Is Yoga Over-commercialised?

When tried my first yoga class at a large fitness & yoga establishment in 2008, it was one of the very few studios in Singapore to offer mainly yoga at the studio. I went for a year & decided I didn’t like yoga, mainly because teachers there had very thick native accent that was very difficult to understand in class. Back then, there were only a few yoga studios around, and I had no one around me who did yoga at all, not that it mattered.
Swimming had been my main exercise, and I was getting tired of having to rely on the weather. I was looking for an alternative indoor workout that didn’t require shoes because they were bulky to bring around. So in 2012, I tried yoga again at a small boutique studio which offered mainly hot yoga. This time, I got hooked. I loved how light I felt after all the buckets of sweat, I loved how relaxed my body felt after an intense hot class & a long day’s work. I loved that focus on the mat, spending that 60min/90min with myself.
In the next few years, boutique yoga studios sprung up all around the island. Yoga studios offering only hot yoga, studios that had a hippie vibe and had young hip & energetic teachers, studios that went for the minimalist vibe, studios that offer bootcamps to increase your strength, etc. Whichever category you prefer, you have it. Of course, there were also studios that closed at zilch notice. Also, most studios now have their own Teacher Trainings, and the sign up rates are increasing by the year. Together with it, came the social media frenzy – Facebook, Instagram, stc. To top it off, the seemingly worldwide sweep of interest in health, fitness & wellbeing opens up even more doors.
The web is now amassed with pictures of Instagram/yoga personalities in various advanced inversions, arm balances, or folded into a pretzel against pretty backdrops or on a busy street in a city; as well as monthly yoga challenges. And they make you wonder when you’ll be able to do those, yet these aren’t the most important aspects of yoga.
Alongside these, there’s the rise in colourful yoga apparel & equipment. Almost every studio now sells apparel of different brands from around the world, or have their own brand. There is even a portal set up to sell off these yoga apparel/equipment that you no longer use, or doesn’t suit you. I must admit, though, that these are addictive.
Yoga has become a booming industry. A very lucrative one at that. It seems to have come away from its roots, and has somehow become quite “hipster” trend. Becoming a yoga teacher has become a much sought after alternative career path, practising yoga has become a new age culture in metropolitan cities around the world.
This rise of popularisation of yoga has somewhat eroded my interest a little over the years. I started to get cynical of all these that are happening around us, trying to make sense of it. Are people really interested in yoga itself, or is making handstand happen in a  short period of time more important?
I started out yoga not even knowing that one day I could touch my toes, let alone fly in arm balances. All I was interested in, was how much joy yoga brought me, how far I have come in self discovery & awareness through the constant practice of asanas.  This is something I now remind myself on days where I feel a little weary on & off the mat – remembering how & why I started, and what made me keep coming back on the mat in the beginning. I still enjoy the time spent on the mat, flowing through classes, pushing myself a little more some days, going a little easier on myself on other days.
I guess whether or not this whole yoga boom makes any sense at all doesn’t really matter. What really matters is what happens inside you as you evolve with your practice. It is what you make sense of your own practice that is the most essential. Let go of the comparison, let go of the innate need to compete, let go of the envy (oh hey, that’s aparigraha – non-covetedness), and be content with the best that you gave on the mat.
YTT Weekend (Jan 2016)
Faith Phang