I am as far as one can get from being an urban yoga practitioner. My husband and I choose to live a life of voluntary simplicity in a semi remote location. We waste not and want not. As we chose to drop out of the consumer driven society and are unimpressed with the unrelenting advertising that assails and assaults us when traveling to the city, we are uncomfortable when evidence of misguided yoga connected marketing success shows up on our shore.
City yogins come to where we live to attend yoga retreats. Most appear to be either very well off or deeply in debt, given the luxury vehicles they drive and their other costly possessions. They chat about how hard they work or have worked and how they reward themselves by traveling the world to attend yoga retreats in far flung places. The new top of the line yoga gear they carry into the retreat and the three new expensive yoga outfits they will wear on a single weekend, as well as, lavish jewelry, shoes and handbags characterizes them as yuppies living extravagant lifestyles, and doesn’t impress local yogins. It can trigger judgmental thoughts and a desire to run in the opposite direction. And those two inclinations (judging and a desire to disassociate) are what I struggle to overcome.
Most spiritual traditions encourage simple living, and yoga is no exception. In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali laid out the yamas (moral restraints) and niyamas (observances), a set of 10 principles that are crucial to one’s progress along the yogic path.
One of the yamas is aparigraha, often translated as “greedlessness.” But it means more than just taking only what you need, explains David Frawley, founder and director of the American Institute of Vedic Studies and author of Yoga and the Sacred Fire.
Aparigraha also means “not having a lot of unnecessary things around yourself and not hankering after what other people have,” Frawley says. In other words, aparigraha also means keeping only what you need and wanting only what you need. — Yoga Lifestyle: When Less is More
We local yogins have been cultivating aparigraha and the yoga mindset for many years. We live simple lives and only buy what we need when we can’t it get free, or second hand, or we can’t make it ourselves. Far from being uneducated and under privileged people, years of census data reveals we over educated expatriated exurbanites, who rejected living an affluent lifestyle by walking away from lucrative professional positions, relocating and living the simple life. Consequently, the challenge we face is not to judge and convict urban yogins we meet in retreat of excessive consumption, but to simply love them as they are and that’s not always easy to do.
For example, I made my mala (strand of prayer beads used in meditation) in a pottery class in college when I began a yoga practice and began to attend Buddhist teachings. I still use it and I also use a mala I made from glass beds my grandmother once wore as a necklace.
When an urban yogini wearing large very valuable diamonds in her ears and nose and around her neck, revealed she had a case of 144 malas made by a low income person on another continent for a cost of pennies each in US currency to gift her friends with, I felt very uncomfortable and refused to accept her gift.
I have a small collection of Buddha, Tara, Chenrezig, Manjushri, etc. statues. I received most as gifts during my college and university years and have purchased only two new. None is large or ostentatious. When I see any in second hand shops I buy them inexpensively and gift them to like-minded friends.
When an urban yogi passed around breathtaking pictures of his elaborate garden featuring a huge Buddha and revealed it had been carved for him on commission for several thousand US dollars, I felt a lump rise in my throat. I did not compliment him on his photography skills, on the statue or on his lovely garden.
Except when it comes to undies and footwear, I only buy new clothing on rare occasions. When I buy new I do buy quality so it lasts longer. However, I’m fortunate in that I have very little difficulty finding hardly worn expensive clothing, including my yoga wear for less than 1/4 of the original cost in consignment stores or charity shops. In fact, I’m decked out in the worn once or twice outfits that urban yoginis sell or donate yet don’t I feel particularly grateful towards them.
When several returning urban yoginis revealed they “sacrificed” so they could “reward” themselves with expensive yoga clothing for retreats, I was hard pressed not to observe that their daily wear was also top of the line clothing, and sarcastically ask what exactly had they sacrificed.
