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Old 11-26-2014, 03:22 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Thoughts on Cultural Appropriation and Yoga?

Hey, YaHooka. I'm not sure how familiar you may or may not be with the conversations around cultural appropriation, but this has always been a perplexing topic of interest to me.

If yoga or spirituality in general is of any interest to you than I enocourage you to read this blog post, posted from a previous Vancouver yoga teacher.

From the article:
Quote:
For many white settler folks, whose family lines run back to Europe like mine, the times when we lived in community, on shared lands, in harmony with the moon, the earth and each other are much further behind us than those of the indigenous people whose land we occupy today. This is not to say that these ways only exist in the past, many indigenous communities, despite massive state violence, have maintained or relearned the practices our ancestors worked to destroy. Also many European traditions of witch-craft, herbalism, magic and other land based skills persisted and are still practiced today by European folks. That said, for the majority of us settler folks, we’ve lost touch with the spiritual practices which ground us to place and the natural world. Those spiritual practices were intentionally and often violently stolen from us through the imposition of capitalism, the division of communally held lands, witch hunts and the forced introduction of Christianity. As a result we land where are today: living on lands we don’t have historical or ancestral connections to, with very limited access to spiritual practices that are culturally derived – and this, I feel, is part of what leads so many of us to practice yoga. Not only are we able to heal our bodies physically, we are able to nourish ourselves spiritually. What I would like us to consider though, is that what we are doing to yoga is tantamount to what happened to our ancestor’s spiritual practices. The solution to being spiritually lost is not to steal from others and then claim what we steal for ourselves.

Appropriation is a very difficult and unpopular topic to address in yoga circles. When the wesbite Decolonizing Yoga was launched I was excited, because it meant that perhaps there would be a forum for us to address racism and colonization in the yoga world. And I’m going to be painfully honest here, much to my disappointment I think Decolonizing Yoga has failed to do meaningful decolonizing work. It doesn’t mean that they can’t, but they have a lot of work to do to get there.

Some of my work was up on the site when it first launched and it is where most people came to know my work for the first time. I have considered asking to have my writing taken down from the site many times. When the critiques I mentioned earlier in this piece came in, I sent them to the founder of Decolonizing Yoga, along with some critiques of the site itself. It was brought up to me that the site doesn’t mention the land from which the work on the site was being done – a central and very basic part of decolonizing practice. Further, much like Yoga Journal, none of the content at the time was written by South Asian authors, let alone addressing cultural appropriation. When I brought this up to the founder of the site she told me nothing had been written on the topic that she felt could be posted on the site. I did some research and sent her some articles I thought would be good to post. They weren’t hard to find, just a couple hours on google. One by one she turned each article down. Eventually I posted on my facebook that I was feeling increasingly uncomfortable with the nature of the site. She responded publicly quite politely and as if she was committed to working on improving the site, but in a private message was quite defensive and upset with me for making the post.

This behaviour, I have found, is pretty typical of white yoga teachers – including me. When appropriation is addressed, many of us get defensive. We stop being able to listen. My theory behind why this happens is that we get scared. We rely on our yoga practices to heal our bodies, ease our minds and give us a sense of purpose and spiritual connection. I think the idea of looking at ourselves with a critical lens is scary to us because most of us have no idea what we would do without our yoga practice. And I will admit, it’s been a scary and destabilizing thought for me too, for sure. But I really do believe we can do better than this. We can turn to our own cultural roots to discover practices that build spiritual sustenance. And yes, yoga is a practice that anyone can come to, but I’d encourage you to ask yourself, is the yoga you are practicing a spiritual practice? Or is a glorified fitness regime that is more invested in outwards appearances than deep spiritual work? Because what I know, is that yoga is a practice that can give us deep learning and that most of what we are doing, is running as far a field away from that learning as we can.


What are your sincere thoughts on this?
Does practicing a culturally diluted version of a spiritual practice have a consequence? What ethical concerns does "stealing" a spiritual doctrine pose? Are we getting things wrong and becoming more and more confused, tainting something holy with our consumerist/ Westernized approaches?

Honest input deeply appreciated.
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Old 11-26-2014, 03:43 PM   #2 (permalink)
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The idea is about as stupid as ideas get.

Human society evolves through the exchange of cultures and ideologies.

Anyone that complains about it can go fuck themselves with a cactus.

Also, I didn't take the time to read that garbage. I'm fully aware of how out of touch these people are.
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I Just looked up MSF. I that looks like a great cause. Do they have any ties with Doctors without Borders?
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Old 11-26-2014, 03:53 PM   #3 (permalink)
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As an Indian, and not a particularly devout one at that, exercise 'yoga' quite frankly nauseates me. It's the monetization of an entire religious commitment. I liken it to how Jazz/Blues was made acceptable to white people via Elvis.

Hindu yoga is a lifelong, deeply spiritual commitment, and the version most white people are familiar with is only one of the four major forms of yoga.

