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How To Practice Yoga Without Cultural Appropriation

Beyond Bindis: Why Cultural Appropriation Matters

You Are Here: Exploring Yoga and the Impacts of Cultural Appropriation

Writer Jaya Bedi wrote this response to Preeti Aroon piece Wanna Go Indian? Welcome to the Party of 1 Billion+?

Preeti Aroon is right about one thing South Asians have bigger things to worry about than pop stars wearing bindis. For example, we have to worry about Islamaphobia, racial profiling, race-based discrimination, and immigration rights issues. And even if we talk about the more benign instances of racism that most of us face i.e. being exotified or being treated like a perpetual foreigner bindis-as-fashion is still pretty low on the list of things to care about. Theres only so much you can rally against, in one day frankly, Im more bothered by the men who sexually exotify me, by the stereotypes that paint desi men as sexless nerds, and by the assumption that where Im from isnt here.

Heres where Aroon lost me when she argues that its not enough to just tolerate the bindis popularity we should embrace its proliferation. She argues that we should celebrate it as an example of Indian culture positively influencing American culture. She asks us to view Gomezs fashion choice as part of a broader moment of significance for the South Asian community, a moment that signals our acceptance into mainstream American society. This response glosses over the history of race and white privilege in American society.

This post originally appeared on The Aerogram. Reposted with permission.


Remember To Be Grateful For The Opportunity To Practice

Humility, respect, and reverence go a long way, write Gandhi and Wolff. I am a recently-certified yoga teacher. As an Indigenous person . I am very aware of cultural appropriation because it happens to our culture as well. For that reason, I remind my students at the end of each class to take a moment to be grateful to the people of India who were willing to share yoga with the rest of the world. It is a small gesture, but it is important. If your class doesnt do something similar, you can always incorporate it into your individual practice.

So What Is Cultural Appropriation And How Is It Different Than Cultural Appreciation Or Honoring Another Culture

The oxford English Dictionary says cultural appropriation is: *the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.*

  • Cultural appropriation involves power and dominance.
  • And it involves doing harm.
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    Extreme Commercialization Of Yoga

    While everything gets commercialized to a degree, the issue lies in moving completely away from yogas mind-body-spirit connection and monetizing the practices spiritual values and symbols. For example, there can be a problem with modifying yoga to the values of Western lifestyle, such as how one looks in yoga, says Lawrence Biscontini, MA, mindful movement specialist and an award-winning group exercise instructor. The fact that there is a fashion to yoga clothes is insensitive. Plus, the phrase nama-stay in bed appears everywhere these days. It bastardizes the traditional meaning of a sacred word with several connotations and denotations.

    The underlying problem is not that aspects of yoga have been adopted into regular life, but rather, that they are being adopted without respect for the original intention.


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    How to Practice Yoga Without Appropriating It

    How many people have set a New Years resolution but still have not completed it or have not even started it? Who knows? They should not feel embarrassed, because I am one of them. The Willpower Instinct by Dr. Kelly McGonigal, an award-winning psychology instructor at Stanford University and health educator for the School of Medicines Health Improvement Program, presents reasons behind our actions. The primary focus of the book circles around our willpower: the I will, I want and I wont power these powers are controlling our thoughts and actions.

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    Examples Of Cultural Appropriation In Wellness Spaces And Why Its Harmful

    Cultural appropriation runs rampant within the $4.2 trillion global wellness industry. Examples of how cultural appropriation takes place in wellness spaces include:

    • Smudge kits sold by non-Indigenous individuals
    • Pricey yoga classes that emphasize fitness
    • Using words and phrases like tribe or spirit animal when theyre not part of your culture
    • Designer gym clothing featuring the Hindu Om symbol
    • Misusing spiritual objects such as scriptures, crystals, and statues of Buddha

    Cultural appropriation denies BIPOC communities access to wellness practices . In addition, it strips wellness practices of their authenticity and sacredness. When a practice is appropriated, we no longer understand its origins and true intent. Without the sacred, we feel displaced from our ancestors and othered in spaces that are supposed to bring us healing.

