Yoga Porn? Or Boundless Expression.

Via Brooks Hall
on Oct 13, 2010
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When I found myself going to yoga after work practically every day and on the weekends, I suspected I was hooked—like, seriously interested in yoga.

I remember sometimes justifying the expense of doing yoga frequently by telling myself that eating out would cost about that much (or more), and I wouldn’t be eating out because I was going to yoga instead. Then, somewhere along the way I began to trade my graphic design services for classes at the yoga studio, which meant that I could go as much as I wanted!

Once, I was hanging around in a bookstore in between work and yoga class, looking at Yoga Journal. I wanted that magazine. I wanted that dream world that the images and stories seemed to hold for me at that time. So I decided to buy it. But, I remember feeling a bit ashamed—like I was buying pornography, or something. I mean…yoga just seemed to be so body-based, and I had thought that I was more cerebral, or something…but I was really into this yoga thing.

I ate, slept and dreamt yoga. When I was at work I thought about yoga. When I was with my boyfriend I thought about yoga (oops).

Yoga, yoga, yoga…

November 2010 Toesox Ad in Yoga Journal

And now, about 11 years later, I flipped through the pages of the November 2010 issue of Yoga Journal—an ordinary activity by now. On page 59 I came across the Toesox ad featuring yoga teacher, Kathryn Budig totally nude (except for Toesox) as photographed by Jasper Johal.

And on page 98 there is a Yoga Journal Conference ad featuring topless (modestly so) yoga. The model is in Pasasana (noose pose). And I wonder: Do we inadvertently put a noose around ourselves when we seek to limit the expression of other beings?

November 2010 Yoga Journal Conference Ad

The human form is beautiful. I’m all for celebrating it. But after all the intense interchange around Judith Hanson Lasater’s (she was a part of the group that started the magazine) letter in the September issue where she made a request…

“My request is that Yoga Journal doesn’t run ads with photos that exploit the sexuality of young women in order to sell products or more magazines.”

…I was a bit surprised to see Yoga Journal’s ad, above, after all of the dialogue and drama. Has anything changed?

Looks like the answer is a big, “No.” “Request denied.”

…guess we just need our sexy ads, sorry.

Thing is, I like Yoga Journal in spite of the many ads that fill the magazine. [ed: they have to run a sustainable business, after all, and, still, most of the ads are yoga or health-oriented]. And, yes, sometimes I am grateful for the ads (when I see something I want to buy). Some of the articles are good. It is often beautiful to look at.

The second definition of “porn” according to the Apple dictionary on my computer:

“television programs, books, etc., regarded as catering to a voyeuristic or obsessive interest in a specified subject”

Hmmm. Yoga porn. “…catering to a voyeuristic or obsessive interest,” doesn’t seem far off the mark. Maybe we do need to just practice yoga more, instead of requiring this extreme representation. Or perhaps yoga is just intense.

It is for me. So the representations might need to be as varied and extreme as our imaginations can accommodate.


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About Brooks Hall

Brooks Hall is a Yogic Muse from Chicago, Illinois. In this capacity she teaches Yoga, writes about Yoga, and generally enjoys it. You can find her at: brookshall.blogspot.com.

Comments

25 Responses to “Yoga Porn? Or Boundless Expression.”

  1. shazam says:

    Hmmm. I think yoga is naturally sensual. And advertisements–especially print ads using a female body–are very much based on a beauty aesthetic. the two–asana plus body– imply a natural marriage. It would be nice to see some yoga ads that accentuate the actual shape of the asanas, as opposed to the body performing them, but it's tough to separate the two.

  2. YogiOne says:

    Brooks,

    It may to too early to notice any changes. Ads are often bought months in advance and the magazines printed well before they are shipped. This ongoing debate has me pondering how the use of terms like "porn" and "exploit" both drive and distort the dialog. Sure, words like that get attention, just like nude pictures do and there wouldn't be much discussion without them. However, the argument, "My request is that Yoga Journal doesn’t run ads with photos of young nude women in order to sell products” explained by exactly how such photos exploit women would be more educational and perhaps more persuasive. By logically supporting the judgment of exploitation, the argument would have been less easily dismissed. On the other hand, failing to be able to adequately articulate the basis for the accusation of exploitation may have led the author to different paths of dialog.

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  4. Paul says:

    Move on children. This topic has been blogged to death.

  5. Sam says:

    well, Kathryn Budig and ToeSox are now a household name among those familiar with the magazine or the yoga community. Quick question though, how many of those people have purchased ToeSox? I love the ads, I love Kathryn, I love Jasper's work. It is a celebration of beauty, light, and freedom. That is also what YOga is to me. Thank you for showing me what I can aspire to! I am you. You are me. Thank you for showing me MY beauty.

  6. Jon says:

    If I was going to look at ads in yoga magazines with the intention of masturbating*, the fully-dressed Hard Tail ads are a lot more sexually-enticing than the Toe Sox ads, even if the latter shows more skin. All exercise and lifestyles and health is sold with a bit of sex or hedonism as the hook for the advertising. People don't want yoga clothes that make them look frumpy, they want to look good. They want to exercise for their minds and bodies, and we can ignore the bodies all we like and concentrate on the mental aspects of yoga and the "proper" way to practice, but the facts remain: most people are in a yoga studio or just wearing yoga clothing to either look sexy or be sexy. And that's not so wrong. It can go overboard, as any topic related to sex tends to, but exploitation is in the eye of the beholder.

    *Completely hypothetically speaking, of course.

  7. Brooks_Hall says:

    Yeah, maybe the shadow of inspiration is disappointment for some people. Some readers are inspired by the Toesox ads, and some see in them a mirror that shows how they don’t measure up to an ideal.

    And, yes, yoga can pave a beautiful road to self-acceptance. We all seem to process this stuff differently. It is such an education to learn from everybody’s viewpoints on this. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  8. Brooks_Hall says:

    Thanks alignbetween. I appreciate reading your thoughts on this.

    This point from your response calls to me:
    “…the level to which advertisements and commercialization are influencing the yoga community and lifestyle in the macro sense.”

    Yes. How do these ads affect us personally and socially including the group-mind of yoga? Something to ponder…

  9. Carine says:

    I think it's sad to see woman's nudity exploited that way… Here they are portrayed as pure object, nothing has changed in our society. I dislike those commercials so much, they are very disrespectful of women in general and yoga as well.

  10. richard smith says:

    The advertisemants with pictures of Judith Hansen Lassiter nude are in Yoga Journal to entice you to buy products. Period. If some people are so offended by the ads, or view them as dreadfully pornographic, they should cancel their subscriptions. in Jacobellis v. Ohio (1964), Justice Potter Stewart said it perfectly: "I shall not– attempt to–define (hard core pornography)", but I know it when I see it." That succinct, vague, personal opinion still obtains today. If the ads are patently offensive to you, do everything that you can to avoid them.

  11. lindsayyoga says:

    Brooks, I just want to congratulate you on yet another thoughtful and beautiful post. Most of all, I am impressed with how you have responded to every comment. Not only have you started the (difficult?) conversation, but you are also considering what others have to say. I can tell that you give each response a lot of thought and respect. Kudos!!

  12. nancy says:

    no one seems give a toss about the diet pill ads with anorexic models?? that's yoga?

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