Journaling the State of Yoga

[Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Marina Chetner, who blogs at Bikram Yoga Musings.]

Bill Harper is publisher of the largest circulating yoga magazine in the world, Yoga Journal. Based out of Active Interest Media’s corporate offices in El Segundo, just north of Manhattan Beach in LA, his day is nonstop. Between managing a portfolio of products, keeping in touch with teams across time zones that stretch from NY to San Francisco, and granting time for interviews such as this one, there’s no doubt that he maintains the balance with a liberal dose of yoga.

Here’s what Bill had to say about running a successful brand and the state of the yoga today.

Bill, what’s a typical day like for you as publisher of Yoga Journal?

I would say a typical busy day usually starts in my house at 7:30 in the morning when I check emails from my sales staff on the East Coast.

As the publisher, I am essentially in charge of advertising revenue. This entails 3 specific areas – print magazine, online digital, and event sponsorships such as the upcoming San Diego Yoga Journal Conference. My main day is filled with generating ideas that sales people can sell with: what does the yoga market look like, what areas do we see growing, where do we see opportunities.

I leave the house at around 8:30 and, as my cell doesn’t work in my house but does in the car, I talk to teams in Chicago, Detroit, New York, Boston, and finish up on what we didn’t cover via email. I do like to talk versus email, and spend most of that 45 mins in the car on the phone. By 9, I’m at my desk – fortunately, or unfortunately. Then it’s communications with staff. I also work on Vegetarian Times.

The web has taken a much bigger part of my time because traffic is growing about 30% a year. We redesigned Vegetarian Times this year, which was very successful, and we’ll probably go through a pretty good sized redesign for Yoga Journal next year. Though there’s not a lot to do visually, there’s some back end to fix.

In terms of time, I spend 30% on web business, 40% on print business, and 30% on conference business/sponsorship as we have 4 conferences a year (San Francisco, New York, San Diego, and Colorado).

You’ve been with Yoga Journal for about 6 years.  Before that, you were at Wenner Media working on Rolling Stone, US Magazine, and part of the launch team on Men’s Journal. How different is it working for Yoga Journal?

Well, all are high profile magazines – very high quality and succinct in their mission statements. It gave me an opportunity to look at the yoga market and craft the way we would sell Yoga Journal to the advertising community… and really bring attention to the strength of the yoga market. Luckily, it has been growing and going in the right direction for me. Before Rolling Stone I was at Esquire, so I’ve really done nothing but magazines for my entire working life.

Yoga Journal has great editorial product, great graphics, and great photography. (Working here) It’s almost like night and day in terms of philosophy – the inherent goodness of the people on the staff, and what the magazine communicates outwardly. I guess at one time I became critical in my own life about messages sent out through everything from the television, magazines, and movies… and I was really looking for a place where I could work and feel good about the editorial products and the message that the product delivered. That’s where I think Yoga Journal and Vegetarian Times are impressive products that really help people live a better life.

So I do feel good in selling the content and the audience of the magazine to advertisers.

How has circulation of Yoga Journal’s portfolio of media increased over time?

We’ve had a very steady increase on the website; we’ve had a steady increase in the conferences; the magazine has been pretty consistent. In the state of the advertising industry at the moment, there’s more money going into digital and face to face interaction, with advertisers wanting to reach out to customers via sampling and ‘touch-feel.’ The good thing about the magazine is that it has been consistently strong. For the past 5 years we’ve been at a 350K circulation. It may not be growing as quickly as the other areas but we’re happy with it. The worst thing is to be with a magazine whose market is declining.

Yoga Journal has been available on tablet platform since February 2012 with Kindle and Nook, and we’ve been on the Google newsstand since about 2 weeks ago. So, every Android device will have Yoga Journal and Vegetarian Times available on it. We’ll be on the iPad in September. (Given this) there should be a big increase in the next 2 or 3 years.

Of print, about 50K is sold on newsstand, and there are 300K subscribers. Of the subscribers, 4 to 5% subscribe digitally.

With publishing undergoing all sorts of changes, what changes has Yoga Journal made in the way it shares content?

The majority of the people who read Yoga Journal practice yoga and look for everything from tips on yoga philosophy, to help with asana sequencing. The big change that has taken place is that we do relate the magazine’s content directly to the website – to make it come alive. Yoga is about movement and that’s where the website and video comes in; to show what the movement (sequencing) is all about.

