Dealing with the Commercialisation of Yoga
I began yoga in a teenage act of rebellion, to be perfectly honest.
When I was in my final year at high school and the other kids were getting drunk on weekends and smoking joints behind the locker room during class, I started going to yoga.
Only a decade or so ago, when I was in my late teens and early twenties, yoga was still quite a novelty. When I went to a class, we weren’t bombarded with Lulu Lemon symbols each time the class moved into downward facing dog, and we didn’t practise to musicians playing live Native American flutes or DJs who rapped and rhymed in Sanskrit.
When I left Australia and traveled through Asia, I found myself on a remote beach at an alternative retreat centre where workshops abounded in Shamanism, ecstatic dance, belly dance, ayuvedic yoga massage, connecting with the sacred feminine, tantric yoga, lucid dreaming and astral travel.
I dove into this alternative world and found myself greeting people with 20-second hugs and saying farewell with Namaste. At any time, you could look into my bag and there would be incense, Palo Santo, rose quartz crystals, mala beads, random feathers and shells, journals and books. I started the day with lemon water and wheat grass shots. I meditated on the beach and ohm-ed in full moon fire circles. Sure, I tried drinking my own pee and swallowing buckets of salt water. I changed my name and switched from vegetarian to raw vegan. I went to dance church on Sundays and five rhythms on Fridays and countless other odd classes in-between.
I pushed my boundaries and created a new definition of home and family. I was happy, content, inspired and moved on a daily basis.
And then, something changed. Mainstream stepped in.
In a short amount of time, kombucha became a casual tea to drink with friends and the world of raw food became snobby and judgmental as people classified themselves in terms of what percentage of their diet was 100% raw. The magic and sacredness of ritual and passage became lost for me as yoga classes became hierarchical and expensive and people called themselves shamans and gurus just for the hell of it.
I became cynical, disheartened; I felt ostracised from a minority that I had come to belong so deeply within. I stepped back. I took a break from this scene and suddenly found myself skating the sidelines of normality, for suddenly it seemed as though normal was the alternative. But deep down, I missed it all – the incense, the ohm-ing, the shamanic shaking, the tantric embraces.
I realised that I could either be judgmental and cynical and miss out on this lifestyle altogether, or I could embrace the change, celebrate the fact that so many people had awoken to this way of living and found truth in their own way through these practices. I could be grateful for the abundance of classes and workshops that were now available everywhere I turned and I could engage in conversation with all these people around me who suddenly had an understanding of everything from bandhas to birkenstocks to bee pollen.
Slowly, I crept back in.
I started waking before dawn and meditating, flowing through asana, sipping warm lemon water and green smoothies. I started pulling destiny cards daily and cleansing my crystals under the full moon. I started retuning to classes, signed up to receive a gamut of yogi newsletters and every time I felt myself closing down in a moment of cringe-worthy discussion, I opened my heart, I lightened my thoughts, and I smiled at the newly sparked interest in debates over agave or coconut nectar, organic or biodynamic, tantra or kundalini.
My little rebel decided to join the mob, rather than try and beat them in a game that wasn’t really a battle, except in my own mind. I watched videos on Youtube of the cliché yoga girl and the shamanic cheerleaders and I enjoyed the humor and the fact that yes, I am kind of just like these girls.
I miss the days of simplicity and humble beginnings, but I do see potential in the acceptance and expansion of these practices in society. We are indeed searching. Searching for ways to connect – to ourselves and one another. Searching for ways to feel spirit within and around us. Searching for deeper ways to live and explore our inner and outer terrain. And why miss out on that just because it has become more popular to do so?
I think that many people may feel this way, saddened and disappointed by the commercialisation of these ways of living, the ancient sacred practice of yoga now taken over by florescent lycra and MC Yogi. Alas, in our shunning of these changes, we are forgetting the very core of what yoga truly is – union.
So, lets come together, in our Lulu Lemon pants, with our shamanic power animals by our sides (coz yeah, yeah I still have mine), with open hearts and minds. For we are all wandering pilgrims on the same road.
Cover by Ultra 5280