Similarly, I have a relationship with the people who work at the local Lululemon store, and I find them all to be amazing people--they all love yoga and fitness, and are passionate about being a part of the community and about giving people good service. So, without going into a review of the brand or a long-winded discussion on their business model (which is VERY interesting, one of the reasons they're so popular, and definitely worth looking into if you aren't familiar with it!), I do want to point out something that came up a number of times in my Yoga & Body Image Survey that I put out a few weeks ago.
After reviewing the results, I found that Lululemon was the only yoga brand that made an appearance in the comments section--and, the brand name was mentioned 11 times (!). For the most part, it was mentioned as a reason that students feel self-conscious in yoga classes. A few examples/excerpts are below:
- "I think the tight fitting Lululemon clothing constantly makes you aware of how you look."
- "I think, in general, the industry/media excludes men, women who don't identify as white, and anyone who doesn't look good in Lululemon clothes. Since when did we all have to wear spandex (or be around people who do) to do a physical/spiritual activity? :)"
- "...It does take a while to build strength and realize that strength and practice are more important than how you look in your Lululemon outfit. "
- "I read somewhere that nearly every woman who practices yoga wears Lululemon and whoever wrote that is right."
- "Makes me self conscious esp if everyone is head to toe in Lululemon!"
- "I feel like there is a correlation now between consumerism and body image issues, especially with boutique brands like Lululemon, who I don't feel is very inclusive to those with larger bodies. It seems like nowadays you must get the gear to do the classes!"
- "I tend to notice if I'm the only one not wearing clothes from Lululemon. :)"
But is it Lululemon's fault, for creating a product that people like, and want, or for creating a successful business model? Is it our fault, for being "mindless consumers"? Is it inherent in our culture to want the "right" brands, no matter what the activity? I don't know the answer, but I definitely think that it's worth thinking about...
So what do we do? I think the first step is becoming aware of it. Since I, too, wear Lululemon, I want to think about the message that I may or may not be sending to my students. Have we as a community let our yoga classes become so materialistic that people are spending time being conscientious of their clothing, instead of letting go and dwelling in their bodies? Or is this just human nature? I know that I have compared myself to other people in class on a number of levels, but I don't necessarily think that the clothing is to blame. I think it is also a broader societal issue. There's no doubt that as a culture, we have tried to "brand" yoga in many ways, but are we causing harm the the inclusive nature of the practice?
Something to ponder.
If you have any thoughts on this, feel free to share :)
Also, a BIG thanks to all who filled out my Yoga & Body Image Survey. I was overwhelmed by the honesty, quality of written responses, and experiences that were shared. Of the 80 people who completed it, 88.8% said that they had struggled with body image issues, and 96.3% said that their yoga practice had affected their relationship with their body. I was extremely moved by the many ways that yoga has helped people to embrace their bodies, and it made me so thankful and happy to be able to be a part of this amazing practice.
I'll be sure to share more results as I formulate and write my thesis. Thank YOU for your contribution!