Lululemon’s Gospel of Sweat: New Yorkers are “praying through their pores”

Lululemon Gospel of Sweat

Elena Brower, Gabrielle Bernstein, Kay Kay Clivio, and other speakers fill the first pew at Lululemon’s Gospel of Sweat on Friday at Riverside Church on the Upper West Side  (Photo: Agent of Change)


On Friday night, Lululemon invited its community to an event boldly called “The Gospel of Sweat” in the historic Upper West Side’s Riverside Church.

Both the location and the event name were chosen unironically to “host a conversation about spirituality that’s happening in places where people work out all over New York City,” said Lululemon’s Amanda Casgar.

She’s referring to an emerging fitness-spirituality movement, where we “pray through our pores.”

Elena Brower Riverside Church

Elena Brower at the Riverside Church pulpit (Photo: Agent of Change)

Yoga studios and spin classes are “where we self-reflect and cultivate spirituality,” said Jeff Krasno, the founder of Wanderlust and the evening’s very articulate Master of Ceremonies. Krasno explained, “People are looking to spin and yoga teachers for guidance on how to live a full, happy life.” This makes yoga teachers, indoor cycling instructors, and boot camp commandos the new clergy.

And your Sunday finest? That would be Lululemon, of course.


To introduce this new philosophy, Lululemon hosted an all-star line-up of yogis: Alan Finger, Schuyler Grant, Kay Kay Clivio, Kerri Kelly, the executive director of Off The Mat and Into the World, who talked about the 20 million-strong yoga community’s power in the voting process, and Elena Brower, who described yoga as a profound opportunity to change “the environment of your mind,” referencing inner life reasons for hitting the mat. Gabrielle Bernstein, no stranger to the pulpit, rocked her spirit junkies at the venue.

Krasno referenced our country’s 20 million yogis, the speakers were 90 percent yogis, and the focus of the evening stayed squarely on the connection between yoga and its potential for igniting spiritual sparks. This, of course, is far from a new idea, since yoga is by definition a spiritual practice. (Though it’s certainly new to host Friday night lectures attended by 500 or so 20-30-somethings on the topic!)


And while it was inspiring hearing speakers share their personal journeys in which yoga proved a redemptive force, the Gospel of Sweat was meant to convey that spiritual conversions are also happening in fitness studios.

If the philosophy is supposedly about the aspects of exercise in general, where were the enlightened Zumba teachers and personal trainers preaching something more than bigger biceps?

Melanie Griffith SoulCycle spining instructor

Melanie Griffith, a SoulCycle master trainer and beloved instructor (Photo: Agent of Change)

Melanie Griffith, master trainer of SoulCycle, was the sole representative of the non-yogis. She spoke passionately and with the cadence of a beat poet about her awakening, transformation, and trials (and a bout with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma) on the bike.

Griffith says that students’ first visits to SoulCycle aren’t as important as what calls them back. “What are they looking for? What are they getting?” she said, suggesting that spiritual direction and life transformation are what they’re really after. The bike is just the bait.

Lululemon could have better made its point about the cathartic aspects of workouts and the spiritual solace people are finding in them by inviting a more diverse group of speakers (calling IntenSati’s Patricia Moreno, Brian Delmonico of Circuit of Change, and countless other spiritually inclined teachers).

Quibbles aside, the company is really onto something having identified “spiritual fitness” as a movement. Where will they take it next? —Alexia Brue and Melisse Gelula

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4 Comments | ADD YOURS

  1. September 10th, 2012 at 11:09 am

    I wish I could have attended this event and hope Lululemon will have more lectures on the topic.

    I am sad to hear that the focus was mainly on yoga. I feel like that is something that everyone automatically thinks of when they hear “yoga”.

    What is more interesting is broadening the topic of spiritual sweating, which I believe there is also a lot of evidence of — especially in New York City where people adore their fitness instructors and follow them around from studio to studio.

  2. September 10th, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    I attended and left feeling really uncomfortable. Gospel of sweat? I left thinking “Gospel of swhat was all that about? These speakers were way off the mark with their audience. It was a church filled with lululemon amabassadors and yoga teachers and yet, all we got were these speakers BIO’s. We don’t need to be told what yoga, or physical movement can do for us. We live it! It was a self-aggrandizing display of egocentricity at it’s worst. Elean Brower asked us to take a deep breath so that our lungs were aligned. What? How? And the love was everywhere – but it felt like that sticky sweet kind. Not deep in the trenches, this is what is real and what I know kind. This sort of display of nauseating self-help soundbites is what turn so many people off the practice. Physical movement that induces sweat feels good, and gives us a high because of the endorphins it releases. Of course you feel good about yourself when you’re working out – it’s called biology. I don’t want to take away the intelligent thought that is placed alongside these practices but there was nothing new revealed here and I wish they understood their audience and actually spoke to us as being who already know what these practices are all about. Shame on these teachers who are clearly intelligent and charismatic and shame on Lululemon for not respecting their audience more.

  3. Christopher Pelham
    September 10th, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    No Gabrielle Roth, author of Sweat Your Prayers? Didn’t she invent this genre? I think this all begs the question of why anyone would or should look to their personal trainer (more than to anyone else) for spiritual advice….

  4. September 10th, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Living in another city, as I do, this event and those like it in NYC are out of my choice range. None-the-less, I really applaud Lulumon for hosting these events and WellandGoodNYC.com for placing it in front of our faces.
    Spirituality is becoming more a part of so much of our culture. Right kinds of spirituality do not exist. Either one contemplates the what, why and how of their existences and those of others or one does not. That there was little else than Yoga emphasized just supports this idea. Yes, spinning and (originally for me) running can be amazing opportunities to get into our bodies and minds, our souls and our spirits, to note the strengths of our resolve and to witness the sharing of those feelings and thoughts as others have them too. This is spirituality in action.
    Yoga as we know and practice it today is descended from a deeply spiritual tradition of meditation and mindfulness. When on the bike or on our feet, when lifting or rowing, we can remember that tensions lead to body awareness and from that the contemplation of that body as it links to our minds and emotions.

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