August 11, 2010

Calling for Empowering Visions from Advertisers of Yoga Products.

How should yoga be represented in advertising? Is nudity appropriate?

There has been much discussion about nudity in advertising when the subject is yoga, thanks to a letter written by Judith Hanson Lasater to Yoga Journal. I am so grateful to her for writing the letter, and I am thankful to Yoga Journal for publishing it. The letter awakened in me an awareness that I had been desensitized to. I, too, am uncomfortable when it comes to the use of nudity in the ads in the magazine.

I am a yoga teacher, and work with people and their bodies all day long. It’s important that there be clarity about what is happening, including clarity of touch. When I am helping someone with their pose with a hands-on assist, it is important that we understand what that is about. I work with care for the person and their physiology, and if I detect sensuality beyond what is helpful for the pose I remove my hands. Even if something is being said of a sexual nature—anything of the body can come up in a yoga session, especially when working privately—I am sure to remove my hands at that point because I want to be clear with my body language that my role is yoga teacher. Sometimes, to me, this means being a good listener.

If we build up the mystique of the sexuality of the yoga teacher through ads that boast the sensual naked bodies of yogis it can only harm what is already an intimate relationship between teacher and student. Because yoga as it is popularly understood is primarily body-based, I think that many people do assume that their yoga teacher might understand their bodies better than their lover. So I think that the naked ads can only cause psychological mischief.

Another aspect of the nudity in these ads is that of vulnerability. When someone is naked, they are vulnerable. Clothing is protective of our privacy and warmth, preserving a necessary boundary in yoga, as I know it. (Of course I have practiced naked, but in privacy…except for at Burning Man—oh well…things are different there.) But, this isn’t about truth in advertising… I think that showing someone naked and vulnerable around yoga props and accessories definitely indicates a false intimacy.

Nudity can be sacred, beautiful and natural. So my issue isn’t about nudity per se. I just don’t like the way these ads imply false expectations about their products.

My favorite coverage in Elephant about a use of nudity in art—that really stretched and enhanced my understanding of the subject—is a post called: Get Naked To “Prove You’re Not A Robot”. Here are a couple of relevant excerpts:

Nudity is an instant way, many times, to achieve a level of vulnerability and frankness. I believe that it reminds the viewer of their own humanity and fragility. It is also a very cheap and available costume.


I feel like bringing nudity- and nudity that does not defy arousal but that acknowledges sexuality amongst the wide breadth of other ways and times we are confronted with our own bodies, is crucial. It’s crucial to me anyway, to help me feel like a whole person. I see the human body being treated so sorely, and culturally it is still the dumping ground for this high-grade ambient shame that seems to persist, so I think nudity is an important tool to address that shame.

In art I believe that nudity can be used in ways that are constructive for deepening our understanding of ourselves, but in advertising it only serves to strengthen unhealthy stereotypes about women.

Advertisers: please show me authentic images that empower people rather than subjugate them. If your product will assist my yoga practice I will (and regularly do) buy your products. I truly believe that our culture is too immature to be able to be mindful of nudity in advertising for yoga products, as it sets up inappropriate expectations. Please refrain from this disrespectful practice: we need room to grow. Thank you.

* This article is joyfully provided by Yogic Muse *

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