Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hot Yoga, Indeed.

Male Friend: “I’d be interested in taking a yoga class, but I dunno, I feel kinda weird, ya know?”
Me: “Come on! There are lots of hot chicks in spandex bending over. Why wouldn’t you go?”

Why do I instantly advertize yoga’s sex appeal, not the real benefits of the practice, such as stress reduction, lower blood pressure, stronger muscles, mental clarity? Maybe because there is something undoubtedly beautiful and graceful about yoga, even sexy—I mean, there certainly is a lot of bending over.

And as the yogic tradition is enmeshed in Western culture, it shifts and adapts (many, including myself, might say this is a detriment). In a way, Americanizing yoga seems to dilute the pure spiritual nature of the practice. Gyms are lined with mirrors so students spend the whole class checking themselves out, and comparing themselves to others. Many American yogis often buy overpriced yoga clothes and all manner of yoga paraphernalia, from no-slip towels to lavender-scented eye pads. Are we buying our way to nirvana?

For some yoga is not just a path to inner peace, it’s a path to flat abs and tight buns. In fact, this blog was prompted because I just saw a Yahoo! article titled “The Great Sex Yoga Workout.” Ladies, you can do kegels while in bridge pose! At this point, I’d assert that we’re not doing yoga anymore…we’re working out, which is perfectly fine. But to me it ain’t yoga. The intention has shifted from having good holistic health to just having good sex. And then again, who am I to be dictating or judging anyone’s intentions?

So I’m wrestling with the idea that yoga is sexy, because this feels inherently wrong. Maybe that’s my Catholic upbringing. Even so, shouldn’t yoga transcend that first chakra sexual energy into a more aware, centered sensibility (say, third eye chakra)? Of course yoga also fosters self-acceptance, body awareness, compassion for oneself and others. These benefits can (and should) permeate other areas of life, including the bedroom. But I don’t think it should be the whole purpose. On the other hand, sex sells. And the yoga market is exploding at the seams of its lululemon nylon pants.

Even the American Sex Guru is using yoga to peddle skin. In 2009, Hugh Heffner’s Playboy website featured a video of a playmate doing yoga. Naked. (No, I haven’t seen the full video. But am I interested to see it? Um, yeah, yeah I am.) Elephant Journal featured some interesting thoughts on the very subject I’m grappling with. Check it out here, plus a preview of the cleavage yogini in uttanasana. Link: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2009/10/playboy-yoga-videos-with-sara-jean-underwood/

But naked yoga isn’t a new thing. In this discipline stripping down for some sun salutations isn’t supposed to be arousing. It’s supposed to be liberating. Practitioners aren’t focused on sex, they’re focused on accepting and celebrating their bodies and others without judgment…or an erection. These classes happen in studios and clubs in a safe, encouraging atmosphere. While I haven’t tried it, this style seems to have its intention in the right place. But there I go again making judgments. Guess I need to do more yoga. With my sweatpants on.