I recently attended a workshop and discussion on Tantra as a methodology and philosophy. In my 20 years of yoga practice, I am still learning of this vast body of knowledge, of which I have explored very few aspects of.
For any one curious about Tantra, its origins its philosophy and its many offshoots; thousands of books have been written on the matter, some from a Yoga perspective, some from a spiritual practice and of course the more widely talked about and frequently advertised sexual explorations.
The divine feminine/ masculine the transformation of energy and sexual energy into something spiritual is a multi layered and multi faceted subject. It’s not just about sex. My problem with the workshop I attended, and many more that are out there on the philosophy of Tantra; is that most people will reduce this sacred ancient tradition to a new spice in their sexual exploration cabinet.
How do we deeply connect to these concepts without distorting them? How do we show reverence and respect for such traditions without transforming them into sound bites, easy quotes and convenient tricks?
For what seems to be the “the meeting of man and woman; the transformation of energy through sex, love and meditation. ” (Osho) becomes a gimmick and a pick up line.
Tapping into the deeper layers of Shiva and Shakti energy within us, the inner masculine and inner feminine traits take time, and deep devotion. In this fast paced world of instant pleasure, and porn culture, I’m afraid these practices are somewhat lost to most who seek to understand them.
For what modern feminism has sadly become is this man hating, castrating society and then the eventual rise of women in a man made world. Yes women have been oppressed, men have been given some sort of “god given” right to be superior, and the patriarchal societies have been built to oppress that which they come from. Yes all of this is true but what we’ve left out is the third aspect of the union between male and female energy and that is the divine.
Yet we’ve grown up thinking (myself included), that equality means denying our nature, our amazing feminine nature, and distorting it to making women think they are always inferior and men superior. This way of thinking leaves women with the only choice left to them to even the playing field in this distorted world, and that is “to act” like men… which isn’t the fucking point.
If any one is interested in Reading more about Tantra here is a beginner’s guide :
Each body has a story; it creates a conversation. So much of our communication is non verbal.
Sex, nudity and feminism
Where do we draw the line between the private body and the public body?
We see thousands of nude or semi nude images of women grace media outlets on a daily basis. In western society the female form has been scrutinized, advertised and publicized more than any other. Its inevitable; sex sells everything from toothpaste to cars, and women’s bodies have been turned into a commodity. In stark contrast to this hypersexualized trend, comes the work of artists and photographers who revere the female form without cheapening it to a consumer product. Feminism and freedom of expression aside, this ideal of the female form being on display is much more prevalent with the help of social media. Some see this as progress or freedom of expression, others as an example of a blatant double standard. What I have discovered through my work as a yoga teacher and a dancer is the rare opportunity to collaborate with some amazing photographers over the years, and most recently a very talented and gifted artist living and working in New York.
HomeMade Obsessions/ A voyeur in your living room:
My good friend and very talented photographer George Vordos asked me last year to work with him on his project called Homemade Obsessions. His photography explores the female nude in a uniquely powerful way. His observation of women and his vantage point, is one of my favorites in the field of portrait, and nude photography. In his work I see a reverence and admiration for the female form, sculpted, athletic, inspired; that brings out the strength, vulnerability, and eroticism that is the subtext in all his images. He is observing women in their own space, he allows them to exist, without prompting them to pose or change their nature. She is not there for the photographer, but the photographer is there to capture her allure and magic. Most of his subjects aren’t professional models, yet he has found a way to bring out a striking femininity and grace, that is often achieved after hours of makeup, and airbrushing. I accepted with some trepidation having had little experience in posing nude, but I found myself at a time in my life where I felt confident and secure to give it a try.
My motivation for accepting his invitation to pose was not only inspired by his work, but also a curiosity to explore the vulnerability and freedom, in allowing myself to be photographed, thus creating images that were evocative, and that would bring out a side of me that few get to see. As a former dancer, creating a story and a narrative with the body as an instrument for expression has always been the reasoning behind my life’s work. I have seldom felt uncomfortable in my own skin, and in this particular case, I was at ease in allowing my “nakedness” to be documented. Each body has a story, and creates a conversation, and inevitably so much of our communication is non verbal.
