the adidas+yoga equation

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?

  1. awesome. I completely agree. I also felt extremely uncomfortable with the argument that big corporations such as Adidas with a “yoga star” spokesperson was bringing yoga to everyone. For myself, with my background in body image and the media, endorsing and supporting a huge corporation like Adidas who continues to promote the concept that there is an ‘ideal’ yogi who looks a certain way and wears certain clothing perpetuates the unfortunate body image ideal that is unrealistic and harmful to our girls and women. It is a fact that advertising is a billion dollar industry that works and that women suffer as a result.

    As I see it, by supporting this specific type of promotion of yoga, we are supporting the continuation of objectification of women (using an unrealistic ‘ideal’ to promote a materialistic product-clothing and gear). Only 5% of all women have this ridiculous ‘ideal’ body type… I would not call that the norm.

    Personally, yoga is too closely tied to my spiritual and essential belief systems to accept this sort of ‘branding’ and promotion. I am also comfortable with stating that I do not agree with those that support it- as Linda-Sama stated earlier- I don’t support child labour, companies that add to the destruction of our beautiful planet (and trust me, yoga gear is a small percentage of Adidas’ bottom line) or like I said above- sexism in advertising. I’ve honestly had enough of that. I also don’t agree that peaceful floating along in my ‘zenned out’ state of bliss is a productive nor ‘yogic’ way to live my life. My opinion isn’t naive, nor is it judgmental, it is informed.

    Thank you for opening the discussion on this 🙂

    Blessings

    • I understand and can see your point.
      However –
      I have 2 questions:
      Would you ladies prefer that big companies get behind bad things rather then good things?
      Doesn’t having funding for products or even practices help create awareness and education?

      We may have lots and lots of yoga in America – quite possibly more then India, but I am telling you hands on – the rest of the world needs some support.
      I hope I can do whatever necessary to be part of a vision that is here to serve and support that internal passion I have.

      Not my will but a higher purposes will be done.
      Please guide us and show us how we can ALL awaken together – for everyone.

  2. this is a a kick-ass post, girlfriend. I agree with you 100%, and it’s been a great discussion so far. but what I want to comment on is this New Agey we- are-one-with-the-corporations attitude that I read in a few of the previous comments. in a word — and I’m being diplomatic — UGH. take off the rose-colored glasses, neo-hippies (and before someone questions MY hippie credentials (also as someone said in a previous post, referring to their “hippie credentials”), my first OM was back in 1973 with Beat Poet and Buddhist Allen Ginsberg….;) ) I’m so old I boycotted grapes back in the day — google that — and marched for women’s rights.

    Corporations should absolutely be judged by their practices, and I mentioned a few in my previous comment. I started a group in my community to stop WalMart from destroying a marsh, a designated bird sanctuary (we won.) I also try not to buy anything made in China because of Tibet, but that is so very difficult to do nowadays. look at where your yoga clothes are made!

    So this entire discussion on corporate practices has inspired a blog post for me — Nike has re-hired dog-killer Michael Vick as a spokesperson. How many of you buy and wear Nike clothes or shoes?

    Put your money where your mouth and don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk.

  3. Good for Rainbeau for taking a step back, a deep breath, and realizing her comments were maybe a little less than thoughtful. I’m a true believer in representing yourself, and your opinions, to the best of your ability even if they don’t align with those whom you are conversing. I will admit her passionate message was somewhat lost on me because of it’s messy, reactionary presentation. I feel bad that she feels she has to defend herself…yet at the same time anytime we choose to put ourselves “out there” we have to be ready for some objection. As yogis we don’t have to blindly accept what each other do to be supportive of the practice. And in the end we don’t all have to agree. But we all must be thoughtful with our actions and our words.

