The Equinox Yoga Video: Sex…or Art? My perspective. {Article in English & Spanish}

The Elephant Ecosystem

Every time you read, share, comment or heart you help an article improve its Rating—which helps Readers see important issues & writers win $$$ from Elephant. Learn more.

Views 10
Shares 1.5
Hearts 0.0
Comments 10
Editor's Pick 0.0
Total Ecosystem Rating 0.0
0 Do you love this article? Show the author your support by hearting.

(Para leerlo en Español, haga clic aquí.)

The world is living through a lot of tumult at the moment: governments falling, economies teetering on the brink of failure. As if that global drama is not enough for us to deal with, it seems that this turmoil is also playing itself out, albeit in a much more minor and somewhat ridiculous way, within our yoga community.

Lately, there has been one yoga controversy after the next. This week the controversy was about the New York Times article labeling yoga as “dangerous.” That one kicked up quite a firestorm!

And most recently, the one that is currently swirling around and in which I have found myself front and center, is the controversy of the Equinox Sex.. er, I mean Yoga, video.

I first saw this video yesterday after Waylon posted it to Elephant Journal. I was immediately captivated by its raw beauty, by the absolute grace and poise the yogini displayed as she skillfully and mindfully moved between the challenging and complicated yoga poses. For me, this was watching art in motion.

It did not phase me in the slightest that she was clad in her undies—in fact to me this made it all the more artful; to be able to see her belly moving with her breath, to see the muscles flex and move with her, to see her strength radiating out from her core. Like watching a ballerina move across the stage, this was the ultimate expression of the raw beauty and power of the human form.

Then, today, I began seeing some fellow yoga teachers and practitioners posting about how they were “disgusted” and “appalled” by this video, that they felt it was over-sexualized and exploitative to women, and that it belittled the practice of yoga.

Huh? How can two people look at the same video and see something so completely different? Within minutes a flurry of comments had exploded on one of my teacher’s Facebook pages, most of them speaking out against the video and saying that it was merely a marketing ploy to sell sex.

Hmm, perhaps. Okay, now I’m not a man or a gay woman, so it wouldn’t be my first reaction to think “sex” when looking at a video of a hot yoga lady, but to be honest I was so captivated by the pure beauty of it, that there was nothing remotely sexual in my mind.

I watched as other people (teachers and students) commented that they felt exploited by it, that they felt it “put them in a box,” a box in which they didn’t wish to be. Now, of course we are all entitled to feel what we feel and to express our opinions therein, and this article is in no way meant to disrespect the opinions of others.

My view is that we can only be put into a box if we allow ourselves to be put into a box. Isn’t it all a matter of the mindset from which we come, from which we in ourselves are viewing and interpreting the video?

I say this because not only did I not feel exploited or disgusted by the video, but I felt the exact opposite. I felt inspired, I felt empowered, I felt liberated. Here is a woman with incredible strength and control and on top of that a gorgeous yoga body, one which I would aspire to have. To be honest, this video only inspires me to want to do more yoga towards that goal. It does not give me a body-image problem or make me feel insecure in myself. In fact I say power to her for having a kick-ass bod’ and being able to rock it! If I had that body, I’d want to stand in it proudly and own it. The ability to stand confidently in one’s own body and to not feel like an object, but rather to feel in full control of yourself, mind, body and spirit…that to me is true empowerment.

As the facebook debate grew over the video, I felt like I was in a definite minority. Most of the people had felt disgusted or offended in some way by the video. So what was different about me that I was not? Why was I able to view it purely as art, while others had viewed it as “yoga porn”? Well, I think that with anything in life, we view things through the lens of our own experiences and our own emotions. I cannot speak for the experiences from which anyone else comes, I can only speak for myself.

I am a liberated woman who is secure in herself and her body, a woman who has a rooted mental, spiritual and physical yoga and meditation practice. And I am fortunate that in my life I have seldom felt that I was objectified or oppressed as a woman. Quite the opposite in fact. Lucky to have been raised by a long line of empowered women, I like to consider myself among them. Coming from that frame of reference, I was able to view this video as inspiring and empowering and as nothing more (or less) than art.

