This week celebrates the UN International Day of Yoga - How well do you know your sun from your moon salutations? How much is the yoga industry worth? What’s it all about anyway?
Do you swear by your yoga block or belt? Are you experimenting with the new yoga wheel? Do you have the mat, the bag, the pants? Can you nail the Astavakrasana or are you mastering Urdhva Dhanurasana instead?
Wait - what is yoga supposed to be about anyway?
The UN describes it as, "Yoga is an ancient physical, mental and spiritual practice that originated in India. The word ‘yoga’ derived from Sanskrit and means to join or to unite, symbolizing the union of body and consciousness. Today it is practiced in various forms around the world and continues to grow in popularity."
Well you can say that again! Did you know the that "the yoga market is now worth $16bn in the US and $80bn globally?... The Athleisure clothing accounted for 17% of the US clothing sales in 2015”. That is a lot of yoga pants and yoga classes.
And cause we're feeling in a silly mood here's a skit from Jimmy Kimmel:
Yoga has diversified a million miles away from its original roots; there's yoga with your dog, a goat and for the more cynical of you, yoga with a pint of beer and gin for the more discerning cynics.
Yoga originates in South Asian culture, dating back more than 2500 years. It is a philosophy founded in Hindusim and only came to the west in the 20th century. Yoga is steeped in history, diversifying through different schools and leaders. As an accessible starting point, AJ+ released a short documentary exploring the commercialisation and white-washing of yoga in the US - is it cultural celebration or cultural appropriation? Take a look when you have 10 minutes and get up to speed on its origins.
This isn't a post to lecture you about the right or wrong 'kinds' of yoga - nor cripple you with guilt if you earn an income via the industry - but simply to encourage you to pause and reflect on your practice (or spike your curiosity if you're new to the world of yoga) and think about the context and the rich history yoga has had through the generations.
And something inspiring to finish on. Meet Nanammal, 99 year old grandmother and yoga instructor - with flexibility and strength of character we can all aspire to in our lives.