Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Sexy yoga, eh?


[NOTE: I am not making fun of Canadians here. I happen to love the “eh” that comes at the end of their sentences. I find it much more appealing than Americans’ “huh” or “whatever.”]

The other morning in my Vancouver hotel room I was surfing through the channels. It was very early and a Sunday so I wasn’t expecting to find too much. What I did find was a lot of yoga instruction.
The first show I saw seemed typical to others I have seen on television or DVD. An instructor doing the poses and two others following. She stressed going at one’s own level and the “followers” exemplified this through their abilities to reach various stages in the poses, though they both seemed to be regular practitioners. I thought it was a good demonstration of individuals’ limits no matter their level of practice. So kudos to that program. But I was not really in the mood to practice or watch yoga so I kept flipping.
It was then that I came across a very different type of yoga program. This one also had three practitioners--but all were women and none were the instructor. Rather there was a voiceover done by a woman speaking very sensually calling out the poses. And the voice matched the women who were all very thin and toned (the picture is of one of them) and were wearing very little clothing. All their midriffs were showing. They all had these pleasant looks of calm on their faces. It was like Stepford yoga. A little research and I found out that this program is called Namaste (not very original) and here is the description from the CityTV website:
This innovative series combines sensual, stunning photography and original music with authentic Hatha yoga practice. Namaste is designed by Kate Potter, one of Canada's leading instructors and yoga therapists. Kate's "Hatha Vinyasa" style is both dynamic and gentle. Shot in High Definition in exquisite settings, each episode teaches a unique flow sequence and inspires viewers to begin or continue their yoga practice.
Despite the description I did not find it very accessible. The show would appeal to two populations: 1) people who are already fairly well-versed in yoga and thus probably have enough money to go to an actual studio rather than do it in front of the television on a Sunday morning; and 2) horny people--seriously it was all very sexualized; the sensual/sexual divide is pretty thin in this case.
What was most curious though about the program was the aforementioned "photography." Basically the scenery kept on changing. The women would continue to go through the poses but their location was switching. Sometimes they were outdoors in a park, other times they looked like they were in a studio, sometimes in the loge or under the arch of a stone building.
This was odd but not especially troubling until the women were transported to one particular scene: very industrial, alley, dark and rainy. Basically a place no woman would dare to venture because she has been taught that such places are dangerous. It was certainly not a place women would be doing yoga. What was this scenery saying? That yoga is so empowering you can do it anywhere without fear of physical or sexual assault?
I am not sure exactly but the whole thing was very surreal and troubling and not very empowering even when they were practicing in a nice green outdoor space.

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