Just how mainstream has yoga gotten? Popular enough that when Valerie Plame Wilson was suffering from outed-spy stress, "It got to the point where I thought if one more person suggested that I take up yoga I would run screaming from the room," she writes in her book "Fair Game."
So even in government circles, downward dogs have moved beyond the province of so-called "weirdos." And Yoga Journal now reports a readership of 1.2 million, comparable to many mainstream women's mags.
As an occasional YJ reader (and yoga-doer), I've likewise seen the mag attain a more inclusive tone. A December piece on throwing a festive hors d'oeuvres party could fit nicely into, say, Good Housekeeping -- except for its all-vegetarian recipes and suggestion to "sing along to a kirtan (chanting) CD" during party prep.
While some of the mag's holiday coverage has an interesting anti-consumerist tone (twice recommending charitable donations in lieu of presents), it also delves into that old service book cliché -- how to handle holiday stress (Oh, my god, if my sister-in-law makes me eat any more latkes, I'll run screaming from the room!), complete with earnest, faintly dumb ideas on chilling out and remembering the reason for the season.
None of this rather generic editorial makes a strong argument for reading YJ. What does: articles that could appear nowhere else. Take "YouTube Yogis," which notes, "Poke around long enough, and you can piece together a history of modern American yoga, one random video at a time," including "yoga gone crude and absurd." Or the profiles of five people whose practice of yoga has led to involvement in do-gooder activism. Or the travel piece on Vancouver, B.C. with descriptions of its major yoga studios.
Then there are psych/relationship pieces that engagingly blend down-to-earth perspectives with spirituality. The best is regular columnist Sally Kempton's article on how to balance one's inner control freak.
Of course, the nuts and bolts of YJ are the features that inspire yoga lovers of all levels to go deeper into their practice. These include pictorials of postures, from advanced to the ones I may try to follow -- restorative poses, said to be the easiest and most relaxing to do. I also appreciated reading how one student used the occasion of her yoga teacher's moving to develop her own highly personal practice keyed to how she was feeling each day.
In a previous review of YJ, former Mag Racker Larry Dobrow complained that the pub positioned yoga as the cure-all for almost every ill in the universe. While this issue still displays that tendency, it's tempered by "Watch Your Back," which reports on a scientific study showing how yoga can help reduce chronic back pain. One teacher who helped develop the postures used in the study is careful to qualify: "Yoga that is adapted intelligently for the purpose of working with back pain, as our sequence was, will be good for back pain. Other yoga can send you to the hospital."
As someone who's experienced the good and bad of yoga -- injuries from a carelessly taught class but also consistent mood-brightening through regular sessions -- I've got to agree. Yoga is like fire -- a useful force, but potentially dangerous all the same. And YJ, with its careful focus on the mechanics of the practice, can help readers temper that flame.
Published by: Active Interest Media
Frequency: Eight times a year