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Why One Woman Left Yoga (And Why You Might Consider Doing The Same)

July 30, 2015 3 min read

Yoga is an easy movement to get behind. It can make you feel so wonderful in mind and body. It is a community, it is like minded people. It is healthy and amazing. Maybe. It depends. Earth Energy Reader, breaks down some of what she's noticed behind the scenes. The things that make her particularly uncomfortable. Like most of us, she reports getting behind yoga in a big way. She said she felt like she had finally found something authentic in a world where so much that's being offered for wellness appears to be little more than snake oil. But after a while, these nagging feelings became more than she could handle. Here's some of her observations:  1. First of all, I’m of Indian heritage. I’m brown. You look at me and you know I’m ethnic. I speak the language and still have many extended family members in India and I go back to visit often. By and large (and I’m generalizing, since it’s not always the case) but yoga in the West is increasingly becoming a trendy diversion for the affluent and bored—or those who are obsessed with the body beautiful and the cult of hedonism which follows that. Now, I see yoga branching out into such things like chocolate yoga or trance dance yoga, where in short, the culture of the nightclub or rave is being super-imposed onto yoga.... Binge drinking, sexual promiscuity and drug taking, which are elements of the club culture, are strongly frowned upon and considered socially unacceptable in many social circles in India. But yet, it is being passed off as something that is a part of yoga by North American suburban kids and marketers looking for the next big trend…when it just isn’t true. 2. It is extremely classist. It lacks plurality and inclusiveness. I do not see many people of blue-collar backgrounds who can afford these classes on a regular basis—and many of them are precisely the ones who could probably benefit the most from yoga. Most of the studios in my city charge around $1,200 for an unlimited yearly membership. That’s serious coin. I can hardly envision a stressed out, single mother, trying to raise her kids on social assistance being able to afford that when she probably needs the benefits of yoga more than the pampered trophy wife who just returned form her five-star shamanistic initiation retreat in Bolivia.... Yoga in North America caters to the affluent and is falling in line with the capitalist system of profit. It is increasingly distancing itself from the true roots of yoga. 3. It is really annoying to watch some white people try to act ethnically brown, when they are not…and will never be. Intention is everything here. I can understand there is a difference between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation, but when the Pussy Cat Dolls show up in saris at some premiere, you have to ask yourself: what is the intention? Pale women with Shiva tramp-stamps do not look good in saris, doing Bollywood dance moves or wearing bhindis—especially if they have freckles (like, really.) For Indian women, this is part of their cultural heritage and identity, not some gimmicky hip trend to try out and pose around in until the next trend shows up. 4. Just because it’s exotic does not mean it’s real or more authentic. Real Indians, in India, make fun of many Westerners behind their backs and are making money off of their ignorance. Do you see real, native Indians, in the fancy expensive ashrams in India? No. Do you see many native Indians “following” your Guruji? Probably not. Do you see many Indian women at these open air clothing-optional Tantric weekend couples workshops in Hawaii? Did you ever ask why not? I’ll let you in on a little secret: many of these so-called gurus and God-men (and women) of India are scam artists—but because their ashrams and centres bring in so much much-needed cash and tourist dollars, the Indian government looks the other way. And in fact, they are in on it too. There is nothing spiritual about it. It’s a cash cow and they are milking many Western followers of yoga for all they can get. Not always—I am generalizing. There are some authentic teachers left in India—but they’re usually just minding their own business and not interested in selling anything or proselytizing people. Unfortunately, the former is happening more frequently than the latter.... They are promising you enlightenment just as long as you pay up or keep giving enforced “donations”—but it doesn’t work that way. She ends by saying that she understands that the entire community isn't like this and her real problems is with the money making machine behind it all. She raises some really interesting points. What are your thoughts? Do you think the West has misappropriated yoga and started a soul-less, ignorant, money making machine or do you think she's off her rocker? Weigh in now!  

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