Donna Karan has been doing yoga since she was 18, and she’s even pushed the us of yoga as medicine through her UrbanZen Foundation and an $850,000 donation to New York’s Beth Israel Hospital to set up an experimental yoga recovery center. But the famous designer isn’t on every yogi’s good side: B.K.S. Iyengar, the 92-year-old yogi and author of Light on Yoga, wrote a letter to Donna Karan asking that she stop using fur.
“As a yoga practitioner, may I request you, on behalf of myself and my friends from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India, to take a stand against using the fur of animals that is removed by the cruelest killing methods,” says his letter. He’s not the only person to protest her use of rabbit fur; DK Bunny Butcher is an entire website devoted to urging the designer to ditch animal fur. But Iyengar’s appeal to Karan as “a yoga practitioner” makes his request stand out (well, that and the fact that he’s 92 and famous).
I’ve suggested that it doesn’t make sense for yoga studios to designate their coat racks as “No Fur Zones,” (and pissed off a few yoga students and animal rights activists in the process); by the same logic, I don’t think it makes sense for yogis to tell other yogis what to wear. Iyengar’s letter to Donna brings up some of the same questions: Does doing yoga mean that you have to subscribe to the mission of PETA? I don’t think it should.
I’ll be the first to admit that eating meat and wearing fur doesn’t make a lot of sense according to the philosophy of yoga (which, in a nutshell, is all about the goal of freeing all beings from suffering). And, as someone who doesn’t eat a meat-heavy diet to begin with, I do find more and more that keeping my diet clean makes me feel better on a basic, physical level regardless of whatever it does philosophically. But I don’t think that means that everyone who steps in a yoga studio (either once in their lifetime or once every day) should be forced or pressured into following a specific code of behavior off the mat.
I’d bet my money that the majority of yoga practitioners do things daily that don’t sit well with the philosophy of yoga. I hate to burst your bubble, but even if you’re 100% vegan, fur- and leather-free; if you use plastic bags and paper cups, drink bottled water, or do anything that involves carbon emissions, you’re probably contributing in some small way to suffering. (Oh, and your favorite lululemon yoga pants could be considered a negative contribution, too.) Does that mean that we should all just eat hamburgers and steaks, drive SUVs everywhere, and stop all recycling programs? Certainly not. But I”m just not convinced that proselytizing will earn anyone karma points, either.
Should Donna Karan stop using fur? That would probably be a good thing, and it would be great if she could stop using leather, manufacture her clothing locally, and never use plastic or unrecycled paper in her packaging. But publicly outing her as a hypocritical yogi doesn’t seem fair to me, nor does it seem like it would really motivate her to change her ways.
via Yoga Dork