But do we REALLY practice Yoga?
Religion and Pop Culture
3

Response Post to But do we REALLY practice Yoga?

I agree with Melissa’s blog post on the commodification of yoga, and learned a lot from her perspective of it through her personal experience. In this response, I want to target specifically, the general image and “characterization” which has been created of yoga, as well as its exploitation as it is marketed in popular culture, fashion, and social media.

Nowadays when you hear of someone doing yoga, an instant image of the “basic” middle class, fit, and classy girl comes to mind. Yoga has been commoditized to an extent where it has created a western image of encompassing spirituality, completely detached from its traditional religious roots. I strongly belief this is the case and the Carette and King article has resonated with me ever since I read it regarding this topic. I have many friends who practice yoga on a regular basis but when I ask them, it is simply to maintain a healthy lifestyle and calming the mind and body. That is what yoga has become, a means of healthy living and not the religious ritual it once was for a religion thousands of years old.

Instagram accounts such as this one “yoga_girl” are completely dedicated to yoga as a lifestyle and routinely practice.

It is evident that yoga has become a tool of marketing self-care and spirituality. This commodification of yoga can be primarily viewed in the consumer oriented products available in the market. Clothing stores sell products simply for yoga practices including pants, yoga mats, bags, etc. and gyms and exercise facilities provide classes and sessions for hundred of dollars, ultimately making millions of dollars off of these services and products.

as Melissa describes, its roots to Hinduism and Buddhism have been completely cut off by the powerful force we call capitalism, which has successfully taken a practice once free of charge to partake in and turned it into a multi-billion dollar industry, completely losing its religious status and significance.

This article by BuzzFeed linked in the comment on the side pokes fun at the Western depiction of yoga on social media, in this case Instagram, as a calm and fulfilling act that takes a lot more concentration and has significance beyond the representation it has in the West. It shows that yoga has become more than just a spiritual ritual but a characterization of a group of people who depict it as part of their lifestyle.

This North American cultural phenomenon goes directly against the practices that the Eastern Wisdom religions call for — namely materialism and self-interest. We see that rather than embracing this Hindu and Buddhist practice, the West and its capitalistic framework has general stolen the practice, commodified it, and entirely changes the basic essence of it in order to make money. This undermines its religious value, and it goes uncontested and often unacknowledged and unknown. Instead, yoga has become a part of the North American culture, associated with self-care, mental detox, fun group activities and spiritual connections to an extent where it now characterizes a person in this manner who practices it often unaware of the true significance and importance of the ritual.

References

Carrette, J., & King, R. (2005). Spirituality and the privitisation of Asian Wisdom Traditions. In Selling spirituality: The silent take over of religion(pp. 88–122). Canada and USA: Routledge.