But as I watched the critical comments grow and grow, I realized there had to be something more. Perhaps it was something societal? Another hypothesis was beginning to form in my mind. You see, I had lived in Spain for a year during college and it was an extremely regular occurrence to see television commercials (for shampoo, etc) with bare-breasted and half nude women, as well as men. My impression is that in Spain, as well as the rest of Europe and Latin America, this is nothing lewd or pornographic, but instead is simply part of the cultural landscape. Themes related to the human body, nudity and human sexuality in general are not nearly as taboo in Europe or Latin America as they are here and because of that the average person is not remotely phased by seeing even a nude person, never mind one that is wearing underwear. This would be so uninteresting in Europe and in the Latin world.

I began thinking about the Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction” during the Super Bowl all those years ago and how it became a national scandal. That insignificant incident was taken so out of control that the FCC began an investigation, spending countless amounts of taxpayer dollars, to investigate the “halftime flash.” Seriously? I could not believe this at the time it occurred. It’s a breast for God’s sake. Most of us have seen them and mothers have to breastfeed their babies all the time. But here even that can be taboo, and in less progressive areas mothers feel that they have to shield themselves and find a private place just to feed their babies.

Would you believe me if I told you my Spanish sister (of my Spanish host family) would sit on the couch, both breasts completely exposed as she nursed her baby? There was no attempt to conceal, nor was there anything awkward or unusual about it. The conversation continued as normal, guests would come and go and her father and brother just went about their business playing their video games. The human body, even in its nude form, is simply part of normal, every-day society in many other parts of the world. So was it my experience living in Spain and seeing their own relaxed attitudes towards the human body, that allowed me to view this video through a different lens?

That was my theory. So I decided to test it. You see I am a writer and in addition to writing in English, I also write in Spanish and my Spanish-speaking audience is actually my largest. Having been a Spanish major in college and having lived, worked and traveled in both Spain and Latin America, I’ve become pretty immersed in their culture and understand it well. So I had a suspicion that the Latinos might view the video through a very different lens.

I posted it to my 13,000 fans across Spain and Latin America, and this is exactly what I said to them (in Spanish of course):

This video is receiving all sorts of controversy in the yoga world here in the US. Many believe the video to be too sexual. I, on the other hand, see nothing more than raw beauty. I see art in the perfection of the human body and in the strength and grace with which the woman moves through her poses. What do you see?

Though I was not at all surprised by the reaction, I was surprised by the speed of the response and the fervor of the reaction. It was nothing short of a fascinating cultural study. Within 20 minutes I had over 50 comments, from all over Latin America and Spain and I have just looked back at them now to see the latest and I am speaking with 100% honesty when I tell you that not a single person commented that they saw anything sexual or exploitative about the video. This in fact surprised even me. I figured at least some of them would have shared the views of my fellow North Americans. Not a single one. Their responses stood out to me as even more interesting. I will share some of them with you here (translated). These comments are taken directly from my fans, from a mixture of men and women, and do not necessarily reflect my own views:

-I see yoga, grace, balance, concentration. (Yo veo Yoga, gracia, equilibrio, concentración….)

-Marvelous…a perfect union of the WHOLE…from which flows the perfection of mind, body and spirit of this young woman!!! Spectacular. (maravilloso….una union perfecta con el TODO….donde fluye a la perfeccion el cuerpo, mente y alma d esa joven!!!, espectacular!)

-I see yoga.. nothing more, nothing less.. (Yo veo Yoga… nada mas, nada menos…)

-How marvelous! What a beautiful practice this is, flowing in every movement, showing control of her mind, body, spirit. Brilliant!! (Qué maravilla !!, qué bello trabajo hay allí, fluye en cada movimiento, muestra dominio de su mente, cuerpo, espíritu. Genial!!)

-I only see a girl doing yoga. I don’t see anything remotely sexual. He who sees sex in this video also would see it looking at the clouds moving in the sky. The problem is not with the video, but rather with what is in the minds of those who think this is sexual. (Solo veo una chica haciendo Yoga. No veo por ningun lado contenido sexual. El que vea sexo en el video tambien lo vera cuando ve las nubes moviendose en el cielo. Entonces el problema no es el video,sino lo que tienen en la mente los que opinan esto.)

