Why I Left Yoga (& Why I Think A Helluva Lot Of People Are Being Duped). ~ Irasna Rising

Via on Jul 18, 2012

Photo: Flickr/Eugenijus Barzdzius

For further reading:

Things Your Yoga Teacher is Dying to Tell You (But Probably Won’t). ~ 

9 Rules Every Yoga Teacher Should Follow.

Like millions of Westerners out there, I too joined the yoga bandwagon about eight years ago.

After trying out my first Bikram class, I moved onto Moksha and then settled at a hot yoga studio, which practices all types of yoga, in a hot space.

I too fell in love with how yoga made my body feel after a particularly tough workout.

I too fell into the pseudo-spiritual aspects of the practice.

And, finally, I too got burned out by the practice.

Disillusioned—and at times—even disgusted at the people who I thought should be setting an example to the rest of us. But, as it turns out, they are even more messed up than you realize—and yoga is just an effective cloak to hide their true nature.

For me, it was and always will be the health benefits of yoga which attracted me, and that still keep me around. But, perhaps in my naïveté,  I also thought the people who were a part of the scene would be as sincere as they appeared to be.

I had read just about every book out there, was thoroughly sick of the New Age charlatans claiming to have psychic abilities all in the name of Mr. Dollar—and selling their wares, whether it was books, weekend retreats or $1,000 seminars—and I became disenchanted with what the so-called “good life” that a Westernized professional was offering (it’s a formula, no more.)

With yoga, I finally felt that I found something authentic, based on authentic teachings…plus, I felt great afterwards.

The people seemed nice; they had read and kept quoting all the great seers and sages of the centuries: Aurobindo, Vivekananda, Ramakrishna, Rumi, Hafiz and more recently, writers like Eckhart Tolle. They were into the green movement, recycling and genuinely concerned about Mother Earth. They wore Toms and donated to legitimate foundations like Unicef, Right to Play and so on.

But a few nagging observations wouldn’t leave me.

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.

India is still deeply conservative, socially; arranged marriages are still the norm in the villages and were also the norm in the big cities, until maybe 20 years ago. 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.

I can barely make out one non-Caucasian at this Bikram yoga training session.

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.

If anyone can find a non-Caucasian here, let me know.

I walk into most of my yoga classes and I see nothing but a sea of white faces, with maybe the token black and asian. Some people may read that as a racist statement but I’m not trying to be racist—and this isn’t a reverse racism argument either—it is just my observation.

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.

Pussy Cat Dolls

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.

Ganeshananda—’m wondering how many Indian followers does he have?

4. Sanskrit, like Latin, is a dead language. Let it go already.

The Catholic Church let go of the Latin Mass after Vatican II back in the early 1960′s. Chanting in sanskrit does not make you look cool nor does it make you an automatic Hindu. Or, an authority on yoga, Vedic studies or Indology (yes, that is a real academic subject.)

Nor does having a made up Sanskit-derived moniker name make you any more real either with names like Blissananda, Ganeshananda, Serenityananda etc.

5. 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.

YouTube Preview Image


Another yogi who pretty much indirectly admits Caucasians are inferior to Indians is Bikram Choudhury. In his 60 minutes interview, he said that the intense physical aspects of Bikram yoga is more “suitable” to North Americans because they need to discipline themselves physically before they can start on the spiritual and psychic—and that it’s not necessary for Indians. That somehow, the physical and mental make-up of Caucasians is different from Indians and therefore, they need to do an additional step of rigorous physical training before attempting anything spiritual. Does anyone see the double-speak and double-standard here? (at 1:15 and 10:10)

Thai Forest Tradition Buddhist monk.

They are promising you enlightenment just as long as you pay up or keep giving enforced “donations”—but it doesn’t work that way.

Why do you think celibate Buddhist monks devote their entire lives to living in monasteries under vows of poverty, living off of alms, trying to achieve enlightenment?

Because it’s excruciatingly hard work—and it takes a lot more than a weekend retreat or two, plus reading a best-seller, to get there.


6. Yoga can become cultic—very quickly—and the levels of self-absorption and narcissism can sky-rocket easily if you don’t watch it…so keep your radar tuned in. I have heard stories of certain Jivamukti yoga instructors threatening to cut off friendships with other yoga instructors from other traditions because they were not completely vegan.

Really folks?

That’s all you can think about?

A woman runs from anti-riot police during a demonstration in Athens, Greece.

