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.

 

 

Relephant:

10 Must Have Buys for the Spiritual Materialist.

~

Editor: Bryonie Wise

Like elephant yoga on Facebook.

About elephant journal

elephant journal is dedicated to "bringing together those working (and playing) to create enlightened society." We're about anything that helps us to live a good life that's also good for others, and our planet. >>> Founded as a print magazine in 2002, we went national in 2005 and then (because mainstream magazine distribution is wildly inefficient from an eco-responsible point of view) transitioned online in 2009. >>> elephant's been named to 30 top new media lists, and was voted #1 in the US on twitter's Shorty Awards for #green content...two years running. >>> Get involved: > Subscribe to our free Best of the Week e-newsletter. > Follow us on Twitter Fan us on Facebook. > Write: send article or query. > Advertise. > Pay for what you read, help indie journalism survive and thrive—and get your name/business/fave non-profit on every page of elephantjournal.com. Questions? info elephantjournal com

222,276 views

Appreciate this article? Support indie media!

(We use super-secure PayPal - but don't worry - you don't need an account with PayPal.)

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

  1. [...] reads that had me raising my eyebrow (but for different reasons) were these two online articles: Why I Left Yoga (and Why I Think A Helluva Lot of People Are Being Duped) and A Class for Every Yoga Mood. The latter may also qualify as a yuk it up feature, as it sure [...]

  2. Swami Param says:

    It is past time to give up the phony yoga movement. Real Yoga are the many teachings and practices of Hindu Dharma; taught by Hindus and not for a fee. If people want Hinduism, fine, if not, get out of the phony yoga business.

  3. sam says:

    As a relatively new practitioner, super excited about starting teacher training this fall, I was sad and troubled by this article. Part of my personal search for mindfulness includes not rejecting automatically things I don't agree with or understand. So I kept thinking about it. Also adding to my discomfort were my feelings about seeing what I felt were disrespectful white appropriations of Native American culture I saw on a recent trip through NM and AZ (the Kachina painted on the snack shop's sign really got to me!). Of course, I had to ask myself, am _I_ appropriating or exploiting another culture by loving and practicing yoga? The answer is: I certainly hope not. If intention counts for what I think it does, then I'm not.

    I'm so sorry that's been your experience with yoga. It hasn't been mine, and I sincerely hope it never is. I don't know what or who Lululemon or the Pussy Cat Dolls are, but I doubt I'd see them as a genuine representation of _anything_. Sad to say, we encounter insincerity and dishonesty in many places. Then we have to decide how to respond to it.

  4. thirtydaysofyoga says:

    :O( So sad. I personally believe you get out of it what you put in and when you stop looking around at what others are saying, doing or wearing, yoga becomes intensely personal, very powerful and wonderful. Your view is entirely external and of course, you're entitled to your external impression but it doesn't make it true. I hope you find what you're looking for.

  5. quantum probability says:

    For me, it was and always will be, the health benefits of yoga which attracted me and which still keeps me around

    I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the Mark Singleton piece that was so popular maybe a year ago. He argues that much of yoga practice is not rooted in (faux) spirituality but began ~100 years ago as a series of merely physical exercises.

  6. [...] read Irasna Rising’s rage against the yoga machine, “Why I Left Yoga & Why I Think a Helluva Lot of People Are Being Duped,” and I felt validated. It felt good to read it the way it feels good when your girlfriends [...]

  7. [...] But here’s the thing, even though I’m a yoga teacher I can see how the western yoga world is an un-safe and un-welcoming place for many [...]

  8. [...] But here’s the thing: even though I’m a yoga teacher I can see how the Western yoga world is an unsafe and unwelcoming place for many people. [...]

  9. [...] the hardest part about embracing yoga for me: the pretentious, holier-than-thou side; or as one friend put it, the part of yoga that is “a bunch of rich white people saying namaste [...]

  10. [...] The current situation inside Tibet is becoming increasingly more tense and daily news of self-immolations certainly doesn’t make for a bright and cheery pre-Christmas mood. I do not want to enter the political debate over Tibet, but in the past 12 months I have learned more about life and spirituality than any yoga class, ashram stay, retreat or teaching I have ever attended (and there have been a few in my time). [...]

  11. [...] to elephantjournal.com for posting my yoga article which sent the yoga community into a tailspin back in July. I had no idea my experience of the yoga [...]

