Yoga’s 21st Century Facelift & the Myth of the Perfect Ass(ana).

Via on Nov 12, 2012
photo: saritphotography.com / design: drewfansler.com

The following post is part of the 21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics and Practice book club exclusive to elephant journal.

It’s based on Melanie Klein’s essay on feminism, yoga, body image and the media. In her essay, she distinguishes between the practice of yoga and the culture of yoga, including the rise of the increasingly commercialized consumer industry of yoga of the last decade.

This post specifically seeks to delve further into this dichotomy, exploring the roots and implications without drawing any firm conclusions. As the book was a collaborative effort, showcasing a myriad of voices and opinions, we hope you’ll comment and create a dialogue in response to this hot-button topic.

~

Sad, but one day our kids will have to visit museums
To see what a lady looks like.

~ Outkast

Admittedly, I was a bit tipsy. Actually, I was drunk.

“All these women around have the same face. Why do they all have the same face?” I inquired holding my third glass of red wine precariously askew.

I was leaning heavily on the table with my right elbow as I sat at my sidewalk table at Porta Via in Beverly Hills. Even though it was years before the rise of the “Real Housewives” franchise, today one would have assumed that they were casting next season. Women between the ages of 20 and 75 walked up and down North Canon Drive with high-end designer outfits and eerily similar features.

“I mean, they all have the same face. It’s like the twenty-first century version of The Stepford Wives around here.”

Truth be told, I wasn’t expecting or looking for an answer for the surreal parade I was witnessing that summer evening. As a sociologist with an emphasis on gender and media studies, I already knew what I was seeing. While Los Angeles is certainly a parallel universe to the rest of the union in many ways, the astronomical increase in both surgical and nonsurgical cosmetic procedures isn’t limited to the 90210.

Increased requests for vaginoplasty and vaginal rejuvenation, anal bleaching and virgin waxing joins the rise of the more “conventional” procedures—botox (including those in their early 20s) and other fillers and plumpers, liposuction (often given as graduation gifts), breast implants and facelifts (again, on the rise for those in their mid-20s to the their mid-30s). And this is happening across the country with those on limited budgets going into credit card debt, cashing in on military discounts or competing for a slot on make-over reality shows.

As Women in Media and News director, Jennifer Pozner says, “If you’re shocked, you haven’t been paying attention.”

And this trend is indicative of our cultural climate, not the individual women (and men) who chose to voluntarily go under the knife or get injected.

This discussion is not intended to mock or blame the individuals who pay thousands of dollars for their insecurity or vanity (or both).

This is not an individual phenomenon anymore than it is an individual choice.

I’m not discounting individual agency but people make choices within a given cultural environment, one that is sociohistorically specific and variable. That cultural landscape’s taken-for-granted norms and values play an influential and powerful role in determining what we consider desirable/undesirable, good/bad, beautiful/ugly. And the images that shape our desires, aspirations and notions of beauty are inescapable. We’re soaking in them. Both the claim that people are foolish for taking out loans to increase their bust size or to have those individuals claim they’re only doing it for themselves dismiss the environment in which those seemingly individual decisions are being made.

It’s awfully challenging to “love yourself” and defy beauty norms when all around you you get the message that you’re just not good enough. But you can be if you buy this cream/filler/diet pill/body sculptor/pimple cream/fill in the blank.

As Taylor Kirkham writes, “It’s human nature to crave feelings of acceptance from our peers. The problem is that we are continuously fed the myth that we’ll gain this approval not by accepting ourselves, but by battling our bodies and tearing our self-image into shreds.”
It is a waste of time to hate a mirror/ or its reflection/ instead of stopping the hand/ that makes glass with distortions.
~ Audre Lorde

Yoga celebrities didn’t exist when I started practicing yoga in 1996. Yoga pants hadn’t been invented and there were just a few studios operating in Los Angeles County. My consistent practice developed in an old dance space with wooden floors brined by decades of sweat. I’ve always been drawn to the grittier elements of life and the raw, authentic and noncommercial flavor of Bryan Kest’s style and studio space resonated with the street-wise, punk rock valley girl I was in a former life. The enormous room teemed with people of all ages, sizes and ethnicities. Nobody donned designer spandex. Most people didn’t even own “mat bags.”

As yoga gained in popularity at the beginning of the new millennium, the practice inevitably filtered through the lens of the popular culture.

The yoga industry began to pick up rapid speed and yoga began to take on a new look. As Julian Walker details in his chapter of the book, alongside the practice and community of yoga, “a small group of advertisers, designers, and magazine publishers promoting a fairly narrow aesthetic that is about technical perfection, youthful beauty and impressive gymnastics” cropped up. In a fairly short period of time, the industrialized consumer culture of yoga began to reflect many of the mainstream values and norms, including its narrow beauty ideal.

I immediately felt threatened by the encroachment of the dominant culture’s influence on this safe haven I had found in my practice and my community. It had taken me decades to find healing from my own distorted body image, one that was in large part forged at the hands of the prolific and repetitive images of unattainable beauty alongside the influence of the women in my family. I wanted to take the practice and community I loved (and continue to love) so deeply and hold it protectively against my chest.

