Commercialization of Yoga

Since I’ve become a yoga teacher (and even really before this marking point), I’ve had numerous people ask me what I think about yoga going mainstream.  I had yet to post my opinion on the issue because I hadn’t really developed a strong stance either way about the commercialization of yoga.  In some aspects, I’m repulsed by the the marketing scheme that yoga has become.  I see more and more studios devoting twice as much space to their clothing line than their actually classrooms, and smack the word “yoga” on a shirt, bottle, or bag, and you’ll be sure to pay a $50 minimum.

This is not yoga.  Those bags, shoes, shirts, pants, bottles, etc. are not yoga.  Yoga is so much more than things.

It’s not just the labeling factor that bothers me.  If business could coexist with genuine yoga, then so be it.  But classic yoga is increasingly being abandoned for a new-aged, artificial version.  Classes are progressively heading down a path of degradation. Instead of the traditional mindful mind and body experiences one could once guarantee they would be walking into, an elevating amount of classes have become similar to mindless, overexerting aerobic routines.  Instead of feeling relaxed yet rejuvenated after a class, one will often feel worn out and drained.  And if the class doesn’t leave one exhausted, many students will walk out, never wishing to return.  I see this in my own classes, as I struggle to try and find a happy medium between those who are looking for the traditional yoga experience, and those who are seeking an intense workout.  Don’t get me wrong, yoga can definitely be a great workout, but when you’re teaching beginners, it’s more important to emphasize connection with the breath and body. This becomes difficult if you have the students huffing and puffing their way through continuous warrior I’s and II’s, with their minds primarily focused on how much more time it will be until their teacher says, “Now you can slowly come out of the pose”.  This entirely prevents them from enjoying and living in the present moment, one of the main goals of yoga.

Many people expect yoga to simply be another weight loss formula similar to their typical cardio routines at the gym, and this partially stems from the numerous classes that reflect this attitude.  However, actual yoga classes are not intended to be for the purposes of weight loss.  Instead, traditional yoga classes are intended to get students to accept and love the bodies that they are presently in.  Through this acceptance, one can more easily work towards living a healthy lifestyle, and from these lifestyle changes, it is then that students will be able to lose weight.

Although yoga is increasingly stemming away from it’s wholesome roots, I also see several positive aspects of yoga going mainstream.  For one, yoga is now everywhere.  Classes are ubiquitous and are offered at all times throughout the day.  If you wake up one morning and your body’s craving yoga, or you decide last minute in the evening that you feel like getting your stretch on, there’s bound to be at least one class available for you to drop in on.

You no longer need to travel to 5 different stores just to find a quality mat, and stretch pants can be found in almost every store, from Walmart to J. Crew

Yoga simply has become more accessible.

Yeah, there are people who are doing yoga merely because they think it’s “cool”, but at least they’re doing it.  The proliferation of yoga has opened up the eyes of so many people to this wonderful practice.  And it’s available for all shapes, sizes, ages, and genders.  It’s no longer a faux pas for a man to publicly do yoga in America.  More and more men are participating, with classes being filled up by both sexes.  It’s an open forum that allows anyone to unwind, destress, and reap its benefits.  However, if yoga goes too far astray from it’s original roots, yoga will slowly lose it’s much of it’s openness and revitalizing benefits.  I think that it’s amazing that so many people are getting into yoga.  However, I hope that the future generation of yoga will carry with it the true philosophy of yoga as peaceful forum that works to connect the mind, body, and soul.

I will be following this post with some more of my opinions about the commercialization of yoga.  While I still don’t feel entirely devoted to one side about whether the commercialization is negative or positive, I’m definitely leaning towards the negative side.  My next post will be directed towards this issue and will explain what prompted me to finally write this post.

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11 Comments

  • Reply
    Laura L.Ac
    November 21, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    The studio I go to http://SoulatHome.com is sort of caught in the middle of what you’re talking about. They have amazing classes for all levels and their instructors always use classes as an opportunity to teach the fundamentals, even to the more advanced students. They even offered an amazing deal for a year membership (mine’s about to run out – tear). However, they do carry the rather expensive items you frown upon (I frown as well.) Recently, they have decided to downsize their “store” and create a new classroom. Hooray! They have learned first hand that while commercializing yoga can help you make a buck, it’s the practice people crave and they are answering the call. Thanks for the post. Yoga has changed my life for the better. Keep up the good work changing the lives of others!

  • Reply
    The Candid RD
    November 21, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    I didn’t know you taught yoga….ugh, I’m a bad reader. That’s great! Last year I decided I wanted to start doing pilates, and now that I have been doing that for a while, I think yoga is my next step. I recently download a yoga video from yogadownload.com and have done it once, and am planning on doing it again tomorrow. I like it a lot, but I need to do it a few more times before I get the guts to join a class!

