Uniting Business with the Spiritual Path

Let’s face it, Yoga is big business. Even the most devoted practitioners and teachers strive to earn at least a modest living by sharing what they love. There is no getting around it. No matter how genuine your practice, if you step into a yoga class you are wearing the clothes, using the mat, listening to the music, and reading the books and magazines. We all dream of the retreats on deserted islands and the trainings that last for weeks. And all of these things, from classes to clothing come with a price. Even those places that we deem sanctuaries of authenticity are a business behind it all.

So, is it possible to inhabit the space where bottom line and authentic teaching overlap? Not only is it possible, but it is happening in a multitude of ways across the globe. World renown retreat center Kripalu in Lennox Massachusetts, boasts a yearly attendance of 30,000 with over 700 workshops and seminars annually, and it doesn’t happen from a cushion or a mat. This big business of programming is done by a committed group of staff that spends countless hours answering phones, listening to proposals, and crunching numbers.

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Sounds just like a business to me, but one component of the Kripalu business that many other companies often lack is the commitment to the authenticity of the presenters and the topics presented. The programming director at Kripalu, Denise Barak, keeps even the biggest names in the industry in check with the purpose of the institution. “I’ve had to sit down with people who’d just drawn 250 or 300 people,” Ms. Barack said, “and tell them, ‘This is not the opportunity to be trying to push the book.’ ” Not an easy task in this world of accomplished teachers and esoteric studies.

So whether it is retreats or clothing, the fact is that Yoga is a business, and a big one. It has one of the largest consumer populations of any industry in the world, and to keep the machine moving forward, there must be people behind the scenes making decisions and charging the fees. What separates this enterprise from many others may be its approach. The practice of Yoga and other spiritual paths may begin on the mat or on the cushion, but the wisdom comes when you join the insights gleaned in practice to the day-to-day workings of our daily lives. As businesses evolve around selling harmony and health, the union of these seeming opposites becomes more and more important. Yoga as we know it is growing to encompass the union of our practice with our all aspects of our everyday lives. As yogis and spiritual practitioners, we are learning how to incorporate the principles of our practice into our busy schedules, and hopefully thrive in the process.

Kripalu is not the only organization trying to unite business and the spiritual path. Yoga+ Joyful Living magazine is published by the Himalayan Institute in Honesdale, PA, a non-profit service organization dedicated to education and humanitarian programs all over the world. The Y catalog states their mission of becoming a voice “for a new world vision of conscious commerce.” The apparel and lifestyle product catalog is committed to the donation of 10% of all purchases to global or charitable causes as an ongoing commitment to Seva (the spirit of service) in the mainstream yoga industry. The products represented in the catalog are all from companies that are committed to making a difference. And of course, our own Yogabasics.com is an ideal example of conscious business. Ten percent of all of our profits go to fund yoga teacher training scholarships, and to a selection of non-profit organizations. In addition, all proceeds from the Good Karma Ads displayed at the bottom of each page are donated to non-profits.

And there are hundreds more examples of this the union of business and mindful capitalism in a wide variety of industries from the music to construction, publishing to skin care. The effects of consciousness in business are filtering through the net of consumerism, and into the reality of our day-to-day spending. We can contribute to this shift by supporting the companies and businesses that make conscious choices and are most representative of our own path to discovery. Do you know of businesses that are contributing to local or global change?

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