She Calls it Slut Yoga

Aug 01, 2013

I heard from a reliable source that there is a female yoga instructor in my local community who refers to Yoga Flirt as Slut Yoga. (Please note that this was not directly said to me, but I trust the person who related the story.) As far as I know, this yogini has never been to our studio, never tried the practice and has never met me or anyone who practices Yoga Flirt.

What was your immediate reaction? Did you get defensive? Angry at her? How dare a yogini condemn any form a yoga? Did you agree with her and think she’s right?

In the past my immediate reaction would have been defensiveness, but through my on-going yoga practice and studies I had a completely different and calm understanding of the situation and was entirely undisturbed by the comment.

As I have mentioned in past blogs, I turn to the Yoga Sutras again and again for the wisdom they hold. I love that even thousands of years ago the human condition was the same even though the external situations have changed. That is why they were written, to give us tools and techniques to navigate life’s situations and help us maintain our calm and focused mind, ultimately experiencing inner peace no matter what life throws our way.

The Yoga Sutras explain the five kleshas, or obstacles, that prevent us from being in a state of union within our hearts and minds. The first step to working with them and then beginning to eliminate their effect on us is to develop an understanding of how they appear in our own lives. Then, with our own practice and over a long period of time we might with compassion and even deeper understanding begin to see how they appear in other’s behavior so that perhaps we can be less rattled by their actions and more compassionate towards them instead. Remember, the first step is always to look within yourself and see how these obstacles manifest and affect your own actions.

Here is a brief explanation of each along with how it relates to the above situation.

Avidya: This word literally means “incorrect comprehension” and is often referred to as ignorance. If you think of the kleshas like a tree, avidya is the roots and trunk from which the others branch out. Since I was not a part of the conversation in which the term Slut Yoga was used I can honestly say I don’t have a clear perception of what happened. Maybe is was said in jest. Maybe not. I just don’t know. If the yogini in question did in fact say and mean it I can clearly see the avidya as she has no direct experience with Yoga Flirt. She just doesn’t know what goes on in the studio, so she has made a decision most likely based on unconscious beliefs.

Asmita: This is the ego, the part of ourselves that wants to be seen, heard, and better than others. This obstacle would be me saying, “How dare she say that??? I created Yoga Flirt and I KNOW better and I am going to hunt her down and give her a piece of my mind and tell her how wrong she is.” Can you feel the energetic disturbance in that reaction? For her it is the same feeling, just a different sentence, “How dare those women desecrate yoga like that? Only my kind of yoga is the right way to practice, so I will call them all sluts, for I am better than they are, only practicing ‘real’ yoga.”

Raga: This refers to attachment to that which is pleasurable and wanting more of it, whether or not it is still beneficial to us. It is very pleasurable to me when I receive support, encouragement and acceptance around Yoga Flirt. I want more and more of it. When someone rejects it in any way raga can appear and I can get defensive, wanting to explain why Yoga Flirt is a true expression of yoga and win the other person over. The yogini in question most likely feels this way about her style of yoga.

Dvesa: This word means rejection of things and experiences, either something we experienced that didn’t go well and we don’t want to have again or something we have never experienced and are unwilling to try. My rejection of the Slut Yoga situation would be something along the lines of not wanting to ever meet the woman who said it and never allowing her into the studio. It would be me being unwilling to try to understand why she would call it that. Again, for her it is the exact same feeling expressed differently. She probably never wants to have a conversation with me or any Flirt and doesn’t want to walk into the studio, and certainly not come to understand how it can be an expression of yoga.

Abhinivesa: Fear. The uncertainty, not wanting to be judged, rejected, physically or mentally injured that can quietly pervade our daily lives. If I were experiencing this obstacle I would be afraid that her comment would drive away business, or maybe even be true. Maybe all the women who come to Yoga Flirt really are sluts and that I am the queen slut of them all. How horrible! Again, you can see how these thoughts can lead to strong feelings and disturbance in the mind and spirit. For the woman who used the term, perhaps she is afraid that if she came to class others would call her a slut or even worse it would mean she is a slut. How horrible!

Let me remind you that when this story and term were expressed to me I was calm and undisturbed. I have spent lots of time understanding my own reactions to situations and this time I was more interested in wanting to know her and to see which obstacle was manifesting for her, with great kindness and compassion. Does this mean I never experience the kleshas anymore? No. I am human and of course can see them appear in my life. When they do I try to look with understanding at myself so that I can first know which obstacle is causing me to become unsettled and then be able to move myself back to calm, focused, peacefulness.
Red Christmas gift box and baubles on background of defocused golden lights.
The word of the month for August is understanding. Begin to understand yourself and see the kleshas. With kindness and love, acknowledge their existence in your life as a way to gently guide you back toward your natural state of inner peace.

If you enjoyed or were inspired by what you read, please comment below, Like, Share, and Tweet. With Gratitude, Cathy

3 Responses »

  1. Hi Cathy,
    It’s disturbing to be the target of someone else’s negativity, especially when it involves name calling and shaming. You seem to have handled this situation in the best possible manner. That is what I love about yoga, how it gives us tools to help us deal with stressful moments.
    I have just read with interest about your Yoga Flirt classes. While I have some philosophical differences with your approach to yoga, I understand that in the modern yoga world things are evolving and changing, through creativity and individual interpretations of “what is yoga “.
    I hope you continue to inspire your students and wish you continued success with your classes.
    peace and namaste,
    Natalie

  2. I don’t have a reason to condemn this yogini, but I really want to understand the Kleshas.

  3. Thank you, Mendy! You can do a google search for Kleshas and find plenty of articles to read. Also, if you search for the term under books on Amazon lots and lots of books about yoga will come up – find one that calls to you and give it a read. xo, Cathy

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