-Marvelous, I would love to practice yoga, I hope to one day have the flexibility that she has. Really beautiful. Blessings. (maravilloso,me encanta practicar Yoga,espero llegar a tener la flexibilidad de ella algún día.realmente hermoso.bendiciones)

-The truth is that I don’t see the basis to think this video has a sexual connotation, I see harmony, flexibility, art. Surely if she had done yoga covered in a sweatsuit, I would have seen something else. (La verdad que no sé en que se basan para dar connotación sexual a éste video, yo veo armonía, flexibilidad, arte. Seguramente si hubiese hecho yoga con su cuerpo cubierto por un equipo de gimnasia hubiesen visto otra cosa.)

-I love it. I didn’t see anything sexual…(me encanto!!! no le vi nada sexual…)

-I only see the beauty of body in movement…The harmony and control is poetry. (Sólo veo la belleza del cuerpo en movimiento… La armonia y control es una poesía.)

– I love it Jeannie, the connotation that each person gives to this video will be based on their platform. (me encantó Jeannie, la connotación que cada quien le de a este video será según su plataforma.)

Gringos Locos. (I don’t think I need to tell you what this last one means. I put this in for comic relief! ; )

These are just a cross-section of the comments. To ensure authenticity for yourselves, I invite you to view all of the comments here. I share these comments with you by no means to belittle or condemn the opinions of those who did see the video as exploitative and sexual. Their reactions were just as real and visceral as was mine, and it did open up what I think is a very important discussion for our society. And to be honest, I can certainly see how someone would have that interpretation of the video, and I 1,000% respect that opinion. It simply was not my reaction nor my interpretation and as I am forever the inquisitive person, this simply set me on the path to trying to understand why.

I have found the differences in reaction between the North American and Latin worlds to be nothing short of an illuminating study of cultures and societies, a study that has been ongoing for me as I delve deeply into writing in both worlds. Considering that the vast majority of the reactions that I saw from my North American friends was to view the video as sexual, I would say that they are probably right in accusing Equinox of trying to sell sex. But again, considering that same reaction, I can only say in reference to Equinox… kudos to them, that is clearly some damn clever marketing!

That said, given that 100% of the Latinos that commented shared my view that the video was nothing but beauty and art in motion, and that it also inspired them to want to practice yoga, I would say that the ad could potentially be equally as effective in Latin America…but for entirely different reasons. If we can say that “Sex Sells” in the United States, it seems the equivalent statement for Latin America would be that “Art Sells.”  And assuming once again (and I think we can all agree) that sex does in fact sell in our society and considering that the Latinos didn’t view this video as remotely sexual, then I would say it’s not Equinox that we should be condemning…but perhaps we ought to take a closer look at our society.

To hear directly from Briohny herself, click here to read her full interview.

The Elephant Ecosystem

Every time you read, share, comment or heart you help an article improve its Rating—which helps Readers see important issues & writers win $$$ from Elephant. Learn more.

Views 10
Shares 1.5
Hearts 0.0
Comments 10
Editor's Pick 0.0
Total Ecosystem Rating 0.0
0 Do you love this article? Show the author your support by hearting.

is a new feature on Elephant Journal—enabling you to instantly share your mindful ideas, photos, art, YouTube videos/Instagram links & writings with our 5 million readers. Try it Now.

Write Now

Jeannie Page

Jeannie Page is a reformed .com management professional who has made a dramatic shift in her life, a shift to follow her bliss and to get into alignment in order to be a force for good in the world. Martha Stewart’s Blogger of the Month in Whole Living Magazine, Jeannie is also the founder of The Yoga Diaries and also maintains her own blog The Awakened Life. Jeannie, and details about her current book project, can be found on Facebook here and on Twitter at @jeannienpage. Jeannie's Spanish Facebook page can be found here. Jeannie also previously served as the Spanish Language Editor for Elephant Journal. Click here for the Elephant Journal en Español Facebook page. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________ Jeannie Page es una profesional de gestión reformada quien ha hecho un gran cambio en su vida, un cambio para seguir a su felicidad, para entrar en la alineación y ser una fuerza del bien en el mundo. Ella mantiene un Blog a Despertando a la Vida. Jeannie, y detalles sobre su proyecto de libro actual, se pueden encontrar en Facebook aquí y en Twitter a @JeanniePageES. Jeannie también fue la Editora del Idioma Española para Elephant Journal. Haga clic aquí para la página de Facebook de Elephant Journal en Español.


