FRONT PAGE / POSTS
Yoga minus Contemplation
by Joshua Glenn| Boston, USA
Wednesday, 13 October 2010
tags: americas, consumer culture, contributions from, culture, disciplines, header navigation, lateral navigation, making sense
In US communications throughout the 2000s, images of women (mostly) and men striking yoga poses signified "wellness" — a recently mainstreamed New Age mode of existence, in which physical health can and must not be separated from psychological and spiritual health. A woman and her young daughter do yoga together in a McDonald's "mommyisms" ad; Ellen DeGeneres vamps in the lotus position for a vitaminwater ad; Christy Turlington exudes yoga wisdom in a (PRODUCT)Red PSA. The message, in each case, is: in addition to getting fit, you should practice concentration and contemplation.
Recently, however, the following ad appeared in the magazine Women's Health. Planters Nuts icon Mr. Peanut — complete with top hat and monocle — greets the new day with a Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation). How absurd! What might this signify?
The ad copy doesn't mention psychological or spiritual health — it's strictly about the body. "Built for your healthy lifestyle. Mr. Peanut knows you strive to live a more active life and eat nutritious foods. That's why he created NUTrition — a line of nut mixes blended with select ingredients. Choose from Heart Healthy, Digestive Health, or Energy Mixes — all with the Planters taste you love."
If this ad is any indication, and I think it is, in the US yoga has now been 100% mainstreamed and secularized. Images of yoga no longer evoke associations with Hindu or Buddhist meditative practices. Forget abstention, austerity, withdrawal of the sense organs from external objects. Though Baudelaire claimed that dandyism is a form of askesis, the dandified Mr. Peanut isn't an ascetic: for him, as for most Americans today, yoga is simply about fitness. The New Age is over. (The new New Age is weirder; more about that some other time.)
Marketers: interested in communicating a message about concentration and contemplation? As noted, yoga imagery is starting to trend residual. Soul Cycling — intense full-body workout on a stationary bicycle, accompanied by motivational messages — is a fresher expression of the same code. What else? Hmmm. Sufism is emergent, in the US — because moderate, pluralistic Sufi imams are seen as a front line against the most violent forms of Islam. So perhaps marketers should insert fakirs into upcoming campaigns? Nothing says "concentration and contemplation" like a guy on a bed of nails.