  12. [...] the Vatican warns against its perceived conflict with Christianity. Others point out that the trend fetishizes another culture while catering mainly to the white and affluent. (Think the scene in Annie Hall where a Los Angeles [...]

  13. [...] her post, Roro references another highly-relevant exploration of the topic, “Why I Left Yoga (& Why I Think A Helluva Lot Of People Are Being Duped)” by Irasna Rising. Rising touches on a lot of the other problematic aspects of the current yoga [...]

  14. fanwar says:

    Impressive thoughtful article, agree with your points and inspired with your views!

  15. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, was a tireless critic of the professional meditators who fool the innocent public with their yoga and meditation techniques that have noting to do with spirituality and everything to do with increasing physical health only for the sake of sex-life. The present day so-called yogis have no real spiritual power like the rishis of old. They sell yoga siddhis and teach meditation only for the prestige and money and glamour of being "teachers" and have no understanding of true spirituality, which as taught in Bhagavad-gita is bhakti-yoga, loving union with the Godhead, Sri Krishna, through surrender to the guru who is coming down in disciplic succession from Krishna Himself. The modern day bhakti movement was inaugerated by Sri Caitanya 500 years ago. Any interested persons can learn about bhakti and loving devotion at http://www.krishna.com. Hare Krishna.

  16. Nicole says:

    Just because I'm a white teenage girl with freckles who has lululemon things does not mean that I should be looked down upon from people like you. My yoga practice is mine and only mine. If i choose to wear certain clothes because it enhances my practice then thats my choice. I agree with some of the things you said but you should be less concerned with what is going on around you and more concerned with what your body is feeling.

  17. melissa says:

    Hear, hear to the author and to Laksmi's comments above and a few others that are willing to see past their own agendas to the truth of this article.
    but Wow, just wow. The level of unexamined privilege, racism and justification for cultural appropriation dripping from most of these comments is truly cringe-worthy and brutal, especially the first few pages. It completely proves the original premise that Westerners are comfortable co-opting other cultures and then bashing those that would call them on it. The response to someone telling you that wearing their cultural dress and spiritual symbols is offensive is to tell them: "no, it's not offensive if I say it isn't. I can wear it if I want to cuz other people wear other stuff or cuz I've fully embraced my cultural appropriation. and besides, it looks so good on me, so I will?" Seriously?
    A person sharing their lived experience of racism and cultural appropriation deserves to be treated as real and frankly trumps your theory or wishful thinking. It just does. You can't experience living on that side of things unless you actually do. And slapping them in the face a few more times by telling them their experience (and their willingness to share it) is wrong or some how misguided or it offends your ears to have to listen to it, is just re-affirming that racism and oppression. Surely some of you can see that, right?
    If there are no People of Color or folks from different socio-economic statuses in classes, then that is NOT an accident, it is a SYSTEMIC problem, despite any one person's belief in unity and all one. Systemic racism and oppression require effort on the part of those enjoying the privilege (ie White people, upper classes, etc) to dismantle them. I highly recommend looking up/getting to a live training on some racism 101 stuff, stat. Please, please. It will help us all understand so much more about what it really means to be "all in this together." Being enlightened doesn't mean living in a sunny bubble of privilege. It includes being able to look at reality and to sit with uncomfortable truths. And hopefully take some actions to change them.

    • Robin says:

      It's not that I don't agree that appropriating cultural identity as kitschy by white people is bad. What I don't agree with is bashing someone's skin color as unattractive in certain kinds of clothing. She could get her point across without being nasty about ANYONE'S skin color. Yes, I have loads of white privilege, but I was also teased mercilessly growing up for my freckles. The media told me that any spot on my face was a blemish so I began caking on the foundation at twelve years old to hide my "ugly skin". I am now to a point of healing and loving myself and my freckles but this woman does not understand that everyone has different lived experiences and just because someone has privilege doesn't mean that you can be nasty to them or that they don't hurt.

