does YJ have plans to discuss these topic?
    – Yoga for a banging bikini body
    – Yoga moves for people who are not slim, limber Caucasian women
    – Top 10 tips for yoga fashion emergency
    – Spanx, the latest yoga strap technology
    – Eight easy steps to attracts dates in a yoga class
    – Yoga poses that will keep your man coming back for more, meow!

    Om Shanti.

    • VQ2

      Love these!

      – Yoga moves for people who are not slim, limber Caucasian women

      It’s called mat pilates, folks!

      – Top 10 tips for yoga fashion emergency

      The old pair of jammies works just fine.

      – Spanx, the latest yoga strap technology

      Oh, yeah, they have worked wonders for yoginis around the globe 😉

      – Eight easy steps to attracts dates in a yoga class

      And silently. Being a lot younger than me helps. Maybe the Wisdom Warriors(TM) are onto something. The guys of all ages seemed to gravitate to the before-class (YOUNG) show-offs doing inversions at the wall (after they got out of them, of course). Sadly, YMMV …

      – Yoga poses that will keep your man coming back for more, meow!

      Upavistha konasana. On heavy rotation.


      “– Yoga for a banging bikini body”

      This is SO politically incorrect (in this current climate) they’d better see their lawyer(s) first …

  • Wendy Pruett

    Geez, so much negativity from the yogadork community, (which i don’t consider to be the yoga community). i occasionally read yogadork, but just seems to be a lot of complaining and judgements…not really very yogic. I have been practicing for about 10 years and found Yoga Journal to be very helpful and still do. i am pretty sure that Yoga Journal is read by more people in the yoga community than any other magazine or website. Must be a pretty good guide for yogis in general. in past comments on yogadork, Hilary Baldwin (in Yoga Journal) was chastised for wearing high heels. I am sure you have seen photos of Sharon Gannon of Jivamukti in high heels. Are you know going to make judgements on her now? chill yogadork and get back to practicing yoga. You have heard of the yamas and niyamas, right? perhaps you should review them before you throw stones at fellow yogis and yoga media

    • VQ2

      As a follower of Vulture, and a former reader of The New York Post, you don’t put trophy wife Hilary (a.k.a. Hilaria) Thomas Baldwin in the same category as Sharon Gannon. If The New York Post’s Andrea Peyser was able to summon up sympathy for Hilary (a.k.a. Hilaria) Baldwin, you know that you are talking about two. entirely. different. animals.

      One married to a TV/movie superstar. One the definition of trophy wife. One Hilary Baldwin.

    • Teresa

      I could go on about how judgement is essential for yoga and this idea that judgment is bad is antithetical to every spiritual tradition I know, but its been a long week. I refer you to Carol Horton’s excellent post on the topic. Besides, she is much more cleaver than me.

      I will give you this though, snarkiness is not helpful.


      • VQ2

        Except when snark is. To the newbie. Believe me, YogaDawg’s early snark from ’08 saved me from some quick-bucks quicksand in yoga. After all, to date, there IS no Consumer Reports on yoga studios or yoga programs.

        Newbies will know if they want THIS yoga (the Jane Fonda aerobics of today) or the traditional yoga, and the personages behind this shift. And maybe, just maybe, they won’t be intimidated or overawed by the deluge of selfies. Remembering they are looking at showbiz stuntmen, and–worst case scenario–if they specifically are not the type (physically, spiritually, emotionally or aesthetically) to avoid teachers who push that stunty business on them …

  • MangoMango

    I really miss Ascent magainze. 🙁

  • Jeffrey D

    Don’t most people do yoga to look better? If you’re into yoga for the spiritual side of things, looking at pictures in a yoga magazine was your first mistake, and getting upset that people have an ideal body aesthetic (that isn’t your own) was the second.

    Or is the real idea that promoting any ideal is inherently a bad thing?

  • Winnie

    They don’t care about losing readers. This loss has already been calculated into their new strategy–don’t kid yourselves. They see the LOHAS market growing and now they want to capitalize. Everyone they brought over has a traditional women’s mag background. One person whose on branding actually wrote a book “The Yoga Body Diet.” That should tell you something. It’s a short sited strategy because the authenticity of YJ is being thrown away because they want more advertising dollars. If they were smart they would continue to build their community authentically and then be even more valuable to brands. Ship of fools.

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