  • Reply
    Mari
    November 21, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    I think is such a great post! One of my friends asked me why I do yoga because she didn’t think it was great for weight loss…that caught me off guard. I love Yoga because it puts me in a great state of mind…not for burning calories.Yoga has made me a more positive person and I love the way I feel because of it. Oh and I love my pretty mat! Haha j/k

  • Reply
    Bekah
    November 21, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    Yayyyy apparently we were on the same wave length today. 😉 (posting personal yoga pics and whatnot.) Love the pictures btw.

    I just filmed it on my web cam, and used windows movie maker. Kinda addicting when you have time on your hands! lol. Good thoughts-although I am a sucker for the more sweat worthy sessions of yoga.. I think if you know your limits, a yoga sweat sesh can be beneficial and fun.

    I’d also love to know more about what all you went through to get your yoga teaching certification, etc.

  • Reply
    eatmovelove
    November 21, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    I love this post, especially as I do the Teacher Training now …(and still struggle with my decision, energy levels, being stressed with the rest of my life)…but that’s another story :(! Anyhow, I find it so interesting because I started yoga with the intention of finally starting something new , and wondering if I could acheive a “long & lean” look that is sooo often touted and women are all after in the classes it seems :(.

    So I found it ‘enlightening’ as I was debating about the training (because I have verrrry little prior experience < year – and struggle with a lot of the poses often…), the instructors told me that yoga is only 10% postures!! Of course, I had very little interest in the 'rest of it' – the breathing, meditation, chanting, principles, etc…but, now, surprise surprise I'm changing my mind!

    Even more surprisingly is the fact that I could care less to practice 'Power' yoga, etc. right now – and actually find myself towards the gentler forms of Hatha yoga, yin , etc. I just want to de-stress and relax and tune into my self…I don't know?

    I also find that Hot/Bikram is so popular now and a huge bandwagon that most people want to do yoga for – because they think primarily of detox and weight loss – …but uh, your sweating because your in a room that's like 100 degrees!!! you can sweat like that on a hot summer's day too!! I now prefer to work up my 'own' natural sweat and building energy/heat through the body with postures that I can do anywhere!

    Anyways, I look forward to reading more and if anyone has any comments on my experiences on my blog – I'd love to hear from you 🙂

  • Reply
    calmkindpeace
    November 21, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    Everything is commercialized now. Fads, trends, eating perfect according to how others do it, etc….its too much…makes a person have to turn off the tv and shut off the internet and focus back on them self….those who can afford yoga, and accomplishing and learning more of that are so lucky though…I would love to, but no money…and unfortunately all I manage at home is maybe 15 minutes of silent meditation.
    The whole world is in a rush and its not good. I am in a position of being unable to exercise beyond a mere walk for the past year with a bad hard road ahead of me. Reaching out to others for some encouragement has resulted in a big negative. They are too consumed with their gyms, their intense running , their yoga sessions, and yet they are negative for having all this…they are negative about their blessed blessed ability to have a gym, to do something beyond a lazy walk, to afford further education , to visit blogs and get tips for plans , or embark on some perfect eating regimen in order to be something else. No one appreciates what they have anymore. Having lost my whole life basically…I marvel…marvel at how no one appreciates what they have anymore…what they can do…achieve, pursue, buy, research, etc…and many unable to reach out and offer kindness to others in desperate need. …
    I just think everything is being commercialized now…even on blogs there are followers of a diet or product or something just because it seems “right”…
    I think every day about how sad my broken personal life has become…and at same time have to try in any way to be positive.
    Sorry this is so long. I just agree with how everyone is rush rush and unaware of their blessings. When people have something…have the ability to physically do more than walk..have the money to pursue things, etc….when they simply have these things they take it for granted…unaware of what it could feel to have it all lost. Its not good.

  • Reply
    Nicole
    November 22, 2009 at 8:44 am

    I do yoga occasionally…not as much as I would like. I really enjoy it and find it to be a treat to my body, mind, and spirit. A lot of the classes I’ve tried are ruined by overly chatty class goers and silly instructors. It ruins the experience completely. I’m on the prowl for a more “serious” yoga class and hope to find one soon. WONDERFUL post!

  • Reply
    Allie (Live Laugh Eat)
    November 22, 2009 at 10:43 am

    Great post. I really wish I had a good studio to go to and awaken my love for yoga. I went to this fabulous class over the summer that really helped me connect with myself and the world. I miss it. Unfortunately I’m easily distracted so it’s hard for me to do it on my own.

  • Reply
    A Look Back + Californication! « Food-Fitness-FreshAir
    January 3, 2010 at 7:52 am

    […] Commercialization of Yoga […]

  • Reply
    MOM
    March 19, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    This is Jan.. your mom and I have just spent some time on your blog.. It is really beautifully laid out.. Your presentations are fascinating and well-written! Best of Luck in the future. Jan

  • Reply
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