    Here Are Some Examples:

    Cultural appropriation:


    > > Getting a tattoo in a language you do not understand written in a script you cannot read because it is pretty.

    > > Wearing ceremonial garb to a party, for pretty pictures on IGor worsefor Halloween.

    > > Changing your name to something that sounds cool in another language because it feels spiritual.

    > > Decorating your house with religious iconography from religions you do not practice or understand.

    > > Cherry-picking parts of stories, myths, or teachings to justify your behavior.


    > > Collecting friends with different skin colors, cultures, or religious identities to prove how awesome you are because you have a black friend, a Hindu friend, and a First Nations friend.

    Acculturation:

    > > Getting a tattoo that has important meaning for you, or reflecting on your choices and using the tattoo as an opportunity to have the conversation about cultural appropriation and acculturation when people ask about it.

    > > Wearing ceremonial garb to the ceremony for which it was designed, and participating as you are invited to do so by the people who are ceremony-ing.

    > > Receiving a name from a culture based on your participation in their culture for some period of time. Having reverence for the culture and using this name as an opportunity to bridge cultures rather than brag about how special you are. See: Yogarupa Rod Stryker.


    > > Teaching the stories from any tradition that you fully understand in an effort to convey an important lesson. See: MC Yogi.

    Right?

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    Our Guide To Cultural Appropriation And Wellness

    From yoga to smudge kits, wellness is on trend right now. While wellness practices can help us to unwind and de-stress, they also raise major questions about cultural appropriation and theft from BIPOC communities.

    This online guide explores how cultural appropriation negatively impacts wellness spaces, what to do if you spot cultural appropriation, and how to practice wellness responsibly. Native Governance Center hosted a virtual event on this topic in fall 2020. You can view the recording from our event here and listen to our themed Spotify playlist here.


    To understand how cultural appropriation impacts wellness, lets first start with the basics.

    Be Aware Of Yogas History And The Danger Of Cultural Appropriation

    CULTURAL APPROPRIATION TO CULTURAL APPRECIATION IN YOGA – How do we stay authentic to yoga?

    More yoga teachers and studio owners need to create space for conversations about cultural appropriation and cultural accountability, write Gandhi and Wolff. If your studio doesnt do that already, ask them to start. Maybe you can suggest a discussion group, or invite a speaker to come and talk about the topic. At the very least, do your own research so you will know more about the roots of yoga as well as the culture both historical and contemporary of India.

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    Cultural Appropriation In Yoga

    Yoga teachers will already be well aware that the yamas are one of the eight limbs of yoga. According to Patanjalis Yoga Sutras, the word yamas can be translated as abstinences in other words, these are things yogis should avoid doing .

    The first of the yamasand possibly the best knownis ahimsa, which translates to nonviolence. Some connotations of this term are obvious for example, people should not physically harm others. But ahimsa is a more nuanced principle that refers to all kinds of harm, including mental, emotional and spiritual. Yogis are tasked with living in a manner that avoids harming sentient beings in any way.


    The notion that we are not to cause harm feels like common sense. You are unlikely to find a yoga practitioner who consciously rejects the notion of ahimsa as a principle. However, is it possible that the way yoga is practiced and taught by some teachers is unwittingly propagating harm? Is cultural appropriation a concern in some yoga settings? If so, what can we, as mind-body practitioners, do about it?

    Informative Essay On Naked Yoga

    Practicing yoga is an excellent way to exercise both the mind and the body and, as such, can help maintain a healthy penis. Recently, naked yoga has become more popular in some areas, and it is quite possible that some who have not been drawn to the practice of yoga previously may find their interest aroused by this style of yoga. Anything that enhances proper general and penis health is to be encouraged however, potential practitioners should do some research before attending a naked yoga class. YogaYoga is an ancient practice that gains its name from the idea of “yoking together” the mind and the body. It is a wide-ranging term that encompasses many different practices and disciplines,

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    Explore Learn And Cite Correct Cultural References

    As practitioners of yoga, I would love to see more of us citing cultural references as we attempt to understand and connect with the complexity, culture, and history from which this tradition comes.