On one hand, I don’t want fancy shawls, blankets, cushions and bolsters. On the other, I don’t benefit from feeling that purchasing secondhand stuff makes me superior to those who purchase trendy new yoga gear frequently. My meditation benches were made by my husband from scrap lumber. My yoga mat is an eco-friendly natural rubber one I’ve had for years. My yoga props are all natural fiber items I bought in charity shops and secondhand stores. They are all I need when it comes to supporting my desire to achieve my yoga goals.
Winners compare their achievements with their goals, while losers compare their achievements with those of other people. - Nido Qubein
When judging the rich and feeling the desire to disassociate from them arises, I tell myself becoming a major consumer of yoga goods and gear is not in alignment with what yoga is all about. I know it’s contrary to cultivating aparigraha (non-grasping), but who am I really concerned about?
Why do we judge others? Isn’t it really the easy way out? We much rather judge others than look at our own issues. It’s the perfect cover. It makes us feel superior, like as if we were better than them and that temporarily makes us feel good. Least do we realize, we are only dwelling deeper into the abyss of negativity with this action. - How to Be Non-Judgmental of Yourself and Others
No sooner than I think I have overcome judging and desire to disassociate from the affluent offline than I enter the online world where find I’m triggered again. My guest post policy clearly states: “Please note that this is not a commercial blog and no submissions made on behalf of a commercial client will be considered for publication.” Yet lately I have been turning down a steady stream of guest post requests from content marketers, who are aiming to promote yoga related brands via this blog. My response will be to purchase a No-Ads upgrade for it very soon.
Without doubt, I am contemptuous of advertising tactics and marketing trickery brands use ranging from the soft sell “you are entitled” and “you deserve it” lifestyle marketing messages, to the green-washing ads that conflict with aparigraha and the yoga mindset.
I despise yoga bleaching.
yoga bleaching: 1. a form of marketing in which yoga or an image of yogic lifestyle is used to make an otherwise unrelated product appear to be in line with yogic principles. 2. the act of using yoga or an image of yogic lifestyle to sell an unrelated product. 3. a form of spin or marketing intended to deceive consumers into believing that a product is related to yogic practice or theory when in fact it is not.
These twisted messages aimed at middle-aged people and particularly at aging yuppies are everywhere offline, so why should I be surprised to find them online too? My overall impression is there has been a sudden increase in such online advertising. Is that impression reality based? Does it matter if it is?
One of the drawbacks of the internet is the way it exponentially increases the opportunity to compare yourself to others. … Have you ever noticed how it can seem like everyone in the blogosphere is so brilliant, leading an epic life, in touch with their true self, bold beyond belief, a fountain of unconditional love, and making loads of money to boot! – A Simple 6-Part Prescription for Greater Happiness
When I see online yoga teachers promoting top of the line yoga wear and showcasing brand name goods on their sites, my quick-to-judge monkey-mind chatters suspiciously suggesting they may lack aparigraha (non grasping) yoga mindset. Clearly, who yoga students choose to get their instruction from is their spiritual business, not mine. Judging and desiring to dissociate arises from listening to the ego-driven monkey mind and addressing that issue is my spiritual business.
Judge and criticize people more and you tend to judge and criticize yourself more (often almost automatically). Be more kind to other people and help them and you tend to be more kind and helpful to yourself. So focus your mind on helping people and being kind. – How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
Life lessons: Yoga is seeing union, consciousness, oneness, love in everything we are, in everyone we meet and in everything we do.
Practicing frugality gives rise to its own rewards. Taken to extremes frugality can become an addiction that gives rise to judging others and desiring to dissociate from them.
Distancing from any participants in yoga retreats would result in failing to connect with them and love them exactly as they are.
The antidotes to judging and wanting to disassociate are self-forgiveness and loving kindness.
- Living Aparigraha: How to Not Be Attached to Everything You Own. ~ David Procyshyn (elephantjournal.com)
- Ashtanga Yoga – The Eight Limbs of Yoga (arganesh3.wordpress.com)
- 21st Century Yoga: Politics in Practice (bodydivineyoga.wordpress.com)
- Lululemon pulls yoga pants for being too revealing; shares plunge (thestar.com)