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Whose Beautiful is it, anyway?!?
by Brenda Plakans

With each of my pregnancies, I couldn't wait for the 20th week to roll around. That's the week you get the ultrasound that--usually--shows the sex of the child, if you want to know it. And I wanted to know. While I would have loved any child and was just hoping for healthy, I was also crossing my fingers that both babies would be boys.

This is a bit disingenuous, because I have many friends with wonderful, smart daughters and I have many wonderful, smart friends and relatives who would be great role models. But, having negotiated girlhood in this culture obsessed with the female form, I wasn't sure I had the strength to negotiate it again with a little girl.

Boys don't have to deal with thong panties, makeovers, boob jobs, sexy dance class routines, and an overall message that the only thing that truly matters is how smokin' hot you are. And if you are bit short of smokin' hot, there are lots of products you can buy, operations you can have, to get you there. Advertisers are trying to figure how to make boys insecure enough to buy male versions of the lotions and potions, but they just haven't quite got it. Yet.

So imagine my delight with this week's (hopefully, this year's) yoga talking point--Judith Hanson Lasater's letter to Yoga Journal on using sex to sell in its advertising. (it's all yoga, baby will bring you up to date) I've written before about my frustration with the way yoga is marketed and the image the yoga industry has decided to present to the world. Unrealistic bodies doing incredibly difficult poses--yeah, that will bring 'em in!

My contribution to the discussion is just to put forth the question, to everyone who says this is just about appreciating beautiful bodies or offering something to aspire to: what message are you sending teenage girls, who are looking to the world for an idea of what womanhood will be like? What do we, as a culture, value in women and what are the most important attributes to strive for? A tight ass? Sculpted abs? Surely not...

And I'm not so naive to think that anything will really change in the overall culture any time soon. The media has figured out what brings eyes to screens, clicks to pages, and these are seriously entrenched strategies that seduce everyone. But it breaks my heart that the yoga world embraces it, as well. The one practice that shouldn't be about the external or cling to screwy standards of physical perfection, and yet--naked yoga socks ads (what is it with yoga products for feet?!?).

Please, yoga industry, think about the girls (and boys) and what message they are getting from your choices. I'm glad you can fund your teaching retreats and "reach" so many more students. I'm glad yoga is getting coverage in the mainstream press (altho some of that coverage we could do without). I'm glad you can put your foot behind your head. But, seriously, don't you see this kind of advertising for what it is? Do you really believe that every reader will understand your outer beauty is simply a reflection of inner grace?

Aren't we more sophisticated in our thinking than that? I hope the response this letter has generated will really encourage some thinking, some re-assessing. Many of us have been harping about this for years...maybe this is the push that will really lead to shove.

Let's Take Back Beautiful!


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About the Author

Brenda K. Plakans
has been studying yoga for 21 years, teaching for 7 and writing about it for 4.  Her first class in 1989 in Philadelphia, PA was with Senior Iyengar teacher Joan White, and she continues to be influenced by that tradition and other alignment-based practices.  She completed her own teacher training in 2003 in Washington DC, with Oya Horiguchi and continues to study with Nicky Plaut in Madison, WI.  With her own students, she is a champion of common-sense yoga; no brand names, no celebrities, no secret handshakes.  She hopes to bring her classes peace and calm simply by focusing on asana; the resultant wisdom from a beautiful Utthita Trikonasana is always relevant to daily life.

She lives in Beloit, WI with her two sons, ages 3 and 6; her geology professor husband; two cranky, aging cats; and an oblivious goldfish. 

For more information about Brenda and her "Common Sense Yoga," including access her "Yoga Journal" articles, please visit her blog: Grounding Thru The Sit Bones.

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