POPULAR activewear brand Lorna Jane has come under fire from an international Hindu organisation over its latest project, a “wellness lounge” in Sydney airport offering yoga and pilates classes.
The Lorna Jane Active Living Room is located in the T2 domestic terminal and features an exercise room overlooking the runway, a Lorna Jane clothing store and a health food cafe.
There are eleven other Active Living Rooms around the country with similar facilities and most are located in large shopping hubs. Members of the Lorna Jane rewards club can access these facilities for free.
At the Sydney airport facility, travellers who are non-members have to pay $12 to join a 45-minute yoga or pilates class.
But the president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, self-described “Hindu statesman” Rajan Zed, has urged Sydney airport to provide a free yoga space for all passengers.
The Nevada-based Hindu leader sent a press release to Australian media outlets on Thursday criticising the airport, which is run by a private company but sits on public land.
“Airports should provide yoga space for the passengers, staff and visitors without any charge if airport managements are serious [about] reducing their stress levels and becoming a world-class airport,” Mr Zed told news.com.au.
“Yoga is a world heritage and liberation powerhouse to be utilised by all and charging a fee for it at a public facility like Sydney Airport does not seem right … These yoga spaces should be open to people of all faiths.”
Mr Zed claims many other international airports including San Fransciso, Chicago O’Hare and Helsinki Airport Finland offer free yoga facilities.
A spokeswoman for Sydney Airport told news.com.au the studio was open to passengers for free outside of class times. The room is owned and run by Lorna Jane, not Sydney airport.
A Lorna Jane spokeswoman said the company “welcomes anything that encourages travellers to put their health first”.
She said yoga and pilates were practical exercise classes for travellers because they didn’t leave participants too sweaty before a flight.
In India, where Hinduism is the dominant religion, there is an ongoing debate about how yoga has been commodified by the West.
The rise of multi-million dollar activewear brands such as Lorna Jane and Lululemon seem a long way from the spiritual origins of the ancient practice.
Last year India’s Prime Minister appointed a minister for yoga to his cabinet and launched an international marketing strategy called Make In India, which aims to strengthen India’s manufacturing sector and protect intellectual property.
“There is little doubt about yoga being an Indian art form,” Yoga Minister Shripad Yesso Naik said in January. “We’re trying to establish to the world that it’s ours.”
While the number of Australians identifying as religious has decreased rapidly in recent years, Hinduism is the fastest growing religion in Australia, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The number of Hindus in Australia has increased by 189 per cent since 2001 to 275,500, or 1.3 per cent of the total population.
It’s been a rough year for Lorna Jane Clarkson. She’s fighting a $548,000 lawsuitagainst a former employee who claims she was “fat shamed”, bullied and harassed by Lorna Jane staff.
In July, the brand was criticised for running a job ad for a combined “Receptionist/Fit Model”, which included physical measurement requirements for potential applicants.
Last month a Gold Coast woman says she was tricked into handing over photos of herself to a man who claimed to be a representative from Lorna Jane.
She’s even copped criticism about her fridge. Her neatly labelled fridge was mocked by 60 Minutes viewers after Clarkson appeared on the program to talk about her multi-million dollar brand.