THERE IS NEVER ANYTHING TO PRODUCE. In spite of all its materialist efforts, production remains a utopia. We can wear ourselves out in materializing things, in rendering them visible, but we will never cancel the secret.
— Baudrillard, The Ecstasy of Communication (1987)
Note: This bit of critical theory is inspired by the modern globalized yoga industry, as described in sources like Andrea Jain’s Selling Yoga: From Counterculture to Pop Culture. If you’re a yoga teacher or student who identifies as existing outside of that industry, or feel you belong to a community that plays no part in it, this post may not concern you. I’m filing it at The Conspirituality Report because I believe it sheds light on the anxiety that helped drive predatory misinformation marketing in the industry during the pandemic. I also believe this analysis can be extrapolated and scaled up to describe the way global Buddhist, wellness, and New Age economies commodify the aspirational self as well.
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Actually, the 88bn USD per year global yoga industry does have a product.
But it’s not a thing.
It’s not a car, or a book, or an app, or a head of romaine lettuce.
It’s not therapy or medical service.
You have to pay for it, while suspecting you’ll ever possess it.
The product is a wish, projection, or longing.
You must embody it for it to be real. The effort involved in this can be endless.
The global yoga industry produces the aspirational self.
Or: the self-one-wants-to-be-seen-as.
Or: the self-that-does-not-yet-and-may-never-exist. But you’ll keep buying the means to give birth to it.
The aspirational self can be visualized in many forms: spiritual gymnast, mindful citizen, paragon of natural health, guardian of culture, or warrior of religious truth.