It’s not even the end of the week, but this has not been a very good week for those of us who feel that yoga is becoming increasingly more commercialized.
First, came the announcement that Lululemon has a new CEO. Then, came the rather astounding news that YogaGlo was successfully issued a patent to film online yoga classes.
The above events have left many wondering if it is possible to fight against “Yoga, Inc.” While the commercialization of yoga may never completely go away, there are some ways to lessen it. The truth is, everyone who teaches or practices yoga make choices. Choices such as where we practice yoga, what we practice in, etc. have an impact.
Therefore, those who want to do something can.
Below are three simple ways to do so:
1. Support local independent studios whenever possible.
You may have heard or seen signs that say “Shop Local” and “Eat Local”. Well, practice local, too. Most people are aware that running a yoga studio is hard. However, few know just how expensive it can be. It can be hard enough just to pay the rent in most major or mid-size cities.
Besides just feeling good about supporting a local business, practicing local has other advantages as well. In general, small local studios offer practitioners more one-on-one attention in class and go a lot further than chains or gyms do in fostering a sense of community.
2. Buy second hand yoga clothes or support companies that are committed to the ethical treatment of both their workers and the environment.
Okay. It may seem a bit shallow to even bring up clothing, but unless you practice yoga in the nude (and there’s nothing wrong with that) you are going to be practicing in something.
Some may argue that a “true yogi” should be above such things, but the fact is clothing does matter for a variety of reasons. (i.e., If you are wearing something that does not provide adequate support or you simply don’t like, it most likely will affect your yoga practice.)
While how you spend your money is ultimately your choice, do some research on the companies you are supporting. If you feel that they are contributing to the branding of yoga, you feel uncomfortable with their manufacturing processes, etc. then don’t buy from them.
3. If you are a yoga teacher, considering teaching a free, sliding scale or donation-based class.
As a yoga instructor with three years of experience under my belt, I know first hand how little most yoga instructors earn. However, I offer free and donation-based classes because I believe in yoga for all. Yoga shouldn’t just be a luxury reserved only for those with enough disposable income. Likewise, it isn’t just for the young, thin, etc. Offering a donation-based class has allowed access to those who otherwise may never have thought that yoga was for them.
Granted, it may not be practical for all yoga teachers to make all their classes free, sliding scale, and/or donation-based, but even offering one once a month can make a huge difference and be incredibly rewarding for all involved.
Even if you aren’t a teacher, considering dropping in on one of these yourself. It can be a great way to meet other practitioners and instructors who may not fit the stereotypical mold of what yoga students and teachers “should” look like.
Despite what you may have heard and this week’s events—to the contrary, no one “owns” yoga.
All of us who practice and/or teach yoga make choices that can and do have an impact on the future of yoga or specifically, if that future includes the increased corporatization and branding of yoga.
While some may say the it’s inevitable, I do not.
Hopefully, others will agree with me, too, and keep the above suggestions in mind the next time they practice or teach.
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Editor: Catherine Monkman