What do you think of Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle brand Goop? 

I find the brand to be generally damaging to alternative wellness methods because alongside time-tested tools like meditation, eating green things like spinach and cabbage, and enjoying time outside, the media outlet also promotes some things that read a bit more like snake oil. Stuff like $900 toilet paper (sorry, how much now?), walking around barefoot to cure depression (as a mentally ill person, I truly wish that were a real thing) and body stickers that promote “healing” (uh… what kind of healing, Goop?).

It’s unfortunate, because it takes some of the legitimacy away from the things that can have a big impact on how we feel and move through the world. Goop is on the brain because I was over at Jezebel reading about the brand’s “In Goop Health” Summit, an annual event that costs between $600 and $2,000 to attend, and offers a day of wellness treatments, health products and seminars on various topics.

I didn’t expect much substance from the post, as most writers love slagging Gwyneth Paltrow. She’s really come to represent a certain type of lofty privilege that’s so detached from reality that it can be quite fun to dismantle it.

However, the author of the piece Megan Reynolds, who spent the day at the summit and summed up her impressions of it for the site, came at things from a different angle. She wrote the following about how Goop markets its lifestyle to women:

“Underscoring all the articles espousing detoxing your shower, crystal-infused water, and releasing fear is the quiet insecurity that the way we live our lives in its current iteration is bad and there are things one could buy or do to change it for the better. Preying on this insecurity to move products is how brands work, but the wellness industry places the onus for betterment completely on the individual. It’s a way of thinking that’s willfully ignorant of other, larger issues that might make “wellness” or capitalistic ideals of “self-care” inaccessible.”

I’ve thought long and hard about what makes certain corners of the wellness industry so baffling.

How out of one side of our mouths we talk about supporting each other and accepting ourselves, but out of the other we are buying $200 skin care products and taking note of which yoga moms in our classes are thinner than us. Reynolds really summed this up for me in a big way, a new way I haven’t seen before.  

There is a strong belief endemic to our culture that despite how fucked up our society gets, the responsibility to cope with it and continue to achieve, care for and manage others (our families, our children, our partners, etc) falls squarely on the back of the individual.

Not on people as a community, but the individual person.

She is expected to run the office, run the home, run the family and still have access to enough money and leisure time to cure her inevitable stress-related depression with a long barefoot walk in the woods.

But when we still feel depleted after a beauty treatment or purification ritual, what do we do then? What do we do when the glamour of the wellness industry falls away and we are still left with that sense of dread and unease that has fueled our consumption of wellness for so long?

I suppose I sound like a broken record because I keep coming back to this on this blog, but I can’t help but return to the only thing that helps me feel better: community. There’s a steadiness and a depth of confidence that comes from being a part of a community that I can’t get elsewhere. Some people find that community through their families, churches, sports or hobbies.

For me, one way that I find that community is through my class time and work with Hustle and Flow. I don’t know that all yoga studios are like that, I’m not sure that they’re all community-first. 

Hustle and Flow owner Steph has been gone for a month studying dance in Africa and returns shortly. I think it’s important as we welcome her back to look at the community that she has built through Hustle and Flow and recognize how difficult it can be to maintain a business as a community-first organization within the paradigm of today’s ultra-capitalist wellness industry.

I’m grateful for this and for having access to the wonderful people who come to class and get involved in other ways. Thanks for everything Steph, and welcome back!