Since my sociological imagination and feminist radar first went on high alert, many other yoga practitioners have asked critical questions about the objectification and sexualization of women to sell yoga products, standard advertising themes when it comes to the representation of girls and women. Those critical questions have not always been met with critical and constructive dialogue. In fact, the responses were often hostile and defensive. Personally, I was disheartened by a “conscious” community that frequently speaks out against animal cruelty, genetically modified food and environmental issues that didn’t feel equally compelled to address the exploitation of women and their bodies.

I’ve always felt obligated to ask questions about the communities I’ve been a part of. I appreciate the other outspoken and thoughtful yoga practitioners, like my fellow book contributors, who feel compelled to pause, look around and engage in critical dialogue about North American yoga in the 21st century. As Poep Sa Frank Jude Boccio notes in his chapter of the book, “…there’s a reason that ‘intention’ comes after ‘understanding’ in Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path: intention alone without understanding, can cause much suffering.”

For me, my sociological training and feminist ideology married well with my yoga practice. They are committed to raising consciousness and digging deeper. They’re about understanding.

I don’t want to leave it up to the universe. I want to engage critically and thoughtfully in what is emerging around us. The yoga community is not immune from the rest of the culture or the mainstream images that have been replicated in the subculture of yoga. Just because you throw some mala beads on or pose in anjali mudra doesn’t make objectification and sexualization any less so.

And yoga isn’t immune to eating disorders, disordered eating (which is not the same as a clinical eating disorder) or fractured body images. As Chelsea Roff remarks in her essay, “Eating disorders are prevalent in the yoga community, I would argue even more so than the general population. Many hide their self-destructive behaviors under the guise of detoxing, cleansing or a pseudo-spiritual path to enlightenment.”

While the practice has the capacity to heal, the yoga industrial complex upholds unrealistic representations of beauty present in fashion magazines and mainstream advertising.

I appreciated Kathryn Budig’s candid remarks about her own body image issues in a recent interview. The interview didn’t include a conversation regarding the notion of the “yoga body” and it’s proliferation in much of the popular yoga photography or the advertisements and images populating many of the major yoga magazines. But I appreciated the honesty and courage to be vulnerable. (I also appreciate her photo shoot with Daniel Stark that produced images that are much less digitally altered and polished than most).

And this body insecurity isn’t limited to women. One of the most popular (and drooled over) male yoga teachers in Los Angeles, replete with chiseled abs and perfectly sun kissed skin, recently confided his own body insecurity to me. “Do you know how much pressure there is for me to fit the body ideal of the male yoga teacher down to having zero percent body fat?”

Yoga is a subversive practice in so many ways. In a culture that repeatedly tells us we’re not good enough and that we’ll be happy when we lose another five pounds or if we buy fill-in-the-blank, yoga lets us be exactly as we are moment to moment. Yoga doesn’t ask us to change because we’re fine just the way we are. In the same way there is no such thing as a perfect asana, there’s no such thing as a perfect ass because we’re all individuals.

I’d like to preserve the unique face of yoga before she is unrecognizable.

We have the ability to consciously direct the culture of yoga, creating something subversive, powerful and real that reflects the uniqueness of each one of us just as we are.

~

Ed: Lynn Hasselberger

Like elephant yoga and elephant culture on facebook.

About Melanie Klein

Melanie Klein, MA is a writer, speaker and Associate Faculty member at Santa Monica College, teaching Sociology and Women’s Studies. She attributes feminism and yoga as the two primary influences in her work. She is committed to communal collaboration, raising consciousness, media literacy, facilitating the healing of distorted body images and promoting healthy body relationships. She has worked with the new citizen journalists of the LA Academy of Global Girl Media and the peer-educators of J.A.D.E (Joint Advocates on Disordered Eating) on ways to tap into the power of their own voice. She is an expert contributor in the areas of media literacy and body image issues for Proud2Bme, a NEDA project. She is the adviser of the Santa Monica College Leadership Alliance and the founder and co-coordinator of WAM! Los Angeles. She founded FeministFatale.com and is a contributor at Adios Barbie, Intent.com, MindBodyGreen and Ms. Magazine’s blog. Her essay on yoga, body image and feminism appears in Curvy Voices and her extended chapter on the same topic is included in the anthology, 21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics and Practice. She has been featured on HuffPostLive, KPFK’s Feminist Magazine and The Point on The Young Turks. She is featured in the forthcoming book, Conversations With Modern Yogis. Twitter: @feministfatale

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77 Responses to “Yoga’s 21st Century Facelift & the Myth of the Perfect Ass(ana).”

  1. greateacher says:

    I suggest you submit this to Yoga Journal.

  2. Micaela says:

    Ditto that suggestion. Thank you for sharing this.

  3. [...] Yoga’s 21st Century Facelift & the Myth of the Perfect Ass(ana) ~ Melanie [...]