    That being said, no, I don’t think this conversation is about Rainbeau either…but the much bigger discussion of the messages being used to define what yoga “is”. I agree that yoga can be for anyone wanting to make the journey. That making yoga accessible means at times demystifying the spiritual aspects a bit to break down some barriers that keep people on the outside of the studio doors.That accessibility means teachers are responsible in their learning and teaching to provide a SAFE, welcoming practice to everyone who chooses to walk through the studio doors. (The whole education and safety aspect of teaching is a BIG pet topic for me.) That accessibility often means truly making classes affordable for both students and teachers. I myself am looking at if I can afford to keep teaching in the manner which I am teaching. If I decide that there needs to be a change to better support my financial/physical/emotional needs, it’s probably going to be at the expense of 20+ very dedicated senior yogis who I have the honor (right now) of sharing a practice with 3 mornings a week. Honestly speaking, I almost need another non-yoga job to afford to teach when you consider the cost of continuing education in relationship to income potential as a small town teacher. It’s a hard choice for my heart to even consider at this point.

    I have one hard and fast rule about my wellness business…I don’t endorse products. If someone asks me about my mat, my clothes, whatever, I share…what I like, what I don’t and how I feel about the cost of the product. I practice on and in what I am comfortable…all things considered. But over the years I have been approached by several, very well meaning mind you, individuals thinking I should join their supplement based “at home” business opportunity because it would fit perfectly with what I already do. But I simply don’t agree with using my position as a respected professional in this field to promote products for my own profit. It just doesn’t feel right to me.

    Personally, thinking that the future promotion of yoga may very well be big business makes me sad. Will big business consider the true messages of yoga along with the $ signs? As EcoYogi has stated, the images that have been used that far as the face of yoga make me think no. Even Yoga Journal has disppointed me in this area. How many times have I read a letter to the editor who comments about using more realistic bodies on the cover. About including men. About using individuals of all shares and sizes and ages and races and abilities…which is a better representation of the greater yoga community.

    As a woman with less than the “ideal” body size/shape, who grew up in a family where the women were always trying to loose weight to make them selves more acceptable, who is now raising 2 girls with the hopes I can help end the cycle of poor self image and negative health habits that often result from continually attempting (often unsuccessfully because of genetics, not effort) to fit into what society tells us is beautiful and healthy I have a hard time believing corporate branding will help me, or anyone for that matter, in that endeavor.

    I agree, there is no answer. I am like you Roseanne, I participate in the discussions, I keep abreast of what’s going on out there because I love this practice to the very center of my core. As a teacher I hope to provide a supportive environment that allows those who enter my studio to better understand themselves on many levels…physically, mentally, spiritually. I’m not a spiritual leader and don’t appreciate when yoga is “preached” to me. That is a personal aspect I choose not to address beyond setting the scene for individual exploration. I personally don’t practice or teach only in one style because at different times, with different individuals, different styles provide for those opening/comforting opportunities. That means at times we’re a little more Vinyasa in my classes…sometimes a little more Iyengar…sometimes a little more Anusara. But always safe and welcoming.

    Knowing all this discussion is going on means I am more thoughtful about what yoga is to me, and how I choose to represent yoga through me. And yes, it is a continual journey of growth. Sometimes a journey that is easy, sometimes not. All opportunity for growth.

    Sorry…this got much long than I intended!

    Thank you all who stopped over at my blog after I posted. It means a lot to me that you took the time to take a peek. I’m always excited to broaden my circle of yogi friends!

  4. p.s. I am going to a talk tonight entitled “Is American Yoga in Crisis?” (see http://lindasyoga.blogspot.com/2009/09/is-american-yoga-in-crisis.html)

    Will blog about it soon, so stay tuned!

  5. This certainly does seem to me to be a conversation truly shaped by the various ideas of what yoga is, and how encompassing the concept is/or should be.

    The backlash that people feel when pairing Adidas with yoga seems to me to be a culture clash. When comparing the values statement of the Adidas group (http://www.adidas-group.com/en/overview/values/default.asp) with the eight limb path, I see a list of items dealing with the material world, competition and product development – all perfectly appropriate for a for-profit corporation, but not necessarily in line with the values of detachment, turning inward and concentration, all part of traditional yogic philosophy.

