Recently, yoga commenter, J Brown, posted an article on ye olde YogaDork discussing yoga blogs responding to commercial yoga culture, as well as outlining a list of “rights” that (potential) yoga students have. While there be things that Brown and Babs have in common with regards to yoga commercial culture, there are a few aspects of his piece, specifically, notions of consumer power, capitalism, and the “Bill of Rights” itself, that we find worthy of retort.
Let us begin with a comment on “informed consumers”:
“Fact is, regardless of the commodity, industry only exists where there is a consumer to be had. So, it stands to reason that a predominance of educated and informed consumers can reflexively shape an industry.”
One need only watch a single sexy episode of Mad Men to see how consumers are not simply predestined entities waiting around to purchase commodities, but are rather manufactured into “consumers” by commodity pushers. It would appear from Brown’s statement that humanity is simply a consumer-in-waiting, however, it is our belief that humanity has been transformed into consumers by the the consumer industry, simply because that is how the consumer industry makes money. [Read varying takes on “creating consumers” here, here, and here].
In short, a “Squagel” will not sell unless a community of “Squagel lovers” is created by “Squagel makers” to, in fact, buy Squagels.
In our opinion, Brown gives too much credit to the consumer body, reasserting, admittedly, to a degree, what has become the myth of modern capitalism:
People will not buy what they do not want.
What happens if the consumer body no longer knows what it does or does not want, because they have been effectively brainwashed into wanting any and everything they can get their hands on? What if, as anarcho-primitivists tends to suggest, the entire concept of “the consumer” is a manufactured entity? What if our “nature,” that undefinable playground, is to not identify as a consumer at all, but rather to participate freely in nature’s chaotic non-economy? Wouldn’t it be nice if yoga helped de–consumer the public, rather than reinforce it? Wouldn’t it be splendid if yoga became a safe space, in effect THE space, for pursuing personal, intimate, and immediate relationships with lightning bugs?
Instead, Brown perpetuates the idea that yoga is something that must remain well-integrated into market culture, albeit with more “integrity.”
“For those who wish to see Yoga presented with greater integrity and authenticity, our best bet is to offer some form of proactive empowerment directly to the yoga consumer.”
As we understand it, representation, by design, freezes an always-already fluidity of meaning imbedded within the thing itself. What the hell does that mean? By presenting yoga in one way or another in order to convince people of its worth, people attempt to extricate it from the world, clean it up, show it in the right light, and put a nice hat on it. It is our belief that this is not only not possible, but also not necessary.
To us, yoga is best “represented” by the act of practicing it, and not by dressing it up for consumer consumption. Practice your practice and be a good person, and when someone asks you about what you do, talk to them about it. If they are interested, show them your yoga practice. Talk to them in simple unassuming language about how it has effected you. But, don’t talk too much. Be humble. Be sincere. Be human. And, maybe a new student and future lineage holder will be born. If not, that’s ok too.
We also question the very possibility of “empowering consumers.” Could it be that by identifying as a consumer a person gives up any power he/she had to begin with? When people discuss the “consumer power of the female,” who ultimately benefits? Women relegated to the role of commodity hoarder? Or, the businesses selling the product. Think about it: Who do you think is reading studies on women’s purchasing trends? Women or businesses hoping to sell to women?
Brown goes on to define what he believes to be a helpful list of “rights” that well-discerning students might engage with when seeking out a sustainable yoga practice. It reads as follows:
“Yoga Student’s Bill of Rights
As a yoga student you have the right to:
– Be personally introduced to your instructor
– A safe and courteous instructor who is attentive to your needs
– A knowledgeable instructor who instills confidence
– Decline to be pushed into anything that feels wrong to you
– Not be compared to anyone or made to feel small
– Ask questions and get sufficient answers
– Feel comfortable and that you are among friends
– Be discerning and make your own determinations“
Personally, I find these “rights” to be a bit vanilla, if ultimately, very limiting. They’re nice if you’re talking about traits you’d like to see in a watercolor painting instructor, but for someone who might play the most significant role in helping you unpack the greatest lie ever told, I find these “rights” to be rather…quaint. Then again, when I think of practicing yoga, I don’t think of a yoga studio with cookie-cutter teachers parsed out between ten different rooms. I don’t think of “front desks.” Nor do I think of Veria TV.
I “imagine” liberation. I “imagine” God. I “imagine” coming into immediate contact with that thing we call “the self” forever filtering Love through a mosaic of fears, wants, wishes, hopes, likes, and dislikes. I suppose it would be nice to have a “courteous” teacher on hand, but sometimes niceties just ain’t gonna cut it.
Below you will find Brown’s “rights” listed with our short commentary beneath each. At which point the article ends. Truth is, we could go on and on and on, but that eventually gets a bit much. Hopefully, you get the idea:
1. Be personally introduced to your instructor
Sorry to start off with such a non-bang, but, honestly, I’m not really sure what this means. What’s the other option here? Introduced to your teacher via satellite? Explain yourself!
2. A safe and courteous instructor who is attentive to your needs
Face it, people. Your most significant teachers will not always be yoga’s version of Ned Flanders. I once met a “realized” person who was quite annoying, rude, contradictory, and totally condescending. And yet, I think I learned more about myself in interactions with said realized being than I have with any other teacher. Did I stick with this guru? Nah. I think he went nuts and choked on a bowl of Fruit Loops. But, man, was that the thing that turned it around for me! Thank God he wasn’t nice, or I’d still be a jerk.
3. A knowledgeable instructor who instills confidence
I’ll take the knowledgeable part, but I don’t think it’s best to wait around for a teacher to instill anything in a student. A little advice from The Babarazzi to you: Your confidence—the inherent knowledge that you are always already God-Love—is alive and well buried deep within your postured self expression. Remove the veils and let it shine! Just don’t be an asshole about it.
4. Decline to be pushed into anything that feels wrong to you
Or, make a big mistake and get injured because you were afraid to say “enough,” and learn one of the biggest lessons of your life concerning your own attachment to concepts such as “progress,” “advancement,” “pleasing others,” and “not looking weak.” Teachings will come in all forms. Pay attention!
5. Not be compared to anyone or made to feel small
I mean, if your teacher is more dick than deity, than bounce. But if your guru is more deity than dick, but still kinda prick, well, do what ya gotta do. Get the teachings where you find them. Don’t sell your sell soul, but be willing to barter for better aspects of your self.
6. Ask questions and get sufficient answers
7. Feel comfortable and that you are among friends
Seriously.If this shit were about being comfortable and making friends, there’d be no reason for this shit, period. Get a Slanket and order some pizzas. You’ll have both comfort and friends in minutes.
8. Be discerning and make your own determinations
In short, be an adult.