Yoga is undeniably a 21st century global phenomenon. 20 million Americans do it – that’s nearly 9 per cent of the entire adult population. There are three million practitioners in the UK. The vast majority in both countries are women (82.2 per cent in the US and 77 per cent in the UK), though that is slowly changing. More men than ever are slowly taking up the exercise.
So who really owns yoga?
That’s the question I set out to answer in my documentary, as I embarked on a personal journey through the world of yoga today.
A science of the soul – that originated on the Indian subcontinent – yoga has been around for thousands of years, in multiple forms. But a number of factors over the last few decades have transformed it into a truly transnational activity, as diverse as the people who practice it. The powerful forces of globalisation, market economics and a booming industry in mindfulness and fitness, have come together to catapult yoga into the mainstream.
But at what cost?
The commercialisation of yoga is an unavoidable symptom of capitalism, which makes products and services available to the widest possible audience at the best price. Capitalism has done more to spread yoga in the last few decades than anything else has done for centuries. And, as a result, it’s been dumbed down. Now there’s yoga for men (broga), rave yoga, voga (a cross between yoga and voguing), boxing yoga, naked yoga, paddle-board yoga, Christian yoga – the list is endless.
Tara Stiles is a product of this commercialised yoga scene. She’s the founder of Strala. Dubbed a “yoga rebel” by the New York Times, she offers quick yoga solutions to tackle things like jetlag and hangovers. Her tag line? “Join me as we forget about being zen, and start getting fabulous.”
I asked her about maintaining a sense of tradition in such forms of yoga. She replied with a question of her own: “Who are we ultimately answering to?” Conntinue reading >>