    Most yogis would consider themselves to be open-minded people, and therefore, would like to invite all people to join the yoga practice. This to me seems to be the desire for “accessibility” … we don’t want to be an exclusive, closed community.

    However, this instinct is challenged when faced with antithetical ideals are brought together. Are we still an open-minded community if we reject the notion of corporate-sponsored yoga (or any other kind of non-traditional yoga)? Personally, I think that it is OK to say “you know, this doesn’t jive with our understanding of what yoga is.”

    But I think this becomes complicated when a contested style (like Adidas yoga) becomes a part of a Yoga Journal conference, since YJ is something of a recognized authority in the field.

    In any case, I think it is great that it provides such rich fodder for hashing out these ideas and creating conversation in the yoga community.

    BTW, I have no hippie credentials … so feel free to disregard anything I say. 🙂

    • ZippyMama, this is *such* a good point: “Are we still an open-minded community if we reject the notion of corporate-sponsored yoga (or any other kind of non-traditional yoga)?” Excellent question!

      I wholeheartedly agree with what you’ve noted here, that these kind of incidents give us an opportunity to explore just what we understand yoga to be.

  6. Forgive me for just copying what I have written before, with a couple of added paragraphs. But I see no reason to try and rewrite what I’ve already said as best I can:

    We’ve had many heated debates about this topic on the Yoga Journal Community. Generally, I embrace diversity and even a certain amount of creative chaos in exchange for the incredibly rich variety of experiences that are Yoga in America.

    Luckily, diversity encompasses and embraces those who want to practice purely and traditionally, too. There are plenty of traditional Yoga teachers out there, and even traditional ashram experiences, for those who want them, like this beautiful Sanskrit Studies site I just ran across(http://www.sanskritstudies.org ) and the Ananda Ashram of the New York Yoga Society ( http://anandaashram.org/ ).

    I personally believe the Yoga pie is infinitely expandable. So it can accomodate whatever diversity the world throws at it. There is infinite room in the Yoga world for both the deeply spiritual and traditional approach and the newer varieties of Yoga workout programs. People will find and embrace what they need. One doesn’t really compete with the other in any way I can see.

    Those who are traditional will have far more benficial imact by teaching and promoting traditional practice on its own merits rather than fighting the use of the term Yoga in places they feel it doesn’t belong.

    I get the feeling some would object to what Rainbeau Mars is doing even if she didn’t use the term Yoga at all. If so, that’s clearly not a Yoga issue anymore, but rather a much larger political, ethical, and social one which requires that we bring in a lot more than just Yoga to discuss adequately.

    Some people are surprised to learn that diversity is nothing new in Yoga. Many scholars believe that the Yoga Sutra was Patanjali’s attempt to rationalize the already wide variety of things call “Yoga” in his time. That’s why it contains everything from meditation to positive thinking to hallucingenics to magical powers to acseticism to metaphysics to religion. He was trying to be inclusive and make everyone happy.

    Patanjali was faced with the same problem back then as we are now–wild diversity of practice and philosophy. And this was before the coming of hatha yoga and tantra!

    My wife does Yoga every everyday just for exercise. She really doesn’t care if it’s called Yoga or not. Yoga for me is almost entirely spiritual and philosophical. Yoga works great for both of us. I would no more want to talk her into Yoga as religion (or even ethics) than she would want to talk me out of reading ancient Yoga texts over and over again.

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  7. Merci Roseanne pour ton blog et tous tes commentaires! I really enjoy reading everyone’s comments as it keeps shaking things up in my mind but, unlike most of you, I am still not sure where I stand on this issue.

    I personally don’t have any problems with someone who endorses a product if the person truly believes in it. Yes, both the company and the person who endorses the product(s) need to do it from a place of integrity.