There’s a nuclear reactor in Japan which is about to fail and spells disaster for the West coast of North America. Workers in Greece, Spain, Ireland and Portugal are on the front lines fighting technocrats and bankers who are trying to rob them of their right to live in some semblance of dignity and respect. There’s a Maoist insurgency in central India and peasants are trying to keep their land from mining companies and this is what you choose to bicker about?

7. The level of cultural awareness among some of the yoga set is pitiful at times. And yet, this is the same crowd that tries to come off as cultural and spiritual mouthpieces for Indian sub-continent.

It is truly a subcontinent, with vast differences in culture, religion, diet, language, customs and history. The only commonality you will find among Punjabis, Gujaratis, Marathis, Rajasthanis, Bengalis, Tamils, Goan, Keralese, Nepalis, Uttar Pradeshi, Kashmiri, Assamese, Ladakhs, Orissians etc is possibly the brown skin…if that.

Once upon a time, all these provinces and territories were their own kingdoms and countries. They were amalgamated and consolidated into one state and created into India by the British. Think of them as entirely different countries with their own unique identities—you wouldn’t mix up a Pole with a Russian (and if you did, they’d probably punch you), so why should you mix up a Tamil with a Punjabi?

You have no idea how annoying it is to hear some girl at the yoga studio look at you and say, “Oh, I have an Indian friend and her parents made her get married to some computer engineer in San Jose and she had to get this thing signed with witnesses. What’s that about?”

Me: “Was she Sikh?”

Girl: “No, I think she’s Muslim.”

Me: “Well, I’m Sikh, so I’m not really sure.”

Girl: “But she’s Indian, just like you.”

Me: “Yeah, but we have many different religions in India and practice things differently.”

And it just goes downhill from there.

In the end, I began to see how vacuous the scene was becoming and has become.

I still love the feeling I get after doing a session but I just can’t stand to be around the high-school popularity contest atmosphere which has permeated many of the studios these days—and some of the more vapid personalities who are claiming to be instructors and taking advantage of their privileges.

I know they are not all like that. There are some genuine, well-meaning people in the yoga community and some of them are doing some truly outstanding work.

But for me personally, I question the profit-driven, hedonistic aspects which seems to have taken over the subculture.

Yogadork recently had an article asking if yoga needs to grow up.

In short, yes. Big time.

*This pieced has been adapted from the original post on earthenergyreader.wordpress.com.


Earth Energy Reader is an over-educated but bored thirty-something who loves pugs, organic gardening, traveling to off-the-beaten-path places and pleasant surprises.

Likes: The Truther Movement, well-done astrology, 80′s alternative music, rainbows, flowers that smell like flowers, mashed potatoes, roasted garlic, wine and port, Indian, Thai and Greek food, Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen, Sunday brunch, reading, Ryzsyard Kapucinski books, old Jean Paul Gaultier, red lipstick, leopard print pumps, vintage hats and David Bowie.

Dislikes: Hip hop, country western music, Nickelback, New Agers, Canadian winters, Stephen King, sheeple, suburban mediocrities, Mexican food, Mondays, jocks, himbos and bimbos, people who ride their bicycle on the foot path and pedestrians on the bike path especially when the two paths are next to each other, people who stand at the front of the bus and block the entrance when there are tons of open seats in the back. You get the idea.




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342 Responses to “Why I Left Yoga (& Why I Think A Helluva Lot Of People Are Being Duped). ~ Irasna Rising”

  1. Sheetali Singh says:

    As an Indian maybe I can explain.

    I'm a traditional Hindu, as are many of my family members and friends. I have the same guru my parents and grandparents have. I grew up in a household where puja, chanting and meditation were done daily and now I do them myself on my own. I fast on a certain day every week. I follow the protocols of my tradition and I usually wear Indian clothes or a blend of Indian and non-Indian "fusion" clothing.

    I completely LOVE the fact that yoga and other aspects of Indian culture like kirtan are becoming mainstream in the West. Sure, there is some watering down and mixing up (as there is in India) but these watered down, mixed up versions serve as an introduction to much broader and deeper traditions that those who are searching for can find if they want to.

    I love seeing "westerners" in Indian clothes and if worn right it looks great on them (sometimes better than it looks on me).

    I am more than happy to teach westerners about my traditions when they show interest and include them in my cultural festivals and events.

    We live in a very diverse, multi-cultural world and there is a lot of exchange between peoples and cultures and for one think its a great thing.

    HOWEVER, I have found that young, highly westernized, post-modern "liberal" type Indians are on some "identity politics" trip and are the first ones to claim "cultural appropriation" while being more absorbed and plugged into "western culture" than they ever were their Desi culture, whether Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, whatever.

