Image from John Philps' doc 'Yoga Inc.'

Image from John Philps' doc 'Yoga Inc.'

So, astute readers out there may have noticed that earlier today I had posted (another) response from Rainbeau Mars. But I removed it, on Rainbeau’s request, because she was concerned about the typos and coming across as “unintelligent.” It really was just a super long comment that, at the time, I felt was worthy of being a post unto itself.

But I’ve realized that I still have a lot to say about this, and the multitude of insightful and challenging comments from readers have helped inform my thoughts. It’s unfortunate that Rainbeau and her followers felt like they had to defend themselves ~ but it’s also good to have an open venue for criticism and questioning. These kinds of discussions make teachers and high-profile yogis accountable for their actions and choices. All of us regular old yogis need to stand up and ask: What are you endorsing? And who’s endorsing you?

But really, this isn’t about Rainbeau Mars and her colour-coded yoga for pretty girls. This is about the corporatization and branding of a practice that matters a lot to me. This whole conversation has reinforced my already strong anti-corporate stance. I’ve learned that I operate from a fundamental belief that multinational corporations exist to sell things, and they are really only concerned with their products and image. If yoga can help them do this, then they will get behind the practice (and design some sexy products).

As one commenter noted, “Adidas is not a yoga organization, it’s a corporation with a mandate of making profit whose roots are in competition.” Adidas’s “commitment” to sustainability is part of their 2009 campaign (following on the heels of last year’s “Play Yoga” ad campaign, which touted the benefits of yoga for athletes). Clearly, they want to present an image of health and sustainability, and since yoga is viewed primarily as “good,” “healthy” and “trendy,” it helps.

And as I mentioned in Monday’s post, I feel that a workshop with the phrase “Adidas Yoga” in it takes things one step too far. We should be grateful that they’ve simply applied their name to an already existing brand of yoga, and haven’t started to create their own system.

But it also signals the beginning of what could be a slippery slope. Can any big corporation just pay to apply their name to yoga? What next? Tara Stiles is a spokesperson for Nissan, who also want to project a healthy image in the face of mounting criticism of car culture and the global oil industry ~ can we expect her to start offering Nissan Yoga workshops? Then can we expect to see Halliburton Yoga? Monsanto Yoga?

I just really can’t believe that a company like Adidas is concerned with sincerely promoting the teachings of yoga. And this brings me to another new fundamental belief that arose during the conversation. I’m not buying into the whole “more yoga is better for everyone” philosophy.  At times, it feels like this need for “promoting” yoga almost seems to be motivated by an almost evangelical determination. But are traditional marketing strategies and aligning with multinational corporations the right way “spread the word” about yoga? Why do we feel we need to convert all people to the practice?

And do we need to entice people with sexy spokesmodels in order for them to embrace yoga? There seems to be this sentiment that if big name brands can get behind yoga, more people will do yoga and the world will become a “Better Place” ~ but instead, I think that it simply increases the gap between the yoga-haves and the yoga-have-nots. And companies are making a profit when many teachers in our own communities can’t earn enough to pay their rent.

This also brings me to the overuse of the word “accessible,” which I keep seeing in relation to the mainstreaming of yoga.  I think “accessible” is often mixed up with “available” or “ubiquitous.” It’s like if we see more images of (skinny, attractive, flexible) people doing yoga, this will convince others that yoga is what is needed in their lives. I’m learning that my ideas of making yoga accessible have to do with breaking down barriers of class, race and image ~ not selling DVDs and appearing in television commercials.

Anyway, this is where I’ve landed after 48 hours of fielding passionate, articulate comments and not having the time to respond to each and every one. I’ve got no answers, of course, just some insights and some new directions. This whole process has helped me develop some of my beliefs about what yoga is and what kind of yogi I want to be. It’s a never-ending process…

More Adidas Yoga:

“adidas yoga” class offered at yj conference

choice & responsibility: how do you live your yoga?