The opening line of Yoga, the Body, and Embodied Social Change is, “Yoga in the West is now a $27 billion dollar industry.” Yoga has been part of my life for almost a decade and I have used it’s teaching (and breathing techniques) to get me through some pretty rocky times, so to be confronted by this figure blew my mind. Yoga on many levels has turned into the latest fitness craze and everywhere I turn there seem to be more items that I apparently need to purchase to make me a “better” yogi. While I would suggest that it is common sense that a certain brand of tights isn’t going to make backbends deeper, much of todays yoga apparel marketing would have consumers believing that not only will tights make backbends deeper, there is also a high chance that the tights will also help you on the way to being petite, flexible, and dare I say it … a white female.
What so many yoga practitioners forget, is that there is much more to yoga than the physical practice on the mat. As you dig deeper into the traditions of yoga you will undoubtedly discover Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga. The 8 Limbs of Yoga form the structural framework of yoga and offer yogis the tools to bring the practices of yoga off the mat and into their everyday life.
Ahimsa is one of the very first virtues of Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga. Ahimsa is the practice of non-violence to self and others. This basically means do not orally, physically or mentally harm yourself or other living creatures. The broader sense of this concept got me thinking. When I just pop out and buy a pair of new yoga tights, without any concrete knowledge of who or how they were made, am I potentially not doing my best to practice Ahimsa? How much Ahimsa do I practice when I shop?
Yoga clothing and paraphernalia is often made by companies who are far from transparent in their manufacturing practices. Isn’t it a bit ironic that we are all taking part in an ancient practice that encourages peace and love for all earthly creatures, yet we are down dogging in clothing that has possibly been made by exploited workers, with chemicals and dyes that are damaging communities, waterways and creating environmental disasters?
It is too easy to pop into a shop in a rush and pick up something super quick without even considering where, how or what. It is often hard to find information on ethical choices, especially in the heat of the moment, when the convenience of grab and buy is overpowering. I have laid some ground rules to my shopping experience to assist me in consciously purchasing products that limit the damage to the world.
Research – I try not to impulse shop and attempt to research all purchases. There are some great brands emerging now that are actively choosing ethical and sustainable practices. I also use the Good on You App when I am “fashion” shopping so I can see how a brand’s ethical and environmental practices stack up.
Organic – Most food and clothing items are going to be better for the world (and you) if they are organic.
Local – Buying locally supports small Kiwi Businesses. New Zealand does “bespoke” very well and our natural ingenuity regularly produces world class products so it is often worth looking closer to home.
If you aren’t sure, don’t buy it — you probably don’t actually need it.
There are ways that we can change how we impact the world and often, with just a little thought, the right decision is just in front of you. If you still need convincing, I suggest that you take a look at the documentary The True Cost , especially the section about the leather factory in India…