August 13, 2010

Sex, Lies and Yoga.

When corporations rule, they sometimes hire sexy ladies to promote yoga as fitness. And when corporations roll out the yoga mats, the real essence of yoga—to realize physical wellbeing, mental balance and spiritual enlightenment—is sometimes being severely misrepresented.

To misrepresent something or someone is similar to telling a lie.

In the yoga ethics of satya, we learn that to tell a lie, or to say something that is not serving the greater good, is contrary to the spirit of yoga.

Corporations are about making money. And when corporations rule, they care mostly about the bottom line— about making more money. Indeed, they’ll do next to anything to serve the bottom line. They’ll even tell you that you need ToeSox to practice yoga.

But if you point out the obvious, that Patanjali never used or encouraged ToeSox, then they’ll tell you that they’re really not into selling these ToeSox, they’re actually just into selling artful photo-ads of naked women who just happen to like using ToeSox.

Go figure.

What I actually have figured out is that yoga and corporate capitalism do not mix well. They are like oil and water. Or fish out of water. Something like that.

We learned this in the recent debate about Yoga Journal. The corporation which now owns Yoga Journal, Active Interest media, will keep using sexy women to push yoga-as-fitness if that serves the bottom line best, wrote one of its former ad executives here on Elephant Journal recently. Even if the editors of the same magazine think otherwise, he wrote.

It actually made me think of the CEO from Monsanto I heard on NPR who grows organic veggies in his backyard and pushes corporate poison down people’s throats at work. This kind of job situation just creates split personalities.

Indeed, mixing corporate capitalism and yoga is like dealing with a split personality.

We have seen the same trend in the sustainable business movement. You pick up a jar of Cascadian Farm organic strawberry jam and you think you are buying a product from some wholesome, hippie outfit in the Northwest.

But if you dig a little deeper in the organic dirt, you’ll learn that the hippie founder of Cascadian Farm has become rich by selling the outfit to a giant corporation named General Mills, the world’s sixth largest food company.

In other words, sustainable Cascadian Farm sold out to a not-so-sustainable outfit located far away from that original barn on the wholesome-looking label.

Something similar happened to Yoga Journal. This magazine also gradually sold out to bigger and fatter corporate interests, and finally to Active Interest Media, which owns over a dozen magazines, including American Cowboy, Backpacker Magazine, and Muscle and Performance.  Yes, Cowboys, Backpackers and Big Muscles, and Skinny Yoginis.

Go figure.

But here’s the problem. When the owners of a business spend most of their time in far-away corporate boardrooms, they surely spend much less time picking organic strawberries and practicing the deeper essence of pranayama.

So, they’ll be happy to serve us a pack of sex, lies and yoga-lite. If that makes their bank accounts fatter.

Some people, including members of the elephant community, have recently called me elitist and judgmental to point these things out. Well, then I’m happy to be guilty as charged.

Indeed, there is a kind of elitism in yoga, is there not? If you believe that some hatha yogis are more advanced than others (with or without yoga pants, that is), that some yogis may reach enlightenment like that Buddha fellow, while other half-ass yogis don’t. That’s kind of elitist, is it not?

But that’s yoga. That’s what yoga teaches. Yoga teaches us that there are higher and lower states of consciousness, higher and lower states of being. Even higher and lower energy centers, such as those totally elusive, never-to-be-seen chakras.

So, yes, yoga is full of elitist, hierarchical stuff. From koshas (layers of mind) to chakras, from student to teacher, from disciple to guru, from beginner to advanced. All kinds of ways to divide and discriminate.

To discriminate, or to judge, is called viveka in Sanskrit. This is also an important aspect of yogic wisdom, to discern between what is truth and what is not, to discern if an action or habit is beneficial for one’s spiritual growth or not.

So, yes, yogis are taught to discriminate, to judge between right and wrong, to judge between something as infinitely important as yoga with or without sox.

So, surprise, to all those who think that yogis should not speak out if they see something they do not think serves the greater good, or the greater goal of yoga.

Yogis are also activists. Sacred activists. Spiritual activists. We aspire to use our heart, mind and spirit to serve the greater good.

Yep. Even yogis sometimes peel off the corporate, greenwashed jam labels in order to get to the truth.

Yep. Even yogis will stand up against those dumb ToeSox just to get a skinny, yogi leg up on those corporate Muscle and Performance guys pushing all that corporate sex, lies and yoga.

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