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TIME: Yep, Yogis are Yuppies!

in Recession Yoga, YD News, Yoga Pop


Here we go again. TIME mag inducing the “Ugh” factor. oh man we have so much to say about this…our sharp tongues are piqued.

Sadly we just can’t expect TIME to bring us any relevant yoga news anymore. We mean no malice, but they already muddled the little part about YogaWorks opening up a NYC location later this year – they currently have 4 (plus Westchester), with the next coming in Soho this month- and made it sound like they’re solely a CA super-chain. Eh, no big deal, who cares about being clear on facts. The real hunk of the story heralds our new mantra du jour “Necessity is the new luxury.” It’s true, we’ve shot disapproving glances in the direction of high-priced yoga classes, fancy studios and our lovable lulu lolligaggers. Even yoga retreats got their fair share of scorn, yet somewhat acceptability. BUT…what about those ridiculously priced mats?!

Leave it to the mass media to call out those hot shot $100 mats y’all. Investigative and starched snarky pants journalism ensues…

-That’s right — $100 for a stinkin’ mat. A company called Manduka, which makes these luxury yoga props, has seen its sales rise 55% in the first four months of 2009.

-“Manduka is the Porsche, the Ferrari of yoga mats,” says Phil Swain, CEO of YogaWorks

-But these days, isn’t driving a Toyota Corolla just fine? Yoga involves stretching, holding poses and doing other physical movement. We’re not talking cushions for backflips here. When it comes down to it, can’t you just do yoga on your carpet? Or grab a towel? Or pay for a $30 mat in the store?

What’s the most annoying part? Who really sweats another yogi’s mat anyway? It’s not a sign of status in any classes we’ve been to, like a Toyota vs. a Ferrari on the freeway as Gregory points out. Or lulu vs., we dunno, your ma’s pjs. Silly! We’ve been seen plenty of times toting our $20 no name Amazon.com purchase we got 8 years ago. Yes it is BRIGHT purple and shedding like a Himalyan kitty in the summertime. And how many times have you rented the studio flim flam mats (for a freakin $2+ mind you– wtf btw)?

But clearly Yoga is POP now, it’s mainstream and apparently symbols of status come part and parcel. Neo-yogis have money! Even in Recession.

Yoga practitioners no longer fit the stereotype of weird women chanting the Hare Krishna mantra. They’re young: 40.6% of those who do yoga are between 18 and 34, according to a 2008 Harris Interactive poll commissioned by Yoga Journal. They’re smart: 71.4% are college graduates, and 27% have postgraduate degrees. And they’re affluent: 44% of yogis have household incomes of $75,000 or more (that figure, of course, might be trickling down during the recession). In other words, yogis are yuppies. And if there’s one thing yuppies do, it’s copycat their brethren. So as more stressed-out young professionals flood the yoga studios and see other people with comfy Manduka mats supporting their glutes, they’re bound to buy the pricey products too. Look at me: I’ve got a Manduka; I’m totally into yoga.

ugh! annoyyying!

OK, Mr. Sean Gregory is right, $100 sure is a lot for a “stinkin’ mat,” but Manduka (an oft exceptional brand in our opinion) does offer cheaper options, and most people we know who practice on a regular basis will tell you a good mat is hard to find.We applaud the Seanster for taking the time to call out the heavy handed luxury yoga mongers, though we’re almost inclined to call him out for ganking our style of saucy sticklerness. hmph.

Thought.. have we reached the tipping point?

No Stress: Pricey Yoga Mats Sell Briskly in Recession [TIME]

18 comments… add one
  • puke puke puke….

    “44% of yogis have household incomes of $75,000 or more”

    REALLY?!? $75,000+?

    I bet yoga teachers don’t count in that economic paradigm….hmmmmmm……?

    so how come those well-to-do choke on the thought of paying me $75 for a private class but they’re living in half million dollar houses and driving Hummers?

  • Kim

    puke indeed! we need to take a look at the expenses we pay for the sake of individuality as we ponder the depths of selflessness and ask ourselves, am I living the yogi/yogini life in its wholesome definition?

  • How annoying. They also didn’t consider that one good reason to buy a Manduka is that it lasts practically FOREVER unlike the cheap Walmart mats that wear out every two months, so it’s actually a less wasteful choice!!

  • Wallabee

    Huhm. I am guessing that the TIME article hit a little too close to home, because I cannot account for your hostility otherwise.

