So, as the Summer is quickly coming to a close how many of you remember the slogan “Get Your Beach Body Ready For Summer?”
It’s a common advertising phrase and we’re almost immune to its power.
What makes me a little sad is how readily it is used within marketing for yoga. Okay, if you want a “beach body” (whatever one of those is) then by all means do what you need to do to get one.
But personally, that will never be the message for one of my classes.
Exercise, guilt and inspiration
Exercise should never be a guilt trip.
Yes it is fun to workout, getting all those endorphins going inevitably makes you feel good, and of course it is very good for us; and if you want abs-of-steel then yes, some kinds of yoga are probably a good way to work towards that, but the fact that you can’t even be “ready for summer” unless those abs are rock-hard, baffles me slightly.
Personally, I don’t care if you look like a “typical yogi” (again, whatever one of those is), whether you have abs of steel or a flabby beer gut. I don’t care if you look like the sun-kissed, yoga-endorsing celebrities who sell it with hard bodies or “yoga butts,” I don’t aspire to be like these people.
The people who inspire me are not Gwyneth Paltrow or Jennifer Aniston, they are BKS Iyengar and Swami Rama.
The true meaning of yoga
Original, traditional yogis who lived (and in the case of Iyangar-are still living!) long, fruitful lives and simply ask people to find the true meaning of yoga:
- self discovery
- the connection with the divine
Nowhere do they promote yoga with muscle tone, weight loss or a “beach bod.” (Although picturing Mr Iyengar on a giant-sized billboard with the words “Get Your Beach Body with Yoga” complete with a cheesey grin and a wink to camera, does brighten my day slightly).
The physical practice (asana) of yoga is only one of the 8 limbs of yoga, it is used as a means to an end. We aim to create an open, flexible, calm and strong body, in order to do the same with our minds. Yogis come in all shapes and sizes, regardless of strength, size or tone.
These things are a nice side effect of a practice which aims for something else.
When you see these advertising campaigns demonstrating a blonde, sun-kissed beauty with a perfect figure demonstrating a perfect backbend, and there is a slogan almost subliminally questioning why you don’t look like this yet, how do you feel? Are you then going to be coerced into joining this yoga class because you feel bad?
Is that the best reason to go to yoga?
In my opinion, inevitably it is more likely to put us off than to encourage us, I know many people who are too “embarrassed” to go to yoga because of how they look.
Yoga and acceptance
This shouldn’t be the case, yoga is about acceptance of both ourselves and others, but the media, the marketing and the aesthetics of modern-day life are currently stronger, which is why we need to fight against them.
What are these guilt-inducing and shaming campaigns doing to our spirits and to yoga and its traditions?
Yoga comes from a place of goodness, of awareness, of acceptance and beauty.
It invites peace, compassion, kindness and love, and with this movement of ‘the perfect look’, all this is being thrown away. In the end, the thing people notice about us the most is our spirit, our passion, our kindness, and most importantly: our compassion. Our bodies can be perfectly sculpted, not a roll of fat in sight, not a wrinkle or a blemish to be seen, but without our compassion and love, we will always be ugly.