I recently had an opportunity to watch the documentary, Yoga, Inc. Documentaries have always fascinated me. I find their combination of behind the scenes truth, obscure facts and opportunities to learn about a myriad of topics very appealing. It was available free on Hulu and can also be viewed on Snag Films.
Since my yoga practice is such a significant part of my life, I was especially intrigued by many elements of this film. Yoga, Inc. asks whether yoga can survive big business with its good karma intact. While yoga is a spiritual practice thats been around for thousands of years, its evolved to fit today’s standards of a modern yogi. Here are some controversial topics of the film I found intriguing.
Bikram Yoga– While I am open minded to giving Bikram a chance, I have never enjoyed yoga in a 100 degree room. I feel the extreme heat brings out more negative energy than positive vibes. After seeing this film, I can understand why my body feels uneasy at the mention of Bikram. Bikram yoga continues to cause turmoil in the yoga industy. Bikram copyrighted his popular yoga style and those who teach ‘Bikram yoga’ without playing by his rules are hit with copyright infringement fees. Yoga studio owners take Bikram back to court and pose an important legal question; how can someone ‘own’ yoga? Bikram is comprised of a series of asanas that have been around longer than his name yet he somehow feels he owns the rights to these postures and is out to take money away from instructors and studios who are only trying to spread the good nature of his practice.
Yoga Competitions– When I first began to practice yoga, I had a great instructor, Monica who began each class by telling us that Yoga is non-competitive. I’ve always participated in competitive sports (cross country, basketball, track and field) so hearing this was a relief. The only person I need to consider while on my mat is myself. My goal is to challenge myself, strengthen my body, become more flexible and create more balance in my life without pressure to beat someone else. Many sports are ego dominate (jump higher than someone, run faster than someone, go for the gold or go home, etc) so yoga is a nice break from the traditional, play to win mentality. When I saw yoga competitions in this documentary and a quest to get yoga into the Olympics, I was a bit curious as to how you can measure who is more enlightened or who has the best pranayama (breathing) technique to guide their practice. It seemed the competitions mostly measured the strength, flexibility and difficulty of poses, which is only a fraction of what yoga encompasses.
Mc Yoga- The Mc Yoga term refers to Yoga chains popping up all over the nation and fitness centers offering yoga classes that endanger mom and pop shops from surviving. Yoga is a billion dollar business, which in my opinion is not a negative thing. Good intentions attract abundance. Earning money through spreading the positive energy and health benefits of yoga is almost inevitable. Providing opportunities for people to learn yoga, take classes, become instructors, etc is essentially giving back to the community by allowing more people to be a part of the yoga movement.
These were just a few of my observations and opinions of various topics in the film. I recommend every Yogi watch this film. It will deepen your understanding of yoga and educate you on different aspects of the industry. Greed, lust, ego and the search for peace and enlightenment are all featured in this documentary that combines both spiritualism and capitalism, two topics that resist each other but inevitably come together.
Whether you have seen the film or not, please feel free to share your thoughts about the film or any of the above mentioned topics.