    We all had a strong position (whichever side that was) when reading the initial post from Roseanne and I am sure a lot of readers changed their perspective after reading Rainbeau Mars’ replies and, as the exchange of comments continued to flow in, some people continued to be torn between different points of view. But the bottom line is all about choice: of what you buy, of what you eat, of what or who you believe, of what you believe in, of what you do with your life, etc.

    To me it comes back to something I posted a few weeks back. What if someone discovers yoga through something more commercial and that it leads that person on a path to explore the extremely wide world of yoga? Wouldn’t that be a good thing?

    I am all for the need to “responsibilize” (literal translation from French but I’m sure you catch my drift) the corporate world but I would rather see the people assess what is good for them and decide what feels right for them in that moment.

    “I seldom end up where I wanted to go but almost always end up where I need to be” (Douglas Adams). So no matter what you chose, you always have something to learn from it 🙂

  8. How about this startling idea? We are talking in this blog about the term “Yoga” being used where it doesn’t belong.

    How do we deal with the huge movements that are almost pure Yoga philosophy, but which don’t choose to use the term “Yoga” to describe themselves?

    I’ll give three examples here, Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, and Eknath Easwaran, but there are many more.

    I know Chopra pretty well, having read some of his books, seen his website, and watched his lectures on TV. Most of Chopra’s teachings come directly out of the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita.

    If you ignore that he has a huge celebrity following and just look at his work, you could argue that Chopra is the modern sage of pure original Yoga, predating even asana and hatha. One of Chopra’s most recent books is a modern interpretation of reincarnation. And he wrote the book Rod Stryker uses in his teacher training for Ayurveda.

    I’m less familiar with Tolle. He is certainly less engaging and convincing than Chopra as a speaker. But his teachings about nondualism also seem to also emanate directly out of the Upanishads and the Gita.

    Easwaran was one of the world’s foremost translators of the Upanishads and the Gita. But he saw them as too universal to be restricted to the term Yoga, so to bring their message to the world he created a meditation center with little reference to Yoga, and he brought in meditation sources from a variety of religions. His web site doesn’t call itself a Yoga site, but his teachings and philosophy are pure pre-asana Yoga.

    I don’t know what to do with this insight. What do you think? Here we have non-Yoga movements that are rapidly spreading Yogic meditation and spirituality with no association with asana at all, and very little explicit reference to Yoga!

    I guess it makes me even less worried about the diversity of Yoga. Perhaps these movements and those like them will help offset the abuses on the asana side of the spectrum.

    I honestly don’t know whether you will all say “Aha!” or run me out of the blog on a rail (if you know what I mean.) I’m ready for anything. Bring it on!

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  9. Forgot to add the web address for quick reference and review:

    http://www.chopra.com

    http://www.eckharttolle.com

    http://www.easwaran.org

  10. I gotta say, while I don’t like the corporatization of yoga, yoga being used to reinforce unhealthy body image ideals, and, especially, competitive yoga, I also think we need to step away from the “yoga was completely spiritual and pure and wonderful before Americans/corporations/movie stars got their hands on it” narrative. The history of corruption in the yoga world is as old or older than that of corruption in the Christian, Islamic, Judaic, Hindu, and Buddhist worlds. Yoga has been historically highly patriarchal, with women often excluded completely, as well as tied in with the Hindu caste system. Right now, one of the best known yoga gurus in India is also one of the country’s leading voices against the decriminalization of homosexuality. So, in terms of the yoga we love being tied in with things we might not like so much…it’s already there, and it’s been there for a long, long time, yet the good stuff has survived, as I’m positive it’ll survive the current yoga craze in the western world (assuming the human race survives the results of our current behavior, which is a lot more doubtful). As such, I’m inclined to think that the best approach is simply to continue promoting versions of yoga that include the best of the traditional and modern, west and east, non-corporate, pro-acceptance, non-competitive, and embracing all kinds of people.

