That's why I find people who do lead by example so inspiring & important. This beautiful woman is 30 yrs old, a mother, and a yoga instructor for Equinox. Watch this, its mind blowing. I am very curious to hear what you think of it.
What Did You See? The Mirror of Truth...
Is it Empowering? Is it sexual? Is it art? Or is it just another large corporation using sex to sell something? Just clever, trashy marketing? Just another poor objectified woman selling out? All reality is a mirror, reflecting back how you feel about yourself and the world. Many people see "yoga porn", i.e. a hot flexible girl in sexy underwear bending over in front of them, there for the taking. Others see beauty, grace, dedication, and inspiration. What do you see? Perhaps what you see says more about you then about the video itself???
Why Is this Viral Video Controversial?
This video has been a huge success for Equinox, in terms of making a viral video that gets people talking. The video is getting around 150,000+ views a day right now. Most people have positive things to say, but there are many people posting very negative comments about this video, saying it's just a huge corporation selling sex. I am not saying those people are wrong, I just think their ideas represent a portion of the truth, not the whole truth. This was one of those comments, its well written & fair but not the whole truth: And this is my favorite response to that comment, also well written & fair: Then I found this excellent article that took a cross cultural perspective. The author, a self described "empowered woman" & yogi, only saw raw beauty, power, a discipline when she watched the video, so she was shocked by all the negative comments. She surveyed 13,000 people from a different country, Spain, and ALL the comments were positive and non-sexual. "I see yoga, I see beauty, I don't see anything sexual at all". Pretty amazing, right? Apparently, the human body is controversial in America & something to be ashamed of, and not in other countries. Of course, Equinox is marketing itself to Americans, but really its our choice to see what we want. Americans see sex and shame where others just see a beautiful and inspiring human body.
Why This Video is Brilliant Marketing...
First, it caters to what people want: beauty, power, and the self-mastery that comes with tremendous discipline. Second, it allows the viewer to project their own interpretations on it. Is the guy in bed a random hook up? Loving husband? Is the video inspiring or self-deprecating? The effectiveness of this video is due to the wide range of interpretations that are possible makes; its a nice shiny mirror for all of us to bounce our own truth off of.
Most fitness professionals don't have the resources or budget of a major corporation like Equinox to compete with this kind of video or marketing, but that doesn't mean we can't learn from it & benefit from it.
- Step 1: Lead by example, fully dedicate yourself to your practice of fitness and exercise. Embody your own truth of what it means to be fit, whatever that might be. This requires self-inquiry, introspection, hard work, and balance.
- Step 2: Express your truth with your body, mind, and soul.
- Step 3: Use the best tools, like Youtube, to spread your truth, and do it in a way that gives people what they want; be inspiring and empowering while leaving some room for interpretation.
As fitness entrepreneurs, we look to lead by example, learn from others, and see opportunities. What we see is not the only truth, and the gap between our truth and the whole truth is often a fertile place to find all kinds of opportunities.
Express Your Truth Through Exercise: Yoga & Self-Mastery
One of the things I love about Yoga is that it is incredibly subversive; its not just a form of exercise and in fact the poses (called asanas) are just a small facet of the vast wisdom of yogic knowledge. Yoga can serve as a method for self-mastery and self-knowledge, and help us break the binds of society's repressive conditioning. The very same society that conditions us to think "the human body is shameful and should always be covered up" or "the female body = sex". The very same society that tells us men "you have to have huge muscles & be super strong to be valuable". That's right, these pressures may exert more force on woman, but no one is intrinsically free from their gravitational pull; we've got to do the work to break the binds, and exercise can play a huge role because it helps us realize our potential to transform and discover who we really are.
What Kind of Dog Are You?
I spent years trying to be a Rottweiler! I wanted to big & strong, because that is what our culture seemed to value. So I took my ectomorphic body through all kinds of hypertrophy programs, high volume, high density, lactic acid madness. If I could only get to 195lbs & bench press 315lbs 1x then I would be happy & satisfied. I went from 130 all the way to 185lbs in 3 years of college! I was waking up in the middle of the night, every night, to drink an Ensure, a high calorie drink for old people that can't eat solid food.
