Keep it Real: some thoughts (and facts) about Yoga and, ahem, stealing
Coming out strongly against stealing doesn’t seem like much of a controversial stance, right? Everyone knows that stealing is wrong. It’s codified in every moral code we humans have. It’s punishable by law in every legal system from Hammurabi on down. It’s part of the basic ethical education every parent gives their child: Don’t take what’s not yours. And it certainly couldn’t be a problem in the yoga world, right? Well, contrary to what you might expect, stealing (along with other shady ‘practices’ aplenty) is happening within the yoga community all the time. And it’s time we talked about it. Here’s what you need to know and how you can help put a stop to it.
Asteya and the Modern Yogi
In contemporary yoga, a strong emphasis is placed on following the ‘eight-limbed path’ outlined in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (likely written in the third century CE), which has become one of the major philosophical texts that is taught as a companion to asana practice.
One of the eight limbs is a moral code, called the yamas, which include satya (truthfulness), ahimsa (non-violence), and asteya, which means non-stealing. As in, stealing is not compatible with a yoga practice. Not even a little. Not metaphorical stealing and definitely not literal stealing.
Teaching around the theme of asteya has a tendency to get a bit abstract. In class, we talk about stealing time from your fellow students by being late or by causing a disruption with your cell phone. Or even robbing yourself by being distracted or not listening to your body.
Probably most have just assumed that the subject of actual stealing is too obvious. How could theft be a problem in the yoga community, where we are all caring, peace-loving, and fair-minded? When we’re all walking each other home and basking in the same high-frequency vibes?
Buyer, Be Aware
Even though, as yogis, we’re all about those vibes, most of us aren’t floating in a bubble on the astral plane just yet. We’re still participants in modern daily life, which means we’re navigating routes through a treacle of moral complexities on the regular. The (increasingly digitized) bombardment of inducements to consume is more prevalent than ever before. Plus, yoga’s enduring popularity has put our community in the crosshairs of businesses looking to cash in on the ‘yoga market’.
The ideals that yoga holds dear can seem to be of little consequence when there is big money at stake. What has, very sadly, emerged is a raft of businesses whose default ‘marketing strategies’ seem to be to serve up lies and misinformation to their customers. It’s especially insidious when the products they make are of little practical use or poorly made (from an ethical, environmental, or whatever other point of view means most to you – you take your pick!). Yes, tragically, even the yoga world is full of alternate facts, made palatable with a gloss of pretty colours and inspirational words.
We’d be hypocrites if we came out against yoga products per se, because, obviously, we’re also in the business of selling yoga products! But just because a company has ‘yoga’ in their name and an Instagram feed full of idyllic imagery doesn’t mean that they aren’t up to bad things behind the scenes. It’s often necessary to dig a little deeper before putting your money down. We recommend you do just that to ensure that the companies you’re supporting align with your core values.
Opening a Can of Satya on Asteya
In the service of this aim, we’re ready to speak some satya (aka truth) on the subject of originality and stealing, and this time, it’s personal. We know that many features of our mat’s design and construction were our own invention because there wasn’t anything that looked or functioned like them before we came along (and by came along, we mean invested the time and hard work into the innovation that makes our Liforme mats exceptional).
We also know that the coolest stuff will always give rise to imitation. Sometimes that means riding on the coattails of true creativity and other times it’s straight up trying to pass off a look-alike as the real thing. At Liforme, we’ve been on the receiving end of both kinds of ‘flattery,’ and while we take the first as a natural byproduct of our hard-earned success, we take the second as a violation.
Don’t get us wrong, we’re all for improving the state of the art. We did not invent the yoga mat; we made a better one by building on what was available when we set out on our development journey. The bar for performance and quality of yoga mats had been set very low, hence we had a lot of innovating to do. We have never tried to take credit for anything we didn’t actually do the hard work to achieve. That’s a big difference between us and some of the businesses that have followed.
For example, if you’re going to say that it took ‘years of research’ to come up with your yoga mat design, be prepared to support that claim. If these words sound familiar, it’s because they come straight from our own product description on our website (in our case, actually backed up by a real product development story involving more prototypes, trips to China, and late night head-scratching than you can imagine).
Over the last couple of years we have witnessed the emergence of a handful of look-alike versions of our mats, including some pretty blatant rip-offs of our signature surface alignment designs. We’ve tried to ignore or take a pragmatic view of this along the way, but it stretches credibility (and forces us to speak out) when we see these businesses literally copy/pasting our own origin story as well as ‘borrowing’ many more of Liforme’s own messages.
It’s particularly disheartening to see these kinds of things happening in the yoga world because we still believe that most people who come to the practice are interested in a righteous path as well as elongated hamstrings. Knock-off products and false marketing narratives are in direct opposition to this intention.
Been Caught Stealing
We’ve been obliged to take a deep dive into the world of counterfeit yoga mats in order to protect our customers from scammers and what we’ve found isn’t at all yogic. We have managed to pinpoint a handful of factories in China that have been producing both direct copies of our product (literally fake mats packaged up as Liforme mats, which of course end up greatly disappointing the poor yogi who opens the box), as well as mats they claim (with absolutely no factual foundation) are the same quality as ours and yet somehow cost much less.
Could their lower prices be the direct result of their patent disregard for the safety and treatment of workers, the toxicity of their materials, and their complete lack of environmental responsibility? Believe us, we know how much it costs to make a mat that lives up to our standards.
We have had success in shutting down one of these factories under threat of criminal proceedings for their illegal production. We have also discovered to our dismay that there are even US- and European-based brands (ones that you may have seen on your social media feeds and getting great (fake) reviews on Amazon) that were also getting their mats (same inferior product, different label) from this same factory.
If You See Something, Say Something
It’s part of our company’s business plan and greater mission to do right by our customers. We want to make the best mat for yoga asana that is also a truly environmentally responsible product that is not going to be unsafe or unhealthy for you to use. We want to do it all with an ethical supply chain and whilst using our sales to finance a significant charitable giving program. It’s not easy, which is why so many other companies cut corners that we find unacceptable.
It’s particularly disturbing to discover unscrupulous marketing and production practices that take advantage of yoga’s popularity by talking the talk but not walking the walk. They know what their customers want to hear but they have nothing to back it up.
Perhaps our world has always been a conniving, back-stabbing, stealing-from-your-neighbor kind of place. That’s why we’ve needed moral codes like the yamas to remind us that we have a better shot at inner peace if we act with integrity. But there have always also been people who prioritize the greater good over individual gain. That’s the kind of company we want to be.
We think that ethical business practices are an area where yoga companies should lead by example. If we believe (and we do) that yoga can foster transformation in individuals and communities, why shouldn’t yoga businesses influence commerce for the better too? With your help, we can.
Speak out when you see these issues. Let’s galvanise the good, honest, ethical spirit in our community to stop tolerating those who stoop way below yoga’s principles.
P.S. If you ever see a product that you think looks like an unreasonable and unfair imitation of our products, please write in to let us know. It’s really useful information and we will be very grateful for it.