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White people in yoga

A white woman wrote this article saying,”I was completely unable to focus on my practice, instead feeling hyper-aware of my skinny white girl body.”

Besides being incredibly sanctimonious, posing herself as a savior, and feigning sympathy for the black woman in order to hide her discomfort, I’d like to talk about why yoga is problematic.

There is a myth – or myths – going around about how yoga is derived from British gymnastics. So it’s a reversal: not “we stole from them and you know what? we can do them one better” but “they stole from us.” It’s still part of the idea that “they’re not inferior, we’re just better than them! civilization!!1”

Here’s the thing.

Asanas were secondary to control of the breath and meditation. Also, spiritual practices in India rely heavily on oral tradition rather than texts. It looks like with yoga that changed in the 1800s and Europeans began studying it and writing about it. However, language scholars well know that recording in text is a good way to retain knowledge (whether of a language or any topic). Some imported practices are not even brought by Western students but by actual natives, like Bruce Lee when he brought Jeet Kune Do (and got his ass kicked by a bunch of other Chinese, who disagreed, for it) so I don’t agree that imported practices are always about appropriation or that it is wrong to have Westerners as students. source

Modern “yoga” as we know it in the West, imported, definitely had Hindu roots. That is why Hindus are saying the appropriation is problematic; I think saying that it comes from British gymnastics is giving the latter too much credit. I wish authors spreading myths would actually ask instead of looking at yogis in asana poses before running off to write books for a profit, as the woman in the above article looked at a black woman, feigned sympathy, and went off to write a thinkpiece. But at the same time I can’t think of anything whiter than doing that in increasing the popularity of Westernized yoga. source


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