Of the rapidly rising number of people practising yoga around the world, a good proportion are more poseurs than practitioners.
A yoga-teaching ex of mine could execute a precise chaturanga and Instagram-perfect arm-balance but, off the mat – how do I put this – did not demonstrate a singular “yogic” quality.
Talking the (yoga-speak spiritual) talk and walking the walk are two very different things. The latter, thankfully, requires no physical flexibility nor genetic blessings.
This is why the new Lululemon campaign is refreshing, if only as a reminder of what yoga is – or is meant to be.
The physical side of yoga was only ever meant to be one-eighth of an otherwise mental practice. The other seven parts include various practices and codes of conduct such as honesty, non-violence (in words and action), integrity, self-discipline, breathing, meditation, mindfulness and cultivating joy. These practices are arguably more “yogic” than the person who can do the splits or contort themselves into a pretzel.
This means we can practise “yoga” every day off the mat, and this is what the Lululemon campaign attempts to demonstrate. The campaign clip, This Is Yoga, shows various successful people living their “yoga” practice.
Canadian Jian Pablico says that as a youngster he was on track to join a gang. Instead he opened Distrikt Movement, a yoga and fitness space where he works with local kids offering an outlet and alternative to violence through sports, martial arts and play.
“Violence is a reality. You have to know how to handle it,” he says. “Trying to understand where that person’s coming from, and allowing them to see you – that’s non-violent.”
Three-time Olympic volleyball gold medallist, Kerri Walsh Jennings, brings her yoga practice to her training.
“Self-discipline is showing up every day,” says Jennings, who is preparing for the Tokyo Olympic Games. “If you battle for as long as it takes, you’ll eventually get to where you want to go.”
Australian artist CJ Hendry, who recently collaborated with famed French shoe designer Christian Louboutin, says drawing is her meditation.
“Life itself is the opposite of control,” says the 29-year-old, New York-based Brisbaneite.”When I draw, it’s like the most controlled thing in my life. I lose track of time. I lose track of feeling. I get this very calm clarity via doing.
“My practice is meditation without me even knowing it.”
One unlikely “student” of yoga is South London-based Grime rapper, P Money, who says his connection to breath is the basis of all performance.
“Breathing might actually be the most important thing,” the 28-year-old Kiwi says.
“Right before I go on the stage, I always take a moment. I close my eyes and I listen to myself breathe. I found from performing how much we are connected to the way we think, breathe, feel. Everything’s together, simply by breathing.”
Yoga is the fastest-growing fitness activity in Australia, but the strength, flexibility and ability to pretzel ourselves are only a few of the reasons we do it, and perhaps not the most important.
Of their first-ever global brand campaign, launched on Tuesday, Lululemon says: “By engaging compelling individuals with unique backgrounds, we’re elevating the power of practice and exploring how it takes different shapes for each person – whether that’s a practice of self-study, letting go, discipline, trust, nonviolence, meditation or breath.”
Yes, they hope you buy their yoga pants too, but in a $10 billion industry with annual growth of 10 per cent, it’s nice to remember that yoga is not just about the physical.