November 6, 2013

Why Hating on Lululemon & Practicing Celibacy Won’t Make You a Better Yogi. ~ Trisha Lotzer

There’s a lot of buzz right now about Lululemon, celibacy and a little bag in which to carry home the $98 no-longer-made-in-Vancouver yoga pants.

Apparently there are a lot of yogis out there who are criticizing Lululemon for incorrectly defining Bramacharya. Ironically, many of the objectors are equally incorrect in their definition.

Bramacharya is not the sanskrit word for celibacy.

Bramhacharya is more accurately translated as “the way of the Brahmin” and refers, historically, to a certain set of rules that a young man would have to follow if he were to become a Brahman, a traditional society of male priests.  Brahmacharya may alternatively be defined as the achara, or conduct, by which one may attain the state or Brahman or God.

The term Bramacharya has been interpreted to mean celibacy (in various forms and degrees) only because celibacy was part of the training of a Brahman. It should also be noted that celibacy was encouraged in young trainees not because sex is unholy or should be forbidden among yogis, but most likely because among the Brahmin priests the prevailing view was that women were impure, unclean and distracting.

So how does one define Bramacharya, then? Clearly, in our modern, Western culture we don’t have Brahmans or Brahman training schools. And we have men and women practicing yoga. The old rules for Brahmin don’t translate any better than the word itself. I believe that leaves it up to each of us to interpret this limb as we see fit within the original broad strokes of good behavior befitting one on a spiritual path. And in that sense, I don’t think Lululemon is that far off with their definition centered around moderation in general.

Here’s what Lululemon’s website says:

Brahmacharya (moderation, non-excess): Brahmacharya teaches us to recognize that moment of “just enough” so we don’t move past it into uncomfortable excess. Maybe it’s by pushing away the plate of french fries or using our pent-up energy for a run. By focusing inward, we keep our bodies healthy and energetic. (And hey, there are some things we’re better off avoiding altogether.) Where in your life could you practice moderation?

While I interpret and apply the practice of Bramacharya a little differently in my life on and off the mat, as a yoga instructor, I commend Lululemon on what I do see.

I see an effort to move beyond just the physical poses in yoga. I see an interest in going deeper into the practice of yoga by attempting to decode Pantanjali’s eight limbs and real-life examples of ways to actively incorporate the practice of the eight limbs, as they are correctly understood—or not yet—into daily life.  How many yogis, let alone corporations, can say that they are actively engaged in that level of practice? Apparently Lululemon can.

Hating on Lululemon and practicing celibacy doesn’t make you a better yogi. Being able to recite the core principles of yoga in sanskrit doesn’t make you a better yogi, either.

What does make you a better yogi or what makes you a yogi at all?

I can only answer for myself because I believe that what yoga is or isn’t is best determined by each of us for ourselves and ourselves alone through Svadhyaya (self-reflection). For me it means taking the core principles of yoga, the eight limbs, studying them,  and attempting to understand them to the best of my ability and applying them in positive ways to my daily life on and off the mat.

And for that, Lululemon—and your attempt to share your understanding and practice of Bramacharya on your little re-useable, recyclable bags—namaste.


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Asst. Ed. Jane Henderling/Ed. Bryonie Wise

{Photo courtesy of gradontripp on Flickr}

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Trisha Lotzer