Yoga Fills a Hole for Americans that Doesn’t Exist for Brazilians.

The Elephant Ecosystem

Every time you read, share, comment or heart you help an article improve its Rating—which helps Readers see important issues & writers win $$$ from Elephant. Learn more.

Views 10
Shares 10
Hearts 0.0
Comments 10
Editor's Pick 0.0
Total Ecosystem Rating 0.0
0 Do you love this article? Show the author your support by hearting.

In the early 2000s, people started to speculate that yoga was going to be a fitness trend in the US that came and went like step aerobics or jazzercise. To the contrary, yoga in North America continues to grow steadily and continues to diversify into more styles and hybrids.  It appears that yoga in the US and Canada will not fall by the wayside as a trend, but will continue to increase in popularity and diversity.

Is Yoga on the Decline in Brazil?

The same thing cannot be said here in Brazil.  The first wave of yoga here reached its peak about 5 years ago, held steady for a couple of years and seems to be on the decline.  The syndicated Yoga Journal here in Brazil has recently gone from monthly to bi-monthly publication.  The biggest studio in São Paulo, which is a 3-story house, with 3 beautiful and big practice spaces, and additional treatment rooms as well as a boutique, Yoga Flow, recently merged with another high profile yoga studio and treatment center, CIYMAM, Center for Yoga and ayurveda.  The yoga teachers who travel throughout Brazil report lower turnout at workshops, and several studios are not offering teacher trainings that they formerly offered annually.

While there are thriving yoga studios and dedicated students here in Brazil, on the whole, yoga has not taken its hold in mainstream culture like it has in the States.

Here’s Why:

FACT: Yoga in Brazil is expensive! In the US a yoga class can vary from donation to 20$ with the average being 15$ per class. Here in Brazil, drop-in classes are rarely offered. If you want to drop in, it is 50 Rs, which right now is worth about 35 USD.  To take one class per month, it is about 150 Rs, which is about 105 USD, so depending on whether there are four or five weeks in the month, class costs between 20 and 25 dollars. That makes classes more expensive, and Brazilians earn less on the whole so that makes the cost even more expensive.  But I don’t actually think this is that big a factor in why less Brazilians are interested in yoga.

OPINION: In my experience from teaching yoga and practicing Structural Integration for the past five years, Brazilians have laxer ligaments than Americans, therefore yoga with bad alignment and focus on flexibility has negative effects faster. And the sum effect of yoga can be overextension of ligaments, so just at the physical level, Pilates might be a better solution for Brazilians.

FACT: Physical Therapy is an undergraduate degree in Brazil. After graduation, it is a pretty poorly paying profession (not that much higher than minimum wage) so people specialize. Physical therapists can take weekend courses in Pilates and then offer Pilates and be covered by insurance. There is also another form of postural therapy, imported from France, called RPG-, that is covered by physical therapy. Therefore, people are exposed to Pilates and RPG and don’t have to pay for it. Yoga is an out-of-pocket expense.

OPINION: Overall Brazilians are more embodied than Americans, and able to express the emotions they feel. There is a much wider vocabulary for emotion in Portuguese and people use the descriptive language on a regular basis. The first time someone told me they were filled with raiva “rage,” I was like “Holy Sh*t, rage?”  That’s a word I would use for serial killer-type anger.  Then the next day I saw the that person conversing with the target of that rage. That is when I learned that Brazilians express themselves descriptively, sometimes dramatically, and then they let things go.

OPINION: There is practically no shame embedded in Brazilian culture.

FACT: There is no Victorian legacy here. The colonizers in Brazil were primarily Portuguese. (as opposed to Northern Europeans in the US and Canada) Portuguese were unique as colonizers. They were the most brutal, because they were relying much more on the riches of their colonies to sustain their country than England, France or Spain. Portugal was a poorer country.  And they were the least prude in terms of intermixing with the native populations and slaves. There is an incredible wide range of racial mixture in Brazil. Race itself is not viewed in the same way, as many factors other than color play into how one is perceived and named in terms of race. **There is racism here, just not based on the one drop rule.

FACT: The longest legacy of yoga in Brazil comes from Hermogenes. The yoga asana that is taught in the Hermogenes system is most similar to a Sivananda style.  No use of alignment or props.  And some unsuspected, and suspect, moves like wrist and ankle circling.

