Spiritual Materialism: Honouring the Divine in Yoga Pants

I am always on the look out for a good affordable organic yoga pant. I don’t want to pay a fortune, I don’t want to contribute to the wealth of multi-national corporations, and I certainly don’t want chemicals and toxins leaching into my skin every time I sweat.

Lately I’ve been fantasizing about opening a yoga emporium called “The Good Life”. Here yogaphiles could find locally made eco-friendly yoga pants as well as yoga props and accessories. There would also be organic teas, beauty and household products, books and DVD’s – in short “everything you need for the yogic lifestyle!”

Sometimes I worry that my vision of the “The Good Life” would have the yogi’s of old wringing their hands. Is it an example of the rampant spiritual materialism that purists claim is twisting the true heart and soul of yoga?

The term spiritual materialism is commonly used to describe the danger of seeking spiritual gains through material objects. i.e. attempting to consume one’s way to enlightenment. To paraphrase Swami Radha, pure food does not does not deliver a pure mind and having organic yoga pants does not necessarily make you a kinder person.

The danger in commodifying yoga is that we get so focused on the possessing the externals, the right pant, the right mat, the right clothes, the right food etc. – that we forget the inner journey.

However, I think we also have to be careful that we aren’t falling under the spell of another kind of illusion. The current definition of spiritual materialism implies the spiritual is somehow separate from the everyday material world, from nature and our bodies. It suggests we move past the seductions and pleasures of worldly life in order to aspire to a higher reality.

I think the term spiritual materialism needs a new spin. I’d like to see it redefined in a more positive and ancient light….