November 18, 2011

Turns out, Yoga is Not Immune to Consumer Culture. ~ Khaleelah Jones

Photo: Allie Hylton

Turns out yogis are just as bad!

I subscribe to numerous yoga mailing lists. It’s nice to have at least one email every day that I know will engage and excite me in a way that all that lovely spam about Viagra and such just can’t seem to do.

Lately, though, I’ve started to realize a trend about my beloved yoga newsletters and publications: I’m enticed to buy something every time I open an email. Maybe I’m especially susceptible to marketing ploys. After all, I’ll freely admit how much I love to shop. I realize this isn’t exactly a yogic quality, if you want to get technical (I have a long way to go to really be able to observe Santosha), but at least I can recognize it.

I’m not so sure if the yoga community as a whole can do the same.

Since when did yoga become all about what brand of clothes you wear, what summer yoga festivals in far-off lands you attended or what brand of new mat you have? Why is it that every magazine and newsletter I read contains information about new clothing, mats or other things that will “enhance” my practice? (No pun intended.) Sure, these publications need advertisers, but when I open up a magazine and see a spread of “What to Wear” as if I were flipping through Vogue, I have to admit, I’m a little shocked.

I imagine that there are many people who will disagree with my assessment of the yoga community. I’m not saying that practitioners are shallow or driven by our consumer culture. I’m certainly not suggesting that all yogis come to class to show off their great new gear. I am, however, suggesting that consumer culture might be driving our yoga community. I’m not condemning people who enjoy buying new yoga gear – I do it myself. I am disappointed, however, at how many yogis get caught up in the consumerism of yoga.

I’ve overheard more conversations about yoga pants than about any part of the actual yoga practice. I’m not blaming anyone; on one hand, we’re at yoga to clear our minds and find something deeper, more meaningful, than three-figure moisture wicking yoga pants and ultra-plush yoga mats. It can be difficult to remember this, however, when we’re barraged by teachers announcing astronomically expensive training sessions or sales in the retail section of the studio, where the average cost of a pair of yoga pants is over $60.

When I read yoga literature, I expect to learn about how to go deeper in my practice – perhaps through different breathing techniques, maybe with meditation tips, possibly because of strategies to get the most out of an asana. Instead, I feel like I’m opening up a catalogue. I have found myself distracted from good stories because I’m enamored with the newest mat comparison chart or floor-gripping gloves.

Have corporations realized they can capitalize on yoga to make a buck? Is there – and should there be – any solution to the show of consumerism-pervading studios? Would it make me a better yogi to keep my mouth shut and learn to block it out?

…then again, it’s kind of difficult when I walk into the studio and see large red sale banners pointing down to $25 headbands.

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Known as the girl who could talk herself out of a paper bag, Khaleelah Jones has always loved sharing her voice with others, particularly as a yoga teacher. Khaleelah has been practicing yoga (in various forms, obviously!) for over 7 years and has been a teacher for a little over one year. Khaleelah is a freelance writer and can be found writing and yoga-ing (and making up verbs) around London or on www.khaleelahjones.com
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