    The TIME article makes a reasonable point about the commercialization of yoga, though it misses one important fact. All physical fitness industries see an upsurge in a recession. People who are out of work often make extra time to exercise to get themselves in better mental and physical shape. If that’s your goal, nothing beats yoga, does it?

    There is no excuse, however, for spending $100 on a yoga mat. I don’t care how cushiony it is or how good the traction is. (I use a mat I found on the street in NYC, in perfectly good condition. I washed it with soap in the tub, and it has been serving me very well. I learned from my first teachers back in the last century that yoga mats get stickier the more you use them and the more you wash them, and it works like a charm.) I can thing of a couple of reasons someone would want to spend that much on a mat: (a) to impress someone, as TIME assumes, or (b) out of habit, following consumerist inertia and looking to buy the most expensive (==”best”) product out there, to put it next to the espresso machine and the lululemon pants.

    The question is, why are you reacting so violently to a perfectly valid criticism of out-of-control consumerism? Only yuppies and hipsters react so negatively to being called by their names.

  • Once again, I do enjoy your writing abilities, and your take on things. I know, it’s hard not to get too cynical about the modern yoga world, but let’s face it, if we want to spend time pointing out all the silliness and misuse in the name of yoga today, we wouldn’t have much time left to do anything else. The fact is that the vast majority of people are skating on the surface of life, and they’ll be more concerned about how they look on the outside, than how they feel on the inside. One day we’ll stop referring to them as yoga students … just maybe not today :O)


  • Good grief!

    While $100 is a LOT for a yoga mat, I don’t think I’d ever pay quite that much, although I have paid $60 for mine, which is a pretty super-fantastico one that’s also *meant* to be environmentally friendly/biodegradable.

    I love this bit: “Yoga practitioners no longer fit the stereotype of weird women chanting the Hare Krishna mantra”… YES! Let’s forget the centuries of MEN in India who’ve practice yoga and still do! Or are they only talking about the US stereotype of yoga, and since when is yoga only associated with the Hare Krishnas?

    Oh, and yogis never get old – they just stop being yogis after the age of 34 and pass the batton to a younger person fitting the demographic. Great, I should have thought of that when I turned 35! And of course, let’s not tell that 83 year old Aussie yogi that she doesn’t fit the stereotype.

    And I’m with Linda – $75,000 plus? Most of the yogis I know in the US (many based in Berkely, home of the hippies) earn much MUCH less than that.

    Let’s all say this together: Yoga is for EVERYONE. Yes, everyone!!

  • admin

    Svasti: “Let’s all say this together: Yoga is for EVERYONE. Yes, everyone!!”

    hear hear!

  • Alisa

    There is one thing that remains true, yoga has a diverse following! Since its popularity is new in the US it can be expected that a significant amount of young professionals participate. It is true that regular yoga practice at a studio can break the bank, but it can just as easily be practiced in your home. The problem with developing a home pratice is getting started, and that may be why the majority of the yogis are affluent. About spending $100 on a Manduka yoga mat, it does not make you a “yuppy” because it is the ONLY accessory you need to practice. Think of another sport/past time… easily the items can total to much more than $100. The bottom line here is intention… Are you buying these things to impress others or to better your practice? Unfortunately, that is not something that a poll can measure.

  • YogiATL

    They should look into how often people with Mandukas practice. Really, if you have to replace a cheap-o $25 mat every 6 months, you’re at a Manduka black mat in 2 years, but you’ve added substantially more to the landfill.

    So perhaps people are up in arms because there should have been a sidebar consumer reports-esq look at mats. Expected life/replacement costs/carbon footprint of cheap mats compared to more expensive mats… But it’s TIME magazine; I’m sure we’re not the first group they’ve marginalized, and I’m sure we won’t be the last, either.


  • Jeff

    Great post. It does bother me sometimes to know that I’m participating in a yuppie sport. But in another way I like it because it affords the opportunity to remember yoga isn’t a competition — either on or ABOUT the mat. So I’m just going to keep plugging away at deepening my practice and reaping its benefits.

  • sara

    I am saving my pennies for a Manduka because I read that it provides stability on a carpet, which is important for standing postures. My entire house is carpeted and since I practice at home 3-4 days a week, when I’m not in class, it’s important for me to feel safe in standing poses. Especially since I have bad knees. If I wobble out of alignment, I get a lot of pain.

    But yeah, consumerist yoga sucks.

