Did I really just write “the beauty of capitalism”?

Question: How long has yoga been around?

Answer: A long, long, long time. You think your nana is ancient? Yoga is literally ancient.

The Bible is old…yoga is as much as 3000 years older. Cavemen? The invention of fire? Yoga is just as old, perhaps older.

People have been doing yoga since before their homes had floors or man-made walls. Since before they wore clothes and deodorant and shaved their legs and put on concealer in the morning to cover their blemishes.

So what is my point? Here is a site called lululemon. Go ahead and look around there. Do you see anything about this site that seems a little counterintuitive?

My problem with places like this is that they make yoga seem out of reach to many people. What do you really need to do yoga? You need your body. You need either a quiet space, or the concentration to turn a distracting place into a quiet space. In many cases, you need a mat. If you’d like to study Iyengar yoga, you may need some basic props. But under absolutely no circumstance do you need $98 pants or a $42 sports bra.

I feel very strongly that yoga should be accessible to everyone. Children, seniors, people in wheelchairs, cancer patients, mean people, nice people, rich people, poor people – who couldn’t benefit from yoga?

Where is the point when you start to turn people off? The sheer fact that these expensive boutiques exist sends the message that to be good at yoga, you should buy these products – to be respected as a serious yogi, you should have $98 pants.

I want to be clear here: I think it’s fine that many people can afford $98 pants and enjoy buying them. I’m sure they are indeed superior to my $15 Old Navy pants. I am not here to judge the people who buy the $98 pants; I’m here to voice my concern for the people who can’t afford the $98 pants. I’m here to express my discomfort with the message these sites send. And I don’t mean to pick on lululemon; they are only one of many.

Here’s what I’m thinking. You’re a young mom in a big American city. You’re stressed and tired and broke and you need a break. You need something that’s yours, something that you can retreat to when you leave work, before you get home to the kids and the husband and the dog and the chores. You are a prime candidate for yoga. But the yoga studio on your block probably charges $20-$30 for a class (a week’s worth of name-brand formula for your infant), and you stop by the studio’s shop and it’s got some bamboo yoga pants on sale for $64.99 (the cost of your power bill for your apartment). What do you do? You immediately write off yoga – it’s not an option. Maybe you’ll try step aerobics, instead.

It’s not the fact that these products are so expensive that bothers me. People buy them, just like people buy the less expensive stuff at Target. That’s the beauty of capitalism. It’s the message that these stores send that makes me cringe. And I worry that people receive this message loudly before they get a chance to hear from people like me.

What do you think?

Namaste,
Jamie

PS – I’m glad I wrote this post now, because I am off to present my case for my small-town park district board meeting. I’m hoping to start up a class here that will be ultra-affordable (I’d like each class to cost less than a meal at McDonald’s). Writing this really got me in the spirit!

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5 responses to “Did I really just write “the beauty of capitalism”?

  1. it is great to know my Goodwill Store Indy Colts tee shirt will be ok to wear to your class. ;)

  2. If it’s that old why isn’t it called downward face mammoth? ; ) I love your blog, keep up the great work.

  3. Love your blog. Wish I lived closer so I could attend your class. Maybe I’ll just eat a McDonald’s meal instead!

  4. I love that you’ve clearly defined a vision: yoga class costing as much as a McDonald’s meal. My Bain + Bridgespan wheels are turning: “How can you make that a reality given the cost basis of running a yoga class?” Random brainstorm:
    *Make sure the space is rent-free
    *Have larger classes of yoga folks at once, spreading the fixed costs
    *Find donors who love yoga to subsidize this dream
    *Team up with health insurance providers who like the notion of their insured being less ill from their yoga practice

  5. I totally agree. yoga is SO expensive these days (which is why I’m LOVING my yogaglo). I can’t afford studio classes anymore, we just pop in for the community classes around the city. I wish wish wish there were more “by donation” class, I could pay 8$, 10-etc depending on my budget that week.

    this is why we started having our own “yoga in the park” every saturday. it was free and whoever could join. the downside- not a lot of actual yoga instructors were committed to coming (only one for a few) so it was mainly me and a bunch of friends. HUGE disclaimer since I am NOT an instructor. But it was a way to practice with people. in the park :)

    For a friend who was just starting teaching, I went to a local studio and asked whether she had mats that she was going to throw out (sigh, not big on recycling here) and she gave me five mats that she deemed “beyond”- really they were just dirty.

    BEAUTIFUL and so vital- I love your vision, keep us posted!!!

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