Tag Archives: commercialization of yoga

Yoga as Commodity

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Much has been written in this blog and others about the material things of Yoga. Look over the last 10 years of Yoga Journal (or any other recent yoga magazine) to see how many ads there are to get yoga dudettes and dudes (although mostly the dudettes) to buy/consume things that we are supposed to let go of.  That is, all the accoutrements of yoga such as $100 pants, detox and cleansing rituals, $200 malas to help you get deeper into meditation (as if the Rs 50 ones I get in India don’t work), and Swarovski crystal chakra necklaces to help you balance your chakras.

Since I’ve been writing this blog for the last 10 years, it amuses me to no end on how the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Same yoga shit, different day.  I wrote on the commercialization of yoga a good 7 years ago at least.

So when a new reader who has recently discovered this blog wrote me, I had to smile.  YES!  This old blog is still appreciated and that does this Krazy Old Yogini’s heart good.  The new reader nailed it: YOGA AS COMMODITY.  I remember the words of a long ago student who believed that the way yoga is taught in the West serves to reinforce negative patterns (of speed, busy-ness, mindLESSness) instead of creating new ones (slowing down, stillness, mindFULLness.)  The addictions are fed, not lessened.

“It’s funny because I came to the practice in order to alleviate hardcore issues with insomnia which I eventually learned was hardcore anxiety. Then, like so many, I became obsessed with the superficial and physical aspects of yoga and thought the mental part was only meditation.  

In the US it seems we define yoga as just the physical practice and how it can be “used” (weight loss, “enlightenment”, calming, better sex.)  Sigh. I wanted to be a yoga expert and I read all of the literature and bought all of the clothes and took all the types of classes and it wasn’t until a life event smacked me right in the face that I realized – all I need to do is practice. And through practice I have shed so much that was so unnecessary, both material things and ideas or feelings that I was attached to.  

There are many vessels through which people learn this lesson but for me it was Ashtanga that taught me. The heavy emphasis on practice made me show up consistently and didn’t let me analyze the practice.  In practice nothing matters but whether or not you showed up and did what you can do. Through that I feel the real journey has begun for me and things are starting to unravel both beautifully and painfully at times (emotionally, not physically.)

I devoured the Babarazzi’s blog because it was another smack in the face that made me realize – why do I buy Lululemon, why do I want to do cool backbends, why is my subscription to Yoga Journal so important to me? Because it’s been shoved in my face and I have been told that it’s necessary.  I’ve since realized that these things actually have nothing to do with yoga.  It’s very refreshing.

I’m sad to hear that you do not continue to create new posts, but I have subscribed anyway. I appreciate your honest take on the subject and wish there were bloggers doing what you’re doing.  There’s so much Yoga Journal and elephant journal and we don’t even realize how toxic they are!”

I stated writing this blog BYS — Before Yoga Selfies. Now there are yoga dudettes almost killing themselves on electrified rail tracks for likes on Facebook and retweets on Twitter.

“The stream of wishy washy spirituality and body-insane yoga culture streams into my world every single day. I catch myself, sometimes, and wonder how with a shred of honesty I can associate myself with this stuff; how do I teach when most teaching is such a sham? How do I ask people to connect with their own flesh when ‘flesh’ is a loaded word? I pause, often, when I’m writing and when I’m standing in front of a class; the words I most want to say are so bloody, so honest, so scary I’m not sure I should.”

Yeah, it really IS that simple that it comes down to a bare soul and a sharp truth.

I’m tired of the noise and it’s why I’m moving to a place, outside the West, where what I teach is valued.

yoga whores* for the corporate dollar

Oh my.

“Yoga” and “whore” in the same sentence. That’s a jolt to the manomayi kosha.

Sometimes strong language is needed to get people to sit up and take notice. What can I say? When I was a young hippie chick I looked up to strong-talking women like Angela Davis and Germaine Greer.

