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