Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Yoga Attire

OK, I have been asked about clothing appropriate and ideal for yoga many times. Where can I get high-performance yoga clothing that doesn't cost an arm and a leg?

The easy answer to this is to go to Marshall's or Target or something -- functional yoga attire that should sustain many practices and washes and come at a reasonable price. And I have been guilty of this in times past.

However, as you increase your awareness and extend this mindfulness off of the yoga mat and into the world, this is bound to be challenged. My opinion on this matter is now highly influenced by being educated on this country's unethical outsourcing, slave labor, and sweatshop practices, which include but are not limited to unsafe and unjust working conditions and unfair and inadequate wages and compensation. This is contradictory of yoga! It violates the very first yama (the first of eight limbs of yoga), ahimsa, non-violence or non-harming. Yet for some reason, it goes unnoticed or unthought-of by many "yogis."

It is very difficult to buy fair trade/sweatshop-free in this country. Any big business or store that might be "convenient" is likely a primary offender; but choosing what may not be convenient is the yoga of shopping. It's the work. This work should not be isolated to yoga apparel, of course, it should influence all of our shopping habits and tendencies when possible. We all know what goes on with Nike by now, yet so many people seem unfazed, with the ubiquitous love for Nike Jordans. Adidas and Puma are similar offenders.
Athleta is one with Gap, Old Navy, and Banana Republic, businesses who have admitted to "unknowingly" use child labor.

And Lululemon Athletica, which is specifically a self-defined "yoga-inspired athletic apparel company" seems to have missed the mark on a large part of what yoga is all about. Unfortunately, here in the west, we seem to be under the impression that yoga is isolated only the movements of the body, the poses, the asanas (which is really just one of eight limbs that make up the practice and science of yoga). Lululemon sells pants for $148.00, which is interesting because while it was once U.S. and Canadian-manufactured, they now do at least 70% of manufacturing in locations such as China, South Korea, South America, Indonesia, Israel, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Thailand, and something tells me the workers in these countries are not compensated nearly a fraction of what Lululemon's appalling price tags read. Something about it screams "suspicious" to me and challenges my trust that Lululemon is abiding by the third yamasatya, or truthfulness. Ask Chip Wilson why he calls his company "Lululemon" and he "jokingly" says something about how funny it is to hear the Asian slave labors try to pronounce it. Not only is this a direct assault on the practice of ahimsa, non-harming, but seems to challenge the second of the yamasasteya, non-stealing. Perhaps Lululemon wouldn't rub me the wrong way so much if they weren't claiming "strong ties to local communities" and penned a manifesto with ridiculously hypocritical sayings such as, "A daily hit of athletic-induced endorphines gives you the power to make better decisions, helps you be at peace with yourself, and offset stress" -- as though Lululemon should represent the index on "better decisions"; meaningless and transparent phrases such as, "That which matters the most should never give way to that which matters the least"; and of course confusing and disturbing quotes such as "Children as the orgasm of life."

But... there are other more mindful options though. Some U.S.-manufactured and fair-trade clothing retails I support include, but are not limited to, MishogawearHardtail ForeverShakti ActivewearLucy ActivewearprAnaRawganiqueMahadevi Design; and American Apparel. The empire of American Apparel was built off of the claim of being sweat-shop and slave labor free; however, I have recently heard some disappointing stories. Dov Charney, founder and CEO of American Apparel, has been accused of many sexual harassment lawsuits and has admitted to selecting descriptive words such as "slut" in relation to employees. This kind of behavior is also undesirable to yogis and other conscientious consumers; however, unlike Lululemon, at least Charney doesn't posit to be a spiritual example of some kind.

At the end of it all, though, I think what is important is your intention, the energy behind your decisions, to do good and to affect and influence the world in a positive way, as a consumer, a yoga practitioner, and a person.

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