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Urban Ledger: The Irony of Yoga Fashion and Its Gusseted Crotch of Higher Consciousness

Photo by lululemon athletica at Flickr

 

In this time of great transition, as the Earth writhes, nations sweat, regional print magazines celebrate 10 years of not being completely devoured by the Interweb, and the world prepares for the great 2012 metaconscious roller-disco-waterslide-slam-dance, one urgent question emerges like a deranged, ecstatic gopher to dominate all others. Whatever will you wear?

Really, when the great shift comes and the warm goo of bliss rains down, will it be, say, denim jeggings and a Dolce crop jacket with some well-worn Fiorentini + Bakers or neon orange Burning Man-style faux fur and a madcap cowboy hat studded with buttons, feathers, and 100 LED blinky lights? How about a pinstripe Ted Baker blazer to match the rainbow ribbons in your 3-foot dreads that tumble over your giant skulls-and-roses chest tattoo, paired with flat-front slacks from the new Banana Republic “Mad Men” collection and some bright purple Havaianas?

I know, right? So many choices. One thing’s for certain: If you fancy yourself a feisty spiritual type, still have a job, and are of the athletic female variety, odds are increasingly good that you will don what is fast becoming the go-to uniform for nearly every able-bodied, enlightenment-ready megababe from here to Botox Marintown. That is, a pair of garishly striped Lululemon Athletica yoga tights and matching tank that cost more than your car insurance. Also, a jacket. And a sweater. Maybe a scarf. You know, layers.

I know this because the Lululemon-inspired yoga-fashion invasion has hit every American city from here to the Delaware outback. It’s difficult to miss, really. Just look for the little horseshoe sacrum logo, the helpful gusseting across the crotch, the slightly dazed, beatific grin of assorted yogic fatales who still have sufficient Visa credit to afford multiple colorways of the cult of Lulu.

And oh, what a fine cult it is—a cutely named, white-hot Canadian company that just keeps popping up all over American cities like a little terrier that won’t stop its adorable yapping. Lululemon is reinventing yoga wear for a generation that never knew what it was supposed to be in the first place.

Its kicky red shopping bags are crammed with lively, go-get-em-girl bumper stickerisms. Do one thing a day that scares you. Life is full of setbacks. Drink fresh water and as much water as you can. Friends are more important than money. Children are the orgasm of life (wait, what?). They’re all directly inspired by the brain-scrambling insanity known as Landmark Forum and even The Secret. Shudder.

But never mind all that because Lululemon is most famous for one thing and one thing only. It’s called Luon®, and it’s some sort of miraculous, proprietary überfabric sewn together by invisible elves in Thailand, China, and Indonesia—places where practicing one’s spirituality most definitely does not mean spending a month’s salary on half a dozen skin-tight cross-back tops that make your cleavage look fantastic in Warrior II. Just sayin’.

Let’s be fair: Lululemon’s miracle fabric is, to put it gently, “goddamn incredible”(in the words of more than one of my yogini-friends) in how it holds its shape, wicks away delicious girl sweat, and—this is the key to the Lulu kingdom—makes your ass look finer than any pair of True Religion jeans ever could. All of this is evidenced by the countless approving glances you earn as you strut into Blue Bottle Coffee after class, order your $12 latte, and settle into the window seat to peruse your ex’s latest Facebook status updates on your iPad 2.

God bless San Francisco, land of mutant style amalgamations and flagrant trend inbreeding, for being one of the first to gleefully embrace the delightful oxymoron that is yoga fashion. Are any two words more perfectly designed to induce fits of cringing in even mild traditionalists from the Hindu homeland? Is there any phrase that more fully captures the hugely hypocritical spiritual capitalist ethos? After all, yoga in its purest sense is about consciousness, awareness, strength, calm, and release. Yoga is finding center. Yoga is stillness.

In other words, yoga is freedom from the incessant and obnoxious trappings of the ego—which, of course, very much include sporty fashion. And profit margins. And stock prices. And opening kicky little stores so fast you make Starbucks look like Walmart.

But, you know, whatever. This is America (and apparently Canada). Misappropriating traditions, commodifying bliss, taking whatever is best and most inspiring about a cherished, ancient form of human wisdom, packaging it, marketing the hell out of it, and selling it back to you for enormous profit—this is what we do. If Lulu’s sales are any indication, no one’s complaining.

Let me add in the spirit of full disclosure as both a longtime yoga teacher and a straight male—and therefore a deep appreciator of Lulu’s primary claim to fame—that I wrestle with the same conundrum. While trying hard to maintain integrity, living the deeper truths of yoga, and celebrating my community, I still need to pay my rent and buy food. And boots. And wine. And sex toys. Life is hard.

Is there a way to do it right, to retain a healthy amount of holistic integrity, embody even one of the company’s cheeseball slogans, and still suck the Wall Street fire hose like a porn star on meth? Peace, healthy living, and a shiny new Mercedes for every stockholder? Why not? Downward Dog, my gorgeous shareholder bitches! This is how we roll.

This is, after all, San Francisco, the home of dot-coms, boho hippies, and multimillion-dollar art raves. We are all about a ridiculously intermingled ethos and pouring a glass of the best and finest dichotomies of life. This is who we are: hugely ironic, hypocritical, radiant, devoted, serious, whip-smart, massively deluded, deeply authentic in our wild misunderstandings of tradition, shameless in our love of sex, product, and brand, om-ing ourselves into bliss, love, and increased credit card debt forevermore. And if your ass happens to look sort of spectacular doing it? Bonus, really.

 

Mark Morford is a columnist at the SF Chronicle and SFGate, author of The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism (Rapture Machine Inc.), and a yoga teacher at Yoga Tree.