Our session was photographed at my home where I felt most comfortable, with natural lighting and very few modifications. Posing nude was not only gratifying and fun but also gave me confidence to explore my womanhood beyond the restrictions that society so aptly places upon us. I don’t have anything to prove, I didn’t do this for anyone else and I feel incredibly secure and comfortable in who I am. I hope the pictures speak for themselves.
She is not there for the photographer, but the photographer is there to capture her allure and magic.
“the female form, sculpted, athletic, inspired; that brings out the strength, vulnerability, and female eroticism”
Nudity and Nakedness
In sharp contrast to how I’ve grown up in Europe, a lot of the women I meet and talk to in the U.S are not comfortable with their body and its nudity, especially in public. There is a worrisome underlying sensitivity that their bodies are being analyzed or critiqued in public spaces, and because of this hyper-sexualization of women’s body parts in America, there is a pervasive fear that their nudity sends the wrong message. One only need to go to a public beach to see this first hand. I constantly encounter this idea that the female form is there primarily for the pleasure of men. I had heated discussions with a former partner who unconsciously browsed through countless images on Instagram, porn sites and Facebook, just because its available, with absolutely no understanding how demeaning and sexist most of these images are. A catalog of women galore, available at one’s fingertips. Countless industries use women and sex to sell their products, and because its available countless women buy those same products.
I find it ironic that in a western country that prides itself on the freedoms of women, the objectification of women is most blatant. In recent years this debate about showing breasts on social media, and in public and what that conveys, puts women at a constant disadvantage when everywhere you turn, naked and semi naked women, are used to sell a product. Inevitably we are seen as commodities, objects of desire or just baby makers.
Revealing vs. Exhibitionism
The general perception is that exposing your nudity or celebrating it is some form of desperate cry for attention. That may be for some, or for those who feel that nudity is a fetish or something to gawk at. In an overly sexualized society where women are often seen as vehicles for selling a product and by default themselves, nude photography by artists like my friend George, is a prime example of the opposite. But make no mistake this is not a new trend. Surrealist artist and photographer Man Ray made portraits and images of women in the early 1920’s that were erotic, and artistic in the same light, without being demeaning and offensive. There are those who theorize that Man Ray was a misogynist, yet a large part of his photographic work is dedicated to the female form. Female nude images in art are not a new concept but conveying it in a manner that places it above the dreaded nude selfie, has become a revolutionary act.
You pose naked so you must be a slut- Body shaming double standards and sexism
Owning your body, displaying it and respecting its form doesn’t make you a slut, or an attention seeker. Using and transforming the body through art, is not an excuse to seek approval or recognition, but rather a way of expressing what can’t be said in words. Women are treated like objects all the time, and many are reclaiming their bodies in public and in private spaces more than ever before. Slut shaming, body shaming, and overt sexism and objectification is ironically coming more and more from other women rather than men. Its rubbing off in the wrong way, becoming a breeding ground for bullying and harassment in unprecedented ways.
I and many other female yoga teachers I know, have often been a target of cyber bullying. From anonymous emails to overt comments on webpages and social media, cyber harassment is becoming more and more prevalent. Most of these comments are from people we will never meet and have no idea who we are, others from people in our past who may know some details about our lives, and think they are hurting us or harming our reputation in some way with their personal, yet irrelevant attacks. If we choose a public life we will risk exposure and reactions from complete strangers and internet trolls. I choose to ignore them as many of my colleagues have done, because they don’t reflect who we are, our work as professionals and our lives in any way. Those who hide behind the internet and harass women for their choices, are the new kind of pond scum that has no relevance or importance in our lives.
And to that end
I am grateful to George and other photographers of his caliber who have elevated this incredible art form to new heights. I am honored to call him my friend.
Please check out his work and support new and rising stars like him.