Why do you think yoga has become so popular?

People have become more conscious of their wellbeing but it’s sometimes hard to find that on your own. I think that there are so many news and media outlets that write about yoga these days – it seems like it started 5 years ago with NYT, WSJ, LA Times, and local newspapers covering a lot. Then along came celebrities like Ashley Judd to Madonna and Lady Gaga. It’s very much out in the market place. Then, you get these big events like the Times Square Solstice where people go, “Wow, I guess I should be doing this…”Then they start doing it (yoga) and realize, “Wow, this is actually pretty good. I like this!”

Just look at the events like the one in Times Square, to upcoming global yoga in Central Park – I think they’re shooting for 15,000 people there. There are these large scale events that are bringing yogis and local communities together that keep getting bigger and bigger. It’s these kinds of things that begin to influence how big the yoga market is to advertisers.

MRI has been measuring yoga since 2001 (their studies include people 18 years and over). In 2001, 4.4 million people were doing yoga, now, there’s 14.5 million.

Were you a yogi before you started at Yoga Journal?

Actually I was not. I was very surprised by how difficult yoga was, and how good it was – not just mentally and emotionally, but physically. So I pretty much started out with Hatha Yoga and did basic flow for a period of time; then did Ashtanga until I pulled my hamstring. I practice at home most of the time. Every once in a while I’ll look at one of the over 200 videos on the Yoga Journal website.

What’s some advice you would give yogis the world over, in terms of their practice?

I would say that you never know until you try. Stick your toe in – the water’s great!

———————–

Marina Chetner is a writer, hot yogi, and passionate world traveler. She writes about all things travel inspired on her eponymous blog, marinachetner.com,and Bikram yoga related on bikramyogamusings.com. At the moment, her favourite asana is Floor Bow because it is such a challenge, she can’t get enough of green juice, and Tokyo is at the top of her travel ‘to do’ list. You can follow her on the aforementioned blogs, or via Twitter: @mchetner.

Daily Yoga Practice — Sometimes Less Is More…

With life constantly on the move and not enough hours in the day, it can be tough to fit in an hour or more of yoga on a consistent basis. Unfortunately, a lot of us talk ourselves out of unrolling the mat if we don’t think we have time for a “long” yoga session. Twenty minutes just doesn’t seem like enough time to make much difference, does it?

I’ll concede that more yoga is usually better, but a lot of us forget that a little yoga every day can still have a dramatic impact on our lives. It’s definitely better than no yoga. Unrolling the mat every day, even for just five minutes, proves that sometimes less is more…

Here are a few resources I’ve used lately to help me get on the mat even when time is short:

  • I’m a huge fan of YogaGlo, which offers unlimited access to streaming yoga classes for the price you would normally pay for a live class or two each month.  When you’re in a time-crunch, YogaGlo has options to sort archived classes according to teacher, style, level, duration and specific use. Makes it super simple to find a 10 minute class when that’s all the time you have. YogaGlo has an excellent lineup of instructors and the videos even stream on your iPhone or iPad so you can practice just about anywhere! Click here to see a sample of a 30 minute morning yoga class by Kathryn Budig.
  • Yoga Journal’s free YouTube page features home practice videos ranging from 15 to 25 minutes–perfect for those days when you need a quick yoga pick-me-up. Lest you procrastinate, here’s a 15 minute practice to get you moving:

Yoga Blossoms in NYC

[Click video to view on YogaJournal.com…who isn’t a fan of yoga in the wild jungles of New York?…]

Gentle Flow Yoga with Kathryn Budig

If you’re under the weather today or just needing a little more relaxed yoga session, this gentle flow yoga practice on Yoga Journal’s Youtube channel should do the trick. Gets the body moving a little bit, without too many sustained inversions.

Video description:

This Gentle Yoga Flow practice is accessible to all levels. There is a primary focus on hip opening, gentle lunging and twisting. This sequence is ideal for the beginning yoga student or regular yogi who wants to tone it down for the day. For this practice you will need two blocks and your strap. Feel free to use this practice anytime you’re looking for a little revitalization. Visit http://www.yogajournal.com for more videos.

Evening Relaxation Yoga Sequence by Jason Crandell

“Paying attention to your transitions can bring your focus back to the journey instead of the destination.  When we rush through transitions, we fool ourselves into thinking that once we arrive somewhere–whether it’s a pose, a classroom, or a life stage–we will pay attention and become present.  But this is a fallacy, because presence takes practice. ~ Jason Crandell

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Download this practice and many others for free on Yoga Journal’s iTunes podcast page.

