While some churches get a negative rep for conning dollars out of their community members, we don’t often talk about the money side of alternative spirituality–even though it’s big business. One of my favorite overviews of this subject is the book, “Selling Spirituality: The Silent Takeover of Religion,” by Jeremy Carrette and Richard King, about the Western co-opting of (mainly) Eastern spiritual practices for big bucks. (Though warning: their writing is heady, slow-going, academic-ese.)
For one angle on this not-often-discussed topic, check out this recent New York Times article, “A Yoga Manifesto,” about the price of yoga and the cult of certain instructors–and how yoga is BIG business–and how some instructors are trying to make yoga more accessible (i.e. affordable) to the average person:
“ZEN is expensive. The flattering Groove pants, Lululemon’s answer to Spanx, may set Luluheads, the devoted followers of the yoga-apparel brand, back $108. Manduka yoga mats, favored for their slip resistance and thickness, can reach $100 for a limited-edition version. Drop-in classes at yoga studios in New York are edging beyond $20 a session, which quickly adds up, and the high-end Pure Yoga, a chain with two outposts in Manhattan, requires a $40 initiation fee, and costs $125 to $185 a month. You can even combine yoga with a vacation in the Caribbean, but it will cost you. . .A cool $6,077.”
When you look at yoga this way, and when you focus on the celebrity instructor, then it’s out of most people’s budgets. But fear not, Yoga for the People– is catching on:
“Maybe it is the recession, but some yogis are now saying “Peace out” to all that. There’s a brewing resistance to the expense, the cult of personality, the membership fees. At the forefront of the movement is Yoga to the People, which opened its first studio in 2006 in the East Village on St. Marks Place, with a contribution-only, pay-what-you-can fee structure. The manifesto is on the opening page of its Web site, yogatothepeople.com: “There will be no correct clothes, There will be no proper payment, There will be no right answers … No ego no script no pedestals.” One more thing: There are no “glorified” teachers or star yogis.”
What do you think of the rising price of yoga? The celebrity instructor? The backlash against yoga celebrity? Do you really care that much about who the teacher is or about the practice itself?