One of the many tasks we were set this weekend at Yoga Teacher Training involved finding teachers and asking for permission to sit in their classes and observe. Having had some free time on my hands I decided to google around for teachers in my neighbourhood whose style I felt might resonate really strongly with me. Going onto the website of my favourite yoga studio, I couldn't believe how the number of teachers seemed to have trebled since the last time I logged on ( which was about a year ago). One link led to the next, to the next, one website to another, and suddenly I was stuck in the complex labyrinth of yoga teacher websites and all of them seemed to merge into one entangled mess of 'arty' yoga photos, numbers and the recurring phrases 'heart', 'soul', 'journey' all mushed in one.
Amidst this Theseus maze of teacher details and writeups one website in particular stood out. It featured a teacher dressed provocatively in skin-tight lycra, super tiny hot shorts with long toned, well-oiled, tanned limbs seductively arranged into a stunning handstand-split. In another, the same teacher with her hot tiny shorts and barely-there flaming red-hot camisole, got herself into a side plank with the lower leg hooked round behind her head. It might just be me, but it kind of bordered on the obscene. It didn't help that the colours in the picture had been modified to increase the vibrancy of her flaming shorts and film-thin camisole. To me it just looked like a greasy, sleazy snapshot whose sexual innuendo was as subtle as a club to the head.
It seems in this day and age where yoga teachers are dime a dozen, the phrase 'sex sells' seems to have found its way into a tradition rooted in discernment and purification. The other old adage of 'when you got it, flaunt it' also seems to ring true when it comes to teacher self-promotion. How else is one teacher going to stand out from the next when you can't throw a rock without hitting a yogi/yoga teacher/ yoga enthusiast of some kind. The most obvious method of promotion would be to use what yo' momma/ yoga gave ya'. Some yoga teachers believe that what their substance and quality of teaching speaks for itself, but in a society where everyone is screaming to be heard, it seems the rules of the game have been changed. With yoga becoming a mainstream sport, it seems to has its value. It has become a commodity to be sold, packaged, branded and sexed up to appeal to the masses. Even the more established teachers are not immune from the odd no-bra, plunging neckline, super mini -skinny-short-split shots, or this...
Nudity and 'sex' has suddenly become okay in the Yoga world because it is afterall, all in the name of a deeply holistic and honoured practice...right? Yoga nudity is different, it is body 'art' because everything has a soft, warm glow and shows the beauty of the female body in all its well-honed glory. It is different from say this...
with all its sweaty thrusting and occasional 'hey baby' thrown in. Yoga photos are still, calm and evocative of meditation. Set in a separate world of idyllic beaches or empty, glossy space the sexy Yoga body has suddenly become justified in our sub conscious as not only acceptable but desirable.
As I go through my Yoga Teacher Training, I begin to reflect what this will mean for me as a fledgling yoga teacher. What kind of visual vocabulary will I be drawing on to attract clients and promote teaching services? Would I be going down the whole basic html website, fuss-free approach or choosing the whole 'arty' sexy look, or maybe throwing in loads of psychedelic buddhabrot images because I think they're cool? What kind of style will you be using or have used to promote yourself as a yoga teacher?
Needless to say, whether proactive self- promotion or shameless exploitation, the teacher with the hot hot shorts will be stuck in my head for some time, or at least until the next one comes along.