Goats, wine, Lululemon: Why yoga has become too mainstream


Anjali Kota

Yoga doesn’t have to be done dressed in athleisure in a fancy studio— it can be done at home in old clothes.

Yoga shouldn’t only be about the pretty clothes or taking cute pictures in an Instagrammable studio. With goat yoga, puppy yoga, wine yoga, hot yoga and many more muddling the roots of yoga, today’s society portrays yoga as a practice that can only be performed by the upper class or is seen alongside diet culture.

Yoga began back in 2700 B.C.E. to harmonize the mind, body and soul through breathing, poses and sometimes, chanting. Yoga was originally practiced to detach from the material world, letting go of ego and material possession. Patanjali, an Indian sage, is said to have organized the unrefined yoga that had begun in South Asia through his encompassing text on yoga, “The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.” Evidence shows that yoga wasn’t only indigenous to India — it was also found throughout all of South Asia, including Buddhist and Jain traditions. Fast forward around 1800 years from 200 C.E. and we land back where yoga is being used as a corporate tool.

Some may say that it’s good to expose a wider audience to a practice that emphasizes wellness, a practice that has been in the West for numerous years. That’s all true. But promoting profits goes against the simplicity and spirituality that lie at the root of yoga.

Instead of appreciating the cultures that corporations built an empire out of, they appropriate it. With phrases like ‘love’, ‘gratitude is contagious’ and ‘be you’, one would expect some level of positivity associated with the brand. Yet the print on the bags is where the positivity seems to end. Chip Wilson, former owner and CEO of Lululemon, was quoted saying that he named the company Lululemon because it was funny to hear Japanese people try to say it. Wilson also made fat-phobic comments when asked about a pilling problem with the yoga pants.

Another example is a popular yoga chain that supposedly shut down due to COVID: Yoga To The People. However, employees are left to wonder in the wake of this abrupt closure, how much the misconduct allegations and cult-like environment factored into that decision. Examples like these, of corruption and greed, even racism, serve to further highlight the amount of deviation from what yoga began as.

In the end, yoga shouldn’t be about the clothes that you wear, the animals that you practice with or the places you practice, but rather the mental stability and relaxation you achieve. Yoga is all about letting go of material possessions to focus on bettering yourself. What these corporations are doing is twisting the meaning of yoga into something ugly, and encouraging excessive consumption rather than supporting one’s journey for wellness.