Cowgirl Commentary on Yoga Controversy

I had been congratulating myself on not getting sick all winter. And then, the universe laughed. Day 5 of feeling like crap. But in the end, it’s only a cold and I can certainly live with that. And be grateful for my overall good health, and for the opportunity to slow things down a bit. We leave for a trip to Tokyo in one week, so I need to rest up.

It’s been a rough week for the yoga biz, as well. I can’t help but be amused by the Lululemon quality control issue – see-through pants. The best part was the quote from their CEO, in a call with analysts: The truth of the matter is the only way you can actually test for the issue is to put the pants on and bend over. I have to wonder how on earth she allowed those words to come out of her mouth. Or maybe it’s all a yoga marketing conspiracy, as hinted at by my fave yoga commentator, YogaDork, here. And winner of the best headline is The Week: How Lululemon got kicked in the (butt-baring) pants.

Less amusing is the news that Bikram is finally being sued for sexual harassment. Between that and last fall’s book Hell-Bent: Obsession, Pain, and the Search for Transcendence in Competitive Yoga, the hot yoga world’s darker side is on display, as if it were bending over in see-through Lulus. To quote myself from an article I wrote years ago on the business of yoga, yogis are people and human nature has its darker side.

As an MBA graduate/member of corporate America turned yoga entrepreneur, I’ve been sensitive to the delicate balance of yoga + business from the start of my yoga career. How to be successful without scandal? Stay true to what yoga is about? Aren’t the answers to both of those questions subjective…?  In my little corner of the yoga world, blazin’ a yoga trail here in SW Montana, my intention is to share as best I can the things that bring me great fulfillment and joy. That would probably be tougher to do if I were the maker of yoga pants. I guess the lesson here is you can’t make everyone’s butt look good, all the time.

To me, yoga is about being honest and pure with your intention. How many things these days provide that sort of opportunity? When you come off your mat, good things should be happening. That’s why I’ve been deeply suspicious of the yoga + business blend from the start, even while walking that path and starting not one, but two yoga businesses. Not to say that business is bad, but most of us don’t do business to relieve stress, right? It has a different set of intentions. And this being America, most of us aren’t likely to become capitalist renunciates either (although I did have a teacher at my DC studio who at one point was uncomfortable taking students’ “dirty money” as part of her job…wonder if she’s still paying her rent?). There needs to be (cue yoga buzzword) – a balance, and a way to keep it real. That is the challenge, finding the balance between being yogic and businesslike. While not a fan of Lulu’s corporate culture weirdness, I’ve also admitted multiple times that at the end of the day, I bought the pants. (Yes, I am wearing them – luckily, not the revealing ones – in this recent picture from our latest CY boot shoot.)

So while I’m on a roll, let’s open up another can of worms – yoga and religion. I read Yoga is Religious; Only It’s Not last week on the recent controversy over yoga in CA schools, and was impressed enough to buy the author’s book. I’ve just started American Veda: How Indian Spirituality Changed the West and can’t put it down.

And in closing – It’s OK to say Namaste.