By now, as a member of the “yoga world,” you’ve probably encountered a few statistics.
(Sorry for the U.S.-specific data.)
- 15 million Americans practice yoga.
- Annual increase of the number of people who practice yoga: 20%.
- Amount spent annually on yoga products in the US: 27 billion.
To an economist (or entrepreneur), these numbers represent mouth-watering opportunity.
To a yogi “purist,” these numbers represent a blasphemy (especially the one about billions).
To many in between, these numbers might mean something—or nothing.
And for me, I see in them a story of the world.
First, let’s get something out of the way.
We shouldn’t be surprised that yoga has become a business. After all, our drinking water has become one. Nor is it fair to cast yoga onto a moral high ground (exempt from the hand of economics) while chastising the responsible parties (as if this responsibility falls to an elitist few).
The economy of our money system ensures that everything (be it spiritual practice or natural “resource”) becomes a commodity. Until we make deep alterations to the way we participate in life, we must accept certain conditions.
We are locked in a continuous struggle to produce more and more from an ever-diminishing pool of potentiality. The demand for increasing production flows out of the need to accommodate interest. In order to pay it back, we’ve got to find something new to produce and sell.
Land. Energy. Water. Yoga. Even ideas have their price.
30 years ago, yoga hadn’t reached our economic mind. Now it has. And while that might rub you the wrong way (as we all want some vestige of human life to be exempt from the ravages of economy), for now—it’s ok.
In surfing, we use the term “backdooring” to describe a wave-riding anomaly. Catching a wave “behind the peak” in the throes of an impossible situation, the surfer finds his way out.
Similarly, yoga is deceptively “backdooring” our consciousness—giving us a way out of how we see ourselves, and the world—despite its “mainstream” participation in our fiscal lives.
More people practicing yoga is a good thing, and indicative that there is a pulsating need driving through our subconscious. Something isn’t right about the world we’ve created, and yoga is saying something about it.
Why is it cool to quit your corporate job and become a yoga teacher? Perhaps it’s a similar reason that it’s cool to know where your food comes from.
We are yearning. Yearning for connection. Yearning for that which shows us a different way. And yoga connects us -- to ourselves, to each other, and the unseen (but felt) dimension of existence itself.
I don’t think we spend most of our day feeling human. We run through routines that feel increasingly vacant. You know it. I know it.
Commuting to work, watching television, paying the bills—none of it fills us up.
Yet when we get on a mat, we feel our aliveness. When we catch a moment in nature, we feel our aliveness. When we participate in unhinged play, we feel our aliveness.
Those moments get inside of us and begin to have an effect. They change us. When we become more alive, we start to feel incapable of doing things that don’t generate that feeling of “aliveness.”
Our corporate job is no longer palatable.
I’m not saying yoga, on its own, is a game-changer. Yoga won’t save the world. But it’s a piece of the puzzle. Its popularity is telling us something.
Can we listen to what is being said?