  4. Britt says:

    Well said!! Thank you. It is a really complex issue. Also, something like selling nice yogastuff in yoga studios, such as expensive creams, clothing etc also makes going there a bit more like going shopping, market place. When you should just come as you are.

  5. azphoenix says:

    Agreed!

  6. Great article!! I will be sharing this with the Editor of LA Yoga Magazine, it definitely needs to be shared. Thank you!

  7. Lara says:

    Melanie, I love your article. It's hilarious how we constantly forget that the issues plaguing us, plagues almost everyone else. Thank-you for sharing.

  8. Melanie Klein Melanie says:

    Thanks for your commentary, all. I am glad it resonated with you. I would love for Felicia at LA Yoga Mag to read it. Deep appreciation.

  9. Melanie,
    I agree with so much of your commentary. We are victims by complicity of a humanity that judges by appearance as it probably always has to some degree.
    But I disagree with your premise that yoga doesn't ask us to change because we are fine just the way we are.
    I think yoga does ask us to change to become the best we can be. I think that is the appeal of the sweaty gritty class that pushes us past our comfort zone. Tapas creates change.
    It is the appeal of the restorative class. Svadyaya allows us to become more integrated, calmer, etc.
    It is the appeal of the Iyengar class. We can become more disciplined. We can will our bodies toward perfect alignment.
    These are just a few examples but I think it is important to recognize that yoga is not just a philosophy of acceptance. It is more complex than that. It is the creation of humans and so our humanity makes it so.

  10. Vision_Quest2 says:

    As a pilates practitioner, I am of the opinion that the commercialized yoga world did the pilates world a BIG favor by stealing their thunder and basically pimping out the image of the yoga practice–well-overtaking pilates back in and around the turn of the century.

    There but for the grace of God, pilates continues–physically accessible, inclusive and holding its own …

    Additionally, the fact that commercialized yoga looks back on itself is proof enough that the bubble may soon burst …

  11. [...] Yoga’s 21st Century Facelift & the Myth of the Perfect Ass(ana). [...]

  12. Heather Morton heatmort says:

    Great post/article. Called "spiritual by-passing" these are often the practices that are engaged within Yoga.

    Saying yoga is beyond postures but body addiction has taken over.
    Saying yoga is beyond exercise but one has identified one's self-worth with body accomplishments.
    Saying or promoting that the postures are meditation when not engaging in body activity is the sure fire way to meditate.

    These are all the things I have learned and have seen within myself and within teaching and while I ran my own school.

    So, in essence the very thing yoga teaches has been missed in this spiritual by-pass.

  13. Daniel.s says:

    I must embarrassingly admit I am quite shocked, as I feel I have been paying close attention yet it seems I need to play closer attention. As how the media so swiftly and immensely affects everything in our everyday life just in the hopes of producers profits. The ideas of making all these woman feel unfit to be attractive or beautiful women in hopes to make them a consumer for their product(s). Yoga was a pure practice in which helped individuals reach a better state of comfort with themselves somehow to unwind the damage of the media and its effect on woman and the perception of themselves as the media portrays one view of beauty when there are billions of women with all of their own unique forms of beauty. That are given the feeling their beauty is not beauty only this look is beauty and this is how you achieve it by buying this product. I find it extremely disturbing that the media is now no better way to say it poisoning yoga which was once a beautiful thing but now just a tool use in the mainstream media to market and sell things.

  14. Lucy M says:

    I actually went to yoga the other night at 24 hour fitness and I have not gone to yoga class in a year and thought id try one out at the gym. It was a very different experience from the one on 3rd street and I found it to be non peaceful and non caring. I went there to feel mentally safe and be in a place I would feel comfortable and the instructor just did not care and criticized me and a few other people for not doing it exactly right. It also felt scripted and I just realized that this was the gym making yoga a product for the medias view of ideal beauty. The media is now making yoga a commercial product for their idea of beauty and taking away what yoga should really be, about being who you are and finding yourself spiritually. It just shows you the control the media has and how they can take anything and distort it to their ideal beauty image and make woman and men feel like they have to buy things to get to that image,and that image is unrealistic.

    • Vision_Quest2 says:

      Lack of promotion of PHYSICAL self-mortification by gym yoga instructor (in many cases, particularly YogaFit) 1
      Fitting into bikini talk (which I ignore) 0

      Signed,

      Bascially old school

  15. Tiffany N. says:

    I found this blog to be very interesting. I agree that people put way too much emphasis on how they look. Media has put so much pressure on an individual's looks but not their personality, which is what really matters. You never see media advertising how to change your personality, or outlook on life, rather than how to change your bust size, or how to take off a few pounds. Unfortunately, yoga has also taken this turn. They are now advertising "looking" good, rather than "feeling" good. I believe that this is very detrimental to the society and takes away the whole purpose of what yoga is supposed to promote.

    • Vision_Quest2 says:

      Yes you do see the advertising for changing outlook on life … usually in ads for psychotropic drugs …
      TV can't show liquor ads anymore, after all ..