    Those of us who are traditonally and deeply engaged in our South Asian cultures are usually the ones who appreciate the interest of non-South Asians in them and lament the fact that "post-modern desis" are not all that interested in their own traditions but nontheless cop arrogant, snarky attitudes towards "westerners" who are.

  2. heavyweight says:

    This guy should try and get this published elsewhere as many of his points are well taken. It's rather ironic that EJ published this, seeing as they are more or less a mouthpiece for many of the issues the author raises.

    • elephantjournal says:

      We welcome all views. And this is one of the more popular articles in elephant history. So, what you're saying doesn't really follow.

  3. heavyweight says:

    Haha and the editor's name is something from LOTR followed by "Wise"–clearly his or her original given name. That must have a been an uncomfortable read.

  4. jade_b says:

    hmmmm….I think modern yoga is an entirely new beast…..and perhaps it is time the west stopped mis-appropriating eastern culture….and instead presented a new hybrid practice in a more honest way. Obviously the origins are from the East and that needs to continually be acknowledged in an educational way…but I don't see why the more superfluous aspects can't evolve in a different direction due to environmental factors …and the fact is Westerners do dress, eat, think etc differently …which is fine….in the same way language evolves due to street slang and local vernacular 'corrupting' linguistics …it makes sense traditional practices like yoga…will adapt and change accordingly too.
    So I can see why all the westerners affectations would be galling to an Indian …but I also think it's fine for western culture to incorporate and redefine Yoga for the 21st century

  5. jack says:

    It sure is enlightened of you to be annoyed by one of the myriad white faces in the crowd that attempted to connect with one of the "token" brown faces. I guess if she had just ignored you, she'd have been a racist instead of "vacuous".

  6. @solri says:

    Most of this sounds like problems with America rather than problems about yoga as such.

  7. SoyMilk says:

    As a 'brown-skinned', 'ethnic' woman who's also 'living abroad', your article comes across as really bitter and representative of attitudes that speak volumes on intolerance and biased judgements. Instead of picking apart each of your points and tearing them to shreds, I suggest doing more yoga – doing it, not standing on the sidelines and commenting on everyone else. Honey, you could do with a lot more of it. 'Namaste, baby, Namaste.' ;-)

  8. Gabriela says:

    Irasana I think you are right with everything, including at the end that you added that not all teachers are the same, some of us have devoted ourselves through the years to develop awareness, innersight, pureness of speech and share it with others. I suggest you find another group and more silence inside you. And I think you can also find in this very acurate observation some ideas on your comunity to correct the failures that you see, I`m sure that with that beautiful sensitivity of yours you`ll find a way to make a change!

  9. Kimberly says:

    This article comes off as an angry and judgmental rant. Do you realize that there actually are authentic teachers and practitioners in America? You sound as privileged as the people you are critiquing. Btw, i study yoga, I have a teacher in India, we chant in Sanskrit. I teach others on a sliding scale in a poor neighborhood.

    • Kimberly says:

      I would also like to add, even the title "Why I left Yoga" demonstrates the authors misunderstanding, as she must equate it with "going to yoga" in a trendy studio with wanna-be Indians. THis is odd since she seems to consider herself an expert on the subject since she is from India. Yoga is a discipline, a practice, a religion for some and a way of life- you don't just leave. you can stop practicing it, for sure. The choice of emotional hysteria over intelligence in journalism these days is disheartening.

  10. TJ says:

    I am East Indian and I find this article poorly written and ignorant. Your generalized comments appear to be more opinions then facts and are not supported. I am proud that the west is looking to the east to gain knowledge and new skills. Vice versa has occurred as well. Information when transferred is bound to be adapted to the needs of that particular society. I agree with a previous comment that an overall bitterness prevails from your wiring and it is disappointing to read something so negative. Your references to yourself as “brown” and to Caucasians as “white faces in the crowd” while not necessarily racist reveal an immaturity in your views. I would suggest being open minded and focusing on yourself rather than others at your next yoga session, you may just gain more than expected.

  11. Yoga Lynne says:

    As beautiful and as pure yoga is, it has one major flaw and that is that it is taught by humans and practised by humans and all humans are flawed. As a yoga teacher I have welcomed and taught everyone who has walked into my classes. There is no one type of person that comes to yoga and all have different reasons for stepping on to a yoga mat for the first time. As for the Lululemon girl all slim and trendy, I have had many in my classes and some have become true yogis, we all start our yoga journey somewhere. Yoga is no different than anything else whether it be Law/Religion/Politics all have people we would look up to as virtuous only for us to find out they are charismatic charlatans.That's life.As for Earth Energy Reader you will never find a class where you like and ethically approve of everyone in in the class. You need to practise acceptance, accept the person on the mat next to you for who they are with good grace and as you start your yoga practice the practice become yours you on your mat in the moment.

