Tag Archives: Lululemon

Disturbing trend: booze and Yoga classes

There are plenty of yoga “blends” out there now that the practice is becoming mainstreamed in Western culture. There is Stand Up Paddle Yoga, Yoga with weights, spinning class yoga, the list is tireless. At least these yoga strains are working toward a healthy end. But now things have taken a turn for the worse: the proliferation of combining alcohol with yoga practice.

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 8.33.53 AM

Ty Ku Sake has a new campaign #ApresYoga which is a spinoff on the Apres Ski where after a nice day of skiing, there is an unwinding which involves a hot tub and alcohol. They make it sound “fun”: do yoga and drink up. The only problem is that Yoga is supposed to be a practice of awareness and not to be combined with substance use (yes alcohol is considered a substance). They have even brought in a yoga celebrity, Erin Motz, to spearhead their campaign. I suppose everyone has their price.

As I have been blogging for a while, I am aware that there is a sizable segment of the yoga community who is in recovery from substance abuse. Many have come to yoga as a solace from mainstream culture. Now Big Alcohol has identified yoga as an untapped marketing mecca and is wasting no time in exploiting the practice to increase alcohol sales.

The Facebook page for DoYouYoga.com is pushing this product, interlacing it with articles about yoga practice. This isn’t the only mainstream yoga outlet pushing drinking…

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 8.23.45 PM

Yes, everyone’s darling Lululemon is even producing its own line of beer. Granted this was for a limited event which involved running, it shows how a company who tells you how committed they are to certain yogic principles quickly take to low road for a quick buck.

A studio in New Mexico, a state which has one of the highest DUI and drinking and driving related fatality rates in the US, recently started this event which actually has people drinking beer during Yoga practice.

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 8.27.42 PM

And it doesn’t help that celebrities like Nick Lachey are using yoga to to promote alcohol, as he is here drinking beer after a hot yoga class. That sounds like a nice recipe for severe dehydration.

Lastly, the new editor of Yoga Journal Carin Gorrell endorsed “brewery yoga” during her interview on Elephant Journal last year. Calling yoga in a brewery “perfect.” You can see the interview at the 6:40 mark. What is a yoga community to do when even the editor of one of the largest yoga publications endorses drinking and yoga?

I am not here to preach abstinence or be a tee totaler. My point is that yoga is sacred to me and that combining yoga with alcohol goes against many concepts of Patanjali’s teachings: namely ahimsa (non harming), saucha (cleanliness), and sutra II.16. Heyaim dukham anagram “The pains which are yet to come can be and are to be avoided.”

If you don’t think consuming alcohol is potentially life threatening, here is what the Centers for Disease Control have to say about it:

Drinking too much can harm your health. Excessive alcohol use led to approximately 88,000 deaths and 2.5 million years of potential life lost (YPLL) each year in the United States from 2006 – 2010, shortening the lives of those who died by an average of 30 years. Further, excessive drinking was responsible for 1 in 10 deaths among working-age adults aged 20-64 years. The economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption in 2006 were estimated at $223.5 billion, or $1.90 a drink.

I hope this blog post generates awareness and discussion on the topic. My views come from my “mental health counselor” lens in which I see the devastating effects of alcohol dependence daily in my work. It seems as though this trend of drinking and doing yoga has taken the evolution of Yoga back a few steps.

Advertisements

Appreciating Yoga’s relationship to Hinduism (instead of fearing it)

hanuman

People seem deathly afraid of Hinduism cropping up in the West for some strange reason. Just this week, two state legislators in Idaho protested when a Hindu prayer was said before the start of a session. One of the big debates of late is whether Yoga is a Hindu practice. There seems to even be legal rulings on whether or not Yoga should be considered a religion or a workout. In the same vein, why are we not afraid that Sufism is rooted in Islam, or that Qabbala is rooted in Judaism?

Many of the texts and concepts in Yoga are shared with people who practice Hinduism. The Bhagavad Gita (Song of God) being a good example. It the dialogue between Arjuna and Krishna on a battlefield where Arjuna is in the middle. On one side are his teachers, and the other side are his family members. Arjuna is in an awful dilemma. Krishna advises him to use Yoga to conquer the dilemma and to do his dharma as a warrior.