OPINION:  In a lot of places in Brazil, the yoga hasn’t changed from a kind of 1970s vibe. Take a trip back in time to folks learning yoga from books, practicing mostly on their own, and relatively little sophistication in terms of asana.  (That said , there are exceptions, with flawless Iyengar practitioners, an excellent Ashtanga certified teacher, left-handed Tantric practitioners, many many bhaktis, and the most progressive yoga therapy studio I have seen in the world)

FACT: Brazil has its own version of Bikram. Practitioners are advised not to study any other form of yoga and have strict rules of conduct. I don’t know much more because it is kind of a cult.

FACT: India is really far from Brazil. Technically I am not sure if it is that much farther than the US is. However you do have to cross the equator and the plane ticket is almost double. Overall there are less Brazilians with the ability to make such a big trip.  (this is changing)

OPINION: Where yoga in US has flourished through the insemination of the human potential movement, somatic psychology and modern dance, the yoga asana here in Brazil hasn’t gone through the same hybridization.

FACT: Homeopathy is a respected and frequently used form of health care here. There are homeopathic pharmacies in most neighborhoods that make your compounds for you. (No Boiron pellet tubes here) A lot of MDs here are also homeopaths and it is wasy to find doctors who practice both allopathy and homeopathy and are covered by insurance (private insurance).

FACT: Ayurveda is hugely popular in Brazil, possibly as popular or more popular than yoga asana. Bhakti yoga, in the form of kirtan is also super popular.

FACT: Brazilians regard Sundays and holidays as sacred. There are a lot of holidays. Recently on the day before a four-day weekend for Semana Santa, celebrating the days leading to Easter, one of my daughter’s teachers was freaking out ,“Imagine this, conjunctivitis on the eve of a holiday!” As if any day is a great day to get pink eye.  But it made sense to the other people, because holidays receive different, special treatment.  On that note, whereas in the US, Saturdays and Sundays are the best days attendance-wise at yoga studios, they are the worst here.  Most studios are either closed both Sat. and Sun., or just Sunday.  When I teach weekend workshops, they always finish before 1pm- why? Hora de almoço. Lunch- Sunday lunch is time that you spend with your family. It is sacred and even if you are not going to spend it with family, you are not going to schedule something.  Trust me- I’ve tried to buck the trend.  It doesn’t work.  Brazilians don’t want to practice yoga on Sundays or holidays.

But I don’t actually think it is money and scarce access, varied physical therapy options, nor holidays and Sundays that has created the gap in yoga popularity between the US and Brazil.

Here’s the real reason:

I think.

Yoga Fills a Hole for Americans that Doesn’t Exist for Brazilians. (special thanks to Coaracy Nunes for the expression)

Basically I think Brazilians are less miserable.  Brazilians have strong social networks, value social time, eat meals sitting down together, often live very close to their family, and have lived through very volatile political and financial periods. (dictatorshop, rapid deflation of currency, high threat of violence)  The bureaucracy here is impressive and therefore, people learn patience. No one expects to really get all her errands done.  (almost impossible that errands don’t generate more errands- based on lines, unexpected strikes, general apathy and incompetence, or traffic) So you learn to talk to the people in line next to you.

Brazilians like to celebrate and enjoy life and have learned how to do that despite adverse challenges (like the time in the 1980s when everyone woke up and had 10,000 or less in their bank accounts- the government had taken the rest) Encountering optional discomfort is not really high on the list of things to do.  This last opinion is corroborated by 85% and higher Cesarean rates in Brazil. Brazilian women associate birth and pain, and therefore schedule Cesareans at an alarmingly high rate.

On the same note, I wouldn’t count discipline or punctuality as Brazilian strengths. Rain, having slept in, and not having eaten lunch are all legitimate excuses here for not coming to class, or doing anything for that reason. You can call your teacher and say “hey I couldn’t wake up.” [my internal response-“that’s what an alarm clock is for.”  I have also been passive/aggressive with students who couldn’t come because it was drizzling]

Americans have re-connected to spirituality through yoga. Brazilians on the other hand have never been disconnected. Brazilians believe in spirits and the spirit world.  No need to whisper or lower your voice here. Brazilians are noteably pluralistic.  Catholic roots blended early on with the African religion (notable Yoruba) of the slaves and indigenous culture.  For example, Yemaya became Iemanja and her image here is mixed with the Virgin Mary, so the goddess of the sea has long hair and white skin.


