The name when uttered conjures images of long bearded Indian men twisting and contorting themselves into pretzel like formations in loincloths for some sacred purpose. Or so it used to be about twenty years ago. When I look at how far we have come from this notion, I am a little bit shocked.
I began practising mantra yoga in a Transcendental Meditation Center when I was very young. At that time we were taught from the onset to bring a certain amount of reverence to the practice which was authentic. We were there for the purposes of clearing negativity from our minds and fostering a sense of higher spirituality and community.
Skip forward two decades and here we are. Fighting over Lulu Lemon pants suits and trying to find the most intricately designed yoga mats to be “one up” on the competition in the yoga studio where we spend exactly one and a half hours (some not even this much) of our time probably three times a week.
It is little wonder that the second generation of yoga practitioners have all but disappeared into obscurity. When speaking to the pioneers of the various yoga traditions in the western word, one common theme runs through the discussion and that is the commercialization of what was originally intended to be a spiritual practice. Capitalism in its most ugly manifestations spares nothing and there is noting left which is sacred in its eyes.
We should have been alarmed when Rudrach malas went on sale for people whose sole purpose for purchasing them was to use them as jewelry but this went over everybody’s heads and now hundreds of thousands of western yoga studio practitioners are now in full cultural appropriation of east Indian spiritual practices.
So back to our original question. Is yoga becoming too commercial? I would say that the ship has left the harbor on this question and we are very much in deep water. It is now not a question of whether it is becoming too commercial but how much more commercial can it get. We now have yoga certification standards programs from organizations who will tell you if your level of integration and practice is of the level that it should be aka Yoga Alliance. We have people copyrighting yoga systems and putting their names on it not knowing the word means “union or marriage” and to put your name on a yoga system is to say “hey guys come be unified with me!!!”
Of course at this point we queue the yoga scandals which are rife and taking the industry by storm. We have tax evaders, rapists, sexual harrassers and all manners of “fun” people who have become “gurus” with followers all over the world.
SIGGGHHHHH!!!!! We believe that like everything in the west, this is a temporary trend which will eventually fizzle out and hopefully the less sincere will move on to some other sacred science which will become the flavor of the month. Until then, all we can do is run down to Walmart to secure your two for one special on yoga beads (mala) with your special do it yourself yoga kit package.