  12. srichey321 says:

    I've been doing Yoga for over ten years and agree with a lot of the stuff in the article. I still go because it is good exercise and I keep a saying that some people are familiar with.

    "Take what you need and leave the rest".

  13. Dawn says:

    Tolerance, everyone is a work in progress, compassion.

  14. Miao_Sheng says:

    Yoga is a doorway to practicing Buddhism open to the non-spiritual to help relieve suffering and save lives. I had zero spirituality and practiced yoga for 7 years before I found my way home and became a monk. Have some compassion. Be well…

    • Sheetali Singh says:

      Yes I made that point above. That even watered down, consumerist "yoga" in the West, can and often does serve as a gateway to authentic South Asian traditions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, etc. And even when it doesn't, that's ok too.

  15. tdrosner says:

    Well, that is 10 minutes of my life that I can't get back. There is a point there, but it is a little ironic that she emphasizes how different the cultures are, and then admits that she is a Sikh…from that perspective, not more qualified than any of the entitled white people to speak about what is authentic.

  16. Dagny says:

    By your logic, no "brown" people should be doing ballet, Irish dance, or anything from a "white" culture. "Reverse" racism is just as bad as regular racism. And a quick economics lesson would illustrate the relationship between price and market demand, so just because you find the cost of taking yoga classes a little high doesn't mean the person paying rent and operating costs on a studio, paying thousands of dollars for accreditation, paying a bevvy of teachers what are (let's be serious) pretty damn low wages — trust me, they're not becoming billionaires on this. If you believe yoga should be available to more economically disadvantaged people then by all means go get your certification and start a free community class. But your reasons for discrediting yoga and the people who practice it are even more biased and ill-informed than the views and behaviors you're railing against.

  17. Abby Day says:

    Im sorry but I could really not finish this article after reading your constant ‘disapproval of so many white people into yoga and tryin to act brown” and all that. If you seriously care that much then you should take a racisit check on yourself. If thats what people enjoy doing and makes them happy then let them do it, white brown black purple green whatever ‘colour of skin’ you are. If it bothers you that much then dont look or acknowledge. Time to get off your high horse I think?

  18. Savi says:

    Sanskrit is beautiful, and far from dead, thank you very much….

  19. Sonia says:


  20. Val says:

    Your point was lost in this racist drivel. "…you wouldn’t mix up a Pole with a Russian (and if you did, they’d probably punch you)," Really? And you're NOT racist?

  21. byronyoga108 says:

    I'm sorry but you lost me at Bikram, Hot, and Moksha yoga. Really wanted to take this article seriously.

    Thanks anyhow.

  22. Ann says:

    I view it as focused exercise, somewhat meditative and relaxing, nothing more, nothing less. It's not a cult for me, the instructor is not my spiritual leader, and I don't need lululemon to do it. I do pay $99 a month for unlimited, but I'm not a pampered trophy wife either (wtf is?). I'm a struggling, busy SAHM counting pennies to be home with young kids and fit in some fitness in my Target yoga pants and tanks. I know I could technically practice at home, but regardless I'm tired of the stereotype of wealthy ladies who lunch doing yoga. All gyms in the US are fairly expensive. Exercise is a basic privilege, in any form. I just think the word privilege gets translated into some really exaggerated stereotypes. And hasn't it been "trendy" for like, decades? I don't view it as trendy really. It's been around forever. It's been popular forever. It's not that different from other exercise, the way it is practiced. It's not going anywhere either.

    • tiniertina says:

      I agree with you in many ways, even though I do practice whatever-it-is at home. It is no longer yoga. I have found that yoga does not serve me–with my age and infirmities. Living in a big city, I do run into the spiritual materialism and the stereotype. But, guess what?

      They are shopping on their own (not through some personal assistant) in Whole Foods and in upscale fitness centers where they do the traditionally working-class sport of pumping iron based bodybuilding (I'm not talking about Cross-Fit here or any of its derivatives or imitators). An expensive, big city–New York City. That image for yoga is the media talking, not too much more. And New York City, wherein I breathe the same oxygen as they (perish the thought, I guess, unless they start using invisible spaceman masks that I could see) is still the home of much of that media. These upscale women (and men) impart their perceived attitudes and glamor to those around them. And some of them can't help but live on plastic for the image. Or with a zillion roommates, or as rentiers/renters under illegal sublease conditions. But I am that "cat that can look at a queen" …

      Jen Selter – Caucasian ethnic, though she is, has developed the "yoga butt" that may have already graced stock photos on this web site–and she is a weight-trainer, not a yogini.

