Yoga Body: The Conspiracy

The taut and toned ‘yoga body’ on display in the media marketplace is a lie. It is NOT obtained from a regular yoga routine (as many would have you believe) – no , its obtained at the price of constant work, a Herculean effort to burn calories, and a saintly denial of carbs. The implication that rippling abs can be yours with a couple of yoga classes a week is obviously motivated by profit. It is the creation of yoga studios who want you to buy more classes, and of corporations who want you to buy all the necessary yoga accoutrements your ‘yoga body’ needs (pants, mats, water bottles, mat holders, towels, mat cleansing mists, and even your underwear) directly from them.

But the point of this post is the shocking depth to which this lie has permeated the yoga world. It seems no one, not even half starved yoga superstars, will admit that the emperor has no clothes.

Case in point, Kathryn Budig’s article in Huffington Post pleading with us to stop judging her and other yoginis who strip down to sell products. Budig’s post defends a video advertisement in which we spy upon the early morning yoga routine of a near naked limber yogini Briohny Kate-Smyth who is performing in Budig’s words “awe inducing asana in her lingerie”.

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….