Health fads come and go as often as seasons change and the tide ebbs. Some have merits (ie eating more raw food and less processed food when possible) and some are completely bizarre (the hCG diet, anyone?). Some of these health plans have roots in history, evolution, and biology (the paleo diet) while others, just emerging, are still shrouded in mystery (seriously – what is that crazy wrap thing?). With all these get healthy (aka: skinny) quick schemes out there, none have really stood up against scrutiny the way yoga has. Yoga, with history dating back to 600-500 years BCE, has a little bit of everything: meditation, spirituality, community, and, yes, fitness. Yoga has taken the west by storm. Most gyms and fitness studios offer classes by the dozen, and, for those who’d rather not hit a multipurpose facility, many cities offer studios that cater just to yoga. Naturally, once something starts to do well in the west, what do we do? We find a way to alienate a significant number of the individuals who wish to participate. Enter Lululemon Athletica Inc.
Lululemon Athletica’s first store opened in Vancouver in 2000. In less than 15 years, the brand as managed to explode across the world, yet only has 254 stores scattered across the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. You may recall last winter when Lululemon founder Chip Wilson stepped down as chairman (though, only as far as board member) after remarking in a Bloomberg News interview that the reason some women found that the latest crop of yoga pants were sheer – sheer like completely see your butt through them – was because the bodies of the women who experienced the sheer pants-ed-ness were simply not right for the product. In case that sentence was confusing, what he essentially said was “if fat women weren’t wearing the pants, then they would not be sheer” or “we design pants for a specific body type and just because you can squeeze your butt into them does not mean they fit or that we want you to wear them.” If there was any doubt of that, a 10 minute perusal of the website should clear it up – I never saw a pair of pants offered larger than a size 12, or for less than $80. Lululemon’s products, apparently, are not for fat people or poor people.
Further claims that Lululemon’s patrons, “Luluheads,” are cult-like make the brand and products seem all the more creepy to me. It’s as though they have taken the beautiful things about yoga – the spirituality and inclusiveness – and made it a display of wealth, unattainable societal body standards, and excess. In Manhattan, the store offers free yoga classes in Bryant Park twice a week, and somehow manages to turn what is normally an intimate and spiritual activity into a spectator sport for perverts who want to view 400+ (mostly) women in skin tight and/or revealing yoga gear while they bend and stretch for an hour or two. It seems kind of silly, if you ask me. Don’t buy into the hype – yoga is not about wealth and material things. It’s not about being flashy and showing off. I’ll stick with my clearance Old Navy yoga pants and to indulging in yoga without an audience.