When it comes to paying for meditation accessories, how much is too much? How about $108? That’s the price tag on Lululemon’s new mala meditation bead necklace.
Mala beads, which are Buddhist prayer beads, are a tool of traditional meditation. The beads help you count the number of times you have recited your mantra, keeping the mind centered on the present moment. Lululemon partnered with Mala Collective, a fair trade venture that sustainably harvests the rudraksha beads (brown seeds) and makes the malas by hand in Bali. The number 108 is sacred in Buddhism for a variety of reasons, and there are 108 beads on a traditional mala (not including the one guru bead, which the entire strand revolves around).
The notion of a high-end brand charging $108 for meditation beads drew some sarcastic criticism around the web.
“I feel relaxed even looking at that corporate logo!” wrote Jezebel’s Jia Tolentino last week.
“From what I understand, meditation involves closing your eyes and trying not to think thoughts. Difficult? Yes. Requiring of fancy accessories that would make Gandhi laugh until he cries? No,” added Bustle’s Erin Mayer.
While Lululemon did not respond to several requests for comment, Doug Crowe, the logistics coordinator for the Mala Collective, told The Huffington Post in a phone interview that the reason behind the pricing strategy is two-fold.
“There’s two reasons we price them at $108: The first one is that it’s reflective of the spiritual number, and the second one is because of the gemstones and the seeds and the fair trade wages we pay to these people, it just is very expensive for us to make,” said Crowe. He also acknowledged that anyone can purchase a mala necklace in China for a quarter of the Mala Collective’s price should they choose to do so, but they won’t be receiving the same hand-made and material quality.
“The way that we see it is it’s a very intimate purchase, and it’s not a commodity. It’s something people buy once every few years,” he added. “The biggest reason that we did it [the collaboration] was because the pieces that we make are very intimate and spiritual, and our main goal is to impact as many people’s lives as we can, so Lululemon was a great outlet to do that.”
Lululemon is of course not the first to charge for products or services that offer peace of mind. Popular meditation retreats can cost visitors hundreds of dollars, and certified transcendental meditation courses often run into the thousands. Some meditation classes can even be priced similarly to boutique yoga studios in cities like New York and Los Angeles, costing as much as $25 per session.