      It is so much easier now to be looking at yoga from the outside looking in. And acknowledging those differences, and letting them go, moving on. At least personally.

      Because, the practice of yoga is itself embroiling; and I mean that in every sense of the word, "embroiling".

  23. Nellie says:

    This is exactly what I've been thinking for so long. How does the spiritual materialism in the yoga culture elude so many people?

  24. Tom says:

    I get some of your points and frustrations, but you're missing out on a great equalizer that's out there, the Internet! There are now many yoga websites that have hundreds of yoga class videos you can do from the comfort of your home. Most of these sites charge about $10 per month, less than the cost of one class at a studio! For me, this was a great solution since I have social anxiety and I also discovered styles of yoga I wasn't even aware of, since they aren't offered at any of my local yoga studios. I'm a white male, but the Sanskrit chants resonate with my soul and make me feel more peaceful, and centered, so I'm going to do them, I don't really care if it's a dead language. I also study Sikhism and find it to be a really beautiful religion and have taken a lot from it. We do have yoga studios in my area that offer work exchanges and also that offer sliding scale, income based classes. I even had a yoga instructor in Austin a few years ago who offered a once weekly class on a donation basis. I was pretty broke and would sometimes bring her soy candles I had made. I do believe there's a solution for every person's income level if they really want to do yoga. I hate the overly capitalist system here too and the glammed up yoga studio types, but I think the best we can do is try to work toward solutions .

  25. Lysa says:

    THANK YOU!!!!! I whole-heartedly agree, especially as the "Only-Black-Chick-In-Yoga" classes in both West LA and East Atl/North Atl classes. I used to teach Yoga to children, but then i got the strange feeling that the non-like-me parents thought I wasn't "authentic"…uhmmm…white enough to teach their little ones, who loved the classes by the way. Unfortunately, I have allowed the classicism/racism to stop my Yoga practice in public, but I still practice at home with my children, which is the most important thing :) Namaste~

    • Sheetali Singh says:

      " I used to teach Yoga to children, but then i got the strange feeling that the non-like-me parents thought I wasn't "authentic""

      What was it that gave you this strange feeling, Lysa?

  26. Ritchie says:

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  27. David Lincecum says:

    I don't find any valid points in this article. I can't tell you how much ethnic diversity exists in yoga – even in my own classes. maybe you should start a program to encourage it if it would make you feel better. I don't think that because I am white and practice yoga that I am a poser or pretender and that i really have no place doing it or chanting dead sanskrit words. its fun!
    I know people who run yoga studios. they are not rich. Neither are their teachers. They charge a rate so they can pay rent and expenses and teachers and make a living. They use trades with people to clean the studio and do other things. There may be a few people making big bucks – but not in the average town – average studio. The people who live nearby come and practice. Sometimes they leave for a while and then come back. Teachers come and go. Classes are all different. people wear gym shorts, lululemon, prana, cotton, gap, whatever. You are turning in to something it is not. it only exists in your way, in your mind. You are creating all the conflict. Proof of this is because – I don't feel this conflict at all.

  28. Steve says:

    These are all valid cultural issues. Similar complaints would apply to many things- style, music and entertainment, religion, education, sports, and yes, yoga. What we call yoga in the US today is practically a new art form. It's far from being 5000 years old; barely 50 in most ways. It's filled with foolishness but also lots of wisdom. We can hope that, like the other cultural things, wisdom prevails. If we stay in it for the goodness it offers and if we place of focus and our dollars on what feels true and wise, it will evolve.

  29. Sher says:

    Loved the article, love your writing. Preach!

  30. mana says:

    did u hear about ARYAN INVERSION THEORY ????????THEY believe that all yoga thing started from ARYAN people which were cocasion and IRANIAN.