That's how committed (and delusional) I was! Gross. I literally scheduled time to eat 5 full meals a day, a 4,000+ calorie diet. I have a really fast metabolism, this was the fattest I ever got, probably around 17% body fat at one point, and it took a tremendous amount of effort to get there. And then I blew out my labrum in my right shoulder bench pressing. Why was I trying so hard to be something I was not? For whose benefit? Did I really need to bench press more than 255 for 10 reps? And why was it that every time I hit my goals, it didn't seem like enough & I had to set the bar even higher???
The fact of the matter is, I am NOT a Rottweiler and never will be no matter how hard I try! I am a part Greyhound, part Jack Russel Terrier, with a tiny bit of Pitbull mixed in. Not all dogs can or should be the strongest/biggest, some are lean and fast or tall and lanky like the Greyhound, some are small & have tons of energy and agility like the Terriers. My injury forced me to stop trying to be something I was not. I eventually found a way to accept myself and work with what I've got, although it took a ton of work and wasn't exactly fun. And yoga has helped me avoid injuries and address the issues that caused my injury the first place, thinking I am something that I am not, believing in someone else's truth instead of my own.
Is Yoga Bad For You? A Better Question is Possible...
Is yoga as an exercise form good for everyone? Probably not, its been designed by and for skinny, vegetarian Indian men. The general population in this country is sedentary, sitting at a desk job all day long, hyper competitive, and eating a diet filled with processed non-food & chemical toxins. Perhaps this isn't the best population to do high intensity Yoga, generally speaking. Then again, this isn't the best population to do any form of high intensity exercise with. But many teachers are taking Yogic wisdom and successfully adopting it to new populations.
Of course, any exercise has risk, and evidently we need The New York Times to tell us that people might get injured doing Yoga. The article's author writes "in 2007, while doing the extended-side-angle pose, a posture hailed as a cure for many diseases, my back gave way. With it went my belief, naïve in retrospect, that yoga was a source only of healing and never harm." There's that inaccurate societal conditioning again, blocking us from seeing the whole truth. Instead of investigating the matter with an open mind, the author went with common knowledge of "yoga = good" and blew his back out. We all need to stop grossly categorizing all things into 2 nice little neat categories: good or bad, black or white, right or wrong, true or false. When are we going to stop thinking in such broad & innacurate terms?
This kind of reductionist thinking leads to all kinds of problems. Is yoga bad for you? Well who are you? What is your current exercise level and history? How sedentary are you? Who is teaching the class? How many students in the class? Why do you want to do yoga in the first place? Are you good at listening to your body? How good? What is your diet like? Are you hyper competitive? Yes, its easier to just say "Its good" or "its bad", but easy leads to back injuries. Easy is sitting in a chair all day long, for years weakening your back. That's easy. And when you do that and then go into a yoga class on autopilot, hurting yourself is easy too.
Your Perfect Body Will Never Come in a Box!
That's right? You can't order it, they don't manufacture it in China, its not going to be sent to you via Fedex, Amazon doesn't have it in stock, it doesn't come in pill form, AND IT NEVER WILL. You're body is already a highly performing, vastly powerful, finely tuned, ingeniously adaptable, yet highly sensitive piece of technology. All that potential is there, inside you, already, waiting to be fully realized and expressed. All the stuff that comes in pills or boxes, whether it be kettlebells, jump ropes, a book on nutrition, supplements, all that stuff can help you discover things about yourself and your body while you walk the path to greatness, but they are not going to chauffeur you to the summit of Mt. Greatness all by themselves, so don't focus too much on them. Instead, focus on your practice, your dedication, your hard work and balance, because that is what will get you to the mountain top. Can I get an amen???
Empowering Our Client Through Exercise, Education, & Asking Better Questions
As fitness professionals, trainer, fitness business owners, and coaches, we have to help educate our clients and communities to think for themselves and ask better questions. My other pet peeve question is "What is the best exercise for XYZ goal" (often, its abs). Why does this question tee me off? Because it's a horrible questions. A bad question will always lead to a bad answer. A good question will lead to a good answer. The question implies "Well, if only I could find the 1 best exercise, I would do that over and over again, workout totally on autopilot, and never have to think about exercise again." Hmm, that's definitely not the path to empowerment! More like the path to mediocrity, confusion, and frustration.
Let's be like the beautiful woman in the video. Let's help get our clients off of autopilot, be curious about discovering and expressing their whole truth, and start living their life and not someone else's! And let's do it for them by doing it for ourselves first :-)
What Do You Think? Please Let Me Know in the Comments, I REALLY Want to Know?
Can't wait to hear what you think! Until next time, keep your business fit. Johnny Fitness