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Lululemon ‘Brahmacharya’ Shopping Bags Depict Junk Food, Needles, Condoms and Alcohol to Promote ‘Moderation’

in Business of Yoga

 

brahmacharya_lululemon-bag

And the hits just keep on coming. We’re starting to think Lululemon is seriously just messing with all of us and the company is really run by some Dr. Evil mastermind with a Mini Me in minus zero yoga pants. Or maybe it’s Pinky and the Brain and they’re just trying to do what they do every night, try and take over the yoga world! Yet, they just can’t avoid these plot foilers.

The funniest thing about Luluemon’s latest enraging marketing idea isn’t the co-opting of brahmacharya to demonstrate a lesson in moderation on their shopping bags (oh, the irony!) and questionable translation of the term from Patanjali’s ‘Yoga Sutras’ which is primarily known to mean “celibacy” at its strictest, or at least the restraint and control of sexual energy, at its more loose interpretation (no pun intended). No, the most astounding, and at this point, comical thing about the move to use cookies, potato chips, condoms, cigarettes, IV needles and alcohol to convey a message promoting moderation is the naivete (utter disregard?) for the sheer contradiction of it all.

Don’t eat too many french fries, don’t gamble too much, don’t shoot up with heroine too much (?) Lulu tells us, always trying to tell us how to live our lives, that lulu, but by all means buy all the yoga clothing you can stuff in a terribly ironic, NSFW shopping bag.

As expected, many people are not pleased by this. Carolyn Gregoire sharply criticized the bags on The Huffington Post:

I’m no purist when it comes to yoga: Many, if not most, modern-day yogis in the West practice their asana in a secular and fitness-oriented context without aim or desire for spiritual growth, and that’s totally fine. But trivializing and misusing a sacred tradition to sell luxury (not to mention sizeist) yoga clothing is not only embarrassing, it’s offensive. And as a sloppy injection of the language and practices of one culture into another, it’s a form of cultural imperialism.

The original blog post on Lululemon’s website is also filled with a flurry of disappointed and disgusted customers. To give context, the post is part of a “shopper series exploring the yamas” and this particular piece was written by Sandy Wei, the executive assistant to the VP of Planning & Allocations and Director of Merchandise. In other words, she was already part of pack and they just threw her to the wolves.

One commenter wrote:

I understand that Lululemon is blogging about a person’s experience with brahmacharya, yet they’re a company that thrives on the ‘wantings’ of others to sell their products. They are based on the next new yoga apparel that a true yogi needs for yoga. Perhaps Lululemon should exercise some of it’s own bramacharya toward it’s own company.

Another, a concerned mother, adds:

I have a young daughter and we practice moderation and balance. I normally love the lulu bags but I am offended by the pictures on this bag. Really?? I don’t want my daughter (or myself) using drugs or smoking even in moderation.

But to Lululemon, brahmacharya means restraining yourself, not from sex, but from greasy chicken, potato chips and beer. (The beer bottles say “Blackout” and “Cirrhosis Club” aka not funny. See a larger view of the bag here.)  Wei explains that she left an abusive relationship and then went and abused herself with “an excess of harmful foods,” – issues not to be belittled, but perhaps not to be condensed (and incorrectly so) into a marketing opportunity either? She closes her post with this:

Brahmacharya makes us think twice and listen to what our mind and body deserves. If you catch me at the grocery store staring at a bag of chips it’s because that’s the new me battling with myself, making choices and practicing Brahmacharya.

Cripes. There’s so much wrong going on right there.

By the way, moderation, isn’t that super hoi polloi and mediocre? We thought lulus weren’t into mediocrity. That’s so not great of them.

A very brief history of Lululemon shopping bags:

The Manifesto Classic.

lululemon-manifesto-bag-500

 

The Tea Party shit stirrer prompting this: Lululemon Goes Ayn Rand Ideology to ‘Conquer Epidemic of Mediocrity’

lululemon-john-galt-ayn-rand-bag

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Earlier

 

22 comments… add one

  • Being in the marketing industry as well as a yoga teacher, I look at this as a way to get a little buzz. People are talking about their bags, and the name Lululemon keeps coming up. Bad press, is still press, is good press. As a teacher, I think of my teaching this way; if people come to yoga for any reason, that is truly fine! They may even come to class because they want to meet girls, or perhaps they want a better butt, or perhaps they heard it is a great workout. In the end they get all the other benefits of yoga. You want a better butt? Great, go to yoga, you may find that you get better self-confidence, better control over our crazy minds, and more love for yourself. Perfect. So perhaps Lululemon is going about the Yamas the wrong way, but perhaps we are just being too judgmental about something that doesn’t matter. It is getting people to think about the yamas right? The hoi polloi need to lighten up. :) (not sure how it was trying to be used above, but it means ‘the common people’)

  • Vision_Quest2

    Proud to be a common person. Doesn’t mean I can’t still do yoga!

