The effect of yoga advertising: when does selling yoga become telling yoga?

“The success of Yoga does not lie in the ability to perform postures but in how it positively changes the way we live our life and our relationships.” – T.K.V. Desikachar

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Recently, I picked up a yoga magazine at a local library. It took a few page flips to actually find the content I wanted without an ad. I originally opened the magazine to read articles about yoga and instead, I was being sold yoga. After looking at a few pages of advertisements, I found myself wanting to purchase a new yoga mat that I didn’t even need. I closed the magazine and practiced a few minutes of sitali breathing to regain my composure. I became curious- exactly how many pages of ads are in this yoga magazine?

And so I counted.

Out of 129 total pages, 49 pages had one or more ads plastered on the page, sharing educational content with marketing content. That is a whopping 38% of the journal’s content is based in advertising.

Admittedly, I am the type of consumer that gets excited about a good deal, a phenomenon that produces “smart shopper” mentality. It is an ego-expressive feeling that makes you feel validated by getting something for a good deal. Bottom-line: you bought something that fed something in your ego or concept of the self. Exposure to a product or idea doesn’t necessarily mean you will buy into it right away, but eventually, over time with consistent exposure, you likely will.

When you open a yoga magazine, it is nearly impossible to miss the colorful ads, promoting teacher trainings, classes, clothing, jewelry and anything not related to yoga that suddenly is related by the mark of a branded lotus flower. Advertisements are effective- they grab your attention and manipulate your psychological needs and wants- and they are powerful!

I get that magazines need to make money, and that they can be a helpful medium for a yoga business. Ultimately, this business is necessary- yoga clothing and accessories can provide benefits to different people. I also understand that we live in a capitalistic and globalized society that promotes commodification of products and ideas to sell to consumers. Therefore, it is important for people to reflect on how marketing is affecting them. When are advertisements are no longer selling yoga, but telling yoga? The only way to assess on how this affects you is to reflect. What does yoga mean to you? How do products or brands enhance, or hurt this concept?

When are advertisements are no longer selling yoga, but telling yoga?

When I first became interested in yoga, I began to look at yoga brands and magazines, simply because of their accessibility and mainstream appeal. My interest in exploring postures started to become and interest in wearing certain yoga attire, having a specific type of yoga mat, and even drinking yoga-related teas. I felt like I was living yoga, when in fact, I was buying into brands that were telling me what yoga was. I was a perfect yoga consumer, until I noticed the effect it was having on my mentality.

But it wasn’t making me a better student of yoga- it was making me a follower of brands telling me what yoga is and should be.

Marketing is a powerful tool, tapping into out psychological needs in way that makes us want more, need more, and buy more. But it wasn’t making me a better student of yoga- it was making me a follower of brands telling me what yoga is and should be. I was literally buying into how other people- people interested in profit- defined yoga. Having a specific mat, wearing certain attire, and consuming particular food items do not make you a better yogi – it makes you a good consumer.

So what can you do? Try to be mindful of yoga advertising and how it affects you. Do advertisements evoke emotional  or physiological responses? Create awareness and explore how yoga advertising affects you, your perception of yoga, and your yoga practice.

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