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Writer's Answer

We've all seen the statistics from the Yoga Journal surveys -- people spend millions of dollars a year on yoga. With yoga studio chains popping up around the country and the proliferation of yoga products, events, and the like we're seeing that yoga has become big business. I can't say I'm surprised.

After all, isn't self-improvement and self-help an enormous industry -- an industry that many lump yoga in with? Think about all of the self-help books out there not to mention the sheer number of seminars, workshops, DVDs, CDs, even retreat-like getaways on cruise ships and in exotic locations. It seems that we all want to "fix" ourselves in some way. And, no, I'm not judging as I've taken part in many of the things I've just mentioned -- both on the yoga and the self-improvement front.

I will say this though -- I've reached somewhat of a critical mass with it all. Not too long ago I received both the Kripalu and the Omega catalogs in the mail (along with a few others including Integral Yoga and The Open Center) showcasing their spring and summer offerings. I gave each only a quick glance before adding them to my recycle bag. It's not that the content doesn't interest me or that I don't think that it would be a great experience to participate in any of the events -- it's just that there's too much. Too much money to be spent. Too much pulling of your attention outside of yourself. Too much static that makes one forget that we're okay just as we are (despite what the media will tell you, we don't need a complete overhaul -- we just need a little help here and there). One of the things I loved about yoga when I first started practicing is that it encouraged me to look within. Over the years I have looked outside as well -- after all, there is a lot out there to get intrigued by. At this point, I want to go back to my yoga roots and quit looking outside so much.

Many folks I work with and know socially seem to have certain things in common -- they're all stressed, anxious, perhaps depressed, and suffering from a low-level feeling of dissatisfaction that lurks deep inside. That said, is it any wonder that yoga is big business?

As with anything else, add profits to the mix and things take a turn. I'm sure if the yogis of ancient Indian times could see what's going on in our slice of the yoga world today they would shake their heads in consternation. It would seem that we've diluted yoga -- we've taken something powerful and we've diminished it to fit in with our values and our lifestyle. Does that make sense given that perhaps it's our values and our lifestyle that have gotten us stressed, anxious, depressed, and dissatisfied in the first place?

Again, I'm not judging -- I'm simply pondering (feel free to disagree -- that's what the comments section is for). I've been down the commercialization road and frankly, it turned me off as far as yoga is concerned. I now study and practice in a completely different way than I did a mere few years ago. Of course when I was in it, I didn't see the commercialization as being damaging per se. Now that I step back a bit, it seems counterproductive in that we can never find what we're seeking (peace, fulfillment, etc.) when we follow behavior that got us into trouble in the first place.

I can't say that I've always had issues with the commercialization of yoga -- after all, it bought an wonderful holistic practice to the masses. Yet somehow the holistic part got lost in the quest for hot bodies, the self-righteousness of a Zen-like state, and the quick fix. We can't make yoga fit our ideals or our marketing plans because if we did that, we'd be changing what makes yoga yoga. Sounds nasty, yes, but of course nothing is all bad or all good. For instance, I love that people passionate about the transformative nature of yoga can earn a living teaching it to others. It only starts to sour the stomach when it becomes extreme. I'm sure we can all name a big-name yogi that has one too many studios, or one too many books, or one too many sexual liaisons with a student, or an ego that can't quite be contained. There's the dark side. There's the greed and the ego, which, in my book, isn't part of yoga.

Yoga IncIn 2007 a documentary film examined this very topic. Yoga Inc. looks at what happens when "Karma and Capitalism collide." Now the film is debuting on Canada's Knowledge Network (click here for a schedule and a preview) and is making the rounds in the states (click here for upcoming screenings). If you'd like a preview of the film,click here for a variety of clips(warning: some of them will scare the Karma right out of you!).

I'm going to catch this film this time around because I've been wondering if we've hit extremes. And no, I'm not pointing fingers and saying that everyone else is going to extremes -- I'm wondering whether or not I've gone to extremes (I'm even considering cutting my private session costs so that more people can enjoy the practice of yoga).

On a more positive note, I'd like to prove that not everything having to do with yoga carries a high price tag. I've recently launched a new venture -- Living Yoga. You don't have to pay to join and the spirit of this venture is sharing not selling. I'll be sending out bulletins to members with everything from free yoga stuff (ebooks, audio, video, and the like) to recommended resources to things that will improve the quality of life. Because, isn't that part of why we practice yoga?

To the left-hand side of the blog, you'll notice an email capture form towards the top of the blog -- that's how you join Living Yoga. I'm only going to send emails when I have something of value to offer and there will be a Web site that members can access to get all of the information. The goal of this venture is to provide you with free information that will help you live a yoga-inspired life -- that means a healthy, happy, joy-filled, satisfying and fulfilling life. I want to remind everyone that yoga isn't just about the bottom line in this country. Although this list will tell you about products that you do have to pay for (I'll let you know about things that I've tried and found to be useful), the majority of the offerings will be free.

Here's the form in case you missed it on the blog:

When you sign up, you'll get a warm welcome in the form of a free ebook. I look forward to going back to basics with you and enjoying a give and take of information.


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