  18. Kelly says:

    This article really fired me up as after 13 years of practice I couldn't imagin yoga not being part of my life. I as a teacher use sanskrit words because a) I dont know a lot of the english translations b) part of the reason I was told we use sanskrit is so that people of all different languages could come to our class and would know what pose they are doing c) To honour the traditiona and d) I love the way they sound – much the same reason I learnt Spanish. I apologise if I can't pronounce the words perfectly but I feel when people of a different background to me prounounce words in English wrong that I am patient and compassionat whilst listening to them. The thing is that the same way we green wash environmental advertising – anything can be exploited and turned into solely a money making venture. India has thousands of years of vedic and yoga culture – we in the West (I am in Australia) have a very short history comparitively and for that reason the culture has to go through a maturation process just like everuthing else in nature. Perhaps yoga is in it's third chakra ego driven stage… but what I see is more and more choice arrising in how people choose to practice their yoga. I immerse myself in the texts because I don't want to stop at one limb of yoga… many may – and thats fine – but many will move on in their own time. I know a small amount of people in my small town who are f INdian descent (I am sorry I don't know if they are punjabi or maharathi etc.) and they don't practice asana but practice bakti yoga and hence why we don't see them in the studios… I feel that they are perhaps at a different stage in learning to what is on offer in many studios as much of it is infused in their heritage (my impression) but that doesn't mean that their should not be spaces to provide for the people that are in a different stage. I don't agree with exorbitant prices being charged but I do beileve in value and just as I value the business owner next door to me charging for their services in order to feed their family and fill their own cup in order to have the energy to share their gift with the world – so to do I believe it is ok to charge for my services as a yoga teacher. I also know that spending time at the Hindu temple near me for the festival of Lord Ganesha I was the only white person there and I didn't feel threatened by that (although my 4 year old niece did) and loved the way that everyperson their was so happy to see us there and share in their rich and vibrant culture. Much of it is just of interest – I have no desire to be Indian nor dress in Saris etc. but I want to experience all cultures and be interested in the different human experiences.

    All I know is this yoga journey has offered me much more than my own anglo-saxon spiritual history has ever done in the way of something that truly has the power to transform my life and I believe the lives of others. I love the feeling I get when I read the bhagavad Gita and the yoga sutras and no matter how many times I read I get more from them – more than the bible has ever given me. So I am sorry if you find it offensive to share this spriritual culture with a white girl with freckles…. if you could suggest another way that I could maintain my light in order to do good in this world then that would be lovely because as far as I am concerned I give more to the world as a practitioner of yoga than I would if it had not come into my life.

  19. dreamindia2011 says:

    I loved reading this article. so funny. that's exactly why I LOVE living in india. I lived in india almost past 2 years, and I'm from the coast town in California. so look what I gave up to live in India, and I love living in India. I think I have a little bit more credibility than most people like she mentioned above.

    But yes, she's spot on! great article!

  20. camilleshirley says:

    Interesting and something talked about behind closed doors, but I have not seen an article on it until now. My privileged ability to yoga does fluctuate and I still enjoy it, but glad you open up the discussion. Love and light.

  21. kristine says:

    thank you for your honesty. All this is why I have never gotten serious about my practice. the instructors here want to charge way to much, and you end up surrounded by clicks. i will keep my practice to youtuve anf ny own personal time.

  22. Kim says:

    What does “acting ethnically brown” mean? Seriously.

    I confess I am often guilty of doing same thing but I read this and think: this person is understandably frustrated over the apparent emptiness in our culture, including those activities claiming to enlighten us, but your focus on the superficiality only begets more superficiality — which is how your piece read to me. It grates on me to hear the judgement dripping from the page as you criticize people who may not be knowledgeable about India, etc. Be a good example – be kind – practice as you want and leave the rest behind and work for inclusion, not exclusion. I agree a lot of these yoga studios are overpriced and obnoxious , but have you opened your eyes to the free yoga at the sr center a few blocks away? Or the black, white, brown or green person in park doing deep breathing in the park and trying to find ground without even knowing what word “mantra” means? Or how to get in child’s pose? My point is – don’t let all this silly noise blind you to the bigger picture and struggle. And that white girl using a Sanskrit word and making a mistake about Indian culture – she may be smarter than you think. Or at very least she can be impetus for the question : What are you ignorant about?

  23. Qurban says:

    I don’t think yoga has to grow up I think you you need to stop whining so much. Find the good, stick with it, stop looking for something to complain about – maybe you won’t be so bored…

  24. @Gigi_POKi says:

    I feel like a lot of people are getting offended by this article, but it may just be because they have a point and many people feel guilty.

    I'll admit, I've been sucked into the yoga CULTure before. Lululemon and phat buddha clothing, coconut water after sessions, getting different mats to accent my mood, planning trips to Kripalu… All that jazz. And it's hard to get out of that mindset. I agree that yoga (in the west) is very classist. The fact that I was paying 100 dollars a month for unlimited yoga is a pretty good indication of that. That's more than my cell phone bill and internet put together! That's a third of my rent. That GROCERY money.