  16. Nathan R says:

    Wow, I can't agree more with this article. It is really stupid how they place this unrealistic standard of beauty upon women that is impossible to achieve encouraging women to surgically alter their bodies. Its amazing how the media can affect us all, men and women in such a powerful way. As stated, even men have to conform to the expectations of ideal beauty the media imposes upon them. I find it sick how the media uses women (and men) to sell their products, the current example being Yoga pants. I actually think Yoga pants were created for men's pleasure so they could stare at women. I'm surprised yet glad that Yoga was able to provide a safe haven for those who wish to find an escape from this media saturated society we live in. It is really unfortunate how the media targets our insecurities and imperfections and then claim that they can fix them (for only $19.95!). The worst part is, the products don't work! Unfortunately, I'm not surprised how the media targeted Yoga. It was only a matter of time, the goal of the advertisers and the media is to make money. If they find a lucrative market, then nothing stops them from investing in that market no matter what the consequences are.

  17. NatashaN says:

    I truly agree with this article. We are all surrounded by images of perfect women, which makes us feel especially pressure and insecure and then look into constructive surgeries such as boob jobs, nose jobs, and botox, in order to look as close to these "perfect" images as possible. It is really unfortunate how the mass media can affect how we feel and make us insecure about our looks. Although yoga has recently been corrupted by only trying to advertise its products such as yoga pants, I believe that yoga should be used to focus on the positives and create good energy spiritually. I do yoga about twice a week and I really enjoy and appreciate the affects it has on my body. I hope that it does not turn into something that makes people insecure, because that is definitely not its purpose.

    • Vision_Quest2 says:

      Yoga already has turned into that, in some studios.

      They have primarily home yoga practitioners in their crosshairs all the time. So, if it isn't about the bikini bod, it's about how one's practice is "only" a home practice … and their objective is to get you to live at the yoga studio.

      Those days are nearing the end, however. There is such a thing as REALITY.

      • Carol Horton carolhortonbooks says:

        Any teacher or studio owner who denigrates home practice is either completely clueless or horrifyingly cynical. Once you've learned enough to do it safely and intelligently, home practice is the most important type of practice there is.

  18. Alexander K says:

    This article is really amazing. I find it interesting yet very stupid of how much attention they put towards the standards of looking beautiful. A women doesn't need to get botox or go under the knife to look beautiful. Her personality and the way she perceives herself is what makes her beautiful. Unfortunately the media doesn't agree with this type of thinking which is why they have to go through the trouble of photoshopping. Fortunately though, there are some methods such as Yoga to help women get the image that they want without going under the knife. Yoga is a great form of exercise for the mind and body. Yoga pants are also a great way to help women stretch and be more comfortable in their workout. Many men (including myself) believe that Yoga pants look really good on women.

  19. Vision_Quest2 says:

    You know how there used to be behaviorist psychologists who were into systematic desensitization?

    Well, now we could apply the same technique of systematic desensitization to media images. Because, if you do not live in the big city, magazines could reflect the reality rather than the fantasy (or certain genetic types overrepresented in NY or LA) for starters. The media STILL COULD CHANGE:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/16/plus-siz

  20. Dorsa D. says:

    From media to the real world we are surrounded by these "fake" images. Women try to look like the classic models and spend endless amount of money on plastic surgery, just to obtain an image that is not obtainable. Women are encouraged to preform plastic surgeries to look another way. What is wrong with the way they looked life before? My mother used to practice yoga before it became a trend, and when I was younger she taught my sister and I the art of yoga. Now in 2012 yoga is a trend, not a relaxation technique. Yoga pants are another excuse for women to show off their thin bodies and for men to stare at them. Yoga is a place to be Zen. During yoga you do not have to worry about all the negativity that is going on outside. Soon the media will attack yoga and the yogis and start making on profit on yoga.

    • Vision_Quest2 says:

      You mean "the media will attack OLD SCHOOL yoga". They already have. They already make a profit on yoga–old school yoga attributes are used in advertising all the time.

      Newsflash: Yoga as practiced today is NOT anywhere NEAR "Zen". or more accurately, to engage the parasympathetic nervous system. It is not relaxing. The frantic movements do NOT constitute meditation.

      The media actually leave the kick butt practices largely alone.

  21. Saman M says:

    I think that no matter what,we can't get away from all the advertisements that have images of the "perfect women" or the "pefect man".From any activity we enjoy,the mainstream media will have a way to affect people and how they feel about their image,especially women.As a sports fan,there are many advertisements that show a player who is incredibly in shape and atheltic.They make you look at yourself and judge yourself to look just like these athletes.It may be motivational to be to go out there and workout more,but it does affect me in a somewhat negative way because it takes a while to achieve that "perfect" physique even though its probably not entirely real.Yoga may help women get over their body image issues because it's a great mental exercise,but since it is a sport activity/exercise,the mainstream media will advertise with the most good looking women to promote a yoga product such as yoga pants or a yoga pants.They obviously aren't going to put an overweight women to advertise because "sex sells".

