What pairs well with updog? How about a nice crisp pinot grigio. Headstand? An old fashioned. And sun salutations? Tequila sunrise, of course.
These are interesting times, friends. The yoga boom is strong. So maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that yoga now has official drinks, and by drinks, we mean adult beverages. Or that yoga teachers are getting paid for mentioning brands on social media and shilling for a fatter paycheck and a potentially cushier lifestyle than yoga teaching alone could ever afford them.
Back to that drink thing. We make jokes, but there’s been a not-so-funny response to an ad Yoga Journal recently posted to their Facebook page featuring a not-to-subtle promotion for unwinding with sake as a “ritual” after hot yoga class. The two and a half minute video features yoga teacher and studio owner Paige Held talking about mindfulness and her thirst(?) for living a mindful lifestyle. That’s why she reaches for the sake bottle every evening after a long day of teaching hot yoga classes, because this particular sake’s slogan is that they are the official drink of aprés yoga (meaning: after yoga) and they are paying her to say that. Because this particular company is betting hard on the yoga community with the heavy yoga messaging and imagery in their cutesy marketing campaign (“It’s happy hour for your chakras”… “#MondayMantra Mindful, Glass full. Thankful”)
So lighthearted! Spirits lifted, right?
The response has not been so sweet, and people are not happy with the yogabooze peddling. “What an awful ad campaign. YJ, you are offending a lot of people in the promoting a healthy lifestyle with yoga AND booze,” one Facebook commenter said. “New YJ low … This makes me sick and I will never support your organization again. if I still cared at all, this would drive a final nail into the coffin,” said another. (None of the comments are positive, by the way, even though we hear YJ moderators were trying to squash the frustration by going through and deleting.)
The ad has also inspired an open letter from Michael Romero of Home Yoga Practice blog who had first been put off by an ad from the same company, also posted on YJ’s Facebook page, this one featuring NYC teacher and studio owner Bethany Lyons. Lyons is portrayed as “living the fabricated “yoga dream” by doing her practice, having a vogue-style photo shoot, and then boozing it up with friends,” as Romero put it. The ad was removed from the YJ Facebook page for whatever reasons and replaced with the new one featuring Paige Held, but it was just uploaded to YouTube so here you go:
Description: “Yogi Bethany Lyons shares how she takes the magic of yoga off the mat by keeping things fun and simple.”
Hm. Making good decisions “off the mat” is certainly an extension of the practice, but what does yoga have to do with drinking? And why does it seem in these ads like drinking is part of yoga?
So while most of the disapproval is being levied at Yoga Journal who, no doubt, have made some questionable choices in recent years, we have to wonder if this uproar isn’t all caused by a consortium of culprits.
First, you have an alcohol company using yoga unabashedly to sell their product, straight up (more on that in a minute), you have a magazine needing to make ends meet to publish the next issue so they’ll do just about anything (including sell their yoga souls), and you have yoga teachers — “up-and-comers”? — who’ve built a social media following and enough clout to snag some endorsements to make a quick buck…and what’s so bad about “yoga-related” product placement, anyway? Quite a profitable scheme! If you can get it. And get it right.
They, in fact, did not get it right. (Side note: remember that time Lululemon made beer?)
Everyone involved made a conscious decision to be a part of it. YJ has already been lost, so whatever, and the sake company, well, they’re just trying to capitalize on the popularity of yoga (forgivable? your call). In the marketing world, that’s genius. Low and shady and going way too far off the deep end, but a genius move. No alcohol company we know of has soaked their feet this far into the yoga pool.
A little while back they even teamed up with another yoga site and ran a campaign offering a free online class and the chance to be “the new face” of the brand by sending in yoga & sake pics (yes, that does look like a sake branded yoga mat and water bottle.) They’ve also been spotted at Wanderlust (naturally).
But the yoga teachers. Generally speaking, we have to wonder what goes through their minds when asked to essentially be a spokesperson, the “star” of a commercial, and in this case, a sake commercial. For other disciplines and occupations, this could be one of the highlights of a career, a cornerstone of success. Hey, you made it! You’re the star of an ad and getting paid because you’re doing what you love. AND you get to drink? Bonus.
Yoga stardom is not easy. You have to work hard at your social media and online presence constantly. Shilling for companies is icing on the proverbial 8-limbed cake. In truth, for many, making a living is difficult when all you do is teach yoga, despite what CNN says. But there are different levels of selling out. From flashing your “favorite” yoga pants to hawking essential oils to the grandmother of it all: being a Lululemon ambassador (which Paige Held is as well). A necessary evil, you might say. Or…the mark of success.
Tara Stiles scoring deals with W hotels and major car commercials. Sarah Ivanhoe doing a McDonald’s commercial. Some of us may be appalled by this, while it draws a wave of congrats from their fans/students. Example via Instagram: “valindayoga: Congrats Sara! Finally a way to make $ promoting/doing what we Love”
We, YD, tend to land in the appalled boat. Advertising is a powerful machine. Whether we all like it or not, it sends a message. Sometimes it’s positive, sometimes it’s negative, sometimes it’s reflective, holding up a mirror to what is actually happening in culture, and in this case, yoga culture. What we’ve seen lately is kind of embarrassing.
In a recent article yoga teacher and blogger Derek Beres asks “will we see and end to brand ambassadors?” We’ll go ahead and say no, Derek, we will not. “The more paid it feels, however, the more icky the result. Subversion is key,” he says (perhaps tongue-in-cheek) in his post addressing ambassadorship in general. We disagree. Secretly shilling is just as icky if not ickier than outright in your face I’m getting paid for this shilling, because it’s trickery and too Wizard-behind-the-curtain. If you’re going to sell out just be truthful and come right out about it.
The sake ads are a weird mix. It’s like a wink and a nod and too contrived to feel authentic, but we’re led to believe we’re just peeking in on their real lives of yoga by day, sake by night. To be mindful. To unwind. After yoga.
Yes, there are worse things in this world to be upset over, and no one’s saying you can’t have your your yoga and drink your sake, too. But they don’t need to go hand in hand. Intertwining them so seamlessly is reckless and irresponsible. It’s about integrity, and getting yoga tipsy on sponsorship dollars makes us a little too queasy to buy what they’re selling. Then again, the proof is in the profits.
- CNN Ranks Yoga Instructor in Top 100 Careers with ‘Big Growth, Great Pay’ But Forgets One Thing
- Tara Stiles Does Yoga in a Glass Box on Wheels to Promote New ‘Glamorous,’ ‘Nontraditional’ Yoga Program
- Yoga Boom Brings $11 Billion Yoga Mat Boom…And Counting
- Yoga Corporate: What’s Happening To The Small Yoga Studios?