Ralph Craig speaks on Yoga, Health, the Kardashian Controversy, and Media Backlash
You may not be familiar with the name, but the face may strike a chord with you. This past November, following the heavily followed 72-Day-Matrimony/Divorce debacle of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries, the appearance of 22-year-old Ralph Craig has been foggled by the media as one of the breaking points played out on “Kourtney and Kim Take New York.” The nude scene became the week’s top viral video and the media ate every little bit of it up. Now, we speak with Ralph Craig about the art of yoga and healthy living as well as how the Kardashians class came about, and he shares (what he can) about his participation in the infamous incident.
Learning Through Yoga
When I was 12, I was given by the principal of my school– but really my mentor in many ways– a copy of “Siddhartha” by Herman Hess, which is a novel. And the “Bhagavad Gita,” which is a myth from the Mahabarata. And I read them—I was just fascinated by them. But I didn’t know there was a practical shot at doing it. And at my school, they offered a yoga class, and I had started to dance. And I just thought it would be a nice compliment. So I started to take the yoga class. And I was one of like, four guys, but it was a lot of fun. And that was in middle school [in New Orleans]. I’ve been doing it every day since.
Growing With Yoga
Well, it’s a practical philosophy. It’s a practice, right. It’s applied philosophy. My father’s a minister and my mother is Roman Catholic, so I was raised in both the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Church. And I like the philosophy and the drama of the sermons, but it was the yoga that kind of tied it all together for me, in a practical way. Not only do you have to know how to think, but you also have to be free in your body. And the combination of the two I think is what really works—that could either be yoga philosophy or any other kind of philosophy, the two will keep you going.
My favorite yoga position, I really like all of the leg behind the head poses. Because they build up your back a lot. They strengthen your back. And if you spend for long periods of time in front of a computer like me, putting your leg behind your head is the best useful anecdote to that.
I kind of liken it to running. You know, when you go on your first run and the next day you feel like you died inside. And then you go running again, and it’s still pain, but after a while it becomes routine. It takes a while for things to become routine.
Yoga and Health Goes Hand in Hand?
It definitely goes hand in hand. I was vegan for a long time, and I was pescatarian for a long time, but now I’m not anymore. And to be honest, I eat whatever I want to. But I change what I want to eat, let’s say. But it’s definitely really important how you eat. I would even say how you eat is almost the most important part.
We’re just such a cerebral culture. We just think. And we’re always stressed. And things are just always going on in our minds and our bodies just kind of fall by the way-side. Yoga puts you in so many positions and so many different combinations of breath and movement, you get to explore yourself. The first month, you feel different; the second month, you seem different to yourself; and the third month, everybody else starts to look at you differently. And I think the proof is in the pudding. You look at yourself and you go ‘oh, alright, haha, owww!’
Healthy Eating Tips
I would say the most important thing is, if you’re gonna do any kind of working out or anything that requires a lot of energy, you need a sufficient amount of protein. And there’s this big thing—everybody is like anti-milk now. And I think that is absolutely ridiculous. I think as long as you have organic milk that’s not full of synthetics, you can do little worse for yourself than consume milk. So that’s one thing that I do.
And then to take vitamins; I can’t recommend enough. It would be different if we all eat really, really well every single day and then got all the vitamins and minerals we need, but since that’s not true, we need it. I think protein, fruits, and vegetables, and a good multi-vitamin. And I wouldn’t be fooled– a Flintstone vitamin is good enough. It has so much in it that you have to cut it to give it to a child, but as an adult, if you just take one whole Flintstone vitamin, you’re set.
On meeting the Kardashians
Let me preference this by saying—there’s only so much I can say legally, because I signed a contract. But I can say, I think without any kind of issue, that I actually had a really good time. And I kept the perspective that it was all for fun and it was something that they wanted to try. I would say, if that was a real yoga class, like in a studio or something, it would’ve been different. They were all very nice to me, including to some degree or another, the aforementioned husband [Kris Humphries].