Spiritism is another popular faith here that includes the laying on of hands and spirit healing.  Whether or not a person goes to church here in Brazil, which in my circle of friends is definitely a not, Brazilians believe and are connected to a higher power.  This also reveals itself in everday language like “se Deus quiser”- if God wishes, and Graças a Deus, thanks to God.  When you ask someone how they are “Tudo bem?” A common response is “tudo bom, graças a Deus.” Everything’s good, by the graces of God. And it is not just religious people who respond this way.

Brazilians give themselves a lot of leeway in terms of identity. I have a friend whose mom has been Catholic, Buddhist, Taoist, Spiritist, and a few other I can’t remember. And no one is bothered by it. As an American, that makes me laugh. It’s like if I am going to adopt a religion, I better be pretty sure. I can’t imagine then deciding to change a few more times.

My opinion is that the first wave of yoga here is on the decline; my prediction is that there will be a second wave.

Unfortunately, as the Brazilian economy is flourishing, so is consumerism. The emerging middle class wants more. One car instead of none; two cars instead of one. Bigger apartment, more space. More traffic, less time, more meals on the run, and you have yourself a recipe for the same health problems caused by stress and emptiness that have driven so many Americans to practice yoga.

Sundays in the plaza

I hope I am wrong. I hope that Brazilians fiercely protect the social rituals (sitting in the plaça, watching futebol games, Sunday lunch) and the exuberant natural landscape that make them uniquely happy people.

I’d rather become outdated and lose my job, than be busy in a nation full of stressed out people.

The Elephant Ecosystem

Every time you read, share, comment or heart you help an article improve its Rating—which helps Readers see important issues & writers win $$$ from Elephant. Learn more.

Views 10
Shares 10
Hearts 0.0
Comments 10
Editor's Pick 0.0
Total Ecosystem Rating 0.0
0 Do you love this article? Show the author your support by hearting.

Read The Best Articles of January
You voted with your hearts, comments, views, and shares.

Kimberly Johnson

Kimberly Johnson helps women find their way back to themselves after giving birth. She herself was rearranged by childbirth in almost every way, so she loves sparing women the unnecessary surprises of the postpartum period. She is a longtime yoga teacher, bodyworker, doula and somatic educator and a Certified Sexological Bodyworker. She loves helping women reclaim their erotic lives through somatic sex coaching, Somatic Experiencing tools, and holistic pelvic health. After her video on the #metoo movement went viral on Facebook, she created the course Activate Your Inner Jaguar course. The next one starts February 6th!

You must be logged in to post a comment. Create an account.

anonymous Mar 18, 2014 8:08am

I really enjoyed your text.
I am Brazilian and I live in southern Brazil. And the things you said are very true and accurate. Yoga in Brazil is really overpriced, became an elitist thing.
Hermogenes did much for Yoga in Brazil, but because of him, everyone thinks Yoga is a thing for older women or sick because his classes are a mixture of stretching and relaxation. Nobody knows a Ashtanga Vinyasa, Iyengar Yoga and much less, Anusara. But everyone thinks Yoga is sit down and relax. I teach Vinyasa Yoga, and this is a hindrance to me.

anonymous Oct 17, 2013 7:20pm

I think the situation in Brazil is probably not much unlike the way it was in the USA before 1995. I think your analysis is good. It is very ambitious and covers alot of Brazil. I don't see how racial tolerance in Brazil is relevant and I'm not sure if you are correct about that. I also think some of the generalizations are true for both countries about happiness & work ethic. But you do separate Fact and Opinion which the criticism in these comments fails to acknowledge.
My opinion is Brazil is just waiting for an exciting Yoga school and another Star Teacher to get people interested.

anonymous Apr 9, 2013 5:11pm

Its like you learn my mind! You appear to know so much approximately this, like you wrote the e book in it or something. I believe that you simply could do with some p.c. to power the message house a little bit, but other than that, that is excellent blog. A fantastic read. I’ll definitely be back.

anonymous Nov 5, 2012 7:10am

I reckon this substance is very discriminating. I bed if this is goodness or this.

anonymous Oct 14, 2012 3:35am

[…] […]

anonymous May 6, 2012 1:20pm

As a yogini, yoga teacher and native from RIo (carioca), I have to say… that some of your views are a bit biased/incomplete. People in Brazil are bodily connected to fun and dance in a super visceral way — especially in RIo, connected to samba. Yoga is just not needed. Second, Brazilians are poor and uneducated. Yoga will never be for the masses there. Yoga is too slow, quiet, full or rules and sophisticated to be chosen as a bodily practice by most Brazilians. They want to dance, as freely as possible. Brazilians are not fond of introspective disciplines. They are fond of colour, noise and movement. And yes, I agree with you that Americans are a very unhappy people.