    Im not suggesting people put on a watered down, context-removed faux Hinduism. To me, that is not the answer.

    Commitment to deep practice, questioning, and learning is, perhaps, part of the answer.

    I Keep Reading Disappointing Articles About Cultural Appropriation And Yoga So Im Doing What My Father Always Said To Do: Write The Thing You Want To Read

    Yoga as Cultural Appropriation?

    Cultural appropriation is where one culture ransacks another for their social goodscustoms, arts, healing practiceswithout compensation or permission, then picks the best stuff as though the culture were simply a yard sale with a big for free sign.

    This is icky, to put it lightly.

    Wed have slightly different feelings about it if there was, say, a thumb war involved and the victor received some spoils, but its still really not okay, according to my cultural values.

    Stealing is usually, mostly, not okay.

    Right?

    Well, we all have differing ideas about this. It would be great if we could define stealing as taking something that doesnt belong to you without permission or compensation, but we do it all the time. We steal music, we steal honey packets from Starbucks, we steal a few more minutes from someone who doesnt want to give them. Were okay with stealing if you have to feed your baby.

    So were blurry on the subject, but its still generally wrong to take things.

    Acculturation is what happens when you are immersed in a cultureyou learn it, you earn it.

    For instance, you were born somewhere that had cultural rules, unless you were raised by wolves. Your microculture was the family of origin, your neighbors, your schooling, or religious experience, and possibly media influences, like Sesame Street. If you grow up in the same place with the same people and no one comes or goes, you experience that culture.

    So, yoga. Is it cultural appropriation, or acculturation?

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    In This Practice Intended To Heal Are We Inadvertently Causing Harm

    Yoga teachers will already be well aware that the yamas are one of the eight limbs of yoga. According to Patanjalis Yoga Sutras, the word yamas can be translated as abstinences in other words, these are things yogis should avoid doing .

    The first of the yamasand possibly the best knownis ahimsa, which translates to nonviolence. Some connotations of this term are obvious for example, people should not physically harm others. But ahimsa is a more nuanced principle that refers to all kinds of harm, including mental, emotional and spiritual. Yogis are tasked with living in a manner that avoids harming sentient beings in any way.

    The notion that we are not to cause harm feels like common sense. You are unlikely to find a yoga practitioner who consciously rejects the notion of ahimsa as a principle. However, is it possible that the way yoga is practiced and taught by some teachers is unwittingly propagating harm? Is cultural appropriation a concern in some yoga settings? If so, what can we, as mind-body practitioners, do about it?

    Youre Misusing Sacred Objects

    Hopefully, if you and your yoga teachers knew the significance of sacred objects, you wouldnt intentionally use them in disrespectful ways.

    But lots of people include sacred objects in their yoga practice without realizing the significance of what theyre using.

    Sometimes, its an attempt to give an authentic flare to a yoga studio but misusing a sacred object as nothing more than a piece of d├ęcor is a dead giveaway that you dont have a real grasp of authenticity.

    Anyone who uses a cultural item theyre not familiar with should do their research to understand where it comes from, what it means, the protocols of engaging with and utilizing it, and how it should be cared for.

    For instance, anything used in healing or spiritual practices like scriptures, crystals, and statues of Buddha is meant to be treated with respect.

    If you use these objects for your own purposes, youre not respecting them or the cultures they come from. Youre just exotifying and fetishizing other cultures without really understanding them.

    For comparison, you probably wouldnt use pages of a Bible as decoration without understanding anything about Christianity.

    So if you spot a sacred item on the ground or being used for toilet decoration in a yoga studio, you might want to have a word with the staff.

    They dont have to know everything about the items theyre using but they should make an effort to have someone around who has that knowledge or is learning.

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    Youre Not Being Accountable When Speaking Sacred Languages

    Many Western yoga spaces treat sacred languages the same way they treat sacred items without knowledge or respect for what theyre using.

