lululemon shocks again with pole dance ad in latest yoga journal

Whoa, it’s another “controversial” ad from lululemon.


Featured on the back cover of the May issue of Yoga Journal, the ad highlights a quote by Chris Chavez, a Vancouver-based “Elite Lululemon Ambassador.” I just found out about it today on Facebook because I never read YJ.

Lululemon is clearly trying to provoke some kind of response from uptight yoga practitioners who think that pole dancing is not yoga (and there is, of course, some of that). It’s also framing pole dancing as something that’s deviant and dark. The “pole fitness” community, however, has been working hard to change the public perception of pole dancing and getting it recognized as a sport akin to gymnastics or other dance forms (and many pole fitness enthusiasts wear Lululemon products).

The issue with this ad, actually, is that Lululemon is projecting a sex-negative message, and just being generally uncool towards pole dancers. Mixed messaging and contrived controversy, from Lululemon? Quelle suprise!

At the other end of the spectrum (the “sex-positive awesomeness” end) is Fifty Shades of Yoga, which I’ve been quietly following since it popped up in my FB feed a couple of weeks ago. Fifty Shades of Yoga (FSOY) is clearly a reference to a recent soft porn pop cultural phenomenon. It’s an in-progress coffee table book project offering pictures of a  woman in yoga poses tied up in ropes, chains, etc.


Loads of articles about FSOY have turned up in the past week, spearheaded by Maya Devi George’s Elephant Journal piece (in which she called the FSOY model a “fucktard” – it has since been taken down).

This is how the mysterious unnamed person (or people) behind the project describes it:

Yoga is not a path of freedom. Yoga is a path of exquisite bondage.

“Fifty Shades Of Yoga” will be an elegant, high end photography coffee table book that unites the worlds of yoga and bondage in a beautiful, sensual and playful way. Haunting and exquisite yoga photographs will take the voyeur on a seductive journey, examining the elements of sexuality, servitude, control and the lack thereof within certain yoga poses. These images will explore the similarities between yoga & bondage, gratification & restraint and diligent practice & surrender; unifying the two seemingly opposites worlds together into one striking, stimulating and down right naughty photography book.

I mean, seriously, who hasn’t caught themselves pondering the similarities between yoga and bondage while strapped to a pile of blankets in an Iyengar class? I’m not the only person, right?

Anyway, it has a provocative surface, but FSOY is a compelling project that is challenging the norms of sexuality and sexual expression in the yoga community.

  1. “I mean, seriously, who hasn’t caught themselves pondering the similarities between yoga and bondage while strapped to a pile of blankets in an Iyengar class?”

    seriously, me.

    I say, let’s pose the question to Iyengar himself! 😀

  2. You lost me on this one, Roseanne.

    In this case I find the lulu ad less offensive than FSOY. At least we know where lulu is coming from, while the other has the pretentiousness of porn masquerading as art.

    And like Linda, I have never associated yoga with bondage. Seriously.

  3. How, exactly, are images of a skinny blond woman tied up challenging norms of sexuality? It *is* the norm.


  4. I think the lululemon add is distasteful. There are much more pleasant images that show woman in a very positive light doing pole fitness. The image does conjure dark strip club atmospheres.

    I have never thought of yoga as similiar as bondage. I have talked with others who have and do think that. I choose to focus my attention to what I percieve as a much better place for me, relaxation, openess, breath.

    • I rather think of yoga in complete opposite terms of bondage! And pole dancing is a movement art, like hoop dancing and working silks, and yoga. I think it’s a great ad. Know folks who work for this company and they are into multiple endeavors of expression through movement. I think it’s all beautiful. Pole dancing needs an image overhaul in most people’s minds is all.

  5. The overhaul people need is to understand that people who take off their clothes for money and even people who have sex for money are people, too. The most degrading part about stripping is the judgement from people who don’t understand the business and think they are somehow better than the people in it.

    To try to separate pole dancing from strip clubs is like trying to separate break dancing from its cardboard backgrounds. It is offensive and unnecessary.

  6. “lululemon shocks again with pole dance ad in latest yoga journal”
    was in fact certainly enjoyable and informative!
    In todays world that is very hard to do. With thanks, Darcy