Can advertisers stop marketing Yoga as soft porn?

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Lululemon’s Facebook marquee

 

Someone in the blogosphere wisely stated that Yoga in the West can be compared to a “sassy teenager.” I can understand where that statement comes from seeing how Yoga has become more of an Instagram event rather than a practice to deeply understand one’s self. Advertisers of commercialized Yoga seem to be picking up on the “teenage mentality” demographic and are exploiting it to it’s fullest. All you see in Yoga magazines like Yoga Journal and websites like Elephant Journal are nonstop images of suggestive young women who are not even doing asana, but just leering at you in suggestive positions (see below). The odd paradox is that Yoga is seen as a primarily women’s only exercise in the US, but the way Yoga is being marketed looks like it would attract the male Hustler crowd.

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I shouldn’t mind, I’m a typical male, right?! Well I do mind because I am a serious Yoga practitioner and think that the practice is sacred. As I wrote in my last post, Yoga is marketed in a way that makes men feel unwelcome. Many male practitioners feel stepping into a Yoga class at a boutique studio is not too different than stepping into an illicit peep show in the seedy part of town.

I have my undergraduate degree in media studies and my masters in psychology. I know exactly what the mainstream Yoga marketers are doing. They are doing to Yoga what they have done to everything else in West…sexualize it to sell it. I am surprised at the lack of outrage by female practitioners when they see what is being promoted as “Yoga.” Last month Yoga Journal even tried to rectify the situation by showing a “plus sized model” on the cover. But this is all they could come up with:

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Yoga does not need to be marketed this way. In fact, it should not be marketed at all in my opinion. Yoga practitioners in the West need to stop with the paradigm that Yoga is something that needs to be proselytized. Yoga is a discipline and should be treated as such. The problem is that now people feel they are entitled to make a living doing Yoga after they spend 200 hours and $3000 USD to get “registered” as a Yoga teacher. This has made Yoga into more of a commercial enterprise than a practice to conquer one’s ego. Until that paradigm changes, Yoga Journal will become the new Maxim, and Yoga will continue to be dominated by the #namasteeverydamnday Instagram crowd.

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7 thoughts on “Can advertisers stop marketing Yoga as soft porn?

  1. CultFit

    What concerns me after reading your insightful and timely post, is the many women and men, that suffer daily with social norms and their “body image”. The many beautiful souls who never step foot on a mat, solely because they are intimidated by not looking the part. What pisses me off is the predatory marketing these companies consciously choose to engage in – one quick search of “Lululemon gussett concealing pants” … *Taking a deep inhale …*Being true to ones true spirit I suppose is a poor business decision?!? Its a shame, it truly is.

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  2. Scott@SkepticMeditations

    The old marketing adage “sex sells” seems to apply for Modern Yoga marketers. I get email spam everyday from the “Yoga” product sellers too, because of my blog. I’m sure you do too.

    The reason yoga is popular is because it’s valued as physical exercise: tones the body, abs, buttocks. If you cut all these “postural” yoga practitioners out of the market, you’re left with the meditation, mindfulness, and siddha (supernatural powers) and self-realization seekers. Yoga as a stand-alone term, is almost meaningless, without adding the words Hatha, Jnana, Bhakti, or whatever to help narrow the field. “Yoga” is a flexible term, no pun intended, by design. That’s how Swami Vivekananda and Theosophical Society were able to bring yoga to the West starting in the late 1800s. They packaged yoga for a Western audience. I write often on these topics. I understand your challenge in trying to define yoga as a “serious” discipline. Calling the above two or three photos soft porn might be a stretch (another pun), but I get your point. But, if we remove the word “yoga” from those sexy model shots we notice the rest of these ads are virtually the same ad as a hundred other popular ads we might encounter everyday in the media.

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  3. yogibattle Post author

    Thanks for your wise comments Scott. I am glad that you understand the other types of Yoga out there. Most people just view Yoga as another group exercise class offered at their gym. Meditation also gets its share of flim-flam. I was reading today on yogadork.com about underground mindfulness meditation groups popping up in Brooklyn. It is about a millimeter away from looking like Heaven’s Gate Cult of the late 90’s.

    You are right that sex sells. The above photographs are not porn per se, but a woman taking off her shirt revealing a bra, another with her legs apart looking at you, and a third touted as “full sized” but jumping on a trampoline in her skivvies are all images a million light years from Yoga’s intended purpose of stilling the mind so the practitioner can perceive his/her own true nature. In modern postural yoga, that isn’t even the point anymore.

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    1. yogibattle Post author

      Thanks Andrea! Yoga Rahashya, the quarterly from the Iyengar institute uses artwork for their covers. Every issue is a gem. It would be nice if “big Yoga” would pick up on that trend.

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