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
Sivananda Ashram
3HO Kundalini Yoga Foundation
Satchidananda Ashram
Self-realization Fellowship (Yogananda)
Integrative Restoration Institute
The Ayurvedic Institute
Himalayan 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.

21 replies on “Capitalism is Good for Yoga (Rebuttal: “Sex, Lies and Yoga”)”

You missed one important point in my article, Bob. My main criticism was against CORPORATE CAPITALISM–which does great harm to people and planet–not capitalism per se, which I think can function well, but on a smaller, more local scale.

Yes, good ol' capitalism helped spread yoga in America, but mostly it was the American people, and American culture. People in America embraced it, not just because of capitalism, but mainly because they are open to new ideas, new visions, to spirituality. Emerson and Thoreau had read the Gita already in the mid 1800s, for Goddess sake! Long before Vivekananda showed up and started it all!

Keep, it up, Bob. Have fun!


You always sound so reasonable in your comments. But in your blog itself you explicitly accused Yoga Journal of being just another instance of this terrible CORPORATE CAPITALISM you speak of . It's this I'm objecting to. I suspect we might even agree on a lot of the larger economic and political issues. Don't know. That's another issue entirely.

What I'm sure of is that Yoga Journal doesn't deserve to be lumped in with your wholesale condemnation of CORPORATE CAPITALISM. That's a pure hatchet job and you should be ashamed of yourself. Yoga Journal is one of the good guys.

Bob Weisenberg


I don't know that there is as much distinction between the two as you seem to think. Corporate farming has been in control of our food for a little over 50 years. Yoga Journal is only a few years operating within that same process. The people who control it don't care about yoga, they only care about money. When this happened to our food, the process of growing both animal and plant-based food became destructive to our environment as well as our health. Yoga Journal already prints fewer in depth articles. What will it become in 20 years?

Hi, Scott.

Please don't tell me this is just a "thin entering wedge" argument or "guilt by association". As a tireless seeker of the truth, you must be well aware of how unfair those can be.

I'm just trying to defend Yoga Journal against slander right now today, not against what it might do 20 years from now.

Bob W.

Uhhhh…what? Sorry, but what is the difference between normal capitalism and CORPORATE CAPITALISM?? And I think Bob's point wasn't that we only embraced yoga because it was spread by capitalism, but that without capitalism many people would never have been exposed to yoga and therefore would never have had the opportunity to embrace it, regardless of their openness to new ideas and visions.

"what is the difference between normal capitalism and CORPORATE CAPITALISM??"

a neighborhood coffee shop and Starbucks….
a neighborhood hardware store and Walmart

Yoga is a science of internal awareness. It is not capitalism, nor is it meant to enhance or be enhanced by any -ism. Ramesh is accurate in what he says.

Sure, it's great that tons of people in America are doing yoga. Except that most of them aren't actually doing yoga. Might as well be jazzercise at many studios.

Uh…could you try addressing the point? Can you articulate the inherent good in the fact that yoga is not the "size of Tai Chi in America?"

I apologize, Kara. I misunderstood the tone of your question and thought a joke was appropriate. I'm sorry I misunderstood. And I didn't perceive the question in your comment, or I would not have ignored it.

I honestly believe that any Yoga at any level is beneficial. Just the fact of someone deciding to do something new and different to become more healthy is inherently good, it seems to me.

I don't see any people actually objecting to people doing asana for fitness. They just don't want it being called Yoga. I'm personally indifferent as to whether it's called Yoga or not. I just don't see any practical way to police it. And I think it's equally beneficial to do asana whether people call it Yoga or not, so I don't care.

Probably the best one can do is object whenever one sees the word Yoga being used where one considers it inappropriate, and to promote the kinds of authentic Yoga one believes in.

Please write back and tell me if I've answered your questions this time, and let's keep talking. I really do feel sorry for missing the boat on my first flippant reply.


Bob Weisenberg

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