  31. Robyn Toner says:

    this just pisses me off.. Not all yoga teachers are elitist cult-like snobs… some of us are just awesome people. Period. I don't often speak in sanskrit terms but if I did, awesome.. I don't pretend to be "ethnically brown" I'm white, and Canadian, who cares.. I don't decide what people pay for the yoga classes of mine they take, but yes, it's a business like any other… believe it or not, some of us just generally like to help people calm down, stress less, have better range of motion in their joints and be part of something great. I'm so sick of the the whole "yoga trend" phrase… yoga is not new, but if people are just discovering it then that's amazing because it in itself is a great practice… but like everything else in the world, if you weren't the one to discover it then you're not as 'authentic' or as 'dedicated' … ugh… BORED of this… move on to issues that MATTER.

  32. anastomoses2013 says:

    As an Indian woman, I totally understand this article – it voices many things that I have been thinking and feeling for a long, long time. To me, yoga is a way of life, not a status symbol or a hobby or a way to keep fit. It is about so much more, and it is not something to be taken lightly in my opinion – you're either in or you're out in terms of commitment to it as a way of thinking, being mindful, of being in daily life. I am not happy about the commericalisation – the lines of clothing for yoga, the ridiculous cost of classes because it's yoga as a business, etc – I don't think that it should be this way. Fair enough, the western and eastern philosophies and approaches to life are different, but I feel like this is taking something beautiful and making it black and white and distorting it into something barely recognisable and no longer really all that good.

    I don't believe that yoga should be used in the west, to be honest, not unless people are willing to embrace it as a whole, consider the lifestyle it embodies, and not just make it about the physical practise. Sure, it might have benefits for western society, but I think that instead of using it as a new fad (or an old fad now), we could look at the roots of why we have such problems (chronic stress, not enough exercise, eating habits that may not be the best for us) and deal with those. Bandaid fixes are only temporary.

    Sure, yoga does help a lot of western people to feel good and connect with themselves, to be more mindful, etc, and that's great. It just sucks that they often don't look deeper into what yoga really is. And it also sucks that this, when done by enough people, means that there is a certain sense of lack of respect for the holistic practise of yoga as it is practised in the east. And we're all responsible for that.

    I still practise yoga, but at home, with my family, and through my entire day, not just when I'm on the mat. I practise it in watching my thoughts and feelings, in my interactions with other people and the planet, in reflecting on my past and my future, in my prayer and in so many other ways. I don't go to classes, because I often feel like they are missing something big, and missing the point.

    I know a lot of people don't share my views, which is okay – everyone should have their own informed opinions. I do wish, however, that those who value their yoga practises would try to understand the immense history and complexity of yoga, and look deeper than the physical individual level.

    Irasna – right on, sister.

  33. Amery says:

    Most of the studios I went to in Los Angeles stated on their rate sheets that they offered a sliding scale for those that couldn't afford the regular rates. They all had at least 3 donation classes a week. They were packed- always. They wanted to make yoga available to all.

    People can practice at home, with a video or a $20/month online subscription to something like yogaglo. Or at their gym. There are many different ways to practice.

    Yoga has gotten extremely popular and when things get popular someone always tries to do it in new ways. Don't sweat the dance-club-yoga thing… it's a fad, it will pass.

    We take from yoga what we need. We go to a class, we don't like it, we find another. Not sure why there's so much vittrol in this. You seem to be looking for the negative, instead of the positive.

  34. inkkedlunae says:

    I do yoga, but it's just because I can do it. I am not athletic enough for any fast-paced kinds like crossfit or kick-boxing. Pilates or yoga or tai chi would do me fine. Yoga helps me with my balance as I have an inner ear balance and/or vertigo (I am not sure which, but it's been pointed out that I have them). I do have a "Om" tattoo, but it's not for yoga. It's for the philosophy behind it and for Buddhism. I've studied Buddhism fairly, and I like the philosophy and it's my way of honoring it and reminding it. Honestly, though, yoga isn't really accessible to me. I am Deaf and it's clear to people that I am Deaf when I attempt poses. Everyone's different and faces life different. I do understanding the white-washing of yoga, particularly how the media tend to use skinny white girls for something (be it on television, advertisements, etc.)

  35. MIrta says:

    What you were practicing was not yoga. May be there are not many studios that are True to Yoga but keep looking becaus we are not all charlatans.


  36. karen says:

    Interesting perspective. Kudos to the editor for posting it. To those on a serious path, feedback like this is always welcome. Those who are not may well feel the sting of unwelcomed awareness. Namaste.

  37. WinterSong says:

    While there were some good points in this article, I felt the writing to be condescending and even mean-spirited at times.
    Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so rather than being indignant about people honoring Indian traditions, why not be complimented?

    And if the best a person can do right now is read a book, or make it to yoga practice once a week (or month!), who are we to judge them? Maybe that is the best they can do with their current situation and resources.