Other Hindu elements crop of in the names of Yoga Asanas. Bharadvaja, Vashistha, Marchi, and Hanuman just to name a few were figures in the Mahabharata. Of course in Western Yoga classes, these poses are renamed based on their body movements like “the splits” and “twists.”

My view may not be a popular one, but instead of watering down the names and concepts of Yoga that come from Hinduism, why not embrace them? I am not asking you to drop your faith and become Hindu. But I am asking that Yoga practitioners in the West more deeply explore the relationship between Yoga and Hinduism, rather than just using the parts that are convenient for them to present to a judge who will rule and decide if Yoga is considered a religion or a workout.

When you study the Yoga Sutras and read about Siddhis  (superpowers that come from Yoga practice), it is helpful to read about Hanuman who displays his mastery of all the Siddhis in his efforts to reunite Sita and Rama. These stories show how powers cultivated in Yoga can be used properly and for the good of mankind. Not to say that anyone actually will attain Siddhis in their practice, but If you woke up one day and were able to float on air, wouldn’t it be nice to have a guideline on how to use this power?

Being a New Mexico native, then moving to Hawai’i, I have seen the recurrent theme of having a rich culture be exploited by people who first try to make money off the unique attributes of the culture, then completely water it down until there is no culture left to market. They just built a Target store in my hometown of Kailua, transforming a charming beach community into Anywhere Else, USA full of traffic. I see the same thing happening in Yoga. Look no further than the Wanderlust Facebook page to see what I mean.

So my challenge to practitioners of Yoga in the West is to read some of these texts like The Bhagavad Gita and the Ramayana. Try to understand the concepts of reincarnation even though  that may not be your belief system. And minimally, use the Sanskrit terms of the Asana names instead of just calling them things like “updog.” As a deeper practice, go 30 days without buying things from those who commercialize and exploit Yoga, like the Lululemon store. Your Yoga practice will only get richer as a result.

 

Yoga blog trends I would like to see in 2015 – part 1

this-is-a-no-selfie-zone

In less than a week, 2014 will be a memory. It was a very interesting year watching yoga blog trends come and go. Here is what I am putting out to the universe (and other bloggers) of what I would and would not like to see more of in 2015:

1) Fewer Selfies

What do selfies really do? Some say they inspire others to practice Yoga, but I think that is a bunch of bull pucky. Just because you can do Pincha Mayurasana doesn’t mean your shoulders are not collapsing. Having lift in the shoulders is something that is learned in as basic of a pose as Tadasana. I have plenty of pictures of myself doing asana in this blog, but to make a distinction, I am using myself as a guide to teach, not to show off my ego. Believe me, I’m not much to look at! Next time you post an asana selfie, ask yourself why you are doing it. Are you doing it to teach, or show off your new yoga pants?

2) And on that note… less “wild thing,” Bakasana, and Pincha Mayurasana in those selfies

If you really want to show off, don’t be like everyone else. Wild Thing isn’t even a yoga pose, but some John Friend distortion of Urdvha Danurasana. Who would want to follow in that guy’s footsteps? Not to mention it is dangerous. And every other person who has half a practice is doing Bakasana. If you want to really wow someone, do Paripurna Matsyendrasana, Kandasana, or even a well-executed Krounchasana . Just don’t do it unless you are ready because you’ll injure yourself.

paripurna matsyendrasana

3) Less profanity

Lululemon has a recent promotion of being “present” and then shows a yoga teacher saying “f-you.” Every other blog I read has someone dropping the F-bomb or namaste-every-damn-day. Are we yoga practitioners, or truck drivers? I actually know truck drivers who swear less. If you are going to use profanity in your blog, at least make it mean something for emphasis. I don’t mean to be prudish, but Yoga is a sacred subject for those who take it seriously. Can we clean up our language around when writing about this sacred practice?

4) Speaking of Lululemon…less fashion industry influence on our Yoga practice

At what point did Lululemon become the neighborhood Yoga expert? That company doesn’t give a rip about tradition, it just wants to line its pockets. Whenever profit is the first priority, Yoga is not practiced. I am pleased that CEO Chip Wilson was ousted this year, but this company still projects an unhealthy body image with it’s petite line of clothing. As long as you keep shopping there, this will not change. At $100USD for a pair of pants, the real joke is on you. That money is much better spent on a workshop or even a month of classes.