  11. I agree with you Dr. Jay about the best approach to promoting what “we” like best in yoga. I also agree that yoga has a history of being highly patriarchal and discriminatory.
    However, the simple fact of it’s existence (patriarchal history) does not equate acceptance. There’s a tone of complacency of which I’m not a fan. We could use the same logic with human culture- women have been discriminated against for thousands of years, so don’t get so upset about it… tone of voice.
    This “it’s been going on for so long, oh well it’s not a big deal, I wish it were different but I guess it’s not” IMHO isn’t productive nor will it help shape our world into an equal place.
    I can practice yoga (both spiritually and physically) and oppose how it’s being interpreted in big corporations, advertisements, the yoga journal and on blogs that like to post videos of young yoginis to comment on how they look while still being aware of it’s (terribly patriarchal) history.

    But then that’s just me. 🙂

    • I’m with you all the way here, Eco! (This discussion continues to bring up many thoughts for me, and everytime I’m about to post a response, either you or Linda-sama beat me to it and articulate exactly what I’m thinking!)

      I also can’t give in to blind acceptance or complacency, and just because yoga (and other spiritual traditions) has a history of corruption and unethical behaviour doesn’t mean I can continue to accept it. Yoga has taught me not to be complacent with myself and the things in my life, soI really can’t be complacent with the practice and how it’s represented in our culture.

      But I really like Dr Jay’s suggestion that we promote and celebrate “versions of yoga that include the best of the traditional and modern, west and east, non-corporate, pro-acceptance, non-competitive, and embracing all kinds of people.” That’s totally empowering and proactive (now, if I could just do more of that on my blog! But it’s just so fun to point out the absurdities of modern yoga!)

    • Reading Dr Jay’s comments, he’s not suggesting complacency, simply pointing out that this is not a new issue, and that simply focusing on the ‘corporatisation’ of yoga ignores the long history of issues within the yoga community.

      His comments appear to suggest that the issues are more pervasive than just which corporate brand is the latest to promote themselves as ‘yoga friendly’

  12. I think what I appreciate most about this discussion is that while there is a variety of opinions represented here, they are all being made thoughtfully and with obvious respect to other’s point of view. Nice.

    While yes, I think even us “open minded yogis” can become a bit tunnel visioned when it comes to promoting what we each think is “best for the practice”, I don’t think questioning new approaches, new spins, is necessarily bad either. We question because we care. Because we hope to see the community and practice as a whole (asana and beyond) move forward with integrity…with strength and balance and flow.

    As far as hippie credentials…I have NONE. Grew up in the mid-west, the grand-daughter of quite conservative farming grandparents. Maybe I’ll get luckier in my next life. 🙂

  13. Just when you thought this great debate was winding down, here’s the next news from Elephant Journal about Fila getting into Yoga apparel:

    http://www.elephantjournal.com/2009/10/kate-lillecrapp-fila-yoga-spokeswoman-aussie-model-photos/

    Fila makes the adidas approach, with a real Yoga teacher who travels around the world talking about meditation and breathing, seem nostalgically traditional!

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

    • Ha ha, Bob. Not sure if I have any fire left… this whole debate is starting to make me dizzy, feels like we’re going around circles. Starting to feel like I’m living ‘Groundhog Day’…

    • thought it worth reposting my comments on elephantjournals product review for we’ar (another new yoga apparel brand) as it is relevant to any conversation about yoga brands and products – the original is here: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2009/09/elephantjournal-com-reviews-we-ar-un-ltd-yoga-clothing/#comments

      ok … so ‘yoga means union’ – why then are they not using organic cotton?