    It is said that the biggest battle in yoga is the battle against the ego, and the judgment and venom spewed forth in this article were very disappointing. I don't want to think about the color of my skin or the brand of my yoga mat, and I don't want to believe that anyone else is looking around with criticizing eyes seeking to do that. I have never once thought of the demographic breakdown of my classes (but this article has made me realize that it is indeed very diverse by the way).

    Anything that works well and is life-changing will always attract hipsters and popularity junkies. Perhaps that is part of our battle then: to keep our mind within the confines of our own yoga mat, without judgment or criticism of others' journeys. Everyone is put into our path for a reason. We are no better or worse than they are.

    In the end, we all just travelers walking each other home.

    • Sheetali Singh says:

      "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so rather than being indignant about people honoring Indian traditions, why not be complimented? "

      Traditionally minded Indians are complimented. Post-modern, highly-westernized Indians into identity politics are not.

      We in the Desi diaspora call them ABCDs – American Born Confused Desis.

      (Desi means "South Asian" in general and Indian in this particular case. And oh, the word desi is from Sanskrit no less. You know, that "dead language" the author mentions).

  38. Reneed says:

    Wow. You have way too much time on your hands. I'm white, I don't necessarily make a lot of $ but I have been practicing yoga on and off for 18 years for many reasons. (And yes I have done yoga @ a music festival, we have had club deejays play music for us during some classes and don't see anything wrong with that either. If you don't think those 2 worlds should come into contact, don't go to those classes. period) So many other things wrong with this articles but not worth the time. Sad that rather than just enjoy your own practice during class, you were too busy being judgmental & wasting time making assumptions about all the people around you. I'll keep going because of what I get out of it mentally, physically, sometimes spiritually, because of the friends I've made through these classes and because what might not be perfect about the 'SCENE' (or any scene for that matter) hasn't carried any weight since I was 19 yrs old.

  39. Jorge says:

    I'm Costarrican (you would say Latino). I agree with certain things that you mentioned, but I think that you don't respect diversity. Anyone can behave or dress as they want to, they don't have to be from a certain race or color, as you put it, to behave or dress in a certain why. That is a very narrowminded mentality. Let people do what makes them happy. If they are not hurting themselves or hurting others, why should we tell others what is good or right? Thanks God the United States is so open minded, so people like you can learn from them.

  40. Joseh says:

    A good bunch of not too bad justified…. excuses

  41. Rich says:

    I agree with #2 completely i have yet to find a yoga studio that is under $1000.00 however I found a Yoga studio that is donation based in Jupiter, Florida you pay what you think the class is worth however that money adds up at the end of the year

  42. LynnDC says:

    I don't do yoga for anything except how it makes me feel, which is not just stronger physically but also clearer mentally. I believe that it has also had an unexpected effect on me spiritually too, which I did not expect and which is not an overt part of the class. I grew up in a rural American community and did not have the option to practice then but have been glad of the opportunity as an urban adult. An expensive gym membership does permit me to practice (I don't know how to do it independently and as a mom with a young child and 2 jobs don't have time to travel very far afield to find another experience) but I have never experienced anything except encouragement or kindness from anyone in there and I don't happen to be one of those for whom the practice seems to come easily. I was looking for an exercise class that I could connect to and was pleased to find more, but I do not want it to have more of a place in my life than it does and I guess it never occurred to me before reading this article that what was enough for me might be judged by someone else as not being nearly enough and, because of who I am, can never really belong.

    Lots of different cultural practices have been borrowed by other cultures throughout history and have gained their own importance and meaning. (Take a look at how Japanese women have fallen in love with western weddings – with roots in paganism and the Judeo-Christian traditions, for example.) Snobbery about them not being authentic just because they aren't experienced in the same way or because some people spend too much money on them seems like a waste of energy.

    Elephant Journal has felt increasingly fluffy lately – I think it's time for me to cancel my subscription.

  43. Alb says:

    mmm What were the arguments here… ?

  44. Lauren says:

    Just like ethnic people embrace western life…I too, deeply embrace cultural life.

    I am envious of your deep seeded roots. Your foods, your clothing, your spiritual practices. I grew up without any real culture (unless you count blood pudding and haggis as tradition) and though I dislike the trend of yoga and the costs associated with having a group practice, I became a white north American yoga teacher to teach space and peace to a heavily over worked and under focused population..only to use that training for myself and my own practice. Maybe someday I will simply share yoga, not charge for it. …

    I am glad for the person and people responsible for sharing your culture with the west…but just remember. ..like Indians wear adidas… I someday too will own a saree.

