It all began with a pair of Sweaty Betty Chandrasana Yoga Leggings. They cost £75, and I wanted them as soon as I laid my eyes upon them. I rang my boyfriend and, in the most wheedling voice I could muster, said, "so there are these leggings I really like. I'll send you a screenshot of them. Just so you can see. And, you know, if you wanted to get me a present...well, I really like these. I mean, I really like them." Dramatic pause. "Like, I need them, Bobs. Don't you want me, your girlfriend, to have great abs?" A total non-sequitur, I know. Robin dutifully had a look, but they clearly failed to impress, as he suggested I go to Primark instead where (duh) you can get leggings for a mere £4. "Yes, see through ones!" I snapped.
Typical questions directed at me by my boyfriend go along the lines of: do you really need to buy a 'happiness planner'? Do you really need to wear Lulu Lemon clothes to make the effort to go to Barrecore? In fact, do you even need to pay twenty eight pounds a pop for a Barrecore class - can't you just do spin at the leisure centre?
'Obviously I don't need to,' is my usual sulky response. I just really, really want to. Of course I know it is only logical that if your aim is to get great abs, then some cheap leggings will serve you as well as expensive ones, yet I do feel more motivated when I have splurged.
But, in the words of Carrie Bradshaw, I couldn't help but wonder: why is so much of what I want materially associated with a lifestyle that, in theory at least, preaches not needing, or even wanting, the material things that seemingly support such a lifestyle? For example, a friend of mine recently announced that she was going on a yoga retreat in Bali á la Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat Pray Love fame), which I am also planning to do this summer. Hers, it turns out, is at a luxury resort and costing £1500. Mine is costing... considerably less. Instead of feeling happy that I was also going to Bali, that I had managed to find a great deal that was not going to break the bank, I began to start feeling that mine was - and I'm ashamed to say it - inadequate. But what is the bloody point of going on a 'spiritual' yoga retreat and juice cleanse in Bali when I can't even be grateful for it? #Gratitude my arse.
Okay, I am exaggerating a bit here. I am grateful. And I always go to fitness classes in an old pair of tracksuits and a baggy t-shirt. Why, though, this enduring desire to spend? Is it human nature? A consumerist culture? The capitalist psyche?
And here lies the crux of the matter. Obviously, none of this is spiritual. To even use that word is frankly laughable. If I wanted to become a more spiritual person through yoga I could easily just burn some cheap incense in my room and put Underwater Love on YouTube for some background music. There we go, a spiritual experience for 30p or however much a stick of incense costs these days. (I'm actually not knocking doing this, by the way, however sarcastic I might sound.)
Criticism of the wellness industry is nothing new, and I think much of it is unfair. On the whole, the promotion of healthier lifestyles is something that should be celebrated, surely. The problem is really with how accessible (or otherwise) much of it is, and the perception of pretentiousness that results. This is probably why Deliciously Ella is parodied by the likes of Deliciously Stella, and why the programme Namaste, Bitches which takes the piss out of yoga is such a success (if you haven't watched this yet - do!) Of course you can live a 'wellness lifestyle' on the cheap (although I have to say, I'm yet to figure out how, when fruit alone is so expensive.) But yes, it's free to meditate, to practise yoga, to not eat complete and utter shit. But the perception is that you can do more, and do it better, with money.
I'd 'get the glow' too if I had the money to spend my days brunching in Chelsea and staying in luxury resorts in South East Asia every other month. I feel like I'd get more of a spiritual experience meditating in an ashram in India than in my bedroom. I generally feel more nourished when I've had a raw acai bowl with chia seeds for breakfast than a mere banana. And yes, I still really want those Sweaty Betty yoga pants even though I wish I wasn't this shallow. I'm just being honest here. If this isn't the case with most people, then how the hell is the wellness industry so big? But all these things are luxuries, and I feel like there really needs to be more recognition of that.