Guns N’ Roses, Fame, Marketing, and Yoga

I had always figured the band name Guns N’ Roses was an arbitrary choice, depicting a certain image of a certain lifestyle and all that. Then, last week, I found out how they really got their name: it was from the names of the band members Axl Rose and Tracii Guns (hey, thanks Cary!). I had heard of Axl Rose, but Tracii Guns? Never until now. You sure learn something new everyday.

“That’s great”, you might be saying, “but what does this have to do with… uh… yoga?”

Among other things: fame. Actually, rock ‘n roll impacts a whole host of other things (like, have you noticed how all companies are hiring “rock stars” now?) For this post, though, I’ll keep it to just yoga.

Yoga and Rock ‘n Roll

Some of us want to be rich, some of us want to be famous, and some of us want to be rich *and* famous. Some of us want to be rich *and* famous via yoga. Nothing inherently weird about that, of course. You gotta have ambition. You gotta be driven by something. You gotta pay the bills.

What’s not cool is when the desire for fame trumps other things, especially when those other things are the very things we preach. Since I got here, I’ve continued to witness and hear stories in the yoga world that completely baffle me. “Welcome to the biz,” my teacher said sympathetically to me when I confided in her about an event that affected me recently.

There was a time when I was more starry eyed about being on the yoga planet, when the thought of being around world famous jet-setting yoga teachers gave me a certain excitement. There was a time when I romanticized what it’d be like to “be a rap superstar / And live large / a big house, 5 cars /you’re in charge.” Thank God that time did not last very long. Thank God that time has passed. Let’s pray to God I won’t have a relapse (hey, it could happen.)

I’m not saying that the world famous yoga and meditation teachers out there are fame whores. Some of them got to be world famous because they are really good at what they do. They actually teach. They’ve got the goods, the important and substantial stuff. People go see them for what they have to say, not just for a photo opp or just so they can list their names on their yoga teacher bios. There are also some equally well qualified teachers who are less well know, who’ve chosen to stay out of the limelight, who have opted out of the yoga conferences and traveling gigs.

Yoga and Marketing

No matter who they are and how big their influence is, my guess is most, if not all, yoga teachers have to do some sort of PR & Marketing.

Some people think marketing is dirty, it’s evil and egotistical (and not, like, you know, “yogic”). Whatever you think it is, one thing I know for sure is that it’s an important and necessary part of running a business. As Paul Arden said in his book, which I like, It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Become:

Yes, of course, I am selling. But so are all of you. You are hustling and selling or trying to make people buy something. Your services or your point of view. The way you dress when going for an interview or a party, or merely putting lipstick on. Aren’t you selling yourself? Your priest is selling. He is selling what he believes in. God. The point is we are all selling. It is part of life. – page 119.

I’m saying this because I want to make it clear that I am all for marketing, I’m all for selling. As Rick Ross said, “Every day I’m hustlin'”.

What I am not all for is certain flavors of marketing, and I’m wary of a certain urge in the yoga world to be rock stars, to be associated with rock stars – or the celebriyogis – as they’re called, while undermining other things, and people.

For instance, I know of one yoga teacher who was asked to put more “famous” names in her bio because she only credits a teacher whom she works with locally. Another teacher in the area does not bother to list the name of the teacher she studies with regularly because this teacher is not a “name brand”, and opts for instead other recognizable-and presumably marketable- names.

Personally, I’ve been approached to publish things by people who don’t really seem to have any desire to know who I am and what I’m all about, but because my blog has made it to some list somewhere and is presumably popular. I’ve heard that if you take a training with a certain teacher, you must list this person’s name as the *first* teacher’s name in your bio, before mentioning any other people who influence you.

Yoga and Keepin’ It Real

Okay, yoga community, let me ask you a serious question: what the fuck? (Excuse my French.)

How have we gotten here? Yes, we’re all trying to get more students, grow our business, and making a buck or two. And yes, as long as we are humans, we’re going to make mistakes. We’re going to do things we regret. We’re going to do things we’re not so proud of in hindsight. (Trust me, I know what that’s like, I’m a frequent shopper there.) Still, guys, that’s really no excuse to perpetuate this bullshit. (French is such a beautiful language, n’est-ce pas?)

I probably sound angry in this post. I’m not. I’m catching up on the latest podcast of Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me as I write this. And if you anything about this show, you know that one can’t be angry for too long while listening to it. I do, however, feel the need to call out some of the things I’ve seen and heard.

We are all just hustlin’ and jugglin’ and makin’ a living, and all’s fair in love and war. But this is, you know, Yoga! We are supposed to do things like, find our true selves, and, be authentic and all that. As a start, with all the namasteing we say, wouldn’t it behoove us actually pay respect to someone we study with, even if they’re not the latest headliner for Wanderlust of Bhakti Fest or whatever making waves at the moment? How can we preach the message to “Find your truth” if we can’t even face up to our own?

As at odd as I may be with the current state of the industry, the practice of yoga works for me, and I want to keep at it until it no longer does (it could happen). It’s a privilege to pass on what I’ve learned to those who will benefit from it. So, whatever I learn on the business side becomes a personal lesson, and vice versa. I’ve gone and rambled about “other people” in this post. But really, writing in my blog and moan and whine to whomever will listen is pretty much all I can do.

I’m not going to change anybody much, if at all (tried that with a couple ex-boyfriends, did not work, learned my lesson). What it boils down now is for me to be vigilant in my own business conduct, and having the awareness that the seduction of fame is oh-so-potent, so much so that it’s even got some very learned and long time yoga practitioners sucked in in its engine. I’d write more, but I need to go work on my World Domination plan now. Please contact my agent for comments (er… you know, by clicking on the Comment link below ;)).

Bonus: Here’s a fantastic crash course in PR using Social Media.

Have you seen my feather boa?

Have you seen my feather boa?