      CHEMICALS: cotton uses 10% of the worlds agricultural chemicals and 25% of the worlds pesticides (of which approximately 40% is classified hazardous by the World Health Organisation)
      FAIR TRADE: 99% of the world’s cotton farmers – representing 75% of all cotton produced – live in the developing world, without adequate worker protection, wages, or guarantees of trading at fair market value – http://ow.ly/re96
      CHILD LABOUR: in India and Uzbekistan, children are regularly involved in cotton production, and are generally the first to fall victim to pesticide exposure (source as above)

      The yoga clothing community really needs to get it’s s**t together and start practising what it preaches right from the very start.

      Practise yoga naked rather than buy ANYTHING that has not been sustainably and ethically produced.

      If there really is no separation – between us, all other beings and the universe at large – then you’re really just hurting yourself by buying anything that is not.

      • I only practice naked or in my Rainbeau Mars signature line…
        🙂 yes – made by adidas – but its the softest, comfiest clothes I have ever had.
        Thank you adidas for making them for me.
        Hopefully I can continue to make them, even without them, but at least they gave me the first start.

  14. greenpeace is a multinational corporation too

    • Actually Greenpeace is a global not-for-profit organization. There’s a big difference.

      From their organizational profile:
      “In order to remain independent, Greenpeace does not solicit donations from corporations or governments, but relies on individual donors to fund its environmental campaigns. Greenpeace has more than 100,000 members in Canada and over 2.5 million members around the world.

      Each Greenpeace national office functions with a board and voting members and has its own independent structure based on the needs and laws of its country. These offices are part of the international organization of Greenpeace but maintain their own campaign priorities and identity.”

      • Unless something radical has changed in the past four years, Green Peace International functions under the same governance structure as a corporation – one of the principal criticisms levelled against it:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenpeace#Formation_of_formal_global_organization

        Greenpeace International holds the rights to the Greenpeace brand, oversees the licensing of that brand, receives funds from the various national entities for the use of the brand, and sets the overall global direction for Greenpeace

        http://www.greenpeace.org/international/about/how-is-greenpeace-structured/legal-structure

        My point being that just because something is a multinational corporation – or operates in exactly the same way as a multinational corporation – does not mean that it is inherently dysfunctional or capable of achieving significant change.

        So perhaps it’s time we stopped vilifying the corporate structure and focused instead on the actions of specific corporations (frankly I’m tired of anti-corporate bigotry – it makes as much sense as suggesting that all American’s are stupid because of the actions of your most recent President).

    • How Greenpeace is structured is beside the point.

      Structure is fine. Every organization needs it.

      The crux of this is profit. Greenpeace isn’t after profit.

      Adidas is.

      Is turning a profit wrong? No, but when Adidas uses yoga to enhance its brand attractiveness, the healthy reaction is doubt.

      Can Adidas bring people to yoga? Maybe. I doubt it.

      Can people who think yoga is a juicy gear niche bring people to yoga?… Can people who think yoga is a personal care product bring people to yoga?…

      hmm… I dunno…

      • Hey Al,

        “Can Adidas bring people to yoga? Maybe. I doubt it.”
        And why not? Do you think that Gaiam only attracts purists at first or people who are after the whole yoga tradition? Most probably not. The choice, because it always is a choice, to embark on a journey of discovery belongs to individual(s). My path took me from learning yoga with a DVD to then taking workshops, classes, retreats, and then reading up on yoga, using different sources (traditional and non-traditional). And yoga touched me enough that I am here with you all, exchanging ideas and enjoying the process.

        “Can people who think yoga is a juicy gear niche bring people to yoga?… Can people who think yoga is a personal care product bring people to yoga?…”
        The people behind the brand will not, but I somehow trust that doing yoga will bring more balance to the people who try it, even if their initial intend is to have a hard butt and a lower body-fat ratio. And the rest is history… in the making 😉

      • actually, the crux of this is about sales. everyone is selling something – their product, their service, their message ….

        and if we look at it through that lens, we can see just how successful yoga supporters have been in selling the message of yoga

        adidas and fila got sold by US!

        we made so much noise about it that eventually they stopped ignoring us, and now that they’ve been sold it seems as if we’re wishing we hadn’t

        an interesting dynamic, no question ….