139 Responses to “The Equinox Yoga Video: Sex…or Art? My perspective. {Article in English & Spanish}”

  1. In my opinion, Yoga is about grace, strength, and good health; things which I find extremely sexy in any person no matter what they are wearing. There are places in the world where clothing is less important than it is in North America. I was caught off guard on a New Zealand beach when a woman took off all her clothing for a lunch time swim. Was I appalled? Only in the fact that we do not enjoy such liberties here in the stuffy, puritanical "New World."

  2. Chrissie says:

    Awsome video. I don't find it sexual at all, it just shows the beauty of the human form & what it can do. Inspiring.
    Thanks Jeannie for a thought provoking article. Cheers. By the way I'm from neither US or Spain, but down under in NZ. 🙂

  3. kar says:

    (Accidentally posted this as a reply to a comment and meant to post it asit's own comment.)

    I was thoroughly mesmerized by watching the woman in the video. As I watched her I felt both awestruck and inspired. That being said, I did question the rationale for having someone in the bed? Why?

    The woman in the video reminds me of how powerful, graceful and beautiful the human form can be…please don't try to distract from that by adding an irrelevant person to a rumpled bed.

  4. Did you read the last paragraph of my piece? I agreed in the end that Equinox was clearly trying to sell sex, and that says more about our society than it does about Equinox. My main point was to explore the 2 different cultural reactions. We all know it's an advertisement, that isn't what is in question, nor have I argued that it is not. What IS subjective is whether it is viewed as sexual exploitation or an artistic expression. As evidenced by the hundreds of comments above, there are clearly hundreds of other people who also view it as art (again regardless of it being an ad-you are missing the point.)

    • Maya says:

      I got you, still dont like the art part though, If an ad is visually appealing it doesn't mean its Art! Art doesn't sell gym membership, ads do! I think it was visually beautiful too because Im not detached from the social ideal of my society either! Namaste

      • Maya says:

        ok, people agree with you, your obviously right then, haha, may I remind you that all people in North Korea are fans of Communism and most people in this country were for slavery of African Americans at one time. Watch that argument! And yes people in South America are known for being intensely infatuated with the visual appeal of a womens "perfect barbie body" hence all the plastic surgery. Not sexual energy which is in all women but the destruction of women to fit one hardly attainable idea to the point that they get cut open because they feel as though their is something wrong with the way they look! And then after their done with that they use that body to sell cars on Telemundo! very different then sensuality and the oppression of that in America compaired to South America which I agree with, Ithink thats the argument your trying to make! still not art its sex. My sister-in-law is a very well known NY artist originally from Paraquay, her art is art, not always visually following societal view of beauty. Sometimes really gross looking, but theres a message and its not "must go to Equinox to look like that girl and have that man and that apart. and that bed because that will make me happy and happiness is outside of myself" I think I understand what your trying to say though, the difference in cultural views of sex but your confused because I'm not having a different I cultural view then you, this is not art to Latinos or Americans!

  5. This is a fantastic wake-up call for Americans, who have such a dysfunctional relationship with their sexuality! Bravo Amiga! Definitivamente algo que demuestra la differencia en consciouencia entre culturas. Que lastima que los Americanos le tienen tanto miedo a los senos y a su propia sexualidad. Increible!

  6. yogi bear says:

    the human body is very purposeful as well as beautiful. This video was an example of both!

  7. Pyrate says:

    Circus Performer? Athlete? Yogini? It is not 'traditional' yoga, but neither is our world a traditional one anymore. The video was tasteful, sumptuous and inspiring… and yes it said to me "We can practice anytime, even when our partner is sleeping in the same room.." etc. And what a nice room to be practicing in. Get over it people. It is grace, youth, strength and agility all rolled into a sweet routine you wish you could still do. I liked your observation of the different cultural responses. North Americans are way too uptight about sexuality and need to loosen up and embrace sensual images and ideas instead of consuming sexualisation and objectification. There IS a difference.

  8. […] or discouragement? *Other articles on this topic: Why the Sexy Equinox Yoga Video Pissed Me Off, The Equinox Yoga Video: Sex… Or Art? My Perspective, El Video de Equinox… El Sexo…. O el Arte?? Mi Perspectiva, Yoga is […]

  9. Robert says:

    this article is absolutely excellent!!!!!!!!!!!! I had to read it again.

