Stop Sexualizing Yoga, Already!

“So, do you just use that as your pick-up line?” A hint of mischief laced his response to my telling him that I'm a yoga teacher. Luckily, (for him), I’ve become accustomed to this obsession with the (American) sexualization of yoga, and I’ve used my yogic filter — and the principle of ahimsa — to avoid inflicting any harm on the people who immediately connect yoga with being sexy and wearing tight, stretchy clothes.

I just returned to the USA after a two-year quest overseas, and because I now have a wide reference map to compare and contrast societies, I can easily attest to the glorification of sex in our culture. Everywhere we go, advertisements bombard our subconscious and conscious minds, portraying the ultimate sex appeal for men and women alike to strive to mimic. Ranging from advertisements to song lyrics to social media of all sorts, it seems like everyone is obsessed with being sexier. So much so that it’s even begun to trickle into the ancient practice of yoga, which originated in India thousands of years ago, as a physical and mental discipline leveraged to attain inner peace.

Let me be clear: back in the caves in India, nobody was giggling at the word “bendy.”

So now, because we've crafted the perfect advertisements for pants that eliminate an average of 10 years from a woman's behind, we have in turn created a breeding ground for sexual irresponsibility in our yoga studios and beyond. We have repelled thousands of overweight people from the mat because they do not believe they are fit enough, “bendy” enough, sexy enough — good enough. We're totally missing the mark, not just in teaching the physical postures, but in living the yogic lifestyle. We have succumbed to the infamous adage, “sex sells,” and tainted a sacred practice.

So, now that we understand the reality, what can we do?

We must rethink our approach and, as a community, begin to implement some damage control before we completely lose sight of the spiritual, mental, and emotional reasons we embrace the mat. We can encourage practitioners to connect to themselves on deeper levels and educate people on the history and origin of yoga. And we can remind each other that the real sexiness comes from living with intention and an elevated consciousness, not from simply being “bendy.”

Finally, we can rededicate ourselves to respecting our bodies, our minds, and our practices. May you find sexiness in your inner peace instead of your outer appearance. Namaste.

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