Last weekend, I enjoyed three days in what looked like, Yogic Disneyland. Together with Giulia, owner of In Sabina in Italy and Gustavo Ponce owner of Canal Om in Chile, we set up our own stand at the London Yoga Om Show, in Olympia.
15.000 yogis to be expected, 4000 flyers ready to be distributed and a lot of curiosity from our side to see if a show like this was ‘our thing’.
The first day was relaxed, several people walked into the stand, attracted by the beautiful pictures of In Sabina and Canal Om, and looking for information on future retreats. We met quite a few teachers as well, either interested in bringing groups to the locations or teaching at one of my retreats.
There was no real plan and we just waited to see who would walk in. By the end of the day we were satisfied, had some great laughs, but when looking at the pile of flyers, mmm, we figured we might do something different in the next few days, as we didn’t like the idea of going home again with all these flyers…
We still had this Free Yoga Retreat to give away as well but for some reason many people didn’t even want more info on this as they thought there must be a catch. A catch? Hello? We’re trying to be yogis, how can there be a catch?
Even when informing our winner this week, I had to explicitly mention she is really going to Italy as she still didn’t believe it.
On Saturday we changed our approach and just started out handing over the flyers to basically everyone that past the stand. Myrna Van Kemenade from Yogadreams and some friends of Giulia’s and Gustavo’s also joined in, and at a certain point we must have been distributing about a 100 flyers an hour! Great fun and a lot more people to talk too as well!
Most people questioned us on how our retreats are different. The answer to that one was easy as there aren’t too many retreats on the market that have the all-inclusive formula, have two teachers on board on most retreats, offer different styles during the week and use superb locations.
Overall it was a great experience and I’m grateful to have had a stand on one of the biggest yoga exhibitions in Europe. And that’s exactly where the awkwardness also stepped in…
Yoga and exhibition, yoga and business: Is that even ok?
Especially on the first day, I was a bit overwhelmed by the way things were presented. It almost seemed like if you would wear these specific pants, spice it up with the right jewelry, have the newest Yogamatters mat and drink from the original Gaiam water bottle; you would be a true yogi. Also, was I participating in this madness? I had my own stand, promoting yoga retreats so was I promoting the act of going on retreats, as a way to make people more yogi as well?
One visitor to our stand clearly had the same doubts and she asked me what my definition of yoga was. She had asked most of the retreat organizers and was either given a vague answer on physical benefits or just bombarded with the unique offer they had for a retreat, when she would book on the spot and leave her email right there and then.
As yoga for me is more than asanas, has absolutely nothing to do with what you wear and boils down to the definition of Patanjali, stilling the mind; I could see that I had restored a little bit of her faith, that for some people yoga is more than a business of clothes, props, mats, DVD’s, jewelry, or retreats.
Fact is, yoga just is big business. Some numbers:
Estimates of the number of global yoga practitioners are as high as 250 million. According to Yoga Journal Magazine, North Americans spend over $10 billion annually on yoga classes and equipment. And last year, Lululemon, the Vancouver-based yoga-apparel brand, earned more than $1 billion globally…
Clearly, yoga is evolving.
The question is: Is there something wrong with the materialistic evolution of yoga?
In essence, I will say: No!
I still believe that the more people do yoga, the better it will be for this world and the huge advantage of these big brands jumping on the yoga wagon is, that they make yoga more accessible to a larger audience. And whether people get into a regular yoga practice via Bikram, Boxing Yoga or Disco Yoga, at some point they might start wondering what the background of it all might be. If they then fall upon a good teacher, why not?!
There’s also nothing wrong with buying the Lululemon pants and cool things to wear for your yoga class. I wear yoga pants half of a the day so why not have some fashion blended in? Just make sure, you buy them for you and that you are staying true to why you love yoga and what brought you to yoga in the first place.
And coming back to my earlier question on participating in the madness?
There’s also absolutely nothing wrong with going on yoga retreats. Whether or not it will make you more yogi/aware/mindful/conscious? That’s up to you! I just create the environment for you to do so.
Above all, it’s a time to rejuvenate, to take some time out, to learn more about the true philosophy of yoga, to experience, to be with likeminded people from all over the world, see new cultures and simply enjoy yourself.
If I see what our retreats can do for people, I’m very happy to have been on the yoga show, to be in the yoga business and to promote my retreats to make more people aware that there is something like yoga holidays!
As usual, feel free to share your thoughts.