  10. […] desiring a mindful life it is our responsibility to speak out against unjust legislation. All the yoga videos, pictures of Adam Levine, advice on meditation and relationships doesn’t matter if we […]

  11. Anna says:

    Beautiful, yes…exploitative, most likely….the two dharshana….missing the point of yoga and turning it into something physical, completely….. of course, the one thing I've yet to read from anyone is that rather one is inspired to have a "kick ass bod" and "be able to rock it" or feeling exploited and increasingly less confident about their body: YOGA ISN'T ABOUT GETTING A KICK AS BODY!!! that misses the point completely…
    Anna, psychotherapist, post partum doula, and certified yoga teacher

    • I don't agree. While there is of course a physical element to this video, obviously, there is equally a clear display of will, focus and absolute mind-control. That IS yoga. It's not about the body, it never was. It's about strength of mind, body and spirit, all in union.

  12. Colo5280 says:

    I have no issue with this video except – for the fact there is someone (appears to be a man) sleep in the bed. Something about that takes the video from a peek into someone's a.m. routine (beautiful! and I agree the under wear do not bother me at all) to a sexualized version of what could have been a really cool, raw and real yoga video.

  13. […] seen several diverse viewpoints debated on Elephant Journal, and we’ve also seen a broad dialogue taking place, with all different opinions being expressed, […]

  14. […] artistic attempts to portray nudity, are still igniting such international controversy proves – once again – that as a global alley we would greatly benefit from some more naked […]

  15. […] other yoga controversy lighting up the internet arose when Equinox sports clubs released a promotional video featuring the svelte and stunningly beautiful Briohny Smyth doing a gravity-defying, awe-inspiring […]

  16. […] this video has been under a lot of scrutiny…unwarranted in my opinion, but read about it here if the topic interests […]

  17. Opensecret says:

    That America is repressed sexually is not a new surprise. However, from my perspective she could have been doing it naked and I would have the same insight. Her poses are not that great. Her form is not that great. As an example of yoga it's just not that great. If you want to see great yoga – check out Patricia Walden or Ana Forrest. Sure they're older but one can learn so much more from what they do and how they do it. This girl, although pretty, is not yet beautiful and not quite yoga – it's more like gymnastics but has lost the healing aspect. So to me those things distract from it's appeal. As a non-gay woman I can still appreciate another woman's beauty – this young girl does not make me wish I were gay. Oh and Janet's boob popping out – whatev – it just seemed so foreign against the outfit she was wearing. Her outfit – stiff, streamlined, hard vs her boob: soft, organic, floppy purely from an estheticPOV it didn't work with the outfit.

  18. […] said.The other yoga controversy lighting up the internet arose when Equinox sports clubs released a promotional video featuring the svelte and stunningly beautiful Briohny Smyth doing a gravity-defying, awe-inspiring […]

  19. […] The Equinox Yoga Video: Sex…or Art? My perspective. {Article in English & Spanish} ( […]

  20. Peggy says:

    this is art. i practice yoga, and i am from canada, and i do not find this video in the least to be sexually stimulating. i watched this video in awe and instantly became inspired. The video depicts perfect control over the body, and the best way to show this is to not cover up the body. I will also say that i have a preference for girls, but am not 'aroused' in any way from seeing this clip. i saw the play on light and shadow on her body, the music, and the close-ups, and consider it to be art (maybe because i am an art student as well). i finished the video with a sense of admiration and aspiration and nothing more.

  21. Shivin Varghese says:

    I wouldnt call it sexual or even remotely "pornographic". But Its like adding a tinge of eroticism to yoga… these days I see to promote one's studio, many women from the west just go about having a flurry of photo albums of them doing asanas in just a bikini.

    Look at some of the instructors from India (including Saraswati – the grand daughter of Pattabhi Jois who teaches ashtange yoga) Do they teach yoga being scantily clad… do they actually have to be in just a bra and panties to tell the students how to move the belly and bring breath movements while doing the asanas?

    Speaking of students in Bikram yoga".. well that man, I'v seen him always dancing around women in skimpy clothes.. Imagine someone who would charge a huge sum to people in the name of opening studios in the asanas patented by hi,. He even goes to the extent of making yoga a competition…. I call him the spoilt brat among the authentic yoga teachers from India…So I'd rather never speak about Bikram yoga 😀

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.