The YogaDawg Interview - The Yoga Mongrel
By MIMI ONTHEBEACH
YogaDawg seems to be living the dog’s life since shutting down his famous yoga blog. His two assistants tease him about trying to wake early one day and look for a job. That YogaDawg, the inventor of the SuperDuper Bliss Inducer Super Bok Choy™ style of yoga has only two assistants is in itself significant. There is a popular image that many yogis have; that American yoga has gone to the dogs. They cite yoga stars with their commercial endorsements and hot advertising photos; who live in swank pads in the Yogatopia strongholds of Los Angeles and New York City and who, through their vast yoga organizations and studios, employs numerous assistants, employees and teachers while paying them practically nothing. Not YogaDawg. He found that if you call your assistants, disciples, you don’t have to pay them anything.
On a recent dog day of summer, this elusive and controversial yoga guru agreed to shed some light on the working of the mysterious nature of his yoga and his popularity. He agreed to meet a reporter at his home in a city which was to remain unidentified as one of the conditions for granting the interview.
The day of the interview, the yoga guru answered the door wearing a cap worn backwards, coupled with a black shirt and pants and sporting a pair of Karachi sandals. His appearance was much different than his official photo that can be found on the internet. Though his complexion is a bit furry; his hat is cool, the black shirt loose and hip, and he spoke with a bit of a Scooby Doo lint. With his long nose and ears, he looked a bit doggish.
YogaDawg’s one room ‘home’, located in a flop house in the skid row section of the city, is crammed with boxes of YogaDawg t-shirts, samples of yoga products sent by what he calls, “the Yoga Industrial Complex” for endorsements along with numerous cans of Alpo. It felt cramped, claustrophobic and chaotic perhaps reflecting those attributes of this yoga star’s own life.
I spent several hours with YogaDawg during this interview and when YogaDawg wasn’t sitting or dosing off, he was at his computer hoping for an elusive t-shirt sale or leaving snarky comments on yoga blogs. “YogaDawg can usually stop a serious blog discussion in its track by one of his ridiculous comments or inane views on yoga” says Roseanne Harvey of the It’s All Yoga, Baby blog. “It’s gotten worse now that he has abandoned his own yoga blog”, she adds. “If you see him, tell him all the yoga bloggers want him to get a life or do Pilates or something.”
When not giving dog and pony shows of his SuperDuper BlissInducer Super Bok Choy™ method, he is at home keeping tabs on all the ancillary businesses he has created; his YogaDawg publishing ventures (he maintains an absurdly popular website as well as the ever popular My Third Eye Itches yoga guide book); his YogaDawg yoga-gear business (YogaDawg has his own line of t-shirts,) and Studio Dawggy, (a new venture he is trying to find investors cash as the only yoga-school offering his method of yoga). In his downtime, he updates his Facebook page.
YogaDawg, looking dog tired, settled himself on a chair before a rickety kitchen table to begin the interview. His assistants (disciples), a man named MadDawg along with his lovely wife HotDawg, paw around offering water and what looked like really disgusting dog biscuits. YogaDawg claimed it was “some kind of health food from India”. YogaDawg rubbed his eyes, licks his chops with his long tongue and abandoned attempts to stifle yawns. It’s tiring being a famous yogi. YogaDawg, who claims to be 100 years old according to his bio, seems like one pooped pooch. But once he starts talking about his SuperDuper BlissInducer Super Bok Choy™ yoga, his energy returns, his eyes open wide and he occasionally lets out a spirited woof. You almost expect him to fly out the window on a magic yoga mat.
I didn’t know the extent of what others call “the cult of YogaDawg” before the interview. And was surprised to find that YogaDawg was being referred to as the George Carlin of the yoga world (though others have compared him to Stan Laurel or even Sacha Baron Cohen) by his many fans. Not all yogis, though, hold YogaDawg in such high esteem. “He’s not going make fun of my yoga video empire again, is he?” asked a famous yoga star who wished to remain anonymous“. “It kills me that Yoga Journal voted his blog one of the best yoga blogs last year. Pleeeaaaz…next thing you know they will start calling him the next yoga stud muffin,” he added.
YogaDawg’s yoga is based on ancient yoga postures he claims he discovered in an ancient and mysterious dog-eared yoga manuscript that was written on banana leaves in India. He said he found the manuscript in the basement of the main branch of the Baltimore Library but which has since been eaten by hungry water bugs. When asked how the Indian manuscript ended up in Baltimore he simply replied, “Pirates”.