Revitalizing Home Practice Sequence

Hold the pose a little longer and enjoy some serious relaxation with a Yin Yoga practice from Yoga Journal.

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It’s Time to Recycle Your Old Yoga Journals

Every few years I find my stack of yoga magazines piling up.  Eventually I convince myself to pull out the scissors and cut out my favorite yoga articles, which I then place in three-ring binders for reference.  I recycle the rest of the magazine.  It’s a bit painful to chop up the magazines, but it certainly proves a useful exercise in non-attachment…

Happily, I recently discovered that every single page of Yoga Journal, all the way from issue number 1, which was 10 pages and cost 75 cents back in 1975, to the glossy-covered December 2008 issue, are chronicled on Google Books for our reading pleasure.  Hundreds of issues available at the click of a button.  The entire issue, for free!   Certainly makes the eventual separation from the physical copy less difficult.  I highly recommend checking out Yoga Journal on Google Books and enjoying a veritable journey through the history of yoga in the United States over the last 35 years.  It’s definitely interesting to observe the evolution of the magazine cover.

Yoga Journal Home Practice Video Sequence ~ Side Crane and Twisting Poses

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

Expand Your Yoga Practice with iPhone Yoga Apps

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve accumulated a fair number of yoga apps on my iPod Touch. Though I haven’t played around with them enough to decide which ones I like best, here’s the current list of yoga apps on my iPod [links go to iTunes App Store]:

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I did most of the primary series yesterday using the iPhone YogaMat app to follow along with an Ashtanga podcast I downloaded on iTunes. The app thing worked much better than I expected, especially since the full version of the YogaMat app has the primary and intermediate series sequences already programmed in. However, the YogaMat app only has poses, no instruction. The little stick figure guys are great though.

That worked so well that I decided to practice today with Yoga Journal’s iPractice app. The iPractice app has voice instruction and background music to practice with. The full version of iPractice has 15 complete classes. It’s basically Yoga Journal’s “Home Practice” section on steroids. Having some good yoga instruction on my iPod made squeezing yoga practice into a busy day away from home a cinch.

FYI: This weekend only, if you’re looking for a nice yoga app, Authentic Yoga with Deepak

Chopra and Tara Stiles is on sale for 99 cents. I bought it for $2.99, so that’s a real good deal.  It’s one of the best looking yoga apps I’ve seen and it has tons of great video and audio instruction.  Highly recommended!

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Yoga Journal LiveMag ~ Great for Home Practice Yogis

As I perused through Yoga Journal during the wee hours this morning, I noticed that the magazine had plans to introduce  a new online video channel called “LiveMag,” described as “an online extension of the pages of the magazine.”  It sounded interesting.  I didn’t have time to look into it this morning, but when I checked my e-mail this evening I had a message from Yoga Journal that the first issue of LiveMag was available.

In the first edition (which corresponds to the March 2010 issue of the magazine), you can practice along with the video versions of the Home Practice and Master Class columns and watch a demo of a few of the Sun Salutation variations highlighted in the feature story “Shine on Me.”

Based on initial impression, LiveMag looks to be a great complementary feature to the printed asana instruction in the physical magazine.  I definitely look forward to this and future editions.  Here’s the videos of the Yoga Journal Editor’s introduction to LiveMag as well as the featured Home Practice article.

What do you think?  Is this a useful feature for you?

Introduction to LiveMag | Yoga Journal Editor Kaitlin Quistgaard

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Home Practice Video Sequence | YogaJournal

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Savasana ~ A Great Pose for Practicing the Art of Doing Nothing

“…every day, a little ‘bit dying.” Pattabhi Jois

Perhaps you’ve discovered, as I have, that you have some of your best do nothing time when you’re laying on your mat in Savasana (“Corpse Pose”).  For another take on the subject, check out the article “Find Serenity in Savasana” over at Yoga Journal.

And for an amazing analysis of savasana, click on the resting stick figure below:

Yoga Journal: My Secret Guilty Pleasure

Yoga JournalYoga Journal is my secret guilty pleasure of sorts.  I’m not sure why, maybe it’s the high school locker room dude in me, but I still get uptight about people knowing that I read and enjoy a magazine that 1) is about yoga (which is still weird to a lot of people I hang out with), 2) caters heavily to women, and 3) regularly has a pink or purple cover.  Much less for reason 1 than reasons 2 and 3, I read YJ at home and take Runner’s World to work just to keep up pretenses….

