Equinox health clubs use social media to send daily motivational, informative and promotional materials to its cadre of clientele. But a recent video reportedly made to enlighten the masses is receiving flack for exploiting the female form – and a million-and-a-half YouTube views later, the star of the short film is fighting back.
I'm a bit of a yogi, taking great joy in perfecting my headstands, channeling my chi, and bragging about it to my anti-positive-energy nemesis AV Flox. Coincidentally the woman whose limber limbs are featured in the above-mentioned video is one of my instructors, Briohny Kate-Smyth.
I, as most people who practice yoga regularly enough to contort into downward facing dog without much struggle, am accustomed to watching my and everyone else's bodies – often scantily clad – to see how far we can bend and twist without popping something.
But to others – especially those who feel fear (or disapproval) of the human body – watching a three-minute video of a young, toned and flexible woman slowly transition into gravity-defying poses while wearing black lace lingerie can be uncomfortable. And that's perfectly understandable.
Yoga is a sensual practice that (whether you like it or not) forces you to be ferociously aware of your body and breathing, sending rushes of oxygenated blood throughout your system and giving you the kind of high that no drug can replicate.
Increased blood flow leads to heightened sensory responses, turning our skin into a conduit of tingles and vibrations from a single human touch. It's a sensation and state of mind also shared during sexual experiences, and it can be awkward getting used to having those feelings while surrounded by 50 panting, sweaty adults attempting to stand on their heads.
Yoga teaches us to turn self consciousness into simple awareness, allowing ourselves to try scary poses, fall on our faces, and be OK with the bits and pieces of our bodies poking out of our Prana pants while we do them.
But to the outside world this can appear completely alien and unacceptable, conjuring cruel commentary and a detrimental closed mind.
Which is precisely what happened when Equinox released the video – initially titled “The Contortionist.” Unexpected to the powers that be – and especially to Kate-Smyth – the clip received as much criticism as it did golf claps, including accusations of exploitation and objectification and, remarkably, judgment of her “unfeminine” body.
So Kate-Smyth took it to the web and offered some enlightening commentary to counter the negativity.
“No one expected or hoped for controversy but I understand and respect all views,” Briohny shared with Huffington Post.
She detailed an exercise that her Overeaters Anonymous sponsor (yep, this yoga queen has struggled with her body since childhood) that has given her the tools to find and feel compassion for those who have hurt her.
“This exercise helped me learn that the way we react to something is a reflection of the way we feel inside,” she said.
We often criticize others based on the insecurities we harbor in our brains. If you watch the video and find yourself drumming up judgment, check in and find what's inspiring the negativity.
And honestly, if it doesn't motivate you to buy a yoga mat and start stretching you might be watching it wrong.