No really, this is serious. And Antonia Dunbar and Meghan Mackintosh mean business when it comes to campaigning for clarity in the work-hard party-hard advertising industry, which is exactly why they founded YIA (Yoga In Advertising), and the specially suited yoga classes designed for their fellow ‘Mad Men’ and Women. Since July, weekly Tuesday night sessions of their own brand of Kundalini meets Vinyasa Krama meets Social Networking have been held at the Bhakti Center downtown.
But finding the union between spirituality and commercialism has been no easy task, what with a recent ruckus over nudity in yoga ads, public outcries over too much commercialism and a grassroots movement to reclaim yoga from the money grubbing heathens and return it to its roots.
Besides, yoga in advertising? Isn’t that an oxymoron? As Americans, we’re bombarded by sales pitches from the moment we wake up in the morning to the second we shut our eyes for bed. And if they’re any good, they keep repeating even then. They’re literally physical manifestations of vrttis! Constant messages flashing convincing us we need to buy, buy, buy because we’re too fat, too old, too thirsty, too stinky. How does one approach bringing yoga, a practice on finding happiness by looking within, to an industry built on finding happiness every place but?
“We’re satisfying a need,” says Ms. Dunbar, a trained Kundalini teacher, a cellist and Director of Marketing at production house PulseMusic, where she works closely with ad agencies. “It’s widespread within the advertising community, all these options to turn to unsustainable means of relieving stress and building relationships,” says Dunbar. “We’re not saying it’s bad, we’re just saying ‘hey man, we’re offering an alternative place to not only focus on your practice and build a sustainable community, but also help with physical, mental and spiritual balance.’ ”
So what’s a YIA class like? Not “yoga lite” explains Meghan. The 90 minute class is team-taught, opening with the traditional Kundalini Adi Mantra to tune in, followed by a portion of vinyasa krama led by Meghan to get things moving, a Kundalini section guided by Antonia (with themes like stress and its affect on kidneys and adrenals glands), and finally a savasana and group meditation. The sessions close with a delightful round of chai and cookies and a chance to mingle. The folks come for the yoga, but could leave with a few business cards and, best case scenario, new business.
Coincidentally, Antonia and Meghan got the idea for the specialized offering just this past July, when business brought them together, and a yoga connection kept the conversation going. Ms. Mackintosh, an account executive at media hosting company Wiredrive, also happens to be trained in Kundalini, as well as Vinyasa Krama, a style created by Srivatsa Ramaswami, under the tutelage of Krishnamacharya. Together, Meghan and Antonia decided it was their mission to serve an industry where health and well-being aren’t regularly consulted in between demanding work schedules, craft service meals and after hours networking at bars.
Though it’s not like ‘Mad Men’, Meghan assures us, with scotch slurping execs and triple martini lunches (and we saw how they approached yoga), today’s ad industry works hard, and as part of their job, “plays hard”, rubbing elbows with potential business partners to build relationships ultimately acquire more work. Yoga In Advertising was designed with that in mind, but instead of blood alcohol level, it’s consciousness that’s elevated.
We’ve seen how advertising has both affected yoga, and how yoga’s played a role in many an ad campaign (see Yoplait), but will we see a day when yoga principles factor into the consciousness of the world of advertising and consumerism as whole?
Maybe! “We all need to engage in this material energy somehow,” says Antonia. “We’re already engaging in material energy anyway by having a body. In advertising, the way that people tend to rectify that clash is they think of the industry as building relationships between a brand and people.”
Thanks in huge part to social media tools like twitter and facebook, consumers are much more in touch with brands, and vice versa. Meghan and Antonia are hoping the increased communication and transparency are signs of heightened consciousness, integrity and responsibility from all parties involved. If YIA can help further that process, maybe we as consumers won’t be any less blasted by the ubiquity of advertising, even in yoga (see Russell Simmons’ headstand ad all over town but at least we can know it came with an awakened Kundalini’d intention!
Founders Meghan and Antonia have intentions to grow the once a week class into an integrated campaign for YIA workshops and special events involving the community.
YIA is currently being held at The Bhakti Center NYC, 25 First Avenue (btwn 1st & 2nd) THIRD FLOOR; TUES: 7:30 pm; Tea & Cookies served after class!! Suggested Donation $10. YIA on facebook