The Corporate Era of Yoga

The word “yoga” broadly defines a set of ancient spiritual practices originating in India, and is derived from the Sanskrit root “yuj” meaning to join. The practice of yoga was originally seen as a method to achieve union of the Atman, the individual soul, with Brahman, the supreme soul.  The popularization of yoga in modern society has commercialized this ancient spiritual practice and many corporations have tarnished its sanctity.

One major offender is Lululemon Athletica, founded in 1998 out of Vancouver, British Columbia by Chip Wilson. Lululemon aligns its product with its consumers’ needs to attain inner peace, or union, and thus attributes mystical characteristics to its high-end line of yoga accessories. Yoga, with its longstanding reputation for serenity, often falls prey to this type of commodity fetishism. Any line of products associated with this ancient spiritual practice would automatically attain a degree of its mystical character.

A central slogan to the manifesto of Lululemon Athletica is that “friends are more important than money.” This phrase expressly uses natural feelings such as benevolence to excuse the outrageous prices of their product line. Lululemon women’s yoga pants range from $ 94 and up, while their men’s yoga pants begin at $ 98.  Their women’s yoga tops begin at $ 48, and their men’s yoga shirts begin at $ 54. These prices are far higher than those of their competitors, and it is their widespread appeal to the avid practitioners of yoga burgeoning among the affluent sectors that allows for the development of this stark contrast.

Lululemon maintains its image of authenticity by unifying its product with the convention of inner peace that yoga provides its devotees.  Their stores not only distribute the yoga apparel but, also, offer yoga classes for their customers, and free yoga classes for employees.  On July 27, 2007, Chip Wilson, the founder of Lululemon, rang the opening bell at the Nasdaq stock exchange while many of his associates practiced yoga outside of the building, in earnest ushering in the era of corporate yoga.

“The Paths of Yoga – Unity in Diversity” The Big Volcano. Big Volcano Tourism, Marketing, and Media. 1 Nov. 2010. Web. 13 May. 2011.

“Lululemon Athletica: Our Company History” Lululemon Athletica. N.p., 2011. Web. 13 May. 2011