  • pipersh

    YeS! V_Q …not a single torpedo :)
    love the comments, glad i phished the bag out of the recycle corner

  • Vision_Quest2

    Well, the bags are very confusing. As an occasional Athleta customer (and I do snub any Lululemon) I have seen those bags on the NYC subway. And I just silently wondered if the Jivamukti yoga studio were giving them out … so this is a backatcha to serious commercialized yoga studios I think …

  • S.

    Tsk tsk using the Yamas and Niyamas as a maketing ploy. Just about as silly as using the Ten Commandments to sell jock straps. Besides, most of the man-chasing floozies I see wearing Lululemon wouldn’t know Bhramacharya even if they were stranded alone on a deserted island.

  • Vijay

    Well said S. Some one needs to file a defamation suit on lululemon so they dont use age old traditions for marketing.

  • shannon

    Lululemon is just embarrassing. Their marketing is insipid and all I can say is they must be trying to appeal to the least common determinator. I wouldn’t be caught dead in any of their clothing.Their clothes are ridiculously priced. No, I am not a yoga purist, but as a green american and yogi, they completely turn me off

  • EverPresent

    Just when you think they can’t go lower. They get down in the dirt. They really do the service of providing contrast. So that we can examine what is real by the example they set of all that is maya.

  • pbohls

    Prestory: I insisted the cashier at Lululemon put my tank in a bag I already had in hand. She replied “No please take this one, we give ‘em out like candy” as she handed me the blue brahmacharya bag. I expressed how I wish Lulu would use canvas bags instead of the poly ones and thanked her anyways.

    NOW I’m lmao right now. I have 3 or 4 of these blue bags and have totally been using them everywhere (WORK and grocery store!) thinking I was spreading awareness of the yamas. I was stoked when people asked me what the bag said on it. I suppose I need to slow down and pay attention to details, whoops :D

  • Vision_Quest2

    Okayyyy ,,,,, they should have used U.S. dollar bills, Amex Platinum Credit Cards, old-fashioned stock tickers, Bloomberg machines, derivatives formulas, mortgage ads, the Bank of America logo … and formed the words SATYA GRAHA

  • Vision_Quest2

    I would have suggested the word APARAGRAHA, but then I’d get the usual blowback from commercialized yoga instruction purveyors …

    The former is much more ironic … I’m sure they want to go for that …

  • How ridiculous. I think the message should be geared more towards, hello anyone willing to give it a real try can be a yogi. You don’t have to be fancy or total aware of everything going on in the Yoga world.

  • Jen

    Why doesn’t Lulu just make a bag which says FECAL MATTER and get it over and done with?

  • Hilary Olson

    The bags are simple an attempt to bring awareness to the yamas, and the non-physical practices of yoga. They are intended to stir up conversation. When else does the concept of brahmacharya come up in everyday conversations? Yoga is a very personal practice, and means something different to everyone. We all have our own journey into the philosophy and practice of yoga, and how we implement it in this modern world. Instead of throwing away the entire concept (celibacy isn’t really an easy choice for most of us) we can discuss how to apply the teachings to better ourselves.

  • S.

    This reminds me of what Japanese tourists would wear in the late 90s. They would get clothes with some word they did not know the meaning of, like PASTA, because the letters look “cool” together, and proudly display it. To everyone else, they just look like consumerish asses…much like the ladies I see carrying this bag around the mall.

  • Vision_Quest2

    As a diabetic low-carber, I could be down with that PASTA bag, with letters formed from multi-colored macaroni bits … and I’d carry it with impunity … :-)

  • Stewart J. Lawrence

    Lululemon is like the court jester and whipping boy of the entire American yoga movement, which couldn’t survive without it. It’s your flagship ladies, your guilty pleasure, without which you would be absolutely nowhere. The same, dare I say, is true of Bikram. This is what spiritual materialism is all about. It breeds a lot of empty sanctimony.

  • Vision_Quest2

    Don’t forget all the YOUNG MEN, aside from Bikram, who buy into this latter-day chance to be an Elmer Gantry and a Jack LaLanne all rolled up into one neat, finely-honed package; to wit–one Cameron Shayne … (and others …)

    Oh, I forgot, no such thing as holding men accountable in those kinds of ways …

  • mettamary

    I can’t say I care too much about lululemon or Bikram; yoga did perfectly well before them, and will thrive after they are long gone. But the creepy tone of your comment turned my stomach. And gave all of us “ladies” an insight into YOUR preferred way of indulging in “empty sanctimony.”

  • Lululemon ‘Brahmacharya’ Shopping Bags Depict Junk Food, Needles, Condoms and Alcohol to Promote ‘Moderation’

  • sarah

    I stopped buying from them a few years (and scandals) ago. Feels pretty good not to buy into their carp.

  • S.

    Great for you Sarah! I would personally like to see Lululemon move out of selling Yoga-related products. They really have no business in our practice. I sincerely doubt that the ones who came up the the Brahmacharya campaign have ever consciously tried the practice for any length of time. The majority of yoga practioners worldwide cannot afford their clothing. The only ones who can are a small segment of affluent sized 2 women residing in North America and parts of Europe. For a real yoga practice, I would recommend taking a year of “celibacy” from Lululemon , and devoting that time and money to something that allows you to “see” your true self more clearly.

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