Today I had to face it. There is a beautiful, glowing, tantalizing, nymph-like Monster called “The Business of Yoga,” and she erotically dances circles around shops, studios, and retreat centers everywhere. If you’re at all interested in learning more about yoga, you will ultimately come face to face with her.
She is obvious, and yet still deceptive. Agitating our minds and seducing our desires, she is invoked whenever Big Business mixes with Yoga.
It seems that in many ways Yoga has become about Marketing: clothes, mats, make-up, the right look, the right book, the right attitude, the right choices, eco-friendly this, and biodegradable that, thinking positive rainbow-colored thoughts, while humming the latest rendition of the Gayatri mantra, and flashing your 200-hour Teacher Training certificate.
Yes, today I woke up with the ‘marketing blues.’
Lately I’ve been bombarded with messages from various sources all saying that as a “yoga teacher” you need to find some angle to market your “unique talents and abilities.” Learn to use the right “catch phrases,” learn to “sell yourself,” and start to “create more buzz.”
Of course everyone has the miracle solution on how to do this, and for “only $9.99” you can download the e-book that will change your life.
To be honest, I really loath the idea of have to market myself like some kind of new and improved running shoe that can be bought or sold at a discounted price.
On top of that, what really dampens my spirit and exhausts my enthusiasm are all the ‘spin-doctors’ who are more then happy to use the popularity of this ancient art for mass commercialization.
I’m sure there are many well-meaning, community oriented, feel-good, warm & fuzzy individuals out there, who have freshly read the newest best-selling self-help – ‘How To Become A Millionaire Entrepreneur In 30 Days While Changing The World’ - books out there; but it disturbs me that the latest fad seems to be taking pretty much any word and combining it with “yoga” to invent a new twist on an old philosophy, and create a tasty pseudo-spiritual item for consumers.
To be frank, the whole thing leaves a nauseatingly Fisher-Price flavor in my mouth, and I’m wondering if there is any real meaning to be salvaged in the word “yoga.”
It seems to me that even if the advertising strategy is smeared in icing sugar, and disguised as a delicious gluten-free vegan cupcake, it still promotes large-scale empty-caloric consumption, which really goes against the inherent wisdom of this bona fide tradition.
It’s not that the products and promotions are altogether sinister or completely off track. For the most part they are honestly trying to promote positive ideas and ideals. It’s just that the image has become so center stage that many have forgotten to look behind the curtain to see what makes the show worth experiencing at all!
I question: is there anyone looking for a way out of this modern-day onslaught of marketing madness?
Or are we so mindlessly dazzled by the glitz and glitter of the latest trend, too busy rushing off to the hottest ‘power-flow-yin-yang-restorative-shiva-shakti-sattva-shanthi yoga class’ that’s offered at the newest hip downtown studio, to notice that we’re hardly practicing Yoga in our lives at all.
I’m hoping that there are still some sincere seekers, questioning, enquiring, and looking for an authentic experience, and not so easily bemused by the wafting fragrance of Nag Champa.
I think it’s time to get back to the root of what Yoga is.
It’s time to dig deep down into the essence, and discover its Source.
The practice of Yoga is not about the clothes or the mat, nor is it about the way we look or even the way we feel. It’s not a hobby, something to do in your spare time, or a class you can “drop-in” or “drop-out” of.
Yoga is a commitment you make to your Self, a daily practice, a way of living in and relating to the world. It is a practice that can only give back to you as much as you are willing to surrender to it.
It’s not limited to what happens on a yoga mat, it extends into how we interact with other people, animals, and the planet itself. It is meant to permeate our entire life, and shine the light of awareness onto our very existence.
It is about being Real and Truthful. Meeting yourself Here and Now, exactly as you are in this moment, day after day, time and again. It will lead you to uncover the boundless inspiration buried in the silence of your soul.
Yoga is a spiritual practice.
It is a way to reconnect with a Spirit that once shone brightly from within, but somehow was forgotten, obscured by years of fear, pain, loss, and inhibition. This path of rediscovery is not necessarily easy. However, if we have the courage to truly begin this journey, it will be both rewarding and transformative.
Yoga is a discipline.
It is a discipline that works on your mind, your body, and your habits.
It can be challenging, and frustrating. Some days you won’t feel like getting out of bed to meet yourself on your mat, or your meditation cushion.
Some days you won’t want to look in the mirror of your life choices, and experience the veracity of how you are feeling, be it good, ugly, sad or bemuddled; yet when we do step up, we feel better for it.
Yoga is an ancient philosophy of living.
It demands both consistent practice, and an attempt to fully surrender.
It requires a desire to release the old and open to the new.
It is meant to weaken the ego, and awaken the Spirit. It entices us to drink drop by drop from the Infinite Ocean within, and experience the sweetness of what we truly are.
It teaches us to recognize authenticity both within and without, to sit with an uncomfortable thought, sensation, or situation and just breath without rebelling or reacting, and to confront our difficult relationships with compassion.
As one of our teachers said: “Yoga is the science of experience, and the art of living.”
And for this – there can be no marketing, only Practice.
A Special Thank You to Barry Silver for the use of his Fabulous Art!
For more information on Barry Silver and the work he does, please see: www.barrysilver.net