Thursday, June 16, 2011

Yoga & Exhibitionism: Strange Bedfellows

When we moved to the South End six years ago, we learned that an unanticipated perk of the place was that it happened to overlook the starting line of the Pride Parade. This year, over mimosas, we stood in the rain and clapped and cheered for all manner of marchers. Spanning the gamut were everyone from church groups to cross-dressers, the Old and Bold to the young and scantily clad. Nothing shocks me anymore. Or so I thought...

But this year, my not-so-delicate sensibilities were scandalized by one float in particular. No, it wasn’t the woman with the duct-taped breasts. Nor was it the leather-mask-clad people dressed in some sort of equine-theme, pulling Roman-chariot-looking carts carrying another leather-clad person wielding a whip. (Wow! Apparently, six years of watching the parade has really jaded me. I didn’t even blink an eye at this).

No. What really shocked me this year was the yoga float. Yes, the yoga float. It sounds innocent enough. But it was carrying what can only be described as a Cirque du Soleil-esque display of attention-seeking contortionism. The shirtless guy in full handstand (undeniably an accomplishment on a moving float) was the tamest. (Note: One of the studios where I teach requires men wear shirts due to the exhibitionist-curbing theme.) (Further note: it was a cold that day--jeans and sweatshirt-wearing-cold. These yogis must’ve been freezing!) There was a shirtless guy in full paddotanasana (wide-legged forward bend) who then snaked his arms under and around his inner thighs and into a full-bind at his lower back—and the fact that I couldn’t even find an image of this during a google search says something. Then there was all sorts of skin-tight, barely-there yoga outfitted women executing all sorts of writhing, snake-y, twisty-pretzel, Gumby-ish poses. Bodies weren’t the only thing contorting—faces, too, were twisting and squinching in the exquisite delight of performers pandering to an audience.

I know that the opposite argument will be to let yoga be what it is to different people, and that’s fine. But I think it was the attention-seeking, pandering aspect that made this one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen. And bear in mind, I’m a strangeness magnet.

Call me naive, but I was actually shocked that there was a yoga float at all. Isn’t that the polar opposite of every tenet of the practice? Isn’t the very nature of a pose-flaunting parade float in opposition to the deeply personal, inwardly focusing, mind-stilling, non-competitive, non-exhibitionist nature of yoga??

I’m all about providing yoga to the masses. But this inadvertent yogini’s two cents is that it would have been far more in line with the true mission of yoga—not to mention more business and marketing efficient (hey, ten years in the corporate world yields thought patterns that die hard!)—if the studio had simply walked in normal clothes, handing out vouchers for a free class.

I think one comment that I overheard sums it up best: You know, I’ve always wanted to try yoga...but if that’s what it’s like, forget it. I could never do any of that." And surely that’s not what the studio was going for.

Love it? Hate it? Don’t mind either way?

(click to enlarge pics)

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