    So I left the studio and started practicing at home and it has really helped me get back to the root of my practice.

    As for the cultural appropriation thing, step into the writer's shoes for a moment view it from their POV. Someone is taking something that's native to your culture or religion and turned into a fashion statement. You wouldn't wear a yarmulke, Native American headdress, or kimono as a fashion statement, would you? Why is the sari and bindi any different? To the person who equated it to wearing a tee shirt and jeans, no. Just… No. You're bringing a slingshot to a gun fight.

    In any case, the writer makes some valid points and just because you disagree or are offended, it doesn't make them less right. A lot of this made me reflect on myself and on my practice (as these kinds of things should) and helped me realize that there are a lot of things I should probably change. It helped me realize that there are a lot of things about yoga in the western world that should probably be changed.

  25. Interesting writing ………….not so much around Yoga but deeply sensitive to culture, values and strengths that are heartfelt……….very personal and sensitive view of Yoga particularly originating from the culture itself………….Yoga is a blessing for the whole world , as a personal practice and a selfless service to all beings when done as a spiritual practice with meditation it transforms the energy system and magnifies the soul through deep worship with the sacred and self realisation……..blessings to you for your passion and perspective………….Namaste,,,,,,,,,

  26. Jody says:

    What a bummer. Your article makes me really sad. I am a Caucasian middle class, middle-aged woman and yoga has changed my life for the better. Funny, I began my yoga journey in "hot" studios and in Bikram torture sessions and initially fell in love with the intense work outs. I was surrounded by everything you seem to loath, but it led me down a very beautiful path. One that has become very spiritual and very deep and fulfilling (and no longer includes hot or Bikram styles). It has opened my mind to new ideas and deeper appreciation for other cultures. Sanskrit may be a dying language; mispronounced terms may be very offensive to you, but did it ever occur to you that at least there are people of other cultures who are genuinely interested in your heritage?

    I have started studying Sanskrit to gain a deeper understanding of it's meanings and pronunciations. I have no interest in becoming Hindu or in taking on some mod-Hindi name, but it does not mean that my interests are insincere. In fact, I am so inspired by the ancient Ayurvedic medicinal practice that I am taking courses to learn to incorporate these beautiful common sense philosophies into my very busy allopathic health practice. They certainly make a lot more sense to me and to the patients I serve, when Western medicine so often leads them astray with disease oriented and prescription medications as their primary treatment modality.

    It seems to me that you have become very bitter and resentful, towards what? Yoga? I think not. Maybe it's time to put your focus back where it belongs, on your mat and into your own practice. That may be the single most important lesson I have learned through yoga….stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and allow your mind and mouth to be silent (at least on the mat).

    So as not to offend with any misuse of Sanskrit, my beautiful and peaceful soul bows and acknowledges the beautiful and peaceful soul that lives within you ( not intended to be an accurate translation of anything…my true intention for every being). Just don't forget, all of the people you find so intolerable also have beautiful and peaceful souls. Some of them just have not realized it yet.

  27. hibatahir9 says:

    hey can you tell me from which month a pregnet women start doing yoga.

    swat board matric part 2 result 2014

  28. Ozge says:

    I agree with your opinion that yoga has become a trend and we emptied its original meaning altogether and all together. Money-based system devours whatever it can take and vomits them back to us, and we are giving money for it.

    But I have a little objection: Veganism is not about "vegan mayonnaise" as you put a picture of there. It is important, because there is "pain" that lots of animals go through just because we constantly exploit them. And yes, eating animal-derived mayonnaise is a part of it. Because for our taste, for our fashion, for our entertainment, for our science, lots of animals suffer. And it is as wrong as "human-slaves" part of the history. And this exploitation and suffer, believe me, doubles all humanbeings' suffering (from the beginning of history) caused by (again) humans.

    So I can understand those yoga teachers' choice of not to have a contact with the people who they see as "exploiters". So, this has nothing to do with a criticism toward yoga's situation nowadays.

  29. NandiniMG says:

    There's a lot of bitterness, judgement, and a serious lack of compassion in this writing. It's very sad. She's all wrapped up in how everyone else's practice, ideas, and offerings are wrong. She also conveys in her writing that somehow being Indian makes her more qualified and better educated on her culture. Yoga practices consist of tools to take you inside yourself and when you're inside yourself there's no other. Everything about this writing shows how separated and different she believes herself to be. I hope one day she get's the chance to experience yoga in it's true sense. Namaste!

