The internets are abuzz over the recent Kino MacGregor “Mysore video” and subsequent explanation in elephant journal. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can read Kino’s version over at Elephant Journal. In a nutshell, Kino (whom I have never met, although I have watched many of her videos – more about that later) is a wildly popular ashtangi who has an empire of yoga-related products, and is a brand unto herself. She posted a video on her youtube channel that was taken in Mysore (India – the mothership for all of us ashtanga weirdos); some people objected to being in the video and on her youtube channel, so as of this writing, access to the video was blocked.
However, it seems that the posting of the video unleashed a torrent of Kino-hating. At issue are: 1) her choice of wardrobe 2) Her hair & makeup 3) Her yoga empire 4) How she represents Ashtanga yoga.
Issue 1: The short shorts. In her post, Kino defends her wearing of short shorts to do yoga, stating that it requires more strength to hold the poses with sweaty skin against sweaty skin. As a sweaty-skinned individual as well (aren’t we all during practice?) I hear her loud and clear, which is one (of many) reasons I avoid the short shorts. Ashtanga yoga doesn’t need to be harder for me. While I do completely take her point about why she wears the clothes she wears (and frankly: SO not a thing she needs to justify), I think there is a bit more to it than that. A beautiful, flexible, fit woman wearing booty shorts is going to draw more views on youtube and sell more videos than someone wearing loose, flowing clothes. Fact. So while I completely agree with her about a) not having to justify what she wears and b) it actually being harder, I find her explanation slightly disingenuous. Further, I think it side-steps some important cultural questions about physical representation, yoga, and media that are very important…
In terms of issue number 2, I frankly have better things to do than care about this.
In terms of issue number 3, there is no question that Kino knows her stuff. The youtube videos are my personal favourite. They’re really really useful, and there’s tons of them. Sure, they’re an advertisement for the Kino brand, but they’re free. And really good.
However, the Kino empire does bother me from the perspective of someone who is interested in yoga and consumer culture. Most (if not all) of her models fit the stereotypical slender, fit woman, and rarely (if ever) is there a representation of something that isn’t an ideal body type. Further, the empire itself seems to be in constant “sell” mode – something that I personally find to be in contradiction to the teachings of Ashtanga yoga. But as my husband’s favourite t-shirt reads, “Shakespeare gotta get paid, son.”
Which leads me to issue 4. I know a lot of us really really care about Ashtanga yoga and how people interpret it and who gets to teach it. But here’s the thing: it’s a living tradition in a globalized world. It’s going to change, and you’re not going to be able to control it. Sure, keeping in contact with the source in Mysore, but control is a complete illusion. However, I think we can all agree that more people doing yoga is a good thing, no matter what their original motivation for starting the practice. Because we all came to the practice in our own way: some of us because we wanted to feel more relaxed, others because of celebrities. We can just be thankful that at least one of the most vocal advocates of Ashtanga yoga is an articulate, influential, and frankly, thoughtful woman who really cares.
And now to my final point: I think the Kino haters need to take a good, hard look at themselves and ask a tough question: is the yoga really working? Because yoga should be helping you become a kinder, more tolerant and thoughtful person (not just someone capable of doing Kapotasana). Wasting time hating on someone for doing what Kino is doing (i.e. not breaking any laws, trying to be a good person and live a good life) is a colossal waste of time. And while I might not agree with everything Kino says and does (see above), I can see the value in the work that she’s doing. And one day I hope that our paths cross and I can get to know her a bit because frankly, she’s kindof amazing.