No, I’m not dissing any working girls. In fact, I have a lot more respect for a woman who has to make her living on the street than I do for some of the *corporate* yoga antics out there right now. I’m using this definition of “whore”: A *person* considered as having compromised principles for personal gain.

To clarify, be advised (and that language comes from my working for lawyers for 20 years) that I am writing about CORPORATIONS, NOT about any specific yoga person who is a spokesperson/model for a yoga mat company, yoga clothes, etc. I would not mind being in an ad for the eco-mat that I use because I love the brand (and no, it is not Manduka.) For your ** reference, see the U.S. Supreme Court’s “corporate personhood” debate.

My phrasing is comparable to the way one of my city representatives used it when she said that my town was whoring itself for the local sales tax revenue if the powers that be allowed Walmart (one of the 10 worst companies on the planet according to betterworldshopper.org) to build next to a marsh/bird sanctuary. Long story short: they didn’t. A citizens’ group that I started stopped them from doing that.

A grass roots group. I made my own flyers and walked door to door. No corporate sponsors. Power to the people.

Roseanne is on fire with her post on the rained out “yoga gathering” in New York City. She says:

“I wonder, do we have to do this dance? We all know it’s a dance. You really can’t convince me that, other then sponsoring an event with a guaranteed captive audience of 10,000, do these companies embody yogic values? JetBlue would like to co-opt the openness and transparency associated with yoga by guaranteeing “no blackout dates, no seat restrictions” on its frequent-flier program. It’s nice of adidas to sponsor a high-profile yoga teacher, offer free yoga classes around the world and develop a line of sustainable yoga wear ~ but its other business practices include endorsing the slaughter of kangaroos (an endangered species) in Australia and sweatshops in Asia. Can we separate these actions from its endorsement of yoga?”

Max Strom posted this response on his Facebook page about it:

“…exciting that 9000 people gathered in Central Park to practice yoga and I have been waiting for an event like this for some time. But it my opinion the event was sadly squandered. All the media was there, CNN, the NY Times, everybody – the cameras were pointing. For the first time in history the world put the …microphone at the mouth of the larger yoga community in America. But what was the message given? We are celebrating the Solstice. We want more people to practice yoga. That’s it? We have nothing more to say to the world but that in 2010? With the oil gusher reminding us all that solar power is desperately needed, 9000 people doing salutations to the sun could have brought the world an unforgettable visual and call to invest in a nonpolluting technology. And with hurricane season kicking up in the Gulf, we could have bought attention back to the people of Haiti. Let us come together again in mass. Soon. But next time let’s show what we stand for. And yes we can do it without corporate sponsors. Martin Luther King did.”

Instead, everyone walked away with swag bags.

I loved Max’s last two sentences, especially since I watched Martin Luther King march through my Chicago neighborhood in the late ’60s. I also saw a crazy throw a brick at Dr. King’s head and saw him stumble and then march on. I became politicized, radically, at an early age.

YogaDork asks whether we want to smell like Eat Pray Love….

““Pray” journeys to India’s sultry incense and spice history with jasmine, pink pepper, patchouli, amber, juniper berry, cardamom, and musk for a woodsy scent laced in exoticism.”

…and alerting the advertisers’ new dream, the yoga moms, that they should get ready to take out their wallets for the Home Shopping Network:

“Well, thank goodness for the candle set. What if you want smell like exotic praying patchouli, but want the room to emit love and mangoes??”

Funny.

I kinda remember India smelling a bit differently….

Yeah, something stinks. And it’s not the new Eat Pray Love perfume.

Of course corporate sponsorship is the way of the modern world. Sports teams started it a long time ago. People even get corporate names tattooed on their foreheads (hey, I like tats but you couldn’t pay me enough) and name their kid after their favorite soda or car.

Just because it’s the way it is nowadays, does that make it “good”? Really?

Have we really become that numb that no one asks the question anymore, “when is enough, enough?”