Thursday, January 02, 2014

Breathing On My Own: Yoga, Meditation, and Capitalism

Many people I know are currently into two Eastern traditions that have gone very mainstream in recent years: yoga and meditation. It used to be that the only folks into these practices were antiquated hippies, health nuts, and people honestly exploring Eastern religions.

Now, these practices are performed by soccer moms and CEOs and everyone in between. It is not uncommon to see a woman pushing a stroller with a yoga mat bag slung over her shoulder. There are yoga classes for moms with babies, athletes, couples, and all skill levels. You can go on yoga and meditation retreats locally and abroad.

Is this cultural appropriation? Perhaps. However, western folks have been doing yoga and meditation for years. It's just that they are so popular now, that like most things that become popular, they have become multi-million dollar industries. From retreats to fancy studios to clothing, capitalists all across North America are making a pretty penny because of two spiritual practices that consist of stretching and breathing.

Stretching and breathing. These are two things that everyone can do for free. I have an inexpensive yoga mat and instructional book. In the privacy of my own basement, wearing whatever comfortable rags I feel like, I stretch away.

I wonder how many people doing yoga and meditation even know or care about the backgrounds of the practises, or if they are just going along with the popular thing at the moment like Pilates a few years ago, or Tai Bo, or any of the other fitness and wellness fads that have come and gone over the years.

Ditto for meditation. Like yoga, I have taken the occasional class, and maintain a practise on my own, combined with study and reading. I have integrated it into my lifestyle, not as a social event but as a way of personal growth.

Meditation is a serious spiritual practise that can be used to calm and focus the mind. Yoga is also a spiritual practise to focus the mind and body. They are elements of several world religions, not merely passing fads for privileged white people. Not as a way of bilking money out of gullible people who want to keep up appearances.

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