Thank you to those of you who responded to our poll on Facebook. We love getting your feedback and opinions. We realize this question can be considered controversial however, we find it comes up often in the emails we receive from visitors to our website. So, to further to our poll this week and the responses we received, we thought this question was worth exploring – especially since yoga has become an international business with an ever-growing number of yoga teachers, studios, training courses, retreats, workshops, DVD’s, podcasts, studios and product lines. In this post, Jane Mason gives us her humble opinion to the question: Do commerce and yoga mix? Can we stay true to yogic values and be successful in business?
Yoga and Commerce: Finding the Balance
by Jane Mason
There are more and more people heading to India to study and learn yoga, many of these people desire to take these teachings back home with them and pass them on to others. We wonder if the Yogi’s of the past ever imagined that yoga would be a global enterprise. Is the sattvic life from inside the ashrams or the ancient teachings of yoga transferrable to our modern world of business?
It was not so long ago that ‘yoga’ and ‘money’ were alien concepts. Indeed, Sri Tirumulai Krishnamcharya commonly referred to as the father of modern day yoga lived for 7 years with his teacher, Sri Ramamohan Brahmachari. No money ever passed between them, just a promise to return to the world, marry and teach yoga. Krishnamacharya and his wife were to live in poverty for many years, because yoga was not profitable. For 20 years he worked to popularize yoga and is responsible for much of the yoga practiced around the world today. In his wisdom, Krishnamcharya was able to adapt yoga to a modern world while maintaining its authenticity.
Today we see many yoga teachers struggling to make ends meet. They struggle with the practicality of how to make a living teaching yoga and also with the ethical dilemma – “Is making money from my practice compatible with my yogic values?”
Most of us live in a society where we need money to survive, we have mortgages or rent, perhaps children to support, and a multitude of household and personal expenses. For yoga to flourish in western society, there is a need to find a way for the two different cultural practices to co-exist.
Of course we need to reject questionable business practices and have as the focus of our business, the spread of the yoga word – rather than the generation of money. We do not have customers but students who come to us for guidance along their yoga journey. If we are mindful of this and strive at the same time to be true to yogic values, there is no reason for an incompatibility to exist between the commercial practices and the values that the yoga business expounds.
Such a business would be built on the same foundation as our yoga practice, with the Yamas: Sathya (truth), Ahimsa (non-violence), Astheya (no stealing), Aparigraha (no storage/hoarding) and Brahmacharya (discipline).
It would be a business where members of staff are encouraged and supported to act in accordance with the Niyamas: Shoucha (cleanliness), Santhosha (contentment), Svadhyaya (self study), Tapassu (burning of negativity) and Ishwari Pranidana (surrender).
Yoga can adapt to meet the different needs of people or national cultures, while at the same time respecting the foundational teachings. However, it is the respected yoga bodies/alliances that will uphold the standard and authenticity of teachings. It is the teachers of yoga who will strive to ensure that the seeds planted today come from the same source as those sown by the great yogi’s of the past.
An awareness of these challenges should not detract from the benefits to society of the increasing popularity of yoga. Rather it is an opportunity for further growth and awareness. The global expansion of yoga is a wonderful and positive message and just as Krishnamcharya refined and adapted, I think the yoga community, with awareness, can find a balance between commerce and yoga that respects the past teachings and supports us in our modern lives.