anonymous Mar 13, 2012 12:26pm

[…] […]

anonymous Jan 25, 2012 4:31am

Good article, nice to find you here….I think it possibly applies to a few other countries, too…

anonymous Oct 7, 2011 9:11pm

[…] was the right place to go because it is quite the opposite of America. (hyperlink “opposite”:…) I have never felt so genuinely welcomed in a country before. Brazilians encapsulate a kindness and […]

anonymous Jun 2, 2011 6:41pm

You've held up impressively in the firestorm, good job.

Can I give my opinion? The one thing you never considered as an answer was that maybe Brazilians were "meh" on yoga because yoga is meh?

I know, I know, its a hard one to consider. When I was really deep in there and I heard someone criticize Shiva Rea as sounding "stoned" on her DVD I couldn't even wrap my head around the idea that someone couldn't be as taken with her as I was. Its like our kids, or our pets…

Could it be that its just not that enthralling to them? They seem to like their fun*, maybe its just not that fun to them?

*To stem the accusations of orientalism, I will fully admit that this is a cultural stereotype. I will also say my best friend from junior high is Brazilian, and I spent a summer in Rio and my family is from Spain and my husband is from Argentina and they like fun and soccer too, and we live in LA and hang out with some Brazilian expats. And I speak Spanish. And I used to do yoga. More. So please don't attack me…

(And in reference to your previous posts, I am an American and use words like "rage" and "envy" with reckless abandon…I envy a little bit your living in Brazil)

    anonymous Jun 2, 2011 6:52pm

    And prayers for those kids in the favelas, because this world also doles out some pretty anonymous and unspeakable cruelty…

anonymous May 27, 2011 9:32pm

I would like also to leave my impressions about your article. It is always interesting to hear how foreigners see our culture, specially because even getting to know closer what being a Brazilian is about, you still analyse the whole situation using norh-american glasses.
I think you're are right about India being far from Brazil, and for being such an exotic and far culture, that we are barely able to understand. But I don't agree about the "lack of discipline". First of all – poor people have no opportunity to get in touch with it, and have no idea of what yoga is about, so I guess you teach mid-high class students. These students go to Yoga classes just to relax and have fun, and only a few really get it and make it their way of living. So, most of them never really meant to commit the way you would expect as a teacher. And in this case, sleeping in or not having breakfast are not only excuses – they are only telling you that the yoga class is not the priority of their lives, and that they are not willing to give you that kind of commitment. If they do so, yoga classes would be not "fun" anymore, and they would look for any other activity to fullfil their need of relaxing (there are plenty, you said so yourself). I am not sure if they would have the same behavior regarding college or work. I never missed work or school for not really serious reasons, and most of my family, friends and acquaintances always had a very responsible behavior about what is really important in their lives.

anonymous May 27, 2011 1:19pm

[…] Yoga está em declínio no Brasil? Inspirada pelo artigo do site Elephant Journal, “O Yoga está em declínio no Brasil?“, de Kimberly Johnson, americana radicada no Brasil, decidi iniciar uma pesquisa entre meus […]

anonymous May 23, 2011 11:38am

[…] Yoga Fills a Hole for Americans that Doesn’t Exist for Brazilians. […]

anonymous May 20, 2011 11:05pm

Oh, I forgot: Perhaps you are taking into account that a big studio such as Yoga Flow has merged with Cyman, which statistically means too little, for many of the students who used to attend those places are now looking for private teachers at the comfort of their own homes. Yoga teachers became personal trainers – and this is exactly due to the expansion of yoga in Brazil (Speaking of São Paulo) – hari Om

anonymous May 20, 2011 11:00pm

Kimberly honey, thanks for your article, it is always nice to hear about one's perspective, as far as yoga is concerned. I don't think yoga is in decline, at least not here in São Paulo. The classical Hatha Yoga – which means at "calming the mind down" – CITTA VRTII NIRODAH – is the only one I can rely on, it will never hurt any body. Variations on the theme such as as power, acro, bikram, bla bla bla of course are destined not to last. Brazilians are religious people in a diverse multiple choice of religions. Yoga is not a religion, it is a philosophy to help people get in touch with themselves and breathe better, balance body and mind, and utlimately, find time to relax in the middle of the rush of the big city…. Namaste

