COMMENTARY | I’ve been an active yogi and very present practitioner in the San Francisco yoga community for the past 12 years. I’ve witnessed many changes in the way people practice and the evolution of yoga in the city, as well around the world, and have been flowing along with it. But I must confess the recent controversy around Lululemon and their inclusion of an Ayn Rand quote on their new shopping bag threw me off a bit. And all the while, I was not that surprised. This is a sign of the times for yogis, and a cue asking us to pay even more attention to what really matters in the practice.
Back 12 years ago, when I started my yogic path in this city, San Francisco had its share of ashrams and places where people practiced yoga in small groups under the gaze of long-bearded gurus displayed in smiling photographs – very ’70s, flower-powerish. Then the whole trendy, very crowded yoga studio thing started with the late Larry Schultz and his It’s Yoga. But while I was taking classes there, nobody needed to have special brands or specific yoga clothing. Whatever was comfortable and flexible enough would suffice. And I even saw a long-bearded Indian guru come by and show some magic poses and amaze everyone. Schultz considered Savasana – the corpse pose – the most important part of his class. No need for special elasticity or sweat absortion or whatever super powers an outfit might promise you.
Fast-forward to 2011: everyone wearing mostly Lululemon, many classes in the city focusing a lot more in postures and achieving certain heights, lots of health clubs and gyms offering yoga classes in rooms with mirrors (big no-no for yoga). It takes a lot of discernment, clarity, focus, and awareness to distinguish real seekers and truthfully spiritual teachers from gymnasts and acrobats that find ganesha cute. I don’t mean to say one is better than the other – they’re just different. Yoga practiced without spirituality is not really yoga – it’s just something else. Postures, or asanas, are just one of the Eight Limbs of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra.
According to the New York Times, Lululemon’s blog states that Dennis J. Wilson, the company’s founder and chairman, first read “Atlas Shrugged” when he was 18 years old. “Only later, looking back, did he realize the impact the book’s ideology had on his quest to elevate the world from mediocrity to greatness,” the blog post explains, also saying: “Our bags are visual reminders for ourselves to live a life we love and conquer the epidemic of mediocrity. We all have a John Galt inside of us, cheering us on. How are we going to live lives we love?”
“The epidemic of mediocrity” … That doesn’t sound much like self-acceptance, letting go, and connecting to the spirit that is present is each and every one of us. Wanting a life that we love is very different than surrendering to the fact that we are divinity already. If you still want a so-called life that we love, you are clinging to desire. Just accept the fact that nothing is holding you away from the happiness within. According to Gregor Maehle in his book “Ashanga Yoga, Practice and Philosophy,” yogic philosophy must be thought together with the practice: “The practice of asana (posture) alone poses a danger. According to K. Pattabhi Jois, ‘Partial yoga methods out of line with their internal purpose can build up the ‘six enemies’ (desire, anger, greed, illusion, infatuation, and envy) around the heart. The full Ashtanga system practiced with devotion leads to freedom within one’s heart.'”
But maybe the Lululemon bag controversy is a distraction, and like Maya, the veil of illusion, necessary for a seeker to distinguish the ultimate reality, the essence that matters. Go practice yoga not caring if you wear the brand name or not, and not minding if your next mat neighbor seems more into achieving a nicer looking derriere than reaching Samadhi. In the end, we are all only human. Some people do come into yoga looking for a better body. The ones that find the true path and stay in it end up with much more. Wilson may have gotten it wrong this time around with the Lululemon bag, but hopefully one day he’ll get it.
Isabel Bonfatti is a San Francisco journalist with a master’s degree in anthropology and a wandering eye for art, food, music, and sustainable living. She is finishing her first novel.
19 Yoga Inner Self: University of Metaphysical Sciences
This satsang video is sponsored by University Of Metaphysical Sciences UMSOnline.org. Christine Breese, Ph.D. (http is the founder of UMS, which offers Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate DD and Ph.D. degrees in metaphysical subjects.
Video Rating: 4 / 5