“It is the nature of celebrity to attract adoring crowds to a yoga star like YogaDawg,” says Stella Sloborski, the author of “The Dog’s Down Dog,” a new history of dog yoga in American. “Also, he’s kind of cute and yoga people just want to pat him.”
Certainly the fan emails I asked to see bore that idea out: “Your website is awesome, man. I don't remember ever laughing this hard with tears streaming down my cheeks and snot pouring out of my nose,” wrote one student. “You are the Joel Mchale/Soup of yoga,” wrote another. Still another wrote “You are a Satyr disguised as a dog, YogaDawg, that is. A satirist looking right and left to Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart then over his shoulders to Andy Kaufman and Lenny Bruce. Bottom line, You are genius”. (One sign that YogaDawg has reached rock-star yogi status: men and women press doggie treats into his hands at workshops.)
YogaDawg exposes his yoga ideas online via his yoga website and tells a version of his life story from which he never deviates: Born Tahyo Fideaux in New Orleans, he was abandoned to a band of roaming exiled bohemian intellectuals, opium addicts, booze hounds and harlots. His life reads like some fictional character in a canine caper, only this caper is more in the nature of who let the dogs out, yoga style.
Some examples are telling: In his search for the famous Jnana yogi, Krishnamurti, he ends up in Indiana instead of India where he works as a carnie in a circus for several years. He eventually made it to India and ran into several unnamed yoga masters and starts to pen his pivotal work, My Third Eye Itches. He abandons his tome to return to the states to study with the first American yoga star, Richard Hittleman. Subsequently, he gets involved in the New York Abstract Expression art scene and, becomes addicted to drugs and alcohol as begins work on his great conceptual art masterpiece, YogaDawg Howls. Unfortunately , the work was too advanced for the time and was panned in the art press. YogaDawg suffered a complete mental breakdown and was hospitalized shortly thereafter. “That was some fucked up shit’, he explained.
After several years in the Bellevue hospital in New York City, he got well enough to venture back to India to hook up with the Beatles at Maharishi Mahesh Yogis’ ashram. On the way there, YogaDawg holed up in a cave “because it was raining cats and dogs and I needed some shelter”. He ended up living in that cave for 30 years. He explained that with the help of the neighboring hermits and sadhus, he perfected and advanced the method of his SuperDuper BlissInducer Super Bok Choy™ yoga. After being given the name Sri Sri Swami Baba Guru Yogadawg by these neighboring holy people, he returned to the U.S. to spread his yoga method. “Doggoneit, I miss those crazy naked sadhus,” he lamented. (Full bio here)
As the interview wore on, the temperature became too hot to continue it in the little room (he has neither air conditioning nor even a fan), we decided to break it off and let sleeping dogs lie for the moment. Yogadawg suggested we walk to a neighborhood tavern to cool off.
While walking there, I asked YogaDawg if he had any regrets about his yoga path. He gave a surprising answer, “Just one really. I just regret that Baron Baptiste won’t befriend me on Facebook,” he reflected sadly. “God knows I reached out to him several times. He really didn’t take those cracks about being caught without his bandana and flying serious, did he?” (Our calls to Mr. Baptiste for comment were not returned). I looked over to see a sad puppy dog look on his face as he bowed his head towards the pavement ahead. YogaDawg seemed to be deeply hurt by this.
Reaching our destination with our dogs killing us from the long trek, we entered the bar (really just a dive). Seeing YogaDawg walk in, the bartender gave YogaDawg the stink eye. With a hostile vibe, the barkeep was about to say something when YogaDawg interrupted him by saying something quite yogic and profound, “Breathe, she’s paying.” It seems YogaDawg knows how to dispense his yoga wisdom even off the yoga mat. Suddenly like a vinyasa, the beer flowed and everyone was toasting YogaDawg (all on my tab)
As we left the bar I asked YogaDawg one last question whose answer I hoped might shed the most light on where YogaDawg was headed next with his yoga and consequently where the yoga scene was headed: “So what are your plans for the future”? YogaDawg, in a classic tail that wags the dog answer replied, “I’m going to check out the yoga butts and half-naked hotties in Yoga Journal.” I told him I was surprised that such an advance yogi would read Yoga Journal to which he replied, "I only study the ads and the cover, the rest of it is so much yoga drivel." He paused for a second, looked me up and down and then asked “By the way, are you into naked yoga?”
Mimi Onthebeach lives in her Miami Beach condo along her 17 Chihuahuas and is an executive editor at Doga Magazine.
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