Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Yoga Teacher Barbie, and a little gallery of Famous Yoga Teacher Action Figures

Disclaimer: Before you read the rest of this post, and possibly accuse me of being disrespectful, irreverent, and/or downright blasphemous, let me say a couple of things here: While much of the content of this post feature existing famous yoga teachers, any remarks made here about these teachers are meant to be taken in a light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek manner. If you find yourself unable to do so, you can try (1) taking a few deep breaths, (2) doing your yoga practice, (3) taking a trip to the bathroom, and seeing if your possibly overly-tightened mula bandha will release of its own accord, (4) try to forget you ever read this post. If none of this works, and you still feel upset... well, you can try sending me an angry email. But I may or may not respond, and you may or may not feel better after writing said email...

So if you do not agree to this disclaimer, read no further! But hopefully, you will agree to this disclaimer, and we will all have some fun in the name of good, clean entertainment.    

So here goes. In my recent online wanderings (now that I'm probably not going to Mysore, I have found more time for such idle cyber-pursuits :-)), I came across this interesting development: Yoga has apparently become so mainstream that even Barbie is practicing! Yes, as in the Barbie dolls that you used to play with as a kid (if you are female, that is... wait! maybe there are guys out there who play with Barbie dolls too! If so, my apologies for this omission. But anyway...).

Mattel has recently launched a line of yoga teacher Barbie Dolls as part of Barbie's "I Can Be..." Collection. Check this out:

    [Image taken from here]

If I were a more socially/civically-minded yoga blogger, I would be going off right about now about how this "Barbie-fication" of yoga represents another step in the lamentable co-opting of yoga by the Great Capitalist Evil Empire. But alas, I am only a yoga geek--an Ashtangeek, to be more precise--who has neither the capacity nor the intellectual patience for such sophisticated commentaries. 

So I'll leave this commenting to more sophisticated bloggers out there, and just let my Ashtangeek nature take over here. Well, when I first saw this new line of Barbie dolls, the Ashtangeek in me immediately took over, and I wondered: I wonder what the range of motion of this doll's limbs are? As you can see in the picture, Barbie can do Natarajasana. I wonder how much external hip rotation she has. Can we get her into padmasana? Or even downdog? After all, what good is a yoga teacher doll if she can't model actual asanas for kids to play with and maybe be inspired by? Makes me want to run out to the nearest Target store right now and get one such doll for myself, just to find out... Well, then again, probably not a good idea. I'll probably get funny stares from the staff at Target. Maybe one of them may even follow me to my place, only to discover me manhandling the doll into all kinds of weird positions. And then he/she will probably call the cops on me (Tomorrow's NYT headlines: "World-famous Ashtangi Nobel arrested for performing unnatural acts on yoga teacher Barbie Doll.")

But seriously, I've always been fascinated by action figures. Used to collect Star Wars action figures when I was a kid. I'm pretty sure the Star Wars action figures I had then didn't have enough range of motion built into their joints to be able to do most asanas. I wish they would re-release a new set of action figures with greater range of motion: I'm sure kids would dig them, and a whole generation of kids would then be exposed to the wonderfulness of yoga... Actually, it seems that somebody out there has already thought of this idea. Check out Boba Fett's asana practice: 

[Image taken from here]

He has a very nice shoulder-stand! And his bakasana is pretty kick-ass too, don't you think? It totally makes sense that galactic bounty hunters should take up yoga. After all, running around the galaxy bounty-hunting is very hard work; one needs to have a way of re-charging/rejuvenating the body regularly. What better way to do this than through a regular yoga practice?


And while we're on the topic of action figures, I've always felt that somebody out there should release a set of Famous Yoga Teacher/Yoga Master action figures. Each of these should come with a built-in special feature that can be activated by pushing a little button or lever somewhere on the action figure itself. That special feature should be some particular asana or quirk the teacher in question is known for. I think these action figures will totally sell like hot cakes (at least, I'll totally buy them!)