5) Fewer playlists

I hate to break it to you, but people could care less about your latest playlist. Music and yoga may sound like they go together, but music actually gets in the way of the stopping your mind chatter. There are plenty of music fora out there for you to show off your musical taste. Go there instead instead of subjecting us to your latest taste of mixing Math Rock with Krishna Das.

6) More from the other limbs of Yoga

Asana is only 1/8 of the practice from Patanjali’s thread. When I first started doing yoga, everyone was in it for the mind benefits. Now everyone is in it for the physical benefits. It seems like we have regressed. There are a handful of blogs that focus on Yoga Sutras and other classical texts. It would be nice to see more blogs going in that direction. Yoga is a very internal practice when done correctly.

…to be continued

Can advertisers stop marketing Yoga as soft porn?

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 7.36.58 AM

Lululemon’s Facebook marquee

 

Someone in the blogosphere wisely stated that Yoga in the West can be compared to a “sassy teenager.” I can understand where that statement comes from seeing how Yoga has become more of an Instagram event rather than a practice to deeply understand one’s self. Advertisers of commercialized Yoga seem to be picking up on the “teenage mentality” demographic and are exploiting it to it’s fullest. All you see in Yoga magazines like Yoga Journal and websites like Elephant Journal are nonstop images of suggestive young women who are not even doing asana, but just leering at you in suggestive positions (see below). The odd paradox is that Yoga is seen as a primarily women’s only exercise in the US, but the way Yoga is being marketed looks like it would attract the male Hustler crowd.

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 7.52.07 AM

I shouldn’t mind, I’m a typical male, right?! Well I do mind because I am a serious Yoga practitioner and think that the practice is sacred. As I wrote in my last post, Yoga is marketed in a way that makes men feel unwelcome. Many male practitioners feel stepping into a Yoga class at a boutique studio is not too different than stepping into an illicit peep show in the seedy part of town.

I have my undergraduate degree in media studies and my masters in psychology. I know exactly what the mainstream Yoga marketers are doing. They are doing to Yoga what they have done to everything else in West…sexualize it to sell it. I am surprised at the lack of outrage by female practitioners when they see what is being promoted as “Yoga.” Last month Yoga Journal even tried to rectify the situation by showing a “plus sized model” on the cover. But this is all they could come up with:

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 2.52.50 PM

Yoga does not need to be marketed this way. In fact, it should not be marketed at all in my opinion. Yoga practitioners in the West need to stop with the paradigm that Yoga is something that needs to be proselytized. Yoga is a discipline and should be treated as such. The problem is that now people feel they are entitled to make a living doing Yoga after they spend 200 hours and $3000 USD to get “registered” as a Yoga teacher. This has made Yoga into more of a commercial enterprise than a practice to conquer one’s ego. Until that paradigm changes, Yoga Journal will become the new Maxim, and Yoga will continue to be dominated by the #namasteeverydamnday Instagram crowd.

Pratyahara, the forgotten limb of Yoga

sanmukhi mudra

Pratyahara, detachment from the senses, is the necessary condition for the inner work of Yoga. I reflect often on the fifth limb of Yoga and even try to cultivate it whenever possible. However, I feel this limb takes a beating in the West. Through advertising, music, and technological gadgetry, Western culture is fixated on maxing out our senses instead of withdrawing from them. This is even true for Yoga classes of modern times.

I am in no position to comment on other practices as I am still quite a novice of my own. That being said, there is a mass fixation on the “playlist” for yoga teachers in modern yoga classes. It is even taught in some teacher trainings how to compose a mix of songs to motivate students. I have never read in the Sutras that in order for one to teach, one needs to be a DJ.

I have to admit that in the beginning, music is fun with Asana. I have had many home sessions listening to John Coltrane and found myself more deeply absorbed in certain parts of A Love Supreme than I would have if I were casually listening to it in my car. And that’s exactly the problem with music and Asana: you are doing music, not Yoga.