  22. Nadia A says:

    It is crazy to see how quickly the media can take over something and turn it into the norm. That is probably why so many women feel so threatened and feel the need to conform. We will never be able to avoid these false and impossible images displayed by the media, but we can find ways to better our self-esteem and confidence. I have only heard good things about yoga and the peace it can bring to a person. It is important to find a way to bring balance to oneself in a society so taken over by the media.

  23. Yajaira V. says:

    It was eye-opening and sad to read that yoga too has gotten its share in this mediated culture. I have noticed how all the yoga models look EXACTLY the same but I didn't question that nor did I think much of it (I just thought they all looked like that, but I didn't ask myself why.) It makes perfect sense now that I've read this article though ($$, of course). What I'm taking away from this great article is what Taylor Kirkham wrote. Being aware that we live in a culture where we must be something other than what we already are is great, but it isn't enough. We ought to stand strong and know that what really matters is accepting and loving our ourselves for who we are and not battling ourselves to fit the unattainable norms of "beauty". Stay awake.

  24. Sofia F says:

    Wow, I wasn’t aware that yoga had been coopted by profiteers and the media machine. I guess that this is unsurprising in light of the path taken in marketing most other sports. It seems like any simple exercise or sport now “requires” specialized gear. I confess to having a pair of “walking shoes” that look suspiciously like my “running shoes.” It’s sad that the mere process of trying to better oneself physically and spiritually became yet another venue for selling unattainable beauty. I also agree completely that it’s not fair to blame any of this on the individuals who follow the media-driven path to cosmetic surgery. When everyone you know values a certain type of behavior or a certain look, it’s hard to resist.

  25. Jasmine F says:

    I love yoga, and have practiced it for years as well. I actually appreciate yoga pants and their flexibility, but one day I was practicing yoga in a coed studio with mirrors on all four walls, and while doing a certain pose I noticed my ass just BULGING OUT (which I will admit is already large by nature). I immediately felt embarrassed and fell out of the pose, hoping no one was staring at it. I started to prefer practicing in the back of the classroom so no one was behind me.

    I also always hated hearing men and women making sexual jokes about yoga, explaining it as sexy because it meant women were nice and limber and flexible for sex, you know, to accomplish unrealistic and abnormal pornographic fantasies that men have. This one time I was speaking with three other girls and one arrogant male on my college campus. We got on the subject of exercising and I explained how I liked yoga. The one arrogant male asked, "oh, you do yoga!?" I replied, "Yea! I love yoga, do you practice?" The arrogant one replied, "Mmmhm, I bet you do. No, but you can teach me," of course as he looked me up and down in a sexual manner. That comment made me feel so uncomfortable, I started to profusely sweat and imagined myself vomiting on his face. I thankfully have accounting with him now, and get the honor to see him twice a week for three hours.

    Yoga is a beautiful practice, that connects our body and soul, that keeps us in shape, that strengthens our core; leave it to our society to sexualize it and make it into something naughty, make it into something women should do to become more attractive and limber as apposed to a healthy lifestyle.

    • Vision_Quest2 says:

      I think back to my youth, and I remember how men used to sexualize Jazzercise instructors … not so much straight aerobic dance, but any exercise that taught us moves leading up to doing the splits and straddle stretch … it's not in the bouncing around, but all in the stretch ;-)

      But this time, media interests decided to pick up on this phenomenon with yoga …

  26. Nazli C. says:

    This article is true and amazing in so many ways. I agree that nowadays girls and women put to much pressure on themselves to achieve this ideal beauty, however, that ideal beauty is false and unrealistic. And I don't want to put all the blame on media but plays a big role. The media affects in such a way, we don't even see it sometimes, the media puts so much pressure on young girls and how they look. You never see or hear the media talking about about how beautiful someone is because of their personality, no, they define beautiful as in your face and what you look like. When the reality is, personality to me is everything. Someone can be really good looking to my eyes, however, if they have a horrible personality I'm immediately unattracted to them. Yoga is kind of taking a turn into the media way, because nowadays a lot of advertisements for yoga is stating to "looking good" instead of feeling good or feeling peace. To be really honest, unless something is done and everyone stands up to the media, the pressure the media puts on everyone is inevitable. You can't really run away from it, because it's everywhere and it surrounds you.

  27. Mita S. says:

    I like the quote Outkast said, I never really thought about it, but I guess in a way everyone is morphing one another. Since everyone is striving to have that ideal look of beauty, everyone is going to look the same. And once they do people won't even know what they originally looked like. For example, Heidi from the MTV reality show Laguna Beach did 20 plastic/cosmetic surgeries, she stated that her and her "husband" don't remember what she looked like before the surgies. I feel like you just lose your identity after all those procedures, and you're not really human anymore. You are this "perfect" deformed monster that you or someone created. I'm not saying that everyone who gets plastic surgery is horrible, but what I really want to ask is why do you feel like you need to fix yourself. Do women in our culture and society nowadays not have enough self esteem or confidence that they have to spend all of their hard earned money on a procedure. I know that there's so much pressure from Hollywood and from the media, but I feel like there are so many ways you can better yourself. Fat or weight for example, instead of liposuction or surgery, why can't you just lose the weight in a healthier way by changing your diet and exercising. People (women) are ALWAYS going to be self conscious about something, but I feel like there are better way to deal with it.

