Well, according to a piece in the Huffington Post, it turns out that the way I like to practice yoga is definitely a form of “cultural appropriation.”
In the article, titled “Is My Yoga Cultural Appropriation? What To Do About It,” yoga trainer Susanna Barkataki writes that although “the practice of yoga itself is not cultural appropriation,” “it is really important to honor and appreciate where a practice comes from, or we risk appropriating it.”
Barkataki explains that “physical practice, or asana,” is only one of the “eight limbs” of yoga, and “in the Western world, in a lot of places where we see yoga practiced, primarily what is being practiced is one of the eight limbs — asana.”
Now, I have to admit that the place in “the Western world” where I do my yoga — in my own apartment — definitely is one of those places where the focus is on the physical. When I first decided to start doing yoga, I wasn’t looking for a history lesson or spiritual enlightenment; I was looking for low-impact fitness moves because I had broken my hip doing high-impact ones and didn’t want to reinjure myself. I mean, sure, I was and always have been aware that, culturally, there’s more to yoga than just the moves, but kind of figured that I wouldn’t be required to learn how to change the spiritual state of my soul just because I wanted to change the physical state of my glutes. I really felt like it was fine for me to stand on one leg and lean forward without learning all about standing-on-one-leg-and-leaning-forward’s historical, spriritual, and cultural implications.
According to Barkataki, however, I’m very, very wrong. In fact, she actually goes so far as to say that people teaching others how to do yoga without teaching them about its cultural history is comparable to how “colonizing powers, such as the British, used to take over the land of colonies then utilize and exploit the labor, natural resources, industrial power, and anything deemed of value inherent to that place.”
Yikes. Well, the person who taught me yoga — that is, an instructor in a series of workout videos that I found online — is definitely guilty of this. She did not discuss cultural history, only the moves. According to Barkataki, that means her seemingly innocuous workout video is actually just a “subtler” version of the violent overtaking of entire peoples.
According to me, however, that argument is actually insane.
Barkataki insists that that people who practice yoga should be asking their teachers to teach them about more than just “asana.” But you know what? I’m not going to do that, and that’s not just because I’m not sure how I’d get in touch with that workout-video lady even if I wanted to. It’s because, well, I just don’t want to. I don’t want to practice yoga as a spiritual activity, I want to practice it with Teen Mom 2 on in the background to distract me from how much my muscles hurt. Sure, I’d agree that my way is not, as she puts it, allowing me to “experience and (sic) the full range that yoga has to offer” — but I’d rather experience Teen Mom. I’m not looking for enlightenment; I’m looking for toned abs, and I really do feel like that’s fine.
#related#Perhaps, in order to not upset people like her, I should just call my version something else, like, oh, I don’t know, “Yo-gotta watch trash TV and stretch.” After all, I wouldn’t want to think I’m engaging in a behavior so destructive that it’s even close to comparable to brutal violence on a massive scale. I think it’s pretty clear that I’m not, that the workout-video lady is not, and that any reasonable person would agree that it’s not. But when it comes to Internet think-pieces, I guess reason is just not as important as showing the world how much more culturally educated you are than everyone else.