Reading this news report, I just had to laugh. But when I watched the accompanying news clip and saw all those earnest young women sitting with their eyes closed and hands in prayer, I felt more like crying.
Surrounded by sleek athletic wear, purses and accessories, 30 men and women at the Town Center mall on Friday tried to focus on their yoga poses and resist the temptation to shop.
Employees of Lululemon Athletica, a fashionable yoga-apparel chain that opened in the mall on Friday, moved racks and shelves to the sides of the store to make room for the yogis, who spent an hour before the mall opened doing their lunges, reaches, backbends and hip-openers . . .
Participant Cathy Rosenberg of Delray Beach, who brought her daughter, Eliza, 14, said she was almost panting with consumer lust when she walked into the store and saw the colorful and stylish clothing displays, which emphasize purple, aqua and gray for the upcoming fall season. But she settled into the yoga session and was no longer preoccupied.
"There's a lot in life that can be a distraction," said Rosenberg, 48, a mother of two. "This is a perfect setting to challenge yourself." After class, she bought two tops for her daughter and one for herself.
America is such a weird place. (Although let's not forget that the beloved lululemon is Canadian, so this new yoga goddess of consumerism has really descended on us from our seemingly benign neighbors to the north.) Yeah, I guess that taking a free yoga class in a store stuffed with the most popular, trendy, sex-appeal-enhancing yoga togs (itself located in a mall filled with endless equivalents of the same) offers a good practice in staying inwardly focused amidst temptation and distraction. But let's face it, if you manage to get there, that's a pretty damn advanced place to be. And I have the feeling that these classes are aimed much more toward beginners.
I know excellent yoga teachers who are lululemon ambassadors and teach in their stores. And it's hard to argue that having great teachers offering free classes isn't a good thing, particularly in today's rotten economy. And I know that most of these teachers are making peanuts in order to do what they love, and that they need the sponsorship. So I understand how it can be tempting to smile sweetly and simply embrace all this as simply wonderful.
But not for me. Frankly, I find this marriage of spirituality and consumerism creepy. What energies are you opening yourself up to as you practice yoga and chant "Om" in an environment that's brilliantly designed to sell products - and not only that, but products that are designed to appeal so deeply precisely because they bolster your sense of identity and self-worth?
It's a vexing situation, to say the least. And personally, I feel that I really need to work my practice in order to feel comfortable in my discomfort with it all.