  28. Yael K says:

    I really find this article really cool because I thought I was the only one who thought yoga pants weren't necessary. I have been doing yoga since the summer. My yoga instructor is super cool, brings positive energy into the room, and yoga itself really has a good affect on my body. Now that it has been a while since I took upon yoga, I still haven’t purchased yoga pants because I feel like it is just an excuse for women to show off their butt. I will be fine with wearing my sweatpants. I really hope that yoga does not create insecurities for people though. Yoga is really honestly meant to relax people. I am really afraid that the media is going to take that away from us yoga people.

  29. PanteaP says:

    This article is really amazing. I find it interesting yet very stupid of how much attention they put towards the standards of looking beautiful. A women doesn't need to get botox or go under the knife to look beautiful. Her personality and the way she perceives herself is what makes her beautiful. Unfortunately the media doesn't agree with this type of thinking which is why they have to go through the trouble of photoshopping. Fortunately though, there are some methods such as Yoga to help women get the image that they want without going under the knife. Yoga is a great form of exercise for the mind and body. Yoga pants are also a great way to help women stretch and be more comfortable in their workout. Many men (including myself) believe that Yoga pants look really good on women.

  30. RosaE says:

    I couldn't agree more with what the article discusses. I've personally considered trying yoga but I've felt hesitant about where I'd begin. There are so many places nowadays and I don't really know where I could dare to begin. Besides, I've never really tried Yoga so how would I know what to expect. But just like every other method advertised to aid us in becoming thin and beautiful, the media has targeted Yoga. They've created special isles in store for Yoga attire. On magazines I've seen them suggest to try Yoga in order to "lose 10 lbs in 1 week" or to "exercise your core" and it never really being about finding peace and relaxation. I hope everyone can get the right idea about Yoga and benefit from it in more ways than losing weight to be an inch closer to society's norms.

  31. mbogdan says:

    Wonderful article, and I agree it should be submitted to several publications. I am a big fan of yoga and have noticed how the practice is becoming more and more of a “scene”. I deeply believe that yoga can provide physical and mental healing when it’s practiced for those reasons “understanding to find intention”. Unfortunately even in this realm women and men are faced with body image and “coo”l gear expectations driving far away from what the practice is about. To show up for a yoga class I have noticed recently, is a process on its own. While in class I have felt a little out of place, noticing how everyone looks the same as mentioned in witnessing in Porta Via. Has yoga become a “style franchise”? Women and men are seen with branded mats and bags, the branded outfit must be top notch quality designer, the perfect hair band and lets not forget the towels and non slip branded socks! As I look around and realize I am the one who stands out by wearing whatever sweats I pulled out of the closet, and an old tank top. Even in a “zen” non judgmental environment of a yoga studio, I feel rated and evaluated because of my outfit. As if we don’t have enough of that already.

    While reading this article, I can’t help but wonder; will we ever be able to move past chewing ourselves up about our physical bodies? Can one be absolutely content with their natural appearance? If so many people are affected, and wish to see change how can we begin to take control of what has been fed to us for so long?

  32. JoseB says:

    I saw this article as a highlight of so many topics discussed in my women studies class. I have never had the opportunity a yoga class and it convinces me to at least try it. One of the thing that I always put out when I would criticize those that would get surgeries is that many of these people "make choices within a cultural environment, one that is sociohistorically specific and available". The media has been in charge of displaying these ideal body types that are unattainable and are unconsciously consumed by every individual in urban areas where media conglomerates fill up the place with ads all over the place. In this article, I saw yoga as a means to begin to learn to accept yourself and love your body the way it is, and it reminded me of Bell Hooks Communion the female search for love. One of the themes I ended up writing on my essay was about loving one's self, and how women who become independent and emotionally fulfilled and confident in one's self can be risky. These strong women are seen as a threat and can be rejected in this system of patriarchy; I also recalled that it is much difficult for these women to become emotionally crushed when they are confident and emotionally fulfilled with one's self.

  33. MansourR says:

    The author expresses a concern shared by anyone whoose personally satisfying and individualistic subculture is being adopted by the main stream. For the author, this concern is magnified by the implications that the mainstreaming of yoga, which takes a very narrow form and aesthetic, has for expectations imposed upon the women, and also the men, who practice it. A realm that once allowed yoga afficionados a place for self-acceptance and self-expression is slowly becoming an institution that indirectly promotes the objectification of women and an increasingly limited openness to difference, variety, and non-selfconsious activity.

