Two weeks ago, I spent a session of my Intro to Communication Studies course analyzing with my students the front page of CNN. As we perused the offerings on the front page, examining the article titles, their relationships to one another, use of font and pictures, etc., one of the things that the students noticed very quickly was the frequency of items related to sex. In a time when there is war, poverty, national disaster, financial crisis, and so on in large scale around the world, the vast majority of headlines on the page were related to sex, popular culture stars, and the combination thereof. Students were simultaneously appalled and chagrined, as they noted that its horrible that this is how we think of news, but at the same time that they are as likely as anyone to read articles with such titillating headlines.
It’s easy to think that yoga news would be immune from this, but in reading many many blogs over the last couple of years, I would say that this isn’t the case. Yoga blog posts that appear to get the largest readership and comments are those that are either designed to provoke controversy among yogis or are somehow connected to sex. Posts promise better sex through yoga, detail the sexual behavior of various yogis, debate the extent to which yoga will give one a “hot bod” or “yoga butt,” contain mildly or extremely explicit photographs (typically involving young women in some state of undress… often apparently engaging in a style of partner yoga). And this all while we protest that others misunderstand yoga and think of it as being either stretching, a new age cult, or some sort of sex club. Hmmm…
Sexuality is certainly an important part of our humanity, but how does the use of sex to “sell” our yoga news connect to the yama of brahmacharya? Does it? Is there sexual restraint in this reveling in the sexuality of yoga? Is there something mutually uplifting about the gaze of the viewer on images of yoga bodies in sexual dress? Does any of this matter? I guess I don’t know. The people involved are all, apparently, adults, and no one is being forced to read. But, it’s certainly worth thinking about what the message is and whether it is what we want it to be.
What do you think?
p.s. I tried to find a cute cartoon to add to this post, but they were all a little too sexy!