Meditation Clothing /// No Big Deal /// This NYT Article /// Less of a Big Deal

Photo by Sam Basset

Photo by Sam Basset

The Babarazzi was tapped a number of times regarding the recent NY Times article “The New Mantra: Replacing ‘Om’ with ‘Glam'” and so we thought we’d take a peek at it.

First, let me state that there’s a misperception that all that comes out of the NYT is gold or necessary reading material. This is simply not true. While much of the NYT is interesting and more or less readable, like much of today’s “news,” the NYT’s reputation for excellence and immediacy certainly does precede it. Case in point, the above-mentioned piece. Pretty far from stellar, the article discussing fashion in commercial meditation has almost no interesting points to make, and seems satisfied with dishing out your run-of-the-mill drab claims seemingly based on “I have no idea what I’m talking about” half-thoughts:

“Meditation may be centered on a rejection of the material, but several savvy brands are aware that some material is essential, unless the dedicated meditator prefers shivering nudity.” [Ed. Reads like checkout line magazine cover copy to me.]

The brands mentioned are the ubiquitous Lululemon (Intuition Sweater Wrap [$178]), the absurdly posh Donna Karan’s Urban Zen line (sweat pants [$995]), and a little dress-the-part Zen clothing website, Zen Stitchery (black koromo [Rinzai style] robe [$275]), which will have your friends greeting you with “Konichiwa” in no time.

Much of what’s mentioned in the rest of the piece adds up to little more than “Expensive clothing costs money” and “Wow, meditation can be materialistic too!,” two no-brainers that need almost no introduction or unpacking. Even the attached photo by Sam Basset (above), whose work I find to be decent enough if fairly starstruck, drips of that passé “calm in chaos” meme.

And yet, last week peeps were getting all hot and bothered over this piece. I’m curious to know what the big hullabaloo was all about. This is commerce, baby. Ain’t got nothin’ to do with anything that’s worth doin’. Or, as Fugazi sings, “Never mind what’s been selling. It’s what you’re buying.”

Compare this to the video featured in yesterday’s post, which was based entirely on furthering the pathology of entitlement found in this country, and Lululemon shorts start sounding about as critique-worthy as a granny on roller skates.

What did catch my eye, however, was a tiny indirect reference to the emerging global feud between yoga “off the mat” and yoga “on the mat”:

“Erica Gragg, who runs spiritual Escape to Shape fitness retreats at locations like the Surf Shack in Montauk on Long Island, where daily meditation sessions form part of the program, prefers ‘inexpensive tank tops and long-sleeve tees from H & M, throw-on cardigans from KD Dance.’ Her go-to socks are by Wear Pact, ‘a brand whose profits benefit homeless people,’ she said, ‘which ties into the idea of carrying your practice off the mat’.” [emphasis added]

Setting aside the whole “on the mat/off the mat” thing, I’d like to simply draw your attention to the fact that something tying “into the idea of carrying your practice off the mat” does not an off-the-mat practitioner make. That reads like double speak from someone who has about as much interest in “the homeless” as I do in dust bunnies. Know what I’m definitely gonna think about trying to saying?

To be continued…


PS: I know. We have GOT to stop referencing Fugazi!


  1. I think the Slave labor that made the H&M long-sleeve tees cancels out the sock pennies for the homeless. To further my own spiritually materialistic journey I’ll be bringing Versace’s new self- flagellation whip (made from Donatella’s actual hair and encrusted with fair trade diamonds) on Erica Gragg’s next Escape to Shape’s “Yoga at the Western Wall” in Jerusalem. See ya there suckahhhhhhhhhs. X

  2. Garuda

    Opulent austerity at the polo grounds

  3. Yoga_Dude

    Someone with $995 sweat pants surely has this app:

  4. When will Lululemon or Donna Karan or someone come up with a meditation dhoti, lungi or salwar kameez? Once they do, they’ll have authenticity down solid. Then they’ll be legit.

  5. Bryan

    No, you don’t have to stop referencing Fugazi. EVER.

  6. Yoga Whelp

    I agree with you. For all its faux “edge,” this piece has none. it reads like a thinly-disguised promo piece on behalf of these same clothing retailers. This is the same pattern we see in so many of the yoga blogs: “informercials” on behalf of yoga business owners, their techniques and products in place of actual news reporting and analysis of yoga. However, this is the first piece I have seen in the New York Times that conforms so closely to this model? I think it’s a sign of just how intensive commercial yoga’s exploitation of the public sphere has become. The Yoga Industrial Complex has even “captured” the Times.

  7. Yoga Whelp

    I think a more accurate title would have been: “Replacing Glam with Glammer”? Or how about just “Glam and Glammer” – kind of a riff on “Dumb and Dumber”?

  8. Question: How come none of these slick New York yoga marketers, designers etc. ever hang out in Jackson Heights or Astoria ? How many yoga studios are there in those neighborhoods?

  9. Linda-Sama

    isn’t it your own definition of yoga bleaching?: “1. a form of marketing in which yoga or an image of yogic lifestyle is used to make an otherwise unrelated product appear to be in line with yogic principles. 2. the act of using yoga or an image of yogic lifestyle to sell an unrelated product. 3. a form of spin or marketing intended to deceive consumers into believing that a product is related to yogic practice or theory when in fact it is not.”

    they’re just clothes but given the extra spin (and upcharge) for being specifically for meditation. how is the advertising any different from Shiva Rea’s special gold sandals?


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