  34. Angella F says:

    We are bombarded by images of "beautiful" and "perfect" women on a daily basis. It is very diminishing to see that the media has the power to make these images the norm of what women and girls are supposed to look like. Because of this, women across the world often feel ashamed of their bodies and feel as they need to change. Their body image is not accurate and this is why many young girls now have eating disorders. Yoga practices becoming one with the body and working on improving your body and not comparing yourself to another person. I think yoga is very empowering and should be practiced.

  35. [...] Melanie Klein’s contribution to the elephant journal book club for 21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics and Practice, she writes: [...]

  36. Vision_Quest2 says:

    You who can AFFORD yoga culture, are probably already (1) influencers, (2) opinion leaders, (3) community activists, (4) forefront pundits of a sort.

    You who fit the mold, as well, should reject riding on your high horses, or else, why, post-COMMERCIAL YOGA BACKLASH, are you not solely in Joe Blow's Boot Camp or something, or solely running marathons and triathlons.

    Western stretching modalities are alive and well, so don't tell me you "go to yoga" to stretch for your sport and your interval training.

    I call bullshit on those who will not step up to the challenge!!!

    It starts with wearing your PJs to class, not wearing makeup to class, not sporting yoga bling, and not being part of that clique …

  37. Ellie G says:

    I have several thoughts about this essay….
    - I have become increasingly aware of the amount of money that is spent on yoga CLOTHES in the yoga studios, and it has always been interesting to me that you might have to spend $90.00 on a pair of yoga pants (that of course matches with your $60.00 short tight little bralette) so that you look “ok” in a yoga class. Interesting concept when you are really there to “raise consciousness” and dig “deeper”. My mom told me that 15 years ago they used to do yoga in sweats and nobody even thought about dressing up to go to class…..
    - It will be a sad thing if the media and the fashion industry are allowed to change our beloved yoga into a fashion show and a culture where you are not welcome to be yourself anymore…where you have to once again be perfect and skinny without an ounce of fat on your body. I hope that all of us that are involved in the yoga culture can keep that from happening.

    • Vision_Quest2 says:

      You who can AFFORD yoga culture, are probably already (1) influencers, (2) opinion leaders, (3) community activists, (4) forefront pundits of a sort.

      You who fit the mold, as well, should reject riding on your high horses, or else, why, post-COMMERCIAL YOGA BACKLASH, are you not solely in Joe Blow's Boot Camp or something, or solely running marathons and triathlons.

      Western stretching modalities are alive and well, so don't tell me you "go to yoga" to stretch for your sport and your interval training.

      I call bullshit on those who will not step up to the challenge!!!

    • Vision_Quest2 says:

      And I say that advertising is a response to cultural forces–and not so much a springboard for same.

      This is why sampling of wares, and word-of-mouth will more often than not trump advertising. Culture drives advertising, which then drives fashion. Fashion begins at the grass-roots level.

      I posit that for all their wealth and savvy, commercialized public yoga class participants and consumers (not "students"–for yoga is or should be, a participatory practice) are conformist sheep. Advertising and yoga celebrities get their power and their money from followers, some who don't know better.

  38. SheerlyA says:

    I truly agree that women are constantly surrounded and pressured by the media and other women who look practically plastic, which makes other women feel insecure about themselves. The media constantly advertises the many procedures and various types of products that may help you "look your best", which is definitely a major issue. In regards to yoga, there should not be a right or wrong way of how you approach this type of relaxation and mediation, whether it involves the type of pants you wear or how you look while doing it. It is hard to believe that over the years the media has gained unnecessary advertisements about yoga clothing; women should be able to feel good about themselves and be able to wear whatever they feel comfortable in. I for one am a big fan of yoga and practice it as much as I can, which does not make me feel insecure about myself as should other women in our society.

  39. BrittanyP says:

    I agree with everything you stated in this article. It seems as though as soon as one thing becomes popular, media finds a way to somehow distort it and give readers an unrealistic idea about it; like yoga. Yoga was not as famous as it is now, and if you look in magazines- its being extremely promoted. There are a lot of pros about it, but they are not specified in the magazines. A lot of the magazines promote yoga for the right reasons, but not completely. Of coarse with doing yoga, your body will improve; but what the magazines fail to include is that your mental state of being also improves. I guess its because people are not really looking for that kind of improvement because they are so preoccupied with looking good, they could care less about feeling good.

