As many of you have probably also done this week, I recently viewed this video posted on a few people’s Facebook pages. Naturally, the curious kitty I am, clicked on the link to view the video. My initial thoughts were focused on her asana practice. I admired the manner in which the woman in the video was able to float effortlessly through her random sequence of various advanced postures. I also picked up a couple of things to try in my own personal practice, as I have yet to be able to push from crow into handstand without the assistance of a strap. In addition, I applauded her for being able to maintain smooth steady breath, and control of her movements, throughout the practice. In short, my response to the video was based on my experience from an analytical perspective, as an experienced yoga practitioner. When it was complete, I closed my browser and went about my work for the day, thinking nothing more of the video because it left no other impression upon me, beyond the initial observations.
Then, I began to see it pop up more and more in people’s posts which festered a hint annoyance that finally turned into full on irritation about this stupid crap when I got an email from elephantjournal.com yesterday, in regards to all of the controversy this little 3-minute marketing piece has spurred. Congratulations to Equinox, for their successful execution of a brilliant, little viral marketing tactic! Their video has created a whole flood of comments from readers about whether or not their AD (and it is, my friends, indeed an ad) represents Sex, Art or Yoga. The more people who discuss it, the more people there are to log on and view it and weigh in on the subject, which is exactly how viral marketing works. The company’s advertising message is sent via social networks across the globe and the cost to Equinox was in the high quality production, which is much less than they would have had to pay to secure space for a 3+ minute ad to run on television.
This was most certainly a smart business strategy to promote a brand and its product. It seems to me that the author of the Elephant Journal article was easily swayed, as well, by the company’s marketing ploy, as she touted her full support this week for the beautiful 30-year-old mother’s display of her physical mastery of an asana practice. I agree that her capabilities are badass and certainly not easily attainable for the average practitioner. Some readers have found the video to be “amazing” and “inspiring”, two of the most over-used words in the English language this year, no doubt. Some found it to be sexy, and many believe it to be Yoga. Others, like me, are not so easily convinced. I am weighing in that the video is most certainly 2 out of the 3 and why it is, most definitely, NOT the third.
Below are a few comments that stuck out in particular:
Here is the author’s slightly offensive, somewhat ignorant and completely naïve response…….
Yet, while the author was busy standing on her soapbox of disappointment for the American views on sexuality in the media versus those of her Western European counterparts, she failed to do some research on the company’s intention for the video itself (along with studying up on cultural traditions and relations around the world……) . I wanted to get a fair perspective of the issue from all sides, so I first visited the company’s website and found their creative summary of the video they have entitled “The Contortionist”.
Point 1: The company represents the video here as both a work of artistry and sensuality. Sensuality can be empowering, and confidence is sexy, and Art can be both. I am not sure when or where we decided that if it was one, it could not be the other, but in fact the two are closely interlaced. The Mona Lisa caused quite a scandal back in the day for being considered “too sexual in nature”. Today, we view it as a masterful art piece displaying a fully-clothed woman, with only the slightest hint of a smile and why??? It is intriguing – you don’t know why she is smiling. Just as we now don’t know why Briohny is practicing in what we assume to be her room, and assume it to be morning, in her super fancy underwear.
Then I did a bit more digging on Briohny Smyth to learn she was quite the music star in Thailand some years back, but has been practicing asana for 15 years, and has also battled bulimia as a young woman along the way. Most women have dealt with body image issues at some point or another in their lives, so I can understand her urge to flaunt it when she conquered the attachments to those stigmas – I am proud of her for doing the work she needed to in order to liberate herself from these debilitating, self-loathing thoughts.
Point 2: There is no reason for us to label the woman in the commercial as a “soft porn actress” or stamp a scarlet “A” on her chest because she has some dude lying in her bed. He is a dude in a commercial. If he is even a dude at all, who knows because it took me three views of the damn thing before I even realized there was even a dude in her disheveled bed! Again, let’s not get tied up in labels of who he is – a husband, a wife, a lover, a one-night stand – who cares?! The real question is what was the purpose of him/her being placed in the ad?
Advertising, by design, is a form of communication meant to persuade an audience to take action. Everything in an ad is sketched, staged, scripted, and intended as part of the overall marketing strategy. Nothing is left to chance, everything has either an obvious or more subtle message that ties back to the personality being portrayed of the brand. After having spent 15 years in the advertising and marketing industry, I can say from experience the person in the bed represents an added component to Equinox’s personality that is sensual, intimate, or sexual in nature.
Point 3: Let’s be clear – Equinox is a company hoping their product appeals to the high-end, high fashion, luxury, materialistic, status-seeking consumer. They convey this with their location selection, their clothing choices, the “actors” they picked, the color palate of the room, and the music they adopted, which anecdotally was laced with a strong tonality of minor chords – often credited as a subliminal representation of darkness, distress, or angst by most ethnomusicologists. The clear message here is that by doing this “yoga” practice, you too can attain the results of a beautiful body, have beautiful things, and a beautiful life. And in your search for superficial happiness, Equinox is the place to go to find it.
I find the timing of all of this hub-bub quite interesting considering that I am beginning my practice of the third agreement this week: Don’t Make Assumptions. Look at all of the energy that we as a collective have wasted this week on ONE ad?! An ad meant to entice, through sensuality and art, people to try yoga, we have pondered about, debated, discussed and dissected – all because we are assuming we know what the intent behind the ad was. The ad was sexy, the ad was art, the ad was NOT Yoga.
Point 4: Yoga is Union with God (yes, G.O.D. – stop watering it down with your mind-body-spirit crap and read the history from which your practice came, already). Union achieved through the cessation of thoughts in the mind. If anything, after watching the video, there seems to be a creation of more thought, and consequently conversation (thoughts expressed out loud….sigh) not less. As one reader pointed out in comments above, if I had a friend who wanted to know more about Yoga, I would most certainly not send them the link to this video. I worry that they would feel discouraged. As a former studio manager, I would be gravely concerned if a teacher taught this sequence in a class to 50+ students because they were left with the impression this video displays “yoga”. I believe that to be irresponsible of student safety. As a teacher, I will remind those of you that find this “amazing” and you now feel so inclined to try all of these party tricks – remember that she has been practicing for 15 years, and teaches yoga. I am also guessing, as a practitioner, she warmed up before she went through these sequences, and did not, as the author seems to have perceived, just “roll-out-of-bed”.
Lastly – this story also hit the news this week – Sydney Spies, 18, said her photos are “artistic” and represent her true personality.
Now I ask why would a child believe that these pictures are artistic in nature, or appropriate for a high school yearbook? If the American public is so “uptight about sex”, then why are sexual innuendos woven into most advertising messages? Why do many women suffer from eating disorders related to the messages crafted by marketing “engineers” that we cannot be happy unless we are thin? And if you found the video or photos to be artistic – what pant size do you wear? Honestly, I am curious to know if those us who find nothing wrong with the insidious messages being delivered with ads are physically “fit” versus those who see the ads for the manipulative BS that they are may be of more average build???