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29 September 2009

and I thought Jazzercise was dead




"Ana Brett & Ravi Singh's dynamic style of Kundalini Yoga is the best of both worlds: its spiritual depth and energy work will satisfy your Eastern yearinings (sic). Its cardio element, with lots of ab work, stretching and toning will satisfy that Western need to get everything covered!"
(emphasis supplied.)


You can't make this stuff up. I found the video on Facebook via Yoga Dawg's blog.


There's a great discussion going on about Americanized yoga at it's all yoga, baby, so I thought I would post what one of my students thinks about Ana Brett and "her" style of yoga. I want to say from the beginning that I am sure Ana Brett is a nice person and dedicated and I know many people love her bubbly style and yoga videos. If they work for you, great, to each their own. If she wants to dance around to Bollywood hip-hop music, call it kundalini yoga, and make a buck off it, more power to her.

But like any other celebrity (and we certainly have our yoga celebs now), when you put yourself out there, be ready for criticism. IMHO, I have to say that adding the Buddha statue to her "yoga" mix here is pretty cheesy but maybe that adds the requisite "spiritual depth" for those of us with Eastern "yearinings"...just sayin'. Hey, at least Buddha's face isn't on her hot pants. whew.

The discussion about Ana Brett and her yoga clothes choices started a long time ago here (sorry I can't find the exact post.) At that time I asked my students what they thought about the way Ana Brett markets herself and the most pithy comment came from a 17 year old student who will graduate from high school next year. She's been my student for about three years -- she's a young yogini with an old soul. I wanted a young person's opinion since I am old, jaded, and cynical.

So given the recent blog discussion on Americanized yoga, this video, and the talk I'm attending this week on whether American yoga is in crisis, I thought it was the appropriate time to publish my student's comment (I did not change a word.)


"Ana Brett has some very legitimate things to say about yoga and I would be willing to bet that her DVDs are pretty good based on what people said. I understand wanting to see her body to learn about the alignment in certain poses. In Iyengar, which she studied, that is very important so I can see where she is coming from. Now I am not really a conservative type of person, tattoos, piercing, and multi-colored hair I don't mind and in fact I love. However baring that much skin is out of place in a DVD about yoga. Her outfits would be fine many places but just not with yoga. Yoga is spiritual and so much emphasis put on the teacher's body is rather distracting from spiritual intentions.

I don't think that her point is as Blisschick said "as women, we can TAKE back our bodies and change the (negatively) sexualized perceptions of them."

Because Ana said "We are sexual creatures, and we all use our sexuality consciously or unconsciously. Advertising is almost all about sex! When our DVD covers were shot, I was going for strong, confident, and healthy. Those are the attributes I aspire to and wish to inspire in other women. Some people, I guess, look at the covers and just see overt shameless sexuality. And yes, I can see where, especially the Kundalini Yoga for Energy & Super Radiance cover could be considered "sexy" and mainstream. But is that so bad?"

She said she can see how people would see it as sexual and that it is geared towards the mainstream (which is not inherently bad, getting the Yoga word out is good!) However trying to appeal to the mainstream with sex is not the way to go, and that seems to be what she was implying. After reading her answers to the interview questions I think that she does enjoy the true bliss of yoga and her intentions of happiness and appealing to many are also good. I do think that she is degrading herself and lowering the respect she gets by dressing that way.

When I see her covers of her DVDs I ask why does she dress that way? She said that "it was for the practical reason that it looks better". Looking better is not really a practical reason. It doesn't make women feel liberated to see a sparsely clothed woman. To me it seems like mainstream America is influencing yoga and not yoga influencing mainstream America.

I think that truly liberated women, in this day and age, have the confidence to cover their bodies and still feel beautiful/appealing. If she feels like she can't show proper alignment without showing her body and she can not appeal to the public without bearing so much of her body on her DVD, she is not giving herself enough credit as a teacher. There are so many yogis that raved about her DVDs that she has something going on other than a great body, so Ana Brett, appeal with your bliss and not your looks, break out of the constraints that societal constraints and liberate women."

(emphasis supplied.)

Talk amongst yourselves.

(P.S. I'm not dissing Jazzercise...I loved it, did it for 10 years, and almost bought a franchise. The video has inspired me to go find a Jazzercise class again! Note I said Jazzercise, not yoga.)




7 comments:

Brenda P. said...

If an outfit is so revealing that the conversation revolves around it, instead of the teaching, that's a problem. I would think any self-respecting teacher would prefer to have students discusing the work of class rather than her belly button.

BTW, I have a friend who teaches Jazzercise. The (western) yoga community could learn a thing or two about teaching standards and assessment from them. A bit restrictive, perhaps, but you certainly know what to expect when you go to one of those classes.

Linda-Sama said...

Brenda, I agree with you about the Jazzercise organization.

Yoga Spy said...

Admittedly I know little about Ana B or Ravi S, but to me this is so outside real yoga that it's unthreatening (to yoga) and rather amusing (to yogis and non-yogis alike), if you know what I mean. Like, would a musical band with real talent and originality care about the Jonas Brothers or American Idol?

While part of me thinks that yoga videos (with the atmospheric music and MTV vibe) in general are rather egocentric, I also find that the better ones do demonstrate good asana form. Think Ana Forrest and Shiva Rea. (Note: they don't wear tube tops.)

For more on the corporate-yoga discussion, see my latest post at http://yogaspy.wordpress.com/2009/09/29/adidas-yoga/.

Pleasure,
Yoga Spy

Linda-Sama said...

you are right, Spy...why bother getting upset about Ana Brett? she can call it kundalini yoga all she wants to, but it's not. you can call a dog a cat all you want to, but it's still a dog.

Grace said...

About the need to bare skin to show alignment: the local Iyengar teacher where I live is always fully clothed and that has not been a problem in showing alignment. I'm sure she could pull off a skin-bearing outfit if she wanted too, but why would she? And she comes off as a strong, confident woman too!

About Ana's videos. I have 2, and they are never used. It's not that the yoga is bad, it isn't, but I find myself yearning for those flat abs and long limbs. As someone under 5 feet with a naturally curvy body type, that just ain't going happen. Also, as someone recovered from negative body-image issues, those thoughts are the last thing I need in my yoga practice. Of couse, this is just a reflection on my needs and not necessarily the quality of Ana's teaching.

Zippy Mama said...

re:...{To me it seems like mainstream America is influencing yoga and not yoga influencing mainstream America.}...

So relevant considering all the recent blog discussion regarding the Adidas yoga!

Interesting post!

reinventingsandyb said...

FINALLY. a yoga blog I can relate to. Solid stuff here.