    • Vision_Quest2 says:

      Or the image-makers go too much the other way: all yoga is, is about sitting and meditating in sukhasana most of the session.
      Or yoga as doctors' bag-of-cures … "just 10 minutes a day and you could throw your pills away …"

      They pick up on actual old-school yoga asana OR feature a bunch of gymnastic-school dropouts. Anything to get your money; then when the beginner student finds that sun salutations are repetitive just like their piano fingering drills from when they were a kid … ? Because the truth lies in between … you will see pictures of former dancers and not the everyday people … you will see stories about yoga teachers who did splits and cartwheels and hung from the monkey bars when they were children and not those about everyday folks who were in dangerous urban areas and cautioned not even to ride a bike …

      Nothing good ever came without practice; not everyone will be a virtuoso .. http://recoveringyogi.com/the-yoga-virtuosos/

      It is up to the student to sit with the practice as it is … for their development and their own feeling good, and not look to the superstar yogis and advertising models for their goals …

  40. Nedam says:

    Yoga is a simple, direct way to sense and experience our bodies. Instead of having a disordered relationship with food men and women should replace that unhealthy relationship with one like yoga. It is really sad that the media can have a massive effect on everyone. Yoga is supposed to be feeling your inner-self and being comfortable with it and being healthy rather than what we usually see people going to yoga for which is to loose weight because they feel they are fat in the communities eyes. yoga should stay to remain spiritually and a how of creating positive energy, people who have negative views of themselves should join yoga and learn to find self love and acceptance.

  41. Alexander K. says:

    I find yoga to be a great way to exercise both your brain and body. Many women don't understand how beneficial yoga is, which is why they fall into prey of doing things that make them temporary happy. They do things such as drugs, alchohol, or getting abusive relationships. Since yoga isn't advertised in the media that much, they don't understand the benefits that it has to offer. Unfortunately, people don't realize that drinking or doing drugs isn't an answer to find the solution, it only helps them forget the problem. I learned that people who do yoga tend to be happier than the average individual. If more people tried yoga (even once) then maybe they will understand how amazing it is. Not only does yoga help the body, but it also makes an individual feel better about him or herself.

  42. Andrea C says:

    I agree that companies have found a way to capitalize on a past time that offers people a safe haven from the daily stress of the world. Women are now eager to buy the hottest new yoga pants and buy cute yoga outfits instead of focusing on the things yoga teaches. Yoga provides peace of mind to many women who are overwhelmed by the daily patriarchal negative sanctions in our society. Therefore, I think that people should try to respect the practice of yoga more because it represents a safe, peaceful place for many women.

  43. SydneyO says:

    Your drunken view of the street is a very straight forward way of describing the horrible trends in society today. All of the plastic surgery makes everyone look exactly the same. It's the idea of trying to look like the "ideal body"- which of course, as we discussed, is not even attainable. Women are obsessing over the superficial ways of obtaining superficiality. It makes sense that they make the conscious choice to put a knife to their skin because trying to reach the body of what they see in the magazines is not naturally possible.

    It is sad to hear about yoga being taken over by the superficial standards of today's society. Stores like Lulu Lemon, StrutThis, etc. are creating brand name clothes for yoga. $80 for a pair for pants, $50 for a sports bra. Yoga clothes is becoming a trend. What is also sad is the fact that this activity has succumb to eating disorders. As a dancer, I understand that certain body images are expected. Because yoga has become such a fashion trend, it unfortunately is bringing all of the cultural aspects along with it. Hopefully yoga will keep to the core of what it is trying to accomplish, through the love and appreciation of the body.

    • Vision_Quest2 says:

      Leaving off the question of fashion, yoga pants and body image .. this is what could happen to yoga …

      Yoga could and may become the new ballet. Even the most naturally talented yoga gurus are willing and able to put in the ritual of and further ritualizing hours of practice necessary.

      Ballet has never been and will continue never to be accessible to everyone; and, strictly speaking, not everyone can do ballet. Same thing with the more physical practices of yoga.

      Ballet pervades the culture, and even the counterculture (remember Occupy Wall Street?)

      Ballet — the elitism, and the years of study and the priming of juvenile toes; the anorexia, pain, comparisons, recriminations … or the pathos that a young girl does not deserve to have … not to mention what society still thinks of little boys who do ballet … could the pursuit of yoga be far behind ?

      Ah, but that is … DANCE … a world of comparisons.

      But look at, and LOOK OUT for … what is happening to yoga … even as I write this …

  44. InokeT says:

    Great article, I think that the media has a big role in having this ideal image that every male or female has gained unnecessary advertisements about yogo clothing and that they should feel good about themselves and be able to feel comfortable in public or at the comfort of their own home.

  45. Tasnim D says:

    This is an amazing article relating woman’s body image to feminism. In an environment where the image of weight is scrutinized especially for woman it is no wonder many women have eating disorders. And as yoga is becoming mainstream many of the people hide behind their eating disorders to and practice yoga to lose weight. Though yoga preaches the acceptance of ones own body as the way it is, the mainstream media make sure to interrupt teaching of loving one's own body by the images of yogis who have perfect shaped and toned bodies. It further brings in more insecurities of weight issues people have about their bodies. But excluding the medias new image about yoga I actually had a delightful experience as I found yoga recently and has helped me cope with my problems from stress to my own insecurities about my body . I have been able to live a healthier lifestyle and it has helped enlighten me to love my own body.It is sad and sickening to know that yoga is being taken by the mainstream images of our society.

  46. Taylor W says:

    Yoga clothes can now be found everywhere, with people capitalizing on that market. It's sad to take something so pure, like yoga, and market it. But when anything becomes popular and trendy, people seize the opportunity to make money off of it.

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