    Because my father recently died, I am spending the summer with my mother, who despite living on a modest budget lives in an expensive “rich people’s playground area” of the Hamtpons in NY. All the studios around here charge $25 for a single class. Where I live, you can get a monthly unlimited card for $100.

    This is going to be quite a stretch for me, financially as well as mentally, but I need to keep up with my yoga so it looks I’ll be stuck practicing at one of these over-priced studios until Labor Day. Anyhow, I went to one of these classes yesterday and just decided to make it a spiritual exercise to not have all sorts of hostile feelings toward the heavily botoxed, expensive-yoga-clothes-wearing ladies who were in the class with me. I made that the intention for my practice. And you know what? It worked. I didn’t let the whole exclusive atmosphere ruin my vibe. Yoga is indeed for everybody, including rich people whom I assume, probably erroneously, are all superficial assholes. I’m a practitioner for life and want to be able to practice in all situations, with all kinds of people.

  • I love my Manduka mat! I test drove 5 mats that were either given to me or loaned by studios/friends. I kept getting sore knees and slippery feet. Until I tried the Manduka. It has changed my practice. I do yoga 5-6 times a week and often they are power/flow classes that are sweaty, hot and require that I don’t slip. If you are a casual practitioner, maybe not a good choice. However, after looking at all my options it worked the best for me. I figured that if I was a runner, spending 100 on a good pair of shoes would not be out of the question. Is it so wrong to spend the same amt on good yoga equipment? If you want it to be part of your life, if you want it as a career, and if you want to practice in comfortable safety: definitely not wrong!

    Test driving is always a great idea… most of us yogis have friends who are yogis. Try their mats, rent one at your fav studio… test drive folks. I say, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. thanks for all the great posts btw.

  • I am so un-hip and out of it that I didn’t even realize that yoga had been usurped by yuppies. Whatever, they’ll lose interest and move on to their next thing, like yuppies of every generation do, and the real devotees of yoga will remain, with or without Manduka mats.

    Are they really $100? And here I thought I was splurging on my plain blue mat from Gaiam which I bought 5 years ago!

  • Hi All,

    Frankness first, Recycle Your Mat promotes Manduka. We do it because we like their products, we like their people and they have helped us out more than a-n-y-b-o-d-y else in the whole industry. That being said, I can shed some light on what yogiATL is pointing out.

    Most of the mats we receive at Recycle Your Mat are the cheap mats people have purchased when they first started doing yoga. They send them to us because usually within a year (sometimes two) one of two things happen:

    1) they try yoga a few times, decide it’s not for them and they then dispose of the mat.

    2) they really like yoga, keep going and learn more about that cheap mat they bought, ultimately deciding they want a more eco-friendly mat and/or a mat that performs better for them.

    So Mr. Sean Gregory, from someone who is dedicating her life to clean up after yogis and yoga manufacturers, I wish people would pay more for any brand of eco-friendly mat! Those mats have more chances of being upcycled than the cheap mats and aren’t as detrimental to the environment and those residing in it.

    Stephanie (aka. RecycleYogi)
    twitter: recycleyourmat
    web: http://www.recycleyourmat

  • TIME doesn’t get home birth coverage right either. I’m not impressed with them.

  • Interesting and stimulating debate going on here. I continue to be surprised by the lack of editorial depth in Time mag in general…
    Yoga is most certainly for everyone. The “rich yuppies” might be in class for better looking butts, but hopefully the class will have calming and positive effects on their attitudes… meaning, nicer people walking around in this world…I hope?!!

    Anyway, as a soon-to-be studio owner, I’m glad to know some people will pay good $$$. I’ll be counting on revenue from them so I can also offer low/no cost community classes as well. My studio won’t do anyone much good if I have to close it down.

  • wayne

    I have to say I understand the TIME article and where the author is coming from, but it doesn’t justify the knock and degrading of the art and act of yoga. I am no yogi, and other then occasionally doing a drop in class years ago, I have never practiced regularly. I started learning Tai Chi, but it was hard to afford back when I was younger. I scraped my cash for martial arts when I could practice. My instructor turned me on to yoga stretches to loosen up for grappling. I loved it, starting stealing books on yoga from local libraries, and taught myself some basic yoga. Now at the age of 37 I need it, the anxiety and anger of life in a overcrowding city, I just need to true spirit of yoga, screw it if yuppies love it or not. I cant say I could drop a $100 on a mat, but if others got it, then have at it. I will stick with my cut off sweats and my Nike mat I got at Ross for $10

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