Capitalism is Good for Yoga (Rebuttal: “Sex, Lies and Yoga”)
Here’s Ramesh’s original post: Sex, Lies & Yoga. Here’s Waylon Lewis’ Walk the Talk Show interview with Judith Hanson Lasater, who’s letter to the editor in Yoga Journal inspired a great deal of contemplation in the worldwide yoga community.
Good God, Ramesh. Next thing you know you’ll be accusing Yoga Journal of starving small children in Africa.
Capitalism might actually be good for Yoga:
1) Yoga Journal wouldn’t even exist at anywhere near its current circulation without owners who were willing to put money into it when it was in trouble. So without the profit motive and all the corporate advertisers that make it work, it would be a moot point. We wouldn’t be having any discussion about Yoga Journal because it either wouldn’t exist (like the very fine Ascent, which no longer exists) or it would be a quality but relatively sleepy publication like Yoga International.
2) Most traditional Yoga institutions, like Himalayan Institute, Kripalu, and various retreats and ashrams around the country and world, rely on exposure in Yoga Journal for much of their business. I don’t have the data, but along with all the ads for ToeSox and the like (in the latest issue there were a grand total of four ads that anyone could consider overly revealing or suggestive, and even that’s a stretch), are ads for, well, let me just flip through this latest issue and make a list for you:
Breath of the Himalayan Tradition (Swami Veda Bharati)
White Lotus Yoga Training & Retreats
Omega Yoga Weekend Conference Retreat
International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre
Mount Madonna Center and Mount Madonna Institute College of Ayurveda
Snatam Kaur Sacred Chant Tour
3HO Kundalini Yoga Foundation
Self-realization Fellowship (Yogananda)
Integrative Restoration Institute
The Ayurvedic Institute
It’s expensive to advertise in Yoga Journal, but all of these traditional organizations think it’s worth it, and don’t feel ashamed to be associated with Yoga Journal. Obviously they like the readership they can reach there.
3) Advertiser or not, ask almost any Yoga institution, large or small, and they will tell you that they depend on the exposure to Yoga fostered by Yoga Journal to build their base of participants. The profit-driven Yoga Journal is a giant feeder system for all the more traditional Yoga institutions, from Kripalu to your local Yoga studio. And it could never be that if it were not profit driven.
4) Everything I just said also applies to any exposure Yoga gets in the popular press and media, like the recent spurt of articles on Yoga in the NYT, for instance. It’s questionable whether any of this would have ever occurred without the commercial success of Yoga Journal.
5) Many, although not all, of the early Indian Swami’s who brought Yoga to America in the first place, came here because this is where the market and the money was. This is also true of later teachers like Bikram. Just read through The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America to see how true this is. Capitalism was a major driving force for Yoga in America from the beginning.
6) Finally, look at the impact and potential impact of our beloved Elephant Journal. If Waylon figures out how to make money and grow, like a good responsible capitalist, and Elephant makes a bigger and bigger contribution to Yoga, and you get to keep writing about traditional Yoga for your large devoted following here. Waylon doesn’t figure it out and Elephant either stagnates or eventually disappears.
Capitalism is good for Yoga. Without it, Yoga in America might be about the size of, say, Tai Chi in America. Most of us would not be involved in Yoga at all because we never would have been exposed to it. Even the most traditional Yoga institutions, like the Himalayan Institute, have richly benefited from the capitalistic efforts of Yoga Journal owners to grow circulation, attract advertising, and make Yoga Journal into a healthy on-going business.