I have been following with great interest (and have also posted a couple of comments about) the debate that has sprouted up in the blogosphere in the last couple of days over this promo video for a proposed TV show that Kino has made with four of her staff at Miami Life Center.
Much of the reaction to this video has been quite negative. Reactions so far have included "cheesy", "low-brow", "PUKE!", "degrading to the practice", "I don't like how Kino is presenting Ashtanga in this video", and so on. Which is totally fine. We Ashtangis are a diverse crowd of individuals, and we are each entitled to our own opinions (positive or negative) about everything. As a matter of fact, I too have my own reservations about the sexualization of yoga, and am not entirely sure if using sex to market yoga is necessarily the most effective way to get the message of yoga across.
But it is one thing to strongly disagree with somebody's actions. It is quite another to single that person out for personal attack and cast that person's character in a negative light based on that action. I get the sense that quite a few people have crossed that line in this particular case. For instance, one commentator has said that Kino "is not nearly as smart as she thinks she is" and that "she is the farthest thing from an Ashtangi as is humanly possible." Other commentators have also said things to the effect that she is insecure, unsure of her power as a teacher and a leader, and as a woman in this culture.
Whatever happened to trusting and having some faith in other human beings? Especially if these human beings belong to our yoga community? I'm not saying that we should put Kino (or anybody else, for that matter) up on a pedestal, and naively assume that they will never do any wrong. But uncritically attacking somebody's character based on just one action is actually another manifestation of this same tendency: The tendency to not trust and believe in the divine nature that is present in all humanity, which leads one to swing between extremes of unquestioning teacher-worship and uncritical character attacks.
I believe that the middle path between these two extremes lies in an attitude of generous faith in humanity, the attitude that says, "I may not agree with what you are doing, but I trust that your actions are sincere and are motivated by a desire to better yourself and your fellow human beings." It is this generosity of spirit that I find to be sorely lacking in some of the people who have commented on this issue thus far.
Moreover, it is worth noting that even if we think that Kino's action is out of line with tradition (and even if we think what she is doing to be in bad taste), it is too early to make any kind of judgment about the effectiveness of her action, and how and whether it will further the Ashtanga tradition. To be sure, it may not further the Ashtanga tradition as we know it, or in the way we would like it to be furthered. But this does not mean that such an action is worthless; nor does it negate the value the practice might have for some "South-Beacher" (is this the right term :-)) who might otherwise never make a connection with yoga. This is true even if you do not think that yoga is for everyone: Even if you do not think that yoga is for everyone, you have no right to deny it to somebody who encounters it and wants to learn it, whatever his motivations for learning it may be.
I also want to say that just because something is "out of line with tradition" or offends our sensibilities does not mean that that thing has no value or will not do much good. Krishnamacharya and Mr. Iyengar did things in their time that were "out of line with tradition" as well (giving public yoga demonstrations, teaching yoga to both men and women, etc.). If they hadn't done these "out of line" things, we probably wouldn't be practicing today.
Well, I better stop here. I can already hear people screaming, "How dare you compare Kino to Krishnamacharya! Sacrilegious!" But I thought I'll end this post with another Kino video of my own. In case you haven't seen this, I did this video interview with Kino back in October, when I attended her Chicago workshop. The interviewer in the video is me (now you know how I look like :-)). Just thought it might give us an opportunity to understand her work in a different perspective. I can't embed the video here, so you have to click on the following link:
May the Force be with you.