The sexualization of yoga is not yoga's fault. Asana, pranayama, dhyana, and other yoga practices benefit practitioners on so many levels that we understand it goes beyond the image of hot sweaty bodies. More than anything, my personal observation is that it is the ones who do not practice yoga who sexualize yoga. In other words, it comes from ignorance- a misunderstanding more so than a lack of understanding. They assume things about the yoga practice without having a practice themselves.
I am fortunate that because I teach Jivamukti, the spiritual and emotional aspects of the practice are very prominent. It draws clear boundaries and sends a very direct message: we practice yoga as a path to enlightenment. I have the honor of teaching students who have a sincere desire to learn while being so forgiving of my shortcomings and imperfections and "un-enlightenment".
But here is the thing. Shortly before I took Jivamukti teacher training, I taught vinyasa yoga classes for two weeks straight mainly to get over my fear of public speaking. In this very short span of time, I got a taste of what it is like for a yoga teacher to be sexualized. There were comments made to me that had sexual undertones. I had my doubts and thought maybe I was the one who got it wrong. Maybe this person really wanted to work on a particular pose. My conclusion though, is to trust my instinct. If it strikes me as a sexual advance, then it is likely a sexual advance.
I thought about this again today, two years after that first incident, because I felt that my occupation as a yoga teacher was again sexualized. And I am offended by it. What was even more offensive is that it was made by someone whom I considered a friend. Granted, he is not a yoga practitioner. But that is no excuse for disrespecting women.
This is what happened. One of our friends cracked a mindless joke about a private yoga session with sexual undertones. I was not offended by the joke itself, more than the reaction it elicited from the other guy who said, "Malay mo, kumagat." (Who knows, she might say yes.) I was not sure if he knew that I heard. At that time, I chose to ignore it. But the more I thought about it, the more unsettling it feels. It was a very sexist, patriarchal comment. It strikes me as something a rapist might say. A rapist does not take no for an answer right? I thought initially of just letting it slide. I thought my best course of action was to cut this person off of my life and that is that. It would not be too hard because we hardly see each other anyway. But my good friend Marie reminded me to never be silent, to speak up for myself and to support all women. Since the aforementioned guys have no interest in yoga or veganism, they do not read this blog. They will hear from me though.
To all of those who sexualize yoga and yoga teachers and yoga practitioners, this is what I have to say to you: Excuse me. My body is a temple. I have no desire to mix my energy with the energy of those who cannot see me as a whole being.
To all of those who sexualize women in general: Do you not have a mother, an aunt, a wife, a girlfriend, a sister, a friend, a daughter? How would you feel if someone treated them the way you treat women? A disrespectful comment is not just a comment. It is very revealing of what you think of women and faithfulness and loyalty.
To women everywhere: If you were sexualized at any point in your life once or repeatedly, it is not because of what you wear or what you say or what you do. It is because the person who sexualized you is, for lack of a better term, an asshole.
Lastly, I apologize if this particular post is not very yogic in your opinion. But my body is a temple and my voice is a speaker.