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, favoured 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.
And is it surprising that yoga, like so much else in this age of celebrity, now has something of a star system, with yoga teachers now almost as recognisable as Oscar winners?
Yoga is definitely big business these days. A 2008 poll, commissioned by Yoga Journal, estimated that the actual spending on yoga classes and products had almost doubled between 2004 and 2008, from $2.95 billion to $5.7 billion.
Well, 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, with a contribution-only, pay-what-you-can fee structure. The manifesto is on the opening page of its website, 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... And that’s exactly the way that Greg Gumucio wants it.
“The idea for Yoga for the People came to me because of Bikram Choudhury, perhaps the most famous name in yoga,” he said, explaining that he worked for Choudhury for six years.
The message learnt from him was: Yoga isn’t about a pristine environment — yogis can work downward dog to downward dog, no matter where they are, even if in a crowded, unadorned studio. “I truly believe if more people were doing yoga, the world would be a better place,” he said.