The Commodification of Yoga

Is yoga becoming just another consumption machine?

It’s a booming business to be sure as new brands pop up at an amazing rate. So what does this mean for yoga?

Will it get usurped by consumerism and lose it’s way in the process?

Or, is the commodification a good thing—a way to widen the audience, increase awareness and grow? Certainly the mainstreaming of yoga can lead to awareness as Oprah and other national sources have put an important light on the health and well-being benefits of yoga.

Others have suggested that the growth will lead to a watering down or stripping away of essential elements that make yoga what it is. At some point is yoga nothing more than another form of exercise akin to Pilates or Kickboxing? That remains to be seen.

Read the post I wrote for Elephant Journal about this topic. Below is an excerpt:

As fast as yoga grows in popularity in the west, yoga brands are exploding on the scene with equal intensity to satisfy our cravings for yogi stuff. According to the Wall Street Journal, Americans are now spending a staggering $5.7 billion a year on yoga classes and products according to a 2008 survey by Yoga Journal. That’s an 87% increase from 2004.

The growth of yoga and yoga classes is great, beautiful, inspired. The idea of more and more Americans getting off the couch, getting in an hour of yoga, reducing stress, finding balance, is a fantastic shoulder-width sized step in the right direction for so much of what ails us as a largely sedate nation.

But what about all the new brands? What about the trendy factor? Yoga is very trendy. It’s also cool and hip and that scares the hell out me. Could yoga simply become another expensive hobby for snobby rich people driving SUVs and Swagger Wagons?

When I attend my $15 Ashtanga class at the local shala, you know the cool one with great chai, gorgeous wooden floors, high ceilings and the giant dancing Shiva statue at the entrance, I see affluence everywhere. From the chic bags and mats to the growing range of really sexy, extremely expensive yoga clothing, yoga is a sacrificial cash cow of opportunity to enterprising yoga companies.

A hot topic with many opinions. This isn’t meant as a critique of any yogi or aspiring yogi regardless of their decisions regarding how they practice or approach their practice. Instead, the post is meant more as an observation and a cautionary tale about motivation and the trend that finds businesses too often capitalizing on people desperately in search of meaning for their lives.

One comment

  1. dawn mason says:

    Hi Coe
    Give yourself a break about the cheese – you are causing more harm with the stress of thinking whether you should/shouldn’t eat eat it than the cheese itself. Just have it sometimes, maybe as a treat and stick to your healthy diet the rest of the time?
    …..And, when you have it, enjoy, no guilt – I think you know all this ha-ha!
    Love and light
    Dawn Mason

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