  30. trinn says:

    This appears to be written to be inflammatory and to incite harsh disagreements which solves nothing. This author needs to start being part of the solution rather than focusing on the negatives. These generalizations are hers and not factual for the whole world, white middle upper classes or otherwise. India has a great many things wrong with it including the 'class orders', sexism to the point of rape and murder being acceptable and infant genocide along with rampant poverty to start to use India as a point of arguing that the Western world needs to pick its game up is not a strong argument. The whole world is struggling and yoga is a door way which people can use to improve themselves which in turn will improve this world. The rest are details, it's all about an individual's intentions when they use yoga, like many other things in this world yoga is not a magic bullet and we are not gurus because we practice with it.

  31. Ilana says:

    I stopped reading elephant journal a while ago when I realized that every other article was bashing white women who did yoga, or people who are vegan, or whatever. I accidentally clicked because a friend posted this on her Facebook … Surprise, another article complaining about white women doing yoga. Are white women not supposed to do yoga? Is it that offensive? Should we stick to tennis and cooking for our kids?

    Back to not reading elephant journal. Namaste.

  32. Dianne says:

    Lots of great points. But, I heard somebody recently say that they were grateful for the Westernized yoga bootcamps, because it initially gets people into yoga, and ultimately, in most cases, something changes within in them. Something deeper. Lets hope that continues.

  33. hbomb321 says:

    You lost me for good when you referred to yourself as "bored" – for shame.

  34. Spacecat says:

    Although I take some good points made by other commenters (if Indians can wear jeans and tees, why shouldn't white people wear saris and lungis? people doing cheap yoga classes, or like me in their pjs in the bedroom), I feel like you really spoke to me in your article. I am Indian on my mother's side and sometimes the bastardising of Eastern cultures really grates on me. That's the problem…plagerising and profiteering. And I mean honestly, actors accepting an Oscar starting their speeches with "Namaste…." and hands in prayer position, for instance! I mean, puhleeeaaaaaasssee!!!!!!! There's a funny video on youtube called "Shit yogis say"…..it's by a clothing company that apparently spins it's fabric from the devil's pubic hair and eats kittens, or something, according to posts I've read. But the video is funny and Namaste Muthaf*****s has become a frequently used greeting in my house.

  35. Ian says:

    thanks for sharing your views on all this, but can't I just take a yoga class once or twice a week and be happy that I'm exercising and staying healthy..? I too have my own religious views and ideals and they're quite different from anything related to yoga, but that doesnt mean I would ever intentionally show disrespect to the cultural aspect of it. I haven't even started any yoga classes yet, but I'm looking forward to joining other people at my gym who just want to add it to their exercise routine for the good that it will do for their bodies… I'm not planning on making it much more than that.

  36. yogi says:

    Yoga is a path of absolving individual personality into the Source, God-head….doing yoga for any reason other than living as One with God is taking it out of context and yields less than favorable consequences for the individual…its science…

  37. Sandy says:

    So much, so much I would like to counter, but please, dear author, be current with your information. Re: Latin and the Catholic Church, for example. Latin mass was resurrected many years ago and it is being said all across the US. there are even classes in Latin! It is called the Tridentine Mass, and although I don't understand Latin, I follow along with the english and even sing the lovely meditative latin songs and chants at High Masses. The experience is transcendental, more uplifting than any trendy Kirtan gathering (but, oh my, I'm being judgmental). I was saddend to see the trendy instructors getting all the attention at a Yoga Journal Conference I attended and it was interesting to note some criticism form the 'older" internationally known yogis, stating that some "rock star" teachers might be missing the boat somewhat–not getting the essential heart of yoga. This master teacher and others like him, must hold the candle for those who seek the heart of wisdom, but it is the way of the modern world, isn't it? Think of how media has changed the face of yoga and so many other things. We have so much information at our fingertips and the luxury of experiencing yoga like never before. Begin to nuture the true you and withdraw yourself from extreme reactions. It is good to have an awake mind, grasshopper, but the world will always display its egotistical side and this is just another bottom to push away from. Namaste! All in moderation.

  38. Boodiba says:

    Fun article with a lot of relevant points, but I'd think twice about using Bikram as ANY kind of a moral or intellectual reference.

