It 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.