    For instance, you might use Sanskrit, or chant without knowing what youre saying or why.

    Sound can be healing, and you dont necessarily need to learn a whole new language to get something out of chanting. But, just like with the sacred objects, you could have a harmful impact if you use language without understanding its significance.

    It can be hurtful for South Asian people to hear their traditional languages being misused, butchered, and even laughed at.

    In a South Asian context, Sanskrit is caste exclusionary. There may be people in the room who have been affected by that system of inequality, and your use of the language could be the opposite of healing for them.

    When nisha is leading a yoga session and she uses Sanskrit, she lets people know that theyre going to use it and what theyre going to be saying. She contextualizes the caste and religious divides that Sanskrit has and can create, and shifts the intention of using Sanskrit to engage the energy channels of our physical and subtle bodies.

    Pay attention to how your yoga practice treats sacred texts, languages, and chants.

    What Is Cultural Appropriation

    Is Yoga Cultural Appropriation?

    In recent years, conversation has begun around the cultural appropriation of yoga. Cultural appropriation is the taking, marketing, and exotification of cultural practices from historically oppressed populations. The problem is incredibly complex and involves two extremes: The first is the sterilization of yoga by removing evidence of its Eastern roots so that it doesnt offend Westerner practitioners. The opposite extreme is the glamorization of yoga and India through commercialism, such as Om tattoos, T-shirts sporting Hindu deities or Sanskrit scriptures that are often conflated with yoga, or the choosing of Indian names.

    Yoga teachers and students are starting to ask the questions, What is the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation? and How can I still practice yoga without being offensive?

    Shreena Gandhi, PhD, a religious studies professor at Michigan State University, and Lillie Wolff, an advocate with Crossroads Antiracism, emphasized in their 2017 article Yoga and the Roots of Cultural Appropriation that the goal of these conversations should not be for white practitioners to stop practicing yoga, but rather for them to please take a moment to look outside of yourself and understand how the history of yoga practice in the United States is intimately linked to larger forcessuch as colonization, oppression, and the fact that a devotional practice that was free of cost for thousands of years is now being marketed and sold.

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    Understanding Yoga And Cultural Appropriation

    Today, yoga is a multibillion dollar industry with a burgeoning influence in health, fitness, fashion, pop culture, and, yes, politics and society in general. Yet, there is little awareness or emphasis on honoring the traditional aim or the cultural roots of yoga.

    Is there acknowledgement of the meandering path from India to the Western world? Is this ignorance merely a gap in our education? or, is it more sinister in its willful denial of the roots of this practice? Are we knowingly appropriating another culture while we practice yoga? What is cultural appropriation versus cultural appreciation in the context of our yoga practice? and, why is all of this important anyway?

    A History Of White Elites Co

    Pranamasana, exhale. Hasta uttanasana, inhale. Padahastasana, exhale. Ashwa sanchalanasana, inhale.

    Eight more steps and 12-year-old Divya Balakrishnan would have completed another repetition of Surya Namaskaram, the sun salutation yoga sequence. She moved intentionally, focusing on her hands, her feet, her posture and her speed. It was a daily ritual, and each morning, she tried to go faster, more seamlessly, for more rounds.

    It was the first physical practice that I really committed to mentally as well, Balakrishnan, now 28 and an instructor, told NBC Asian America. It gave me a little bit of a reprieve from the really, really negative voice that was constantly going off in my head telling me that I was too fat, that I was too dark.

    She liked to keep her yoga private through her childhood. Like any other kid, she wanted to fit in with her peers. But the first time she took a yoga class in college, she was the only person of color in the room. There were no Sanskrit descriptions or breathing exercises. It was just a workout.

    That sanitization is part of a decades-long trend to make yoga and wellness more marketable to the Western palate, said Sophia Arjana, associate professor of religion at Western Kentucky University and author of Buying Buddha, Selling Rumi: Orientalism and the Mystical Marketplace.

    There was a resurgence of the practice in the ’60s as it became popular with the general public, but it stayed the most relevant with white elites, Arjana said.

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