The Now Infamous Yoga Video

I hadn’t seen this before, and it’s getting a lot of attention. Apparently it’s all the talk at the Yoga Journal San Francisco conference.

Guess as viral marketing, it is working. Marketing for Equinox (which, rumor has it, is coming to DC, around the corner from me. They’ve already opened a 40,000 square foot facility in Bethesda).

But the video markets yoga too. In a way that makes me uneasy.

Julie Peters makes some interesting points in her Elephant Journal essay Why the Sexy Equinox Yoga Video Really Pissed Me Off. She relates it to advertising and marketing to exploit young women’s insecurities about their body. Please read the whole piece, but here’s a good point —

I teach yoga because it helped (and continues to help) me overcome my anxiety and depression and empowers me in more ways than I can name, and that ‘s what I want to share with people. I tell my students over and over again to close their eyes. Stop looking around–it doesn’t matter what you look like, and it doesn’t matter what the person beside you looks like. It matters how you feel.

And for all we tell our students to turn inwards and not worry about what other people think, we yoga teachers sure do worry about it. We try not to, but in this incredibly competitive community, we feel like we should be the ones with the strongest core, the most amazing practice, the most advanced postures. We feel like we should know everything and be able to do everything so we can pass it onto our students. We need to constantly be reminded that we are still students–on a path of learning, and the only one putting pressure on us to do crazy poses or have a perfect butt is us.Well, us and this Equinox yoga video.

I think if I wasn’t a yogi or a woman or some combination of things that make me who I am, I’d see just the beauty of the video and move along. But the woman in the video is not only sexy, she is sexualized. This video exemplifies the male gaze: the sense that a woman is being watched, looked on as an object.

Here is the Equinox Yoga Video —-

Here Equinox defends the video and claims —-

The video was not intended to be an ad campaign for Equinox, but an editorial video showcasing Smyth’s amazing arm balances for Equinox’s Q Blog, which provides editorial content to inspire members and potential members, explained Equinox’s Editorial Manager Liz Miersch. In fact, the initial idea was for a how-to video giving tips on arm balances. But as they shot the video, what Miersch saw was so inspiring and beautiful, she made the decision to change directions and just show Smyth’s practice. Of course, Smyth would have been as inspiring and beautiful if she’d worn yoga clothes in a different setting. The intention was to emphasize Smyth’s physique, but it was also to inspire others to practice yoga. “Equinox is not afraid to be sexy, as you can see in our ad campaigns,” said Miersch. “We like to be provocative, but provocative with a purpose–she’s not just walking around in her underwear in the video, but she’s showing her amazing, strong, yoga body.”

I’m not sure I believe that. The inspiration message is that not only will you have this body if you practice yoga but a mysterious man awaiting you for a tumble in the bed when you’re done. If it were just her doing this practice on a beach, I don’t feel it would bother me as much. But that man, the unmade bed, the lingering on her skin, the close ups – all seem to sell sex – not yoga.

But I do think it’s an interesting debate. A dear respected friend simply thought it was beautiful.