Yoga Passion or Perversion?

A new yoga video posted on YouTube inspires tens of thousands to pursue the practice. But it seems that many others find it sexually provocative, disrespectful of the female form and an affront to the principles of mindful movement. Personally I was more than a little shocked to discover that the 3 minute 29 second film produced by Equinox health clubs featuring Briohny Smyth could be construed as anything short of amazing. It just goes to show that when it comes to any exploration of the human condition there will always be room for controversy. And where many see passion many others see perversion.

You can draw your own conclusions on the virtues of this video. Having only just discovered it myself I found it to be utterly captivating. Smyth’s graceful execution of both basic and more advanced poses motivated my own practice this morning to help me realize what is possible with dedication to the discipline. But writers in the yoga world report that many don’t feel that way.

“I began seeing some fellow yoga teachers and practitioners posting about how they were “disgusted” and “appalled” by this video,” wrote columnist Jeannie Page on Elephant Journal. “They felt it was over-sexualized and exploitative to women, and that it belittled the practice of yoga.”

I suppose you could make the case that a woman basically in bra and panties is, to say mildly, inappropriate. But in the context of this artful portrayal of thought expressed in movement that is the essence of yoga I believe that perversion is in the mind of the beholder. We tend to perceive the worst in others when what we truly see perhaps are the limitations of ourselves. Smyth deserves a lot of credit for sharing her practice of yoga as a sincere expression of herself most vulnerable.

“When Equinox asked me to do this video, they gave me total freedom to express my Art, Yoga. In no way did I expect ‘controversy’!” she wrote on Facebook. “However, after spending most of my childhood in the music industry and struggling with Bulimia, I guess I should know by now that ‘Controversy’ is part of being Human.

“I respect the opinions of those who are disgusted and thankful for those who feel inspired. In all honesty, it felt damn good to be confident in my own skin.”

The exquisite skill of her practice notwithstanding, Smyth’s yoga is as much an expression of her strength in mind and heart. I believe we can all learn from her that balance and stability derived from the mat goes far beyond the life-affirming benefits of the body. Namaste



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I'm a freelance journalist that specializes in telling stories about outdoor recreation, environmental conservation, acts of charitable giving and practices of sustainable living.

6 Responses to “Yoga Passion or Perversion?”

  1. January 9, 2012 at 5:16 am #

    I am not a fan of flaunting or watching asana sequences to a general audience because the essence of yoga as a life practice often gets lost BUT your project is graceful and divine to my yogini eyes and so many others. Perversion is indeed in the mind of the beholder. Passion is what I see here.

  2. January 9, 2012 at 9:48 am #

    No doubt this video has a sexual message. The obvious shots of her butt and groin area towards the beginning as well as the shot of the man lying in the bed, and dressing her in an outfit that, lets be honest, most women do not sleep in definitely gives the piece an edge that is clearly a marketing spin for Equinox to be a “sexy” gym…as it’s known to be. This just makes me sigh, as it happens, and will always happen in the advertising/marketing world.

    With that in mind, the video is tastefully made and, as a yogi myself, I did find the sequences beautiful and inspiring. I’m sure if you had her in a tshirt or tank with no man in the bed and no shots of private areas, it would be a whole new video…just not true to the Equinox brand. All in all, it is what it is. A little contorted of yogi views, maybe…but I wouldn’t go so far as to condemn it to pornography.

    Such is life!

  3. Catalina Gomezpuerto
    January 9, 2012 at 10:39 am #

    Briohny…you’re practice is beautiful regardless of any negativity that surrounds it. I not only find this video inspiring (as though so many fellow yogis/yoginis…both students and teachers), but real. Those who are opposed to seeing the gracefulness of the human body are not embracing the beauty of sexuality. This video shows women as both beautiful and powerful beings…it also emphasizes that Yoga is a mundane practice. You don’t have to be in a particular place at a certain time or dress in specific clothes to do Yoga. You just have to be present. And sometimes our best practices take place in our apartment at the break of dawn while we’re still in our underwear. Keep it real!

  4. Strngr
    January 9, 2012 at 10:49 am #

    Thanks for sharing on FB.  I find it interesting to review the different ideas of this video.  I saw a woman starting her day with her personal practice – while her significant other was still asleep.   Strength, grace, power, respect…those are the words that came to my mind.  I’m fairly conservative and I didn’t find any of the background, wardrobe or angles offensive in the least.  Perhaps those who feel uncomfortable viewing are uncomfortable with themselves.

  5. January 9, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

    Amazing and inspirational.

  6. January 10, 2012 at 2:11 am #


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