    • Oooh, this is a spicy little thread! To bring this back to Cameron’s original point about Greenpeace being a multinational corporation (according to this article, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporation#For-profit_and_non-profit, it’s true)… I get what you’re saying, that all multinationals may not be evil and that’s it’s possible to use that structure to create good in the world. Fair enough.

      But we are talking about a specific action here, and this action is the appropriation of yoga for commercial gain. Especially when considered that the basic values of Adidas run counter to the values of yoga, as another commenter pointed out.

      I have to admit that if Greenpeace were to use yoga in a global advertising campaign (perhaps, say, to reverse their image of being a militant environmental organization), I would consider it in bad taste. And if they were to offer a “Greenpeace Yoga” workshop at an environmental conference, I would not be able to take them seriously. Nobody would.

      • There is a simple question to be answered here:

        To whom does yoga belong?

        If the answer is ‘everyone’ then there is really no valid basis for most of this discussion IMHO.

        It appears as if this is a discussion about attempting to protect the purity or sanctity of something that does not really require our protection. Life/Love/The_Universe was before, during and after all things – and yoga in its various forms is simply one way in which the barriers between self and Self diminish.

        As a form it will morph and change and may, perhaps, come to a point where it is no longer the most useful or most popular path (as a formal practice) for dissolution

        If the inevitable outcome of yoga is the awareness that there is no such thing as either union or separation (and I’m going to proceed as if it is) then the overwhelming ‘us and them’ thrust of this thread is completely out of alignment with core yogic principles.

        Paying attention to one’s own practice and the quality of one’s own interactions with the world will have far more impact than anything else we can do regarding yoga.

        Corporations are run by people whose agendas are many and varied – and speculating about those agendas is wasteful and creates an unnecessary feedback loop of unsubstantiated and recurring mental noise (admittedly, it’s entertaining – for the mind – but does it ultimately make any difference?).

        Is that really what we want?

      • I’m going to support Cameron here. This discussion is interesting and stimulating, but it’s really not about Yoga anymore. To quote from my own comment earlier on this blog:

        “I get the feeling some would object to what Rainbeau Mars is doing even if she didn’t use the term Yoga at all. If so, that’s clearly not a Yoga issue anymore, but rather a much larger political, ethical, and social one which requires that we bring in a lot more than just Yoga to discuss adequately.”

        There are many other excellent blogs which go into these issues much more deeply than is possible or appropriate on a Yoga site–issues like ecology, sustainability, world economics, poverty, food, etc.

        The other thing I agree with Cameron about is that it’s misleading and inaccurate to stereotype “business”, or even “big business”. Businesses vary as much as people do, both on the good side and bad side. So, as with people in general, any stereotype or label is not going to be very helpful in achieving true understanding or meaningful change.

        Bob Weisenberg
        http://YogaDemystified.com

      • Here’s a site I highly recommend for those who are interested in getting into some depth about solving the world’s really big problems, the ones that have been touched on in this blog:

        The Earth Institute at Columbia University
        http://www.earth.columbia.edu/sections/view/9

        Bob Weisenberg
        http://YogaDemystified.com

  15. Wow, this article is absolutely incredible; I don’t even know where to begin with my response and will probably come back for more commentary. But what really struck me is two things:
    First of all, your insight: “I’m learning that my ideas of making yoga accessible have to do with breaking down barriers of class, race and image” was great; I’d like to see much more discussion in the yoga community about how we can go about that while still offering yoga from a well intentioned place. I come from a donation based tradition and am now offering donation based classes, but I will admit this is more about recession-proofing the practice as I haven’t yet figured out a way to bridge all of these barriers without becoming some sort of evangelical yoga-teacher-missionary.

