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Yoga is Not Immune to Consumer Culture

Yoga is Not Immune to Consumer Culture

Yes, yogis can be susceptible to materialism too! I subscribe to numerous yoga mailing lists and it’s nice to have at least one email every day that I know will engage and excite me in a way that all that lovely spam just can’t seem to do.

Lately, though, I’ve started to realize a trend about my beloved yoga newsletters and publications: I’m enticed to buy a product every time I open an email. Maybe I’m especially susceptible to marketing ploys, as, after all, I’ll freely admit how much I love to shop. I realize this isn’t exactly a yogic quality and I have a long way to go to really be able to observe Santosha (the yoga Niyama of contentment), but at least I can recognize it.

The yoga community doesn't always feel like it's doing the same. Yoga is not just about what brand of clothes you wear, what summer yoga festivals you attended, or what brand of new mat you have. However, every yoga magazine I read now contains information about new clothing, mats, or other things that will enhance my practice? Sure, these publications need advertisers, but when I open up a magazine and see a spread of What to Wear as if I were flipping through Vogue, I have to admit, I’m sometimes a little put off.

I imagine that there are many people who will disagree with my assessment of this as there are great and new innovative yoga products that are exciting to learn about and try. I’m also not saying that practitioners are shallow or driven by our consumer culture and I’m certainly not suggesting that all yogis come to class to show off their great new gear. I am, however, suggesting that consumer culture might be driving our yoga community more than we realize. I’m not condemning people who enjoy buying new yoga gear – I do it myself. I worry however, about how many yogis get caught up in the consumerism of yoga products. 

Many come to yoga to clear our minds and find something deeper, more meaningful, than fancy yoga pants or ultra-plush yoga mats. When I read yoga literature, I expect to learn about how to go deeper in my practice – perhaps through different breathing techniques, maybe with meditation tips, possibly because of strategies to get the most out of an asana more than feeling like I’m opening up a catalogue. I have found myself distracted from good stories because I’m enamored with the newest mat comparison chart or floor-gripping gloves.

Yes, corporations have realized they can capitalize on yoga to make a buck and it's understandable that as yoga's popularity and benefits grow, so do the need for more yoga gear. Would it make me a better yogi to keep my mouth shut and learn to block it out? It’s kind of difficult when I walk into the studio and see large red sale banners pointing down to $25 headbands or $80 yoga pants though!

By Khaleelah Jones


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