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Why Pimp Isn’t OK and Neither is Yoga Ho

in YogOpinions

pimp-your-matIt probably doesn’t need to be said, but this is an opinion piece. For those of you tired of weight loss related yoga stuff, or the borrowing of terminology from prostitution and/or the procurement thereof for the sake of a cute and catchy tagline, now’s the time to change the channel. Or maybe that’s exactly what we shouldn’t do.

I admit it seems unfair to single out one business in the sea of gazillions of others benefiting from the growing multi-billion dollar yoga industry (this blog might be considered one of them), but when I caught the name of this fitness program run by what appears to be a nice and impossibly toned lady, it was hard to keep it to myself. One, because every time I repeat it, it feels more and more wrong, and everyone I’ve mentioned it to feels the same. Two, because this is exactly what needs to stop in terms of co-opting other cultures, be it sex workers industry, ghetto or Hindu, for the gain of our own capitalistic enterprises.

Because the name Pimp My Mat is neither funny nor cute. It’s the gentrification of a word that has nothing, and should have nothing, to do with yoga. To be completely fair, PYM is not a strict yoga company, but a Pilates-based program that borrows from yoga. Still it’s amazing that at this point in our culture, and especially yoga-related culture, the word pimp is acceptable to use when referring to enhancing or improving your workout routine. Should we consider ourselves yoga hoes? If I ever see a Pimps and Hoes themed yoga class I may lose my shit.

For such a high profile fitness expert as is the case with PYM founder Tandy Gutierrez, having been featured in multiple publications such as Elle, Seventeen and Self, along with training celebrity clients and having an extensive background in Pilates education, yoga training and being a NSCA Certified Personal Trainer, the lack of sensitivity and awareness in naming her company is disappointing and disheartening.

But perhaps I’m just being an old. Kids use the word pimp all the time — “pimp my ride,” Snoop Dogg, etc. — but I’d like to think we’ve surpassed that era of careless word slinging like it doesn’t mean a thing. When bullying is reaching new heights, slut-shaming and fat-shaming are very real, and feminist websites are publishing shameful articles about white people upset over black people in yoga class, I would expect the yoga world to be the last place to encounter blatant cultural offenses.

What’s my point? This is not intended as an attack on Ms. Gutierrez or her life’s work, nor her ambassadors working for her on a national level to spread the PYM good word — she deserves to have success if people love her teaching. This a commentary on and criticism of what organizations and people like SAAPYA, Decolonizing Yoga, and Roseanne Harvey at It’s All Yoga, Baby are working hard to put a stop to in their efforts to promote diversity and inclusivity in yoga, and hopefully, the entire fitness industry, or at least the yoga-influenced. This is an invitation for discussion and a public request for Ms. Gutierrez to reconsider.


hollypenny is a writer, yoga practitioner and avid tea drinker living in New York City. Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens are some of her favorite things.



11 comments… add one
  • Anna

    This is what happens when only one part of yoga is emphasized over and over and over again. Without the asanas, yoga would be incomplete, just as it would be without pranayam. It isn’t the entirety of yoga.

  • I have to agree with you on this one, sadly though because I’m sure she is a nice person and doesn’t mean any harm at all. And I’m sure many people are going to say relax, or stop being so sensitive but when are we going to deal with the fact that our words have an affect. Pimp and Yoga do not belong in the same phrase. Sorry:(
    Although I am not familar with the company or what they teach or represent, the phrase Pimp Your Mat conjures up yet another image of the yoga industry going superficial, and frankly it needs to go the other way.

  • Laura Gomez

    I’m happy to say you are very mistaken when it comes to Pimp Your Mat. It is not borrowing from prostitution terminology, it is simply a play on the term “pimp your ride” which has longtime been a phrase that means add accessories to your vehicle to make it better. Her pilates uses accessories to vary up which muscles are being targeted or use them in slightly different ways. Hence “use accessories to make your mat better” or “pimp your mat” makes sense. She is one of the most thorough and holisitic pilates instructors ever with an explicit and clear focus on pilates for health both physical and spiritual as we care for ourselves, realign, open our hearts and minds. She advocates making it a practice and a lifestyle and incorporates wonderful whole food recipes available to all of her subscribers. There is absolutely nothing about or relating to sex or trivializing prostitution in her name or her teachings and although you may be very sensitive to the word pimp used in any phrase or context, I never once associated it with the sex trade. She simply likes the use of blocks, straps, magic rings, foam rollers, for variation and added results. It’s kind of hip and funny at the same time to think of people pimping their pilates mats out the same way guys would their car. There is a time to be serious about word use and its effect on society and a time to lighten up and smile. Not everything has serious implications or is a statement about our society. The younger generations are just familiar with that phrase. And none of us doing pilates with Tandy views ourselves as hoes in any way! She’s the sweetest, most down to earth loving mama, friend, and instructor ever,who truly cares about people’s wellness and health education. I think your outrage is needless and I truly hope you are able to feel better about it because the good message of yoga and pilates is in good hands with Tandy.

    • Teresa

      Sorry, but the term “pimp” is inextricably linked to the sex trade. Regardless of other connotations, if you say someone is a pimp you do not mean he has added some bling to a yoga mat. If you say someone has pimped someone else, you do not mean that they have offered them props to aid in their practice.

      Furthermore, Ms. Gutierrez explicitly says in her video that all you need is a mat. So, at least on her website, it does not seem like she is using the term “pimp your mat” to mean “use props”. Frankly, there is nothing on her site that would explain such a title and it’s weird when you juxtapose “pimp your yoga mat” title with her stated purpose of showing people the practice she developed as a busy mom.

  • Words only have the power that we give them. When I see “pimp” my mat, I think exactly what Laura Gomez just said. I know exactly the context in which it was used and am not the least bit offended.

  • abbadabba

    I feel the same way about the term “baby mama.” I often hear well-off women referring to themselves and other mothers as “baby mamas.” “Baby mama” is not a generic term for mother of a baby.

  • S.

    These phrases are just the tip of the iceberg on how yoga has been bastardized in the West.

  • Matt

    I expected to agree with you, but you’re really making a big Something out of nothing. And yes, it does smack of get-off-my-lawnism. Pimp in this context has nothing to do with hos, Superfly, or whatever is buzzing through your head when you hear it, except with a heaping shovelful of irony. Think of the irony!

  • Amy

    Is Laura Gomez really Tandy Gutierrez?

  • Susan Jones

    What a silly rant over a word. Pimping something has, for years, simply meant making it better. Have you never heard of pimp my ride or pimp my house??

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