A major yoga magazine is being heavily criticized for providing what appears to be “a manual for bulimia nervosa.” Ever heard of “The Tiger”? Apparently it’s an ancient practice involving self-induced vomiting as a means of self-purification and flattening your stomach. UK-based Yoga Magazine is under serious fire after publishing an informational how-to as if it’s a health routine as everyday as juicing or going for a jog.
“You will need cold water and a bucket.”
Appearing in the May 2015 issue, the article was in response to a reader’s inquiry about the ancient exercise after encountering it in an old yoga book from 1959. The article, which is not available online, describes Vyaghrasana or “The Tiger” and its purported benefits:
Performing it makes the digestive system stronger and tones the muscles of the abdomen, which in turn burns off excess fat and trims the waist.
Performing the Tiger exercise gives the body a helping hand to remove any foods and liquids it does not require. If you practice the Tiger at least once a week, you will notice a difference in the shape of your abdomen and hips; your sexual organs and back will feel stronger and your posture and stamina will improve.
Following the description, we’re provided a step-by-step guide.
Bend your head over the bucket (or sink) and using the index finger and middle finger, tickle the inside of your throat, push the fingers down into the epiglottis and you should vomit…
What? Is this actually text reprinted from 1959? On one hand, they were just answering a question someone had. On the other hand, the way it’s written is completely bananas. Maybe they could have written it more responsibly, or maybe not at all? Yoga today has enough of a stigma around it regarding the stereotypical skinny image that many have been fighting to shake. Now, it’s being intertwined with encouraging bulimia?
Let’s be honest, many of us don’t need a guide on how to make ourselves vomit, whether we’re suffering from an eating disorder or not, so as outrageous as it is, it’s not news. But drawing the connection to yoga, and suggesting this method is a positive way to make yourself healthy and/or lose weight? This is where the huge problem lies.
Two of the UK’s Leading eating disorder organizations agree and have slammed the piece for its tone-deaf and irresponsible nature. “It is of course extremely concerning that a leading publication would publish information that nowadays is akin to encouraging an eating disorder,” a spokesperson for Beat, an eating disorder charity, told The Daily Mail.
They continue: “Yoga is a wonderful exercise for healthy bodies and minds and to include it with the behaviours used in the most prevalent eating disorders seems irresponsible and dangerous.”
Sam Thomas, founder and director of the charity Men Get Eating Disorders Too said, “It’s reckless of a magazine that advocates health and wellbeing to be so ill-judged. No “ancient tradition” can justify why this type of yoga and the dangers outweigh any health benefits that are so wrongly claimed. People of all ages and genders have died from bulimia – as well as anorexia – and it has the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses.”
Here’s the full article from the print issue, thanks to the unlikely help of Cosmopolitan who took the snapshot.
Yoga Magazine has responded to the outcry, posting a provocatively titled “Does Yoga Encourage Eating Disorders?” response. They insist that their Dr. Malik was simply “answering a genuine reader question” and that, as with every exercise and technique mentioned in the magazine, “it is up to each individual whether they perform or not.” Heads up, Yoga Magazine, it’s not that you answered the question, it’s that you gave every one of your readers permission, validation and encouragement to develop or continue with an eating disorder.
It’s true, there are certainly some kooky old rituals and practices out there (you need only pick up literally any ancient yoga text) and we’d say it’s OK to answer the curious, but it’s the context in which it’s presented, and in this case, the way it’s so casually and irresponsibly written as a step-by-step guide, that makes the difference when we’re talking about these subjects in modern day.
UK blogger Genny Wilkinson-Priest who writes the blog Healthista, posted an article calling out the problems with a popular yoga magazine publishing an article tying throwing up to a flatter stomach and a healthier life, in case you didn’t already think of a few yourself.
Yoga Magazine was attempting to explain the finer points of a centuries old yoga purification technique – the Tiger exercise – but failed to provide any historical context, or caution (except to pregnant women and children.)
Originally a technique used in Middle Ages India to purify the body as a means of preparing it for a state of Samadhi (enlightenment), vomiting up excess food in the West in the 21st Century has no spiritual connotations whatsoever.
Has Yoga Magazine, in one fell swoop, validated bulimia, enabling sufferers of the eating disorder to rationalize their self-harming in vaguely yogic terms?
When really, Vyaghra kriyā, as the 15th Century technique is known in Sanskrit, has absolutely no relevance in contemporary Western yoga practice.
Whether it’s part of modern yoga practice or not, it’s seriously irresponsible for a yoga company priding themselves on being a “chic, contemporary publication specializing in yoga, wellbeing and natural living,” to print this kind of article in a publication with thousands of subscribers, especially since yoga has become such a powerful healing tool for many people battling eating disorders as well as body image issues. For shame.
For information about a great organization helping people with eating disorders heal through yoga check out Eat Breathe Thrive.
image via Yoga Magazine facebook page