Here are a few ideas: 

(1) B.K.S. Iyengar action figure

Since Mr. Iyengar has been around for a while, we will probably need to make two different action figures of him to do justice to his presence:

(a) The first one will be a replica of him from his younger days, maybe from around the time Light on Yoga was published in the sixties. This first action figure should be of him wearing only yoga shorts, and will look something like this: 

[Image taken from here]

Special Feature: By pushing a special lever somewhere on the figure's body, you can get the action figure to perform 108 dropbacks and standups. Well, I guess in order for this to work, we would also have to build a battery-operated mechanism into the action figure which can then move the spine in the required way when the lever is pushed. Ha! And then the package can say, "Batteries not included." :-)

(b) The second one will be a replica of Mr. Iyengar as we know him now. This one will feature him wearing his trademark dhoti, and will look something like this:

[Image taken from here]

Special Feature: By pushing a special lever somewhere on the figure's body, you can get the bushy eyebrows to move up and down in an intimidating way, thereby approximating a stern glare. This action figure is highly recommended for Iyengar practitioners who practice mostly at home, and who have difficulty motivating themselves to practice: Whenever you feel like faffing/slacking off, just push that lever, and it will be as if Mr. Iyengar were actually in the room, glaring sternly at you. Very invaluable motivational tool. Totally worthy investment :-)

(2) Pattabhi Jois action figure

As with Mr. Iyengar, since Guruji was active in the yoga scene for such a long time, I feel that it is only appropriate that we come up with two different action figures of him to do justice to his presence. 

(a) The first one will be a replica of Guruji from his younger days, and will look something like this: 

[Image taken from here]

Special Feature: I can't seem to think of any right now. Any ideas?

(b) The second one will be a replica of Guruji in his later years, and will look something like this: 

Pretty badass, don't you think?  :-)
[Image taken from here]

Special Feature: By pushing a tiny button somewhere on the action figure's body, one can activate a built-in voice player that will play one of Guruji's famous aphorisms ("Bad man!", "Why Fearing, you?", etc). The voice player can even be set on repeat, so that the action figure will repeat the same phrase at regular intervals.

This action figure is highly recommended for Ashtangis who practice mostly at home, particularly those of us who are working with a particularly challenging posture (dropbacks, Supta Kurmasana, Kapotasana, etc.). Whenever you get to a challenging posture that induces great fear in you, all you have to do is set the Guruji action figure to keep saying, "Why fearing, you?" over and over again. It will then feel just as if Guruji himself were in the room!

(3) Kino MacGregor action figure

Although Kino hasn't been around for quite as long as Mr. Iyengar and Guruji, she is a great teacher who has done a lot of good in the Ashtanga community and in the yoga community at large. Which is why I feel she should be honored with her very own action figure. It might look something like this:

 [Image taken from here]

Special Feature: By pushing a tiny lever somewhere on the action figure's body, you can get the action figure to perform one of the deep backbends that Kino is famous for, such as this:

[Image taken from here]

This action figure is highly recommended for those Kino groupies out there who do not have the time or money to go to so many Kino workshops in a year. If you put this in your practice space or room, and activate the special feature every morning, you will be extra motivated to go the extra mile in your practice.

(4) Bikram Choudhury action figure

I don't practice Bikram yoga, and know very little about the man, other than whatever I have read from blogs and online articles. But Bikram yoga is very popular, and seems to be rocking many a yogi's boat; I personally know a few people who swear by it. So I guess Bikram must be doing some good out there, despite all the franchising lawsuits and all that publicity that has been surrounding him. I suppose in order to do justice to his presence, a good Bikram action figure should feature him in his trademark outfit: Speedos, topknot, rolex watch, and headset. Such an action figure should look something like this:

Action figure of girl in Paschimottanasana not included. 
Accessories (yellow water bottle, towel, and mat) sold separately.
[Image taken from here]

Special Feature: By pushing a tiny button somewhere on the action figure's body, one can activate a built-in voice player that will play one of Bikram's famous quotes (Bikram yogis: You know what I'm talking about.). I don't know how many Bikram yogis actually practice at home ( I would suppose it must be pretty hard to heat your practice room up to 105 degrees...), but if there are any such at-home Bikramites out there, this action figure will serve as a great motivational tool to motivate you on those cold mornings when you just don't feel like getting out of bed :-)


Well, I think I'll call it a day for now, and wrap up this post here: I'm pretty blogged out, and need to go get something to eat. I know that there are too many famous yoga teachers out there that I have not been able to include in my gallery of action figures. To those of you famous yoga teachers out there whom I've left out, please do not be offended. If you are, well... there's nothing I can do about it. Well, maybe I'll write a follow-up post to this in the near future, and try to include more teachers. But till then. 


  1. OH my gosh, you have outdone yourself. That was too funny . LMAO. I would totally buy those. I'll take Kino to start.

    1. Yes, I think I'll get the Kino action figure too, and also the Guruji one :-)

  2. Great action figures, but for me your disclaimer steals the show!

    1. Hmm... maybe I need to use disclaimers more judiciously? :-)