    Spread love. Namaste.

  45. Gabby Mc says:

    trying to resist… but here it goes. Quite the close minded and opinionated article. HUGE delusion is that yoga teachers are not human beings.. naïveté in putting a human being on such a high pedestal. Quoting teachers that have passed on the teachings of yoga is much more humble than someone passing on ideas of an ancient tradition as their own. Just because Irasna is Indian gives her the ethnic right to make such rash assumptions about other races participating in the practice of yoga? It is unfortunate that Irasna surrounds herself around affluent and bored people…maybe time to step outside of your comfort zone and look through non judgmental eyes at others. Yoga is available to every class, every race, every age, every financial status….again maybe time to make an effort in some self study (FYI, part of yoga practice). Let go of the color of your skin and the color of those that roll their mats out in a class, hard to argue this comment is not racist. Where is the law that says you have to be brown and Indian to wear a Sari? Missed that one! Little lesson…The Catholic Church still holds its roots in the Latin language, Catholic school students learn Latin and masses are still said in Latin. The Sanskrit language is a huge part of the tradition of yoga teachings. Why if you are searching for the authenticity of of yoga practice would you even suggest removing

  46. Ritchie says:

    It's amazing how there are so many people that are offended after reading this article and I thought denial was a river in Egypt.

    • Sheetali Singh says:

      As an Indian I've not only observed the commercialization of Hinduism (of which Yoga is one of the 6 principle philosophical schools), I was born into it. Our banks are named after our gods for goddess's sake!

      Commercialization of Hinduism is not limited to "westerners". We South Asian Hindus started that trend hundreds if not thousands of years ago.

  47. Rubyroberts1976 says:

    I think the problem I have here is that we can't help where we are born, or how much privilege we are born into. I appreciate that there is inequity and this needs to be fixed. I am a staunch leftie and proudly working class and I very much understand the whole privilege and class issues, the freedom some people have to practice yoga and so on. Some people don't have such freedom, they work hard, have families to care for and so on.

    Like all communities, the yoga community attracts its share of vain fashion victims who use yoga to stroke their own egos. That isn't unique to yoga, though. Thing is, other people's life and their inner world is theirs and no one else's business. I don't think it is particularly righteous to reserve compassion for underdogs without recognising that material wealth doesn't necessarily bring happiness. Should yoga not be about inclusiveness and compassion for all people, flaws and all? Even the vain, rich and deluded? They will still face death like the rest of us, relationship breakdown, family problems, all those things.

    Surely then, the more people who try to love consciously and compassionately, the better, regardless of who they are or the circumstances of their birth. There are com artists in India, there are people in the west who use yoga culture for shallow profiteering. Does that mean it is a complete con and we are all being duped? That sounds rather extreme to me.

  48. Sheetali Singh says:

    As a traditional Indian yogini I want to encourage as many people as possible to, as the author calls it, "appropriate" my culture. Why? Because my culture is great and people around the world have a lot to learn from it.

    I love walking into an American yoga studio and seeing a Ganesh statue welcoming me, or Indian style clothes for sale. Why? It shows that this studio has not divorced yoga from its indigenous roots.

    The author seems ashamed of her Indian cultural roots and to believe they are not worthy of going global.

  49. Tray says:

    Relax, writer… there will always be people who will annoy you and bother you. You have to just let that go and accept it. I thought this would be an informative article but it's just complaining.
    I know there are phonies everywhere but you don't have to pull the race card.

  50. Desi and proud says:

    westerners did not bring yoga to the west. indian yogis brought yoga to the west. racist comments like this are why this woman wrote this article in the first place.

    and have you ever been to india? why are you insulting the place? your comment is hateful and even more of a crock of cow shit than the article, which i didn't even like.

    i'm an indian woman who has grown up all over the world though mostly in the US. i have had moments (years) where i disliked white people in indian garb or getting involved in traditionally indian things because many white people have this annoying habit (hello, does colonial legacy mean anything to you?) of unapologetically appropriating other peoples cultures.

    in saying that, i do think that this author is complaining and overly generalizing and that there are many many things that she could do to remedy the issues she has with the practice in the west. be the change you want to see in the world, right? i also agree with some of the comments above about this article focusing on material issues when all people in the world are one.

    but your comment is unwarranted and hateful. take a look at yourself before criticizing others.

  51. Rita Kirkpatrick says:

    Since you took offense to the article, you must know that its about people like you.

  52. Lakshmi says:

    Thank you for this!!

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