In a statement made on August 11, Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, criticized the new Yoga Journal series, “Ogden: The Inappropriate Yoga Guy” saying that the age old and revered practice of yoga was “not something to be spoofed at.” Yoga Journal, a popular California based yoga magazine, picked up the web series after it was a “hit” on Youtube.com, and has developed five episodes to date.
The context of the series pokes fun at the popularity of yoga in the
West today with the intention of being humorous albeit somewhat vulgar
and crass, through the actions of the title character Ogden. The
publication also publicized the character as guest editor of the
magazine for a month. During that time, Ogden’s face was seen all over
the Yoga Journal website and print publication, though now if you visit
the website, his face is much less visible.
Rajan Zed refers to the web series as “lampooning” the 5000 year old tradition. This is not the first time Zed has spoken out about what he feels is inappropriate use of Hindu traditions like in the cases of the PS2 game Hanuman and when he demanded a pre-screening of the movie The Love Guru prior to its release. Zed also holds a place in history as being the first Hindu Chaplin to deliver opening prayers at the U.S. Senate.
Now is the moment where I take a stance on the issue, right. Well, I must confess, I saw The Love Guru, and I thought it was hilarious. Especially to those of use who live what we practice and teach. I laughed, a lot. But, in the case of a publication who claims to “give readers insightful articles on yoga, filled with the most current scientific information available, while honoring the 5,000-year-old tradition on which it is based.” I’m not so sure that this kind of irreverent humor is appropriate..
For a “respected” yoga publication to pull such a derisive publicity stunt seems somewhat disrespectful to the practice it claims to uphold. I am sure that Ogden is quite funny, even to die hard yogis, I’m just not convinced that the medium of a “trusted” source on the insight and science of yoga should be the place to poke fun. This type of promotion can too easily blur the line between expert and excessive promotion, and give an ancient practice that is struggling for authenticity a bad name.
“Ogden: The Inappropriate Yoga Guy” may have a well earned place on video sharing websites and water cooler conversations, but when we bring this type of humor into a place that is supposed to represent what yoga is really about, I think that has the right to be criticized. Everybody loves a good laugh, but as modern day yogis who strive to be respected as a part of this ancient practice, there is a right time and place for everything, and this one missed the mark.
What do you think? Is the Is the Inappropriate Yoga Guy Inappropriate?