But behind closed doors, YJ and I have been tight for almost eight years now.   Up until last year when I decided to declutter my office, I had every issue since 2001.  Last year, at the prompting of my lovely wife, I went back through every single page of every issue and cut out all the articles I wanted to keep and organized them in a binder.  Definitely a good project, but tearing out pages of an old friend was both disturbing and painful.  I couldn’t say how many editor’s and redesigns we’ve been through, but I can say that I’ve pretty much read every article in the last eight years, and plan on reading every article for the next eight.

Even though YJ and I have basically been together as long as I’ve been married, I’ve never really cheated on her I guess you could say with any other yoga magazines.  Unlike in my actual marriage where there’s a “don’t look, don’t touch” policy, I have on occasion looked and briefly touched other yoga publications on the racks at Barnes and Noble.  I have never, however, walked out of the store with a copy in my hand.  That would surely be cheating.  It’s never really been a temptation until the other day when I was meandering through one of the PX’s (Post Exchange for the non-military oriented) at the base I live at in Iraq (yes, I am now living in hell, or at least it feels that way sometimes:) and was shocked to see copies of both Fit Yoga and Yoga + Joyful Living nestled in between your standard Muscle & Fitness type magazines that you’d expect to find on a military base.  Now, my question is, if I were to cheat, which one should I pick?

 

Yoga Journal Community

If you subscribe to the Yoga Journal newsletter (and actually read it…mine tend to back up in my in-box before I eventually get to them), then you know that Yoga Journal recently launched a new Community feature for its website.  Perhaps you’ve already checked it out and created a profile.  Now is the time to join since the community is still brand new and there are lots of good yoga terms up for grabs for profile names.  At least that’s what motivated me.  Once you join, if you so desire, you can make blog posts, join a group, and add video, picture, and audio files.  Although the community is still rather small (most of the groups have less than 50 members), I imagine that it will eventually become a great resource of information for yoga enthusiasts.

Let me know if there are any Community members out there and what you think.  Is there a better option somewhere else that is already established that I just don’t know about?

Yoga Journal Podcasts

It looks like Yoga Journal has just started a new yoga podcast series. The first episode is a 20-minute practice segment taught by Yoga Basics columnist Jason Crandell. It looks like a promising start to a nice feature.

If you’re into practicing with podcasts, also be sure to check out Elsie’s Yoga Kula. There are many other podcasts out there, but I’m mostly wondering what you all think of yoga podcasts and which ones are your favorite. Maybe you like podcasts, maybe you don’t. I’m just curious.

(By the way, it’s nice to be blogging again…at least for the time being.)

Related products

Why did you start yoga?

I’m always interested to hear how people ended up starting their yoga practice.  I started about six years ago when I decided I was ready to quit taking my prescription anti-inflammatory for a bad back.  I played (and still play) some pretty intense tennis, but the repetitive nature of the sport took its toll on my alignment.   After finishing up my college career and getting married, my mom, who taught herself yoga from a few videos, convinced me that I should join her one day for some yoga when we were visiting.

It was really weird and amazing all at the same time!

None of the poses I did looked anything like what Rodney Yee was doing, not to mention the fact that any time I went into downward-facing dog I thought my head was going to explode, but eventually I kept up the practice on my own and things started to fall into place.  I can remember practicing without a mat for quite a while and then deciding that I should probably buy one.  I bought the regular Gaiam mat from Target (that supposedly is going to give me cancer) and was amazed once again at what a difference a little sticky mat could make.  Eventually I started to build a small library of yoga books, dvds, and magazines to draw on as resources.  At first I was mostly interested in the physical asana practice, but soon I came to realize that asana practice is merely the foundation for further levels of yoga practice.

Over these last six or so years, most of what I know about yoga has been learned from books and my own home-based practice.  I’m sort of an “I can do it myself” kind of guy and I’ve only been to a handful of formal yoga classes.  That’s been both a good and a bad thing.  On the one hand, practicing solely on my own has allowed me to explore the different poses and sequences that felt right for my body.  Nobody is ever there telling me what the next pose is supposed to be.  I just do what my body tells me to do next.  I’m sure that I do some yoga moves that would make even the nicest teacher fall down on the mat in hysterical laughter.  On the other hand, the failure to really connect with other yogis and be part of a yoga community, not to mention the benefits that would come from some actual instruction have eluded me.  That’s my own fault, and it seems that without the support of a community my dedication levels rise and fall.