When i think Yoga, I see this:



Not this:

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Old 11-26-2014, 04:16 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Ugh, after reading the link, her focus so much on herself shows she still completely misses the point and makes me more nauseous.
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Old 11-26-2014, 04:16 PM   #5 (permalink)
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As an Indian, and not a particularly devout one at that, exercise 'yoga' quite frankly nauseates me. It's the monetization of an entire religious commitment. I liken it to how Jazz/Blues was made acceptable to white people via Elvis.
Translation: Those white devils stole some superstition that I don't really care about to use practically and that pisses me off.

Aren't there actual problems with real consequences in the world?


Who cares about frivolous bullshit like this?
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Old 11-26-2014, 04:19 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Just because I don't care about it doesn't mean other people don't mind their deep beliefs being sold at an hourly rate.

I know that's pretty common in western religions, but not in eastern.
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Old 11-26-2014, 04:20 PM   #7 (permalink)
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So, if I want to talk with somebody else's imaginary friend it has to be all or nothing?
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Old 11-26-2014, 04:21 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Even imaginary friends will shy away from that smug sense of superiority.
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Old 11-26-2014, 04:25 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Show me real consequences and not just hurt feelings and I'm all for banning "cultural appropriation".
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Old 11-26-2014, 04:26 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Where did i say i want it banned or removed?

I simply gave my thoughts on a question that was asked.

I live with it, i just chose not to be apart of it.
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Old 11-26-2014, 04:54 PM   #11 (permalink)
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I don't care either way. I just think there are far more pressing issues in the world than soccer moms doing yoga.
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Old 11-26-2014, 05:00 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Cool, you can lend your solutions to NATO instead of here.
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Old 11-26-2014, 05:24 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Just because I don't care about it doesn't mean other people don't mind their deep beliefs being sold at an hourly rate.

I know that's pretty common in western religions, but not in eastern.
I agree with everything you've said, but in today's age i think it is also pretty common in eastern religions/society as well.

dat spread of capitalism.
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Old 11-26-2014, 05:26 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Just because I don't care about it doesn't mean other people don't mind their deep beliefs being sold at an hourly rate.

I know that's pretty common in western religions, but not in eastern.
How could the yoga industry remedy this? Put a different name on it or share some of the money?

As far as reverie's post, everything becomes tainted in today's Western culture. What hasn't been commercialized with a price tag slapped on it ?
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Old 11-26-2014, 05:29 PM   #15 (permalink)
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I agree with everything you've said, but in today's age i think it is also pretty common in eastern religions/society as well.

dat spread of capitalism.


As someone who'd been to thailand, you should understand that it's vastly different.



But of course, there are people exploiting all over the world.
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Old 11-26-2014, 05:32 PM   #16 (permalink)
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How could the yoga industry remedy this? Put a different name on it or share some of the money?

As far as reverie's post, everything becomes tainted in today's Western culture. What hasn't been commercialized with a price tag slapped on it ?
I'm not asking them to remedy anything. It is what it is. I mean, despite it's clear deviation from its source, its does seem to help people.

If i had to, maybe just take yoga off their title and call it something else and say yoga-inspired.

But that's only if i had to be a dick about it.
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Old 11-26-2014, 05:40 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Surely this North American yoga isn't Middle Eastern yoga.

It's just a word though. They're different things, with the same name, that are related.


KIND of like how in Edmonton, when you get a donair, it's this AWESOME tube of fat and sauce wrapped in a thick white pita.

But in Vancouver it's this wider, healthier tube of a variety of ingredients, wrapped in a less thick pita.

They're both called donairs.

And most people would say that the Edmonton donair is some kind of abomination.


But you know what?


I MISS THAT FATTY MEAT TUBE YOU GOT IN EDMONTON!!!!
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Old 11-26-2014, 05:55 PM   #18 (permalink)
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I was reading an article about this regarding Native Americans. Someone wearing a Sioux war bonnet, made in China, at a rave, was discussed. I could appreciate the indignation some Sioux people must feel at the trivialization of something sacred to them. I think of examples like this when I think of cultural appropriation.

On the other hand, an interest in, and adoption of, cultural values (even if you don't really understand them) is not necessarily a bad thing. There will always be that yuppie who considers himself on a "Vision Quest" who clearly understands little to nothing about what that really means, who I will nevertheless forgive because at least he has some actual reverence for what he thinks he's doing. This is just how one culture overlaps another; in silly misunderstandings.



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Old 11-26-2014, 07:51 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Busy times these days. Will get back to this and other HT threads shortly.
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Old 11-27-2014, 03:51 AM   #20 (permalink)
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i hate it when they use the term white or settlers

even our own do the same thing....there's much racism in all corners of that box ppl seem to wanna live in


chiefs in this neck of the woods.....never wore headdresses....they wore bonnets...it's all so sexy to wear and to pretend to be something you are not


all quite sickening
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