Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Lululemon Punk Rock Mantra: The Meta-Level is Love

I’m still reflecting on the latest skirmish in the “yoga wars”: you know, the just subsiding round of arguments sparked by the New York Times’ “Rebel Yoga” profile. (If you’re not sure what this was, a good sample of the bro-ha-ha can be found here, here, or here.)

The debate feels like a record on repeat: The anti-commercial yoga crusaders rant against the evils of air-brushed body imagery and commodification. The “it’s all good” Kumbaya faction denounces such questioning as “judgmental” and “un-yogic.” The traditionalists cast down a pox on both houses from their self-styled mountaintop of an “authentic” eight-limbed practice.

OK, I know that’s a bit snarky. I recognize that there are important issues here, and take them seriously. But if you take a step back and look at it from a different angle, it’s all pretty humorous in a way, too.

A Shared Spark

And perhaps, if we could embrace our differences at the next level, it could be kinda beautiful too - because we’ve got a conversation among folks who, despite intensely felt differences, share a passion for yoga. And fueling that common passion is, I think, some sort of shared spark. Which is different from sharing ideas or even concrete practices. It’s more like an animating sense of something  important but impossible to define.

Floyd's Prism by Sudden2 on DeviantART

At the level of culture, the yoga community is deeply divided. Some adore Lululemon; others find their brand of spirituality-lite consumerism creepy. Some love a rock & roll fusion practice; others find that at best distracting, if not corrupting.

Some say slim calm sexy is bringing yoga to the people; others see it as pushing the poison of unrealistic body imagery. Some say debating such divisions is detrimental; others see it as unobjectionable or potentially useful.

Given such divides – and there are many more – many might say that there’s no commonality here to work with. I disagree.

For starters, we’re all essentially interconnected anyway. And yoga provides a means of accessing that fundamental human connection. Ergo, engaging across such cultural divides actually offers an important avenue of practice (for those so inclined).

“Never Waste a Good Trigger”

It’s easy to hang out with your clique and feel comfortable. But it’s very hard to engage with others who have strong feelings that you passionately disagree with –that may even push your buttons in a big way.

Ana Forrest urges her students to “never waste a good trigger.” This means that when someone or something pushes your buttons, causing a much bigger emotional reaction than the situation really warrants, it’s a great opportunity to confront and process some of your “stuff” – that is, the gunky emotional baggage that keeps you weighed down, limited, and less free.

The more that we confront the charged feelings that arise when others disagree with our vision of yoga, the more we have the opportunity to process some of the internal gunk that keeps us shackled. The more that we’re able to connect across our differences, the more we can access that higher level where we experience that common spark.

Street Art by Banksy

Note that this is not the same as silencing disagreement. It’s not maintaining our comfort zone by whitewashing our differences. Rather, it’s engaging with them in order to connect (paradoxically) to our more profound commonalities.

Whether you adore or detest Lululemon, the meta-level is love.

To access this in a way that’s real and powerful rather than saccharine and fake-y sweet, however, can be bone-crunchingly hard at times.

In this sense, maybe the yoga wars offer us a safer battleground on which to practice for the free-for-all of life.


  1. "The “it’s all good” Kumbaya faction", bwahahaha!!

    This is a great post, and you're right. We fight/debate/argue because we care, and we have that in common. :)

  2. I love this post on so many levels! I think conversation is good for all of us as is stoking the fire. What is lovely about yoga in this century is that there is a space for the haters of lulu, the lovers of lulu and those either apathetic or unable to afford lulu. (Ditto for the slim, sexy, calm yogis and those who crave traditionalism.) Even better, there is the cyber sangha forum which allows us to connect with one another and argue/discuss our points and enlighten the other side to merits of our opinions. I see a lot of us hanging in the gray area between sides, and I'm not so sure that's a bad thing. Thanks for being one of the wiser and more intelligent voices in the debate.

  3. Ha! I was about to mention Svasti AND Nancy and here they are, having commented before me. :)

    What I was going to say was that I felt a certain conversation between you, S, + N was a beautiful example of how to share your passionate feelings on an issue, while being able to discuss + discourse, all the while being respectful to each other AND actually listening to one another. I was inspired "watching" the banter and I felt hopeful...and happy/lucky to call all three of you friends.

  4. Thanks, all three of you amazing ladies, for your comments. I'm grateful for these moments on connection, where I truly feel the support of a cyber-sangha. Namaste!

  5. Hi Carol, I like your frank, intelligent discussion. How do I follow you on Elephant Journal? I signed up here. I can't figure out how to follow my favorite writers there. All the best

  6. Hi Pranada: Thanks so much! I really appreciate it.

    Re EJ, I don't know, but I will ask Bob Weisenberg, the yoga editor, and get back to you. Thanks again.

  7. Here we go - my RSS feed for Elephant Journal!


    Thanks to Bob Weisenberg for digging up this info for me, and to Prananda for asking for it - had never even occurred to me that there is such a thing - my tech savviness is not the most stellar . . .