A Defense of Corporate Yoga Chains

Dasani water bottle
Photo by santanartist.

Corporations exploit yoga, goes the refrain. They make decisions for profit motives that conflict with yogic principles. They divorce yoga from its philosophy and ethics. They take only one of Patanjali’s eight limbs—asana—and turn it into a gym workout!

They take business from local, independent studios that presumably do none of the above.

You’re about to read a defense of corporate chain yoga studios on the blog of an independent yoga studio. But it’s not going to argue with any of the claims above.

Instead, I want to approach the issue by remembering that our ideas about good vs. bad (small and independent vs. big and corporate) are at least as temporary as our economic systems (capitalism, communism, feudalism).

“The entire outside world is based on your thoughts and mental attitude,” says Swami Satchidanda, in his translation of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. “The entire world is your own projection. Your values may change within the fraction of a second.”

So to take a more enduring perspective, to situate ourselves upon more enduring values, let us enter this field:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I will meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Language, ideas, even the phrase ‘each other’
doesn’t make any sense.
~ Rumi

Now that we’re lying down in this grass together, this shouldn’t take long.

Yoga is older than capitalism, yoga will be here long after capitalism is gone, and yoga doesn’t care whether or not it wears corporate labels.

Yoga is like water.

The Coca-Cola Company puts water in plastic bottles, puts a Dasani label on it, and sells it for $1.29 to people who find bottled water convenient, even though water falls from the sky.

But the water doesn’t care. The water in the bottle is older than the Coca-Cola Company, older than the plastic bottle, and the water will be here long after the corporation and the bottle are gone.

In its own time, geologic time, the water is still flowing.When you open the bottle and drink it, it quenches your thirst just the same.

And then it returns to the sea.

Water flows through capitalism as it flows through the rest of existence.

People assume that capitalism is exploiting yoga. But maybe yoga is exploiting capitalism.

Maybe yoga is packaging itself in the economic model that reaches the greatest number of people in our time.

Swami Satchidananda writes:

We have to understand the difference between the basic truth and the presentation. Truth can be presented only through some form or vehicle. We should always remember that the truth of the Self is the same; but when presented to you through words and forms and modes, it may appear in different ways to suit the individual or the trend of the age.

It doesn’t matter how yoga comes to you as long as it comes to you, says the swami. Once you find yoga, you can follow it out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing—to its  enduring truth.


The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, translated by Swami Satchidananda (book)

Poems by Rumi (text)

Swami Bill Murray:


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