  39. Joyce Watkins says:

    The world is as it is….it is the ego that makes distinctions, likes and dislikes….I do yoga mainly at home…or at the "y" very inexpensive…it is a life saver, healing me on many levels…physically, mentally, spiritually …I love Sanskrit …it is sacred and the sounds have meaning…I have been to India twice and studied yoga in rishikesh…while Americans will always take things from other countries and morph them into many forms…that is no reason to quit yoga, or be angry…just enjoy the sacred beauty of yoga…there really is nothing like it…I believe it was divinely inspired

  40. Tiff says:

    Probably one of the main reasons why I practice at home, Yoga studios today are way too expensive and too hyped.

  41. Kelly says:

    This is drivel. I am a yoga practitioner and not in the business of yoga. I believe, however, that making profit doing what you love (reaching more people through classes and workshops) is a wonderful thing. Why do you get to judge how it should be done? My advise is to take with you what serves you and let the rest GO. In my town, many studios offer donation based yoga, free yoga in the park, $5 daily classes, web based videos, etc… ANYONE can do yoga if they wish to do so. Consider that the limits and "issues" you see exist only in your mind.

  42. Patricia says:

    At the end of the day, Yoga brings people to exercise, to get curious about other cultures and languages, about BREATHING, about what it means to sweat (detox, prana moving), opens up a community. How is that bad? Yoga has 8 parts, and what you describe here is just one of them. Yeah, things can get blown out of proportion (doing Cirque de Soleil like poses IS NOT YOGA) but if out of 10 people, 2 find the positive aspects of it, why hate on it so much? May be the writer had the wrong teachers. I am "brown", by the way. This article is almost funny.

    • NandiniMG says:

      Yoga is not exercise!!! It was never intended as such. It's about learning t o be in the body and then dropping in past the mind and all it's modifications to who we really are.

  43. Amanda says:

    Very interesting article! I am a Caribbean/Indian woman who decided to study Yoga in India, the source, as an alternative to western psychology. Being drawn to the Yogic practice for the mental health benefits is interesting as I was focused on the other seven limbs of Yoga and was almost forced to consider why Asana was so important. Which is what most people are attracted to worldwide, as we live in a physical/material reality. Asana creates the first connection of body and mind amongst many other amazing medicinal qualities. I have taught and studied for over a decade to different backgrounds in different settings. From Chinese Ladies in Malaysian Studio's to disadvantaged kids in Africa. I've witnessed many people coming to Yoga for many different reasons, but no matter what culture and for what reason's, I've realized Yoga speaks a universal language. And Yoga without Sankrit is like treasure hunting without a map. Sanskrit is deep and full of important truth. Yet It is easy to get lost in the sea of information, teachers, classes and choices as to what Yoga actually is, but once you found it, it is undeniably a practice filled with truth. Because Yoga bring us to our centre and invariably the centre of existence. Very few disciplines can make claims such as this. Becoming disenchanted is an obstacle to keeping a contented mind, yet this is apart of the path of Yoga and one leads one to become more discriminative in one's wisdom. Non-truth does not resonate with truth. Like learning to eat, after eating fastfood for some time one realizes how much better a great homecooked meal is. This I believe is the sensitivity that Yoga brings to ones life, making us wholer, wiser and raises our consciousness…

  44. Simon says:

    It's all true.

    As my step mum used to say "It's all a load of bollocks".

  45. colton says:

    Wow! the writer of this article is entirely racist to Caucasians. Let it be first noted that if you ever have to say I’m not trying to be racist you are being racist. I find it funny at the writer would make a point to bring up his frustration that people would not realize the cultural differences and diversity of India and yet completely summit North America as Caucasian only. he refers to a Bikram quote in which the North American lifestyle needs physical discipline before they take on spiritual and psychic discipline. He then immediately take this as white people or Caucasians. It is the most ignorant and racist thing I’ve ever read the only white people are Caucasians make up North America. This is one of the most diverse countries and as a yoga teacher I see people of all races. What is the Raiders Indian pride that obviously shows through here. It is the fact that he is a real Indian that gives him the authority to speak on such things. What a waste of time. What a waste of intelligence. and its so disgusting to see racism accepted as long as it’s pointed towards Caucasian.

  46. Nicole Weinberger says:

    Excellent. I couldn't agree with you more. It all started with Power Yoga. I practice Chinese Medicine and saw similar leanings in the school I attended. People would dress in Chinese clothes all of a sudden. They tried to be more Asian than the Asian students. It's not necessary to follow a guru, either. People are running around, looking for something that's already within. I think their hearts are in the right place, however…at some point people forget to trust their own instincts.

Leave a Reply