Another article another day…whether it be financial planners doing yoga or even just a few casual bankers themselves rolling out into downward dog, it seems that yoga, meditation etc is everywhere. And BIG. By some estimates, it’s a $27 billion business, and that was in 2013…
Take Twitter as an example – if you are kind enough to take the time to follow me on Twitter, I would assume your daily feed is filled with yoga stuff, mindfulness quotes, inspirations from Buddha, and throw in a bit of a zen, too. Why is it these days that we have taken to such ancient practices like it’s the new messiah?
I think there are a number of forces at work here:
1. It’s ‘de-stressful’.
These days, working for large institutions is an ever more demanding task – sales targets keep getting higher, the cost base is a constant start focus of management’s attention and overall, margins are shrinking as more and more competition piles into already saturated markets. Record low interest rates already compound the situation. There’s no way we can take all this pressure without some outlet – i.e. “Yoga Inc”. Yoga is even finding its way into the boardrooms and offices of the corporate world as institutions value their employees wellbeing (so as to reduce absenteeism, and perhaps even cynically to reduce future litigation…).
2. It’s ‘dis-connected’.
Social media had taken over the world and transformed the way we communicate with each other. I’d also argue the invention of the ‘crack berry’ was probably the first machine that really helped bring us closer together. Suddenly over night, a whole army of lawyers and bankers could keep in touch 24/7 thanks to this devilish little device. Time on the mat or any other practice gives an opportunity to tune out and have ‘me time’, away from all our daily online distractions.
3. It’s ‘evolving’.
After all the swamis and yogis came to the West to enlighten us, yoga took on a new breath. New styles of yoga have emerged – anusara, jivamukti, power yoga etc.. Yoga itself then has evolved to quench our ever-growing thirst for innovation, for being creative and doing something different, and has opened up so much of this practice to many others who perhaps wouldn’t have become engaged with it. Traditional yoga may not be for everyone’s taste, but you are bound to find a style that works for you these days. ‘Yogalates‘ has also been seen in some studios! Ten Health & Fitness, one of London’s leading pilates and fitness providers offers classes in ‘Cardiolates‘ as well.
4. It’s ‘accessible’.
It seems that there is a yoga studio on every corner in most major European cities. You can also do yoga and other classes online through products like Grokker and other platforms, or other apps that allow you to roll out a routine wherever you feel like it. In short, there’s no reason not to practice, unless you are particularly lazy! The ability to meditate anywhere and everywhere through the use of meditation timers and apps has also contributed to the popularity of meditation. Being part of the social media world now has made people feel ever more connected and not isolated for practising such ancient practices.
5. It’s ‘healthy’.
Yoga is regularly seen as part of every good doctor’s repertoire to recommend to clients who are stressed, anxious, depressed etc… It’s also recommended in some yogic circles that certain asanas are great for digestion. Furthermore, according to the Forbes article cited earlier, over 60% of yoga students attend class to improve their flexibility – we all secretly hope in the back of our minds that we won’t end up in aged care losing our mobility and freedom; because we didn’t ensure that our joints were sufficient loose and “well oiled” to keep us going well into old age. Yoga and pilates then are a secret recipe aimed at avoiding exactly that. The benefits of meditation are well documented too.
In addition, in the age where sugar and trans fats are the new public enemy, introducing a regular yoga routine makes us feel good about indulging in our favourite treats from time to time and feel less guilty, unless of course you are a strict yogi. Hmmm…
6. It’s ‘trendy’.
Let’s face it, yoga, pilates and a lot of physical based practices are extremely popular these days. In fact, everyone is talking about them. Simply dropping in casual conversation that you are a regular client of a certain well-known studio or trainer/teacher is all part of socialising and fitting in. Superficial perhaps, but the truth. Some yogis have now become very famous, jetting around the world and all over You Tube and social media like rock stars – there has to be a market to feed this. Working with the body has a certain sex appeal too. At some studios, it sometimes feels like a beauty parade.
Behind all these reasons, I think there is another, more spiritual reason for all of us attending yoga or whatever is your chosen practice. I realised on Friday night in Mark Hill’s fabulous class at the Life Centre in Notting Hill, whilst in a seated twist at the end of the practice, that there is something which ultimately attracts us to these practices – the opportunity to be still, centered and focussed on our breathing and our body; about us finding that path again in our lives which so often gets distorted by the many daily pressures that we face. I also get the same feeling at the end of a pilates session, when I could not believe I would survive the whole class – we did it, we feel centred and then ready to get on with our lives again. I think there’s really something special about that.