There’s been a lot of buzz around Rebecca Hiscott’s piece in New York Racked, “I Did Yoga Outside with 10,000 People Dressed in All White.” More than this, there’s been a lot of buzz around Lolë’s White Tour. Here’s the scoop: yoga fashion brand Lolë organizes huge outdoor yoga classes, inviting people to attend in their official Lolë gear and practice with thousands of other like-minded yogis. The teachers are often famous and always inspirational. The luminous Seane Corn is teaching at the next event in L.A. in November. The music is phenomenal and live. What’s not to love?
Hiscott’s final say on the matter is this: despite her anxiety at the beginning of the practice, her musings on the weather (humid), and the inevitable urges of her body for a bathroom break, she left feeling at peace. The takeaway is that any yoga is probably good yoga.
No matter when, where, or how you do yoga, there are usually benefits that arise from focusing on your breath, moving through asana, and—if you’re in a group—practicing alongside other people. If you have teachers like Elena Brower, Colleen Saidman Yee, and Rodney Yee leading your practice, your chances for having a good time are even greater. None of this is new information; the National Institute of Health promotes yoga as a way to “improve quality of life; reduce stress; lower heart rate and blood pressure; help relieve anxiety, depression, and insomnia; and improve overall physical fitness, strength, and flexibility.” So what’s the problem with a bunch of people practicing together?
Most of the criticism directed at Lolë is not about the yoga so much as it is about the corporatization of yoga, a perennial favorite subject of practitioners. Like many brands before them, Lolë is invested in growing its brand and ensuring its staying power. The unavoidable crux of the matter is that uniting the brand and the practice is what marketing is all about. Lolë couldn’t put on these kinds of events without the money it has clearly already made, and the events are designed to, among other things, increase profits.
Many schools of yoga are also at least partially profit-driven. I teach Baptiste yoga, which is famous in the yoga world for its impeccable branding (Lululemon provides all of its fashionably cut, expensive gear). At some level, business-driven yoga is the inevitable outcome of our modern world and its market-driven global economy. I’m not saying that this is ideal. It’s reality. It’s also changeable, as are all good things in reality!
As we at YogaBasics have discovered, there are plenty of ways to unite yoga and the business world without feeling conflicted. Yoga and fundraising have been buddies for years, fueling organizations like the Africa Yoga Project and the Seva Foundation. But when yoga joins forces with corporations like Lolë and Lululemon (which, granted, has worked hard to disavow itself of statements by founder Chip Wilson), the two can be strange bedfellows.
A ticket for the White Tour is $30. If you want a t-shirt, it’s $65. If you’re lucky enough to be able to afford the VIP experience, be prepared to shell out over $100. Lolë advertises that this is a “yoga session open to everyone.” Clearly, that’s not the case. Just as it’s not the case that someone who barely scrapes together the money to cover the month’s bills will be heading to a yoga teacher training any time soon. Granted, your Lolë experience comes with a free mat and gift bag, which you are instructed to carefully position for the best possible photo ops.
If Lolë’s vision really is, as its website proclaims, to “promote individual and collective well-being” and function as “a symbol of peace,” it had better figure out how to actually do that. It might start by using some of that money it’s netting to offer people a free practice.