Pratyahara is detachment from the senses (the repeating of the phrase here is deliberate). This is what separates Yoga from Crossfit. This is what makes Yoga the internal practice that used to attract people. Now people are attracted to the practice because of the physical benefits. In fact so many people are attracted to Yoga because of the physical benefits, it’s hard to convince them that there are other parts. Even Pranayama (without Asana) would be barely tolerable at the corner Lululemon free Sunday class. A teacher who taught that would have students walking out in droves and wouldn’t be invited back to teach the next week to make room for the Power Turbo X2000-Yoga Workfit™ guy.

The world is changing rapidly. We are bombarded with horrendous images on our TV and computer screens from events around the world. We are bombarded with stimuli on our cell phones. In traffic, we are bombarded with stimuli from our car stereo and from billboards. At the traffic light people text. While driving people still text. Then we get to Yoga class. Playlist.

When I was in teacher training, the trainees all had an interesting discussion at lunch about what we say to our students while they are in Savasana. Some of the teachers said they talked about the breath. Some talked about linking the practice to the mind. All are acceptable. I got laughed out of the discussion when I said I don’t say a word. I make the adjustments that need to be made, and then shut my trap for ten minutes. As unpopular as it may seem, I am allowing my students ten minutes to at least get a glimpse of Pratyahara.

Yoga is subversive to Western culture. It is not about feeding the consciousness more noise. It is about learning to be deeply with oneself for extended periods of time until the practitioner connects with the true self. I wrote about a study that shows people would rather receive an electric shock than to be alone for 15 minutes with no cellphone or magazines. By blasting people with music in Yoga class, we are just reinforcing this low grade ADHD that permeates our culture.

Music has it’s place, don’t get me wrong. It is quite sacred for me. I collect vinyl records and spent a good mint on a new Benz cartridge. I often spend hours in the record store flipping through LPs like I did when I was a kid. Now I just keep music sacred and separate from my other sacred activity: Yoga.

 

Asana as a means, not an end

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 11.24.55 AM

We are in the age of yoga selfies. So much that it has almost become a form of spam. There are scores of blogs where people are trying to achieve this and that pose in 30 days. Yay! I did the splits, now what? Welcome to what yoga has become in the West. What if we were to discover that asana was just a way to penetrate the ego so we can see our true selves more clearly?

To put asana in context of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, it is the 3rd limb of yoga after Yama and Niyama, which are moral precepts. The 8 limbs of yoga do not come until the second book in the yoga sutras which focus on practice. And in the second book the 8 limbs of yoga are about 2/3 the way though. There are only three sutras that refer to asana, and they refer to the “state” of the citta (mind-stuff) in the asana rather than “how to.”

Were the 8 limbs of yoga deliberately placed far back in the text? Why did Patanjali only refer to asana three times in a 196 verse text? I don’t pretend to be a Sanskrit scholar. I am still quite a beginner at yoga as I have only been practicing 15 years. But my gut instinct after reading the Yoga Sutras is that Pantanjali placed asana achievement as low priority compared to the goal of having the practitioner silence the mindstuff to see his/her self more deeply and attain realization from that process.

The problem in the West is that Citta Vritti Nirodaha  (silencing the mind stuff) doesn’t Instagram well. Lululemon would not have market if Westerners valued silencing the mind instead of doing Scorpion Pose. The Wanderlust Festival would have to fire their DJs if pratyahara was taken seriously. As seen in my previous post, there was a recent study that says people would rather give themselves electric shocks than to sit silently for 15 minutes. Our society is chronically distracted. We do not value silence as a culture. We prefer doing more and more and more. Has that moved us forward as a society? It certainly has stressed a lot of people out. I see that in my job as a mental health worker daily.

So what are asanas for then? They are a means to penetrate your mind via the physical body. They are a direct laboratory to assess your inner self both physically and mentally. They build strength, increase circulation, provide physical health so the practitioner can carry out his or her dharma and be of service to the world.

And if you are going to do asanas, do them properly. Not just based on the teachings, but do them to learn about yourself. Don’t do them to show how “accomplished” you are. That is just ego and delusion. One day you will get older, and be less able, and God forbid get injured. Then what? If you have been practicing yoga properly until that point, it won’t matter. Your mind will remain still, and you will know that your consciousness has little to do with your body.