Consumerism In Yoga, Or Who Owes What And To Whom

Recently one of my students came up with the following question: “I want to take part in a special Yoga Nidra program. It has two parts. During the first class, you can ask the Universe to take something away from your life. During the second one, you can ask it to give you something. The problem is that I won’t make it for the second class because of our forthcoming yoga workshop. However, our workshop seems to include the practice of Yoga Nidra. Do you think I can ask the Universe to give me something during our sessions?”

Well, sure thing, you can ask. However, I find it amusing to observe the way students develop a distinct consumer attitude toward yoga and the way some teachers take liberty indulging it.

“Public opinion polls are carried out to let people know what they think”

Consumer’s slogan is simple: “I am always right. Everyone owes it to me because I pay. Good products should satisfy my needs as much as possible.”

The marketing strategy is even more simple: “To convince consumers of their needs and wants. To sell by all means “the best” and “the easiest” answers to consumer requests in the form of goods and services. All of this is carried out through advertising promising to minimize actions and responsibility of consumers in the process of finding solutions to vital tasks: from kitchen cleaning to enlightenment.”

The benefit of such behavior on the part of the suppliers of goods and services is clear: it’s an efficient way to manipulate consumer choice.

“Yoga is a light. Once lit up, it never fades. The better you practice, the brighter is the light” B.K.S. Iyengar

Yoga owes you nothing.

It’s not even supposed to make your life easier. It’s a journey to internal freedom. Unmeasurable and inexpressible in photo sessions in asanas or selfies in meditation. Therefore, hardly fit for sale as such. Hence, entailing the first frustration for consumers: “I perform asanas just like my yoga teacher. My recent journey to India has been a great success. I know all mantras by heart. I can meditate for hours. However, my life is still falling apart while the war in my head is getting more fierce. I hate to say it, but yoga is pure energy. In order to achieve changes in life, you will have to consolidate intent, apply efforts, and take personal responsibility for the investment of your newfound energy in the meaningful direction.

A person studying yoga is not a demanding clients but a student. This difference can be traced clearly when you find yourself in the presence of a true teacher. A service supplier is always focused at maximizing consumer’s comfort. He will make every possible concession and stretch a point or two for customer’s satisfaction.  A yoga teacher is focused on practice. He is thorough about the essence of yoga and attentive to his students. He’ll never give you any false promises or cultivate your ego. Pattabhi Jois once said: “Yoga is not easy.” There is no easy way. Don’t trust anyone, who offers you one. The most easy way is a regular practice, where “regular” means “continuously.” The effort to expand awareness in all processes on the yoga mat and beyond.

Enlightenment owes you nothing.

Speculations about yoga formed on the basis of superficial and distorted information form the basis for false expectations. The former inevitably lead to frustration as soon as you face the reality of yoga. As a rule, one expects that his zeal in the course of practice will be at least awarded by the increase of material wealth, comfort, and pleasure in life.

In fact: “the far it goes, the messier it gets.” Truth is that professing enlightenment, a person automatically reports a higher level of awareness to the Universe. Eventually, he will have to substantiate the claim at the “exams,” which life will schedule sooner rather than later. A rare yogi manages to pass this test  with flying colors. The majority of almost-enlightened drop out in hysterics.

Undoubtedly, by focusing attention on different systems of your body, you help their revitalization. Chronic conditions are cured through the period of crisis, causing catharsis in various fields of life. At this moment,  the lament on “yoga has ruined my life” are particularly loud. Luckily, we live in Kali Yuga, when marketing manipulations and open access to knowledge through living Teachers and sources material are equally present. As they say: “seek and ye shall find.” Only you decide on the scope of life you experience.

Yoga teacher owes you nothing.

There is no standard for sex, age, weight, or appearance of a yoga teacher, despite what they show you in magazines and web-sites. He does not have to be a yogi, an enlightened being, or an altruist. You should not complain about your yoga teacher and still make his classes a story of your life.

He can be at the beginning of his teaching career after a short yoga-teacher-workshop and have no idea about injury prevention. He may be not a warm-hearted person and care mostly about raising money to purchase an apartment. He may not devote sufficient attention to his students, promote himself in every possible way, distort information, discriminate among students, pursue vested interests misusing his influence in the yoga community, literally close his eyes during group practice, keep silence, reveal the whole set of emotions including anger, greed, envy, coldness, etc., as well as sincerely lead you on the way of knowledge and self-actualization.

Yoga teacher is a human being, in whom one of the gunas of the perceived reality prevails: Tamas (ignorance), Rajas (passion) or Sattva (goodness). Luckily, the modern yoga market is full of alternative offers. Try to experiment while being attentive and vigilant. Learn to differentiate. Do your homework and find gross discrepancies between theory and practice. Make sure to question your yoga teacher on the issues of interest. It’s you who makes the choice.

Remember “he that lives with cripples learns to limp.” When choosing a yoga teacher, just as all other elements of your existence, you take responsibility for the energy that enters your life.

“The lack of complaints about the quality of the parachutes is not a sign of their perfection”

Most yoga practitioners take the free-of-charge aspect of yoga out of the market-based context. They would like to have yoga served to them as in classic supplier-consumer relations on condition that the benefits are exclusively retained by the latter. The attempt to devalue yoga is based on the argument that the true Indian yogis and sadhu did not enter in the “filthy” financial relations with their disciples. Of course, they didn’t. There was something distinctly different, and namely, seva (service) and complete surrender to Guru.

The essence of the energy exchange: the more you would like to receive, the more you give in the first place without any guarantee to gain in return, but with deep humility and hope. This practice is particularly efficient, if what you expect to receive has no cash equivalent. It should be noted that service to Guru is performed while the Teacher is alive and goes on after he leaves his physical body. You must admit that an arbitrary gratitude in the form of an adequate payment for classes is a realistic alternative to a lifetime in service to your Teacher. Needless to mention the logic of investing in the space for practice.

Overconsumption is a signature characteristic of consumerism. It has turned into a mantra of modern society and an attribute of success. People excessively consume goods, knowledge, and each other. In the course of life, a person fails to digest and integrate even a half of it. Everything that does not become “part of the internal system” lies dormant, loses power, and devalues.

Take time to think: How many workshops have you attended? How many acquaintances have you initiated, how many books have you read? How many things have you bought in your life? And how many of these have you integrated, i.e., made truly and completely your own, turned into an active part of your life?

By the time they are forty, most people turn into inert collectors of useless things, experience, and knowledge bragged as achievement and justification of stagnation in individual development.

Everything is going to be just fine…

Yoga is not a magic wand or Aladdin’s lamp. It doesn’t solve your problems or make dreams come true.

Yoga does not cultivate new wants and needs through marketing intimidation. It does not menace disasters with the lack of practice or promise the moon in case you perform it. Yoga is what it is. It’s a state of deep involvement in your life and complete presence in it. “It is your natural state.” Yoga practice gives you a chance to become more aware of the sense and charge of your life and begin to live in the most natural and efficient way.

Try to decide if you need yoga before you start practicing.
True yoga is not a product. It’s a blessing that you may be lucky enough to receive in this life. It opens a completely new chapter in your life.


Namaste to my Teachers


Photos by Kirill Ivanov.