So you didn’t take any offense to anything that happened? Words that were said?
I really didn’t. I feel that, you know, whatever was said, it just didn’t have any effect on me. It just rolled like water on my back, it just rolled off. And you know, you brush your soldiers off and you keep going.
So how was the aftermath of that, have you been noticed on the streets now?
I actually have, oddly enough. I will say—I don’t watch television because I don’t have one, and so I just didn’t realize it’s a syndicated show worldwide. And I didn’t think about that at all. And so, I’ve been, you know, down in Florida, where my mother lives, home in New Orleans, here in New York, everywhere I go, usually there’s a few people who recognize. And some work has come out of it, just not related to that family at all. But some other work.
Naked on National Television
One funny thing is that my mother was in the grocery store and just happened to be reading over someone’s shoulder. You know, just standing in line, and they had a US Weekly magazine open. And my mother was reading over her shoulder and I hadn’t mentioned to my mother that I had done this. And she peered over the shoulder of this woman into the magazine and she goes ‘Oh my God, that’s my child!” And then my godmother called me and she goes ‘Why are you as naked as the day I sat in that hospital and saw you born?’ It was that type of thing.
Backlash from the Yoga Community
The American media, they kind of harp on stuff like that that—it’s sensational for them, so that’s always fun. But in the yoga community it was a big thing because you know–and I hate to be honest about it–but there’s so much pretentiousness in the yoga community and everybody wants to define what yoga is, how they think yoga should be, and what’s real yoga, and what’s not. So I got calls from some teacher friends of mine at Yoga Journal, a big yoga magazine, who were like ‘Yoga is being trivialized.’ But when I talked on the phone with many of those people, my honest response was ‘Blah blah blah blah blah.’ It’s yoga. You can do it in your underwear, do it naked, do it with clothes on, do it with a tracksuit on. It’s really ‘just do it.’
The Media versus The Body
I haven’t seen the episode, but really, they way I responded to the yoga community was, ‘get a grip, it’s ok.’ More than anything else, the show proved this whole Puritanical thing. You know, ‘oh the human body is disgusting, and anything that you do in public, you can’t involve the body’. It’s like, I’m sorry, could you read a book without a body?
I mean it’s sort of like Matthew McConaughey takes his shirt off, and literally it’s like he can’t sneeze without showing his six-pack. And it’s perfectly fine, all is well. But somebody like D’angelo does that video, or Christina Aguilera– a woman has that curvy figure– blood going down her leg, and Beyonce does a turn and it’s like, ‘Oh, the Heavens have fallen’ you know, we don’t respect anything anymore. And it’s just like—give me a break. I take my shirt off whenever I want to. Whenever it’s appropriate to do so. And so I think there’s a strong element and I don’t think that can be denied—I think there is a strong element just in the media, the yoga media or American news media, of that kind of stigma.
I mean, it’s the same thing, even watching this whole Whitney Houston situation, and you know—I was a big fan of Whtiney’s mother, because I’m a big fan of gospel music. And watching this whole thing and it’s in every other breath—when Michael Jackson died—it was in every other breath. You’d have sworn she sang one song and just shot up all her life. And it’s the same with Michael—you would have sworn he just moon-walked once and then was cracked out from that moment on. But then you take somebody like Elvis, who died on the toilet of the bathroom over pills, and it’s like ‘Oh, that was a mistake’. You know, that’s just a side note that drugs were involved.
My point in all of that was to say that, you know, there’s always that thing about Black athletes. There’s just always that ‘Black people are so muscular’ thing. I just remember thinking to myself ‘I am not now, nor have I ever been a Rastafarian. I am not now, nor have I ever been to Jamaica, Queens, or Jamaica the Island.’ So to refer to me as some Rastafarian yoga teacher, it’s just not what I am. Which is another reason it could just roll off my back because I was like, he can’t be talking to me. And there’s just always this thing about Ethnic people, and what they do with their bodies; it always has a little bit of a stigma to it.