In Defense of “Smart People”

Star Wars Yoga is real.

Star Wars Yoga is real.

Oh, hey.
I know it’s been a while since I reached out, but let me explain. It’s not that I didn’t want to communicate with you, it’s just that I wasn’t sure what to say.

See, I started YFSP to be a forum for the intellectually inclined yoga folk out there. It wasn’t meant to be elitist, as in, “We’re smarter than you.” It was meant to be inclusive, as in, “Hey, I’m book smart and I have these things to say about yoga and I’d like to share them with you.”

I get where it got confusing. Only some level, the stated existence of “smart people” necessarily implies that there are other people who are not smart. And I was a nitpicky and over-curating editor, so I’m sure that didn’t help. I don’t know how to say, “This is a forum for yoga intellectuals who are also really strong writers that are deeply invested in instigating articulate conversations from a (somewhat) research-based point of view, but with a sense of humor. We are looking for a readership of likeminded people who are willing to engage in thoughtful debate and conversation,” in an URL. It’s a limited form.

So I chose a tongue-in-cheek name that I thought most people would get. In this I both underestimated and overestimated the yoga community. I underestimated the yoga community’s sense of political engagement. Yay, you! I had no idea that you’d be so pissed off about the seeming exclusivity of the name. Way to fight for equality. Seriously.

I also overestimated the yoga community’s sense of humor. I just assumed that my project would be met with an implicit understanding that the name YFSP is mostly a joke, a play on Yoga for Dummies.

It was not.

People who do not think that they are smart do not think that “smart people” is funny. I shortsightedly and ignorantly did not know there were people out there who feel oppressed by the term “smart.”

So, then, what happened next?
Good question.

Next, I responded to a hundred or more emails about the name of the site. Some people were positive: “Yay! Finally, there is a nerd space for yogis!” Some people told me that they liked the articles, but that I should consider changing the name. Some people told me that intellectualism is a hegemonic tool of oppression. (Note use of the word “hegemonic.”)

At first, I invited criticism of the site’s name because I wanted to allow everyone a voice. But then it turned out I spent all the time I had set aside for working on the site dealing with the mere fact of the name and none of it creating new writing or reading submissions. And it was frustrating. It seemed like an impasse. I didn’t know how to move ahead. So I didn’t.

I set the site aside and tried to forget about it. Until now. Because I don’t want this project to disappear. It just needed a nap.

I needed a nap.

Here’s the deal: I really want everyone to feel heard. I really really do. But, on a personal level, I also need to engage with new questions and issues for this to be an interesting project for me. So, if you hate the name of the site or are offended by it then I am truly sorry, I meant no offense. That’s the honest truth.

But, um, can we please talk about something else now?

Because I actively need a forum in which it is okay for me to be an intellectual and a yogi and I know there are other people out there who need that, too. I made this space so that I would get to have conversations with other yogis who use the word “hegemony” in passing conversations (even if they say they are anti-intellectual). I need a place to be the nerd that I am without having to be super self-depricating about it (Yoga for Nerds). I want to facilitate a high level of conversation amongst diverse conversationalists.

Is there some implicit elitism buried in the html code? Maybe. I’m not sure. I turned down a lot of good articles because I felt like they didn’t have the tone I was trying to create for the space. I think that is an aesthetic choice as much as an intellectual one, but I’m sure others might disagree. It’s hard not to be “elitist” while maintaining editorial consistency.

So, but if the name and the space and the tone don’t work for you and you think I’m a snob, then that’s okay.
Let’s just agree to disagree.

But if there is something here that interests you, or if you would like to participate or write or whatever, then let’s get this party restarted.

Who’s with me?



Tracey Duncan is the founder and editor of Yoga for Smart People, at least until someone offers to take these duties off her hands. She studied Anthropology at Columbia, Creative Writing at Louisiana State University, Massage at Educated Hands, and Yoga at Satchidananda Ashram-Yogaville and Swan River.
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