Nonetheless, even when I find that I don’t have much time for physical practice (or blogging about yoga), like these last few months of finishing up law school and studying for the bar exam, I seem to take what I’ve learned during my more intense periods of dedication and draw on those yoga “skills” (I guess that’s what they are) to deal with the challenges of everyday life.  I’ve found it interesting that sometimes when I’m less inclined to a physical practice, I spend more time reading up on yoga philosophy and developing that area of my practice.  I guess there are different types of yoga that people are inclined to follow (bhakti, karma, jnana, raja), and I seem to rotate through all of them to varying degrees.

I know that yoga has definitely made me more aware of the power of being present in each moment.  But, not only that, there’s the really practical things like relearning how to breathe and reconnecting with the parts of the body that otherwise get neglected.  And the physical benefits have been significant as well.  My allergies have disappeared, I can stand on my head for days, and my back feels better…even when I don’t practice as much.

I don’t know.  I guess I’m just grateful that yoga found me and I’ve been able to discover the blessings of yoga.

Here’s a short Yoga Journal interview with Dharma Mittra on how he discovered yoga.

If you’ve got a minute, I’d love to hear your story and see how yoga has changed your life.

How to Clean a Yoga Mat


Child’s pose is one of those poses that every time it’s entered into acts as a reminder that it’s okay to rest and accept the peace that comes from resting. At the same time, there’s also a decent likelihood that the close proximty of nose to mat in child’s pose acts as a reminder that it’s NOT okay to have a stinky yoga mat. There’s a big difference between a “sticky” mat and a “stinky” mat. The former is to be sought after, the latter is to be shunned. So, the big question is when was the last time you gave your “stinky” mat a bath. If you’re like me, it should have been done a long time ago. Perhaps you have a preferred method for cleaning your mat. I don’t. In fact, in the six years I’ve practiced yoga, I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never cleaned it once. That’s just gross!

Well, after a few times in child’s pose last night, I decided I’d better get serious about cleaning my mat; otherwise, I might end up with a nasty foot fungus on my forehead. With that thought in mind, I went searching for a cure. Here’s what a little research turned up on different ways to keep a mat in tip-top shape.

Yoga Journal had the following to say on the subject:

If your mat is lightly soiled, use a spray bottle, damp sponge, or terry cloth rag to apply a solution of two cups of water and four drops of dish soap. Rub the soiled areas. Wipe the mat with clean water; then rub with a dry terry cloth towel. Hang to air dry.

If your mat is heavily soiled, submerge it in a solution of warm water and mild detergent; use very little soap as any residue may cause the mat to become slippery during future use. Thoroughly hand wash the mat and rinse in clean water. After squeezing out the excess water, lay the mat on a dry towel and roll the mat and towel together. Stepping on the rolled up mat will squeeze more moisture out of the mat and into the towel. Then unroll and hang to air dry.

A Bikram site recommended a different approach:

Just put it by itself into the washing machine, add a very small amount of a light detergent such as Woolite and run it through a gentle cycle. Then just hang it to dry it usually dries overnight but in the humid summer weather it might take a little longer. I recommend washing your mat once every couple of months, depending on how often you attend class. It’s also a good idea to hang your mat in between classes rather than leave it rolled up.

Here’s a few more words of wisdom from Yogamatters:

All of our sticky, standard, lightweight, travel and ecoYoga mats are machine washable: Use a little mild detergent and a cool wash cycle (no more than than 40 degrees). Don’t use the spin cycle. Allow lots of time to air dry (do not use a tumble drier or radiator) and avoid folding or using your mat until it is completely dry, as this may shorten its life. You can roll your mat up with a towel and squeeze excess water out to speed up the drying process. You can also use a damp cloth to wipe your mat clean. Do not wash your mat unnecessarily.

Cotton mats can also be machine washed – full details supplied with each mat.

Here’s one last link if you are still looking for ideas. I think I’m going to opt for the sponge-down solution rather than complete submersion. Hopefully my next child’s pose is a little less distracting than the last one.

Leave a comment if you have any other good ideas for mat cleanliness!

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