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The United States Supreme Court just ruled that spending money is covered by our first amendment right to freedom of speech.

And while this ruling is problematic, money can certainly be a vehicle for change. As L.N. Smith wrote in Sunrise Over Disney “Every dollar you spend…or don’t spend… is a vote you cast for the world you want.”

Simply put, change how you spend and change the world. 

Debra Lawson, yoga teacher and co-founder of Dharma Bums, an ethical yoga clothing companybased in Sydney, Australia echoes this sentiment “Yoga teachers and students need to lead the charge. They need to shop consciously and support brands that are made ethically.” As yogis, we should be influencing the world around us. Over 20 million people in the United States alone practice yoga. If we were truly living our practice we would be changing the cutthroat and unscrupulous business practices in the world, or at least those within the world of yoga. Chad Satlow, a yoga teacher as well as founder and CEO of Third Eye Threads based out of Encinitas, CA, is trying to turn the tide – “As our company grows, we will continue be able to ‘Be the Change We Wish To See In The World.’”

But, unfortunately, the corporate influence on yoga is both powerful and pervasive. Big business is changing yoga, and not the other way around. 

There are corporate festivals that coordinate their events at the same time as local, grass-roots festivals, in an attempt to put them out of business. There are corporate studios that charge more for a training than any teacher will make in their first 5 years of teaching. And, there are clothing companies that exchange free clothes and a chance to be a brand ambassador so yogis can turn a blind eye to sweat-shop labor, polluting textile mills, and extreme conservative politics that are antithetical to the ethics of yoga.

The yoga apparel industry in the USA is valued at $13 billion per year.

(That’s more than the gross domestic product of Iceland.) But the fashion industry as a whole is problematic, at best. There is, of course, the impossible standards of beauty and overt sexualization (and sometimes pornification) that are used to sell clothes. But, it gets worse. 25% of all global pesticide use, 10% of all agricultural chemicals, and 3% of all global water use goes into cotton production. 2700 liters of water are needed to grow the cotton needed for one t-shirt. 20% of global industrial water pollution comes from the treatment and dyeing of textiles (these include heavy metals, chlorine, ammonia, and many more toxic chemicals). These are usually dumped directly into rivers.

Sweatshops exist in nearly every corner of the globe where workers are paid pennies a day to work long hours in squalid conditions. It is estimated that 246 million children between the ages of 5 to 14 are employed in the garment industry today worldwide.

I know I can’t go up against a multi-national chain that makes millions of dollars and creates celebrities out of teachers. (Believe me – I’ve tried!) I also can’t name these global entities since I lost enough friends when I called for a boycott of Lululemon.  It seems more folks are loyal to their pants than their practice or their peers. But I’m not alone and neither are you.  We have options. Here are 2 ways you can change an industry, and the world.  


Yes, it’s time consuming. And, yes, it’s a pain in the asana. As I learned more about this business, I realized that I was part of the problem because I was completely unaware of where my clothes came from. So, I googled ‘ethical yoga clothes’ and it gave me even more questions.

The term ethical can applied to the clothing industry in many ways. There are many terms that are used to indicate ethical clothing companies (fair trade, ethical trade, environmentally friendly, sustainable, local, etc.) But these primarily fall into 2 separate conditions that can help determine wether a company is ethical or not.

Labor: what are the conditions the garment was made in? Lawson told me “I got to see first hand the conditions of the factories, the long working hours and the terribly low pay of the workers in third world countries. I believe the big corporations that currently dominate the yoga apparel market have a responsibility to the supply chain who produce their clothes.” She’s right. Garment workers deserve a livable wage, safe working conditions, and a reasonable work day. And that is something that companies like Dharma Bums, Patagonia, and others are actively doing by closely working with their partners in the supplier chain they ensure ethical and fair working conditions to everyone involved.

Environment: what is the environmental impact? Are your pants poisoning drinking water in third world countries? And, how many washes does it take to wash out the toxic chemicals? Companies like Third Eye Threads are focused on environmental concerns.

According to Satlow “Our facility is made from 3500 sq ft. of recycled billboards.  We have a garden that is partially watered from run off from our dome.   We have been using recycled Starbucks boxes since 2008 to ship our wholesale orders.  We have shirts made from recycled shirts, and we are able to recycle 100% of the waste from our printing process.” There are many companies that are putting their energy into making ethical clothes. And many have a strong web presence. There are also a lot of bloggers doing this research for you.


So, you’ve done your research. You’ve found companies that represent your practice in action. Now shop from them. And if you can’t afford to spend money, let other people know that they exist. Most ethical clothing companies charge far less than the big corporate companies, taking a cut out of their profit margin to pass savings on to customers. They simply cannot afford to advertise like their more expensive and less scrupulous competitors.

So help them! Using social media and taking selfies has become ubiquitous in the yoga world. But, they can also be a great way to promote yoga ethics. So tag your top! Pin those pants! Share those companies and products that represent yoga in action! If more yogis made a choice to move away from unethical companies, and support  the companies that reflect our values with our money and our voices, it would change an entire industry. Think about it.

Big corporations have the power to instigate change often much quicker than the local governments. In many of these countries the local governments are often corrupt but nothing speaks louder than the $. And the threat of losing business would create much needed change.”  ~Debra Lawson

If all these big corporations care about is money, how would they respond if they suddenly weren’t making as much? They would change their business practices. It really is that easy to live your yoga and change the world.