    You also call out the assumption that “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.” as a legitimate way of increasing yoga’s “accessibility.” Sure, that might work- to convince them that yoga will make them more skinny/attractive/flexible. And that’s great, of course, because it does have that effect to a certain extent, and perhaps while people are concerned with getting a “yoga body” they might find their way into yogic emotional and spiritual intelligence too. Maybe. But as long as “we” use this as a way to market yoga as a product, we are going to have consumers demand their promised end result, rather than approaching the practice as a method of inquiry (or insert your definition of yoga here).

    As an instructor and enthusiast/evangelist/wannabe-activist, I toe this line every day. My desire to make a living requires me to participate in the commercialization to an extent, but my values also have me searching for a way to bridge all of the invisible boundaries. I haven’t found the answer yet, but the beauty of the practice is that I can just sit inside all of that uncertainty for a while.

    • Hi Abby ~ Thanks for jumping into the conversation! I found your following comment interesting: “I come from a donation based tradition and am now offering donation based classes, but I will admit this is more about recession-proofing the practice as I haven’t yet figured out a way to bridge all of these barriers without becoming some sort of evangelical yoga-teacher-missionary.”

      It’s true, this is a challenge! I’ve been teaching free/pay-what-you-can for 3 years. I reflected on this a few months ago: http://itsallyogababy.com/2009/06/26/the-gifts-of-pay-what-you-can-yoga/ But you’ve inspired me to revisit the PWYC idea, and I think I’ll post about it again soon.

      Teaching (and blogging about) yoga is as much a process of inquiry as practicing it ~ at times, even more so! It’s so important to ask the questions and then sit with them, and wait for the answers…

  16. and the discussion continues at my blog….I contend that this “western yoga” question is just a small piece of a larger puzzle….talk amongst yourselves….

  17. You guys are smart – all writers and i apprecoate yu take the time to spell check your words – rawk on.
    Au revoire

  18. How did I just do that? see – if the computer does not line it, I just think its fine. Its not that i cannot spell – but typing.. more of a challenge.. as is – not having to bounce to the next thing. Late for a dinner with my friends at adidas in Paris. I have been doing a big event here to help bring more yoga to France. I will give them all a big kiss and hug for you anyway. By the way… They have been reading your blogs… Cool huh? This internet thing is amazing.
    Grand bisous.
    R

    • Yes, the internet is amazing! It’s so great that the Adidas people have been reading this discussion. I’d love to hear their thoughts about it!

  19. My boss and I had a lunch today and we both wanted to say this.
    20,000 people – I have been able to teach ra’yoKa to -We were able to be in person with and make contact with because of adidas.
    They called it adidas yoga for reasons and places where it made sense to do so for the loyal fans. We realize that we did not need to call it that in America, (particular sophisticated market) but we did, because adidas was sponsoring it. When I am not with adidas next year, I will still be teaching what I am teaching ra’yoKa and adidas will still share “adidas yoga” but the tools, or style will change, for the wave or trend that they want to for that year. Our three years together – was yoga as a sport and was my particular offering.

    There our 6 billion of us sharing the earth, so we all need different filters and styles – Making sure that we touch, dabble and find what works for us.

    Meanwhile – I will get a chance to keep evolving and completing the seven part system, that addresses every level or the rainbow, level red, for foundation, up to level purple for meditation. I will film my programming and have the room to create from me and the teachers and mentors and new partners I work with and do my practice, which is not just to listen to what is coming in but to try to be guided by that voice and manifest it into this material world.

    Yoga in the piece of the big adidas pie is only very small and the better this area does that more that it can grow.
    For now, its still very niche and they have done what they can, remaining as credible and authentic as possible.
    They will learn that will take a deeper level of sophistication for them to help people like you realize that they are trying their best to do the right thing.

    We are all growing –

    All ways –

    For ever.

    In service.

    Rainbeau

  20. Our yoga bag store tries to stay with smaller designer brands. I have noticed that big companies like Nike seemed to have abandoned their yoga bags. Maybe the market is not quite there yet.

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