anonymous May 20, 2011 5:59pm

Kim, adorei! Seu artigo está muito bem escrito e é muito interessante a visão que tem das diferenças culturais, relacionando-as ao Yoga. Já morei nos EUA , tenho grandes amigos de diferentes partes de lá, e concordo com você em muitos aspectos. Yoga entrou na minha vida abrindo um espaço de auto-conhecimento, no qual posso trabalhar, mente, corpo e espírito, num mesmo momento. Sim, as questões que lidamos aqui, são bem diferentes das que os americanos, em geral, lidam, e isso de fato, faz com que busquemos o Yoga, por diferentes motivos… Bjão.

Kim, i liked a lot! Your article is very well written and it's very interesting the way you see the cultural differences, relating it to Yoga. I've lived in the US and have great american friends from different areas, and i agree with you in a lot of aspects. Yoga came into my life openning a space of self- consciousness, where i can work mind, body and spirit at the same time. Yes, the problems we have to deal here are way different than the ones americans, in general, do and this in fact, give us different reasons to search for Yoga… Big kiss.

anonymous May 20, 2011 7:02am

From FB:
Geiza Monteiro- Interessante Kim!! A Yoga é um caminho para a evolução. MAS entendo seu ponto de vista quanto a cultura brasileira e como isso influencia na não pratica do Yoga. Só se tornando um pouco brasileira para relativizar…

anonymous May 20, 2011 4:53am

Kimberly, sua visão foi perfeita, inteligente e muito antenada…Trazer a questão da colonização e´de grande importância para um entendimento do povo brasileiro.
O portugues que aqui chegou, ficou, fez casa, e teve filhos com as índias, começando aí uma miscigenação que raramente se vê!
Diz que um portugues chamado Caramurú deixou no Brasil 90 filhos…com várias índias…kkk
O Brasil esteriotipado mundo afora e´o Brasil do Rio de Janeiro, em outros estados essa visão muda um pouco.
Sou carioca e moro em Porto Alegre, sul do Brasil, onde temos frio, e uma colonização não tão multi-cultural assim…
Os problemas são outros , a depressão faz parte, e a Yoga e´feita, e vista, de uma forma mais americana, com objetivo de desenvolvimento espiritual.
O sol, a exuberante natureza carioca, a praia, são atrativos de conecção natural .. não havendo tanta necessidade de uma procura por estas conecções.. mesmo isso sendo inconsciente.
Creio que a adptação da sua forma de ver e fazer yoga com aquilo que o Rio de Janeiro te dá de retorno algo fantástico e único, podendo daí ter um vasto campo para experiencias.. a novidade faz a mudança..
Parabéns pelo blog … fico feliz em compartilhar..

Bob Weisenberg May 19, 2011 10:39pm

Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

Bob W. Yoga Editor
Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
Follow on Twitter

anonymous May 19, 2011 9:00pm

Not sure I understand the second part of this statement. Could you please clarify who/what has negative effects faster?

Brazilians have laxer ligaments than Americans, therefore yoga with bad alignment and focus on flexibility has negative effects faster.

    anonymous May 20, 2011 6:39am

    Hi Skyy,

    Yoga with bad alignment and a focus on flexibility will have negative effects on loose-ligamented people faster. It will exaggerate the weak points and compromise mostly joints.

anonymous May 19, 2011 6:59pm

A very interest, honest, and compelling reflection. I have to say that while some of your views of Americans are hard to swallow, it is only because it is so true. Thank you for your honesty and insights.

anonymous May 19, 2011 6:37pm

interesting…"in the US, Saturdays and Sundays are the best days attendance-wise at yoga studios, they are the worst here."

a year ago I was supposed to do a weekend workshop at Yoga Flow — no wonder no one signed up because I know it wasn't about me or what I was offering!

anonymous May 19, 2011 5:38pm

Not a criticism, but an article by a Brazilian about "people in the United states are…" would differ based on where that person was located, e.g., the Upper East Side of Manhattan, a small town in Iowa, a poor white or Latino or black neighborhood, a racially mixed community, etc. American publications make sweeping generalizations about the poor, minorities, the elderly, lefties, righties, etc., and they often seem to be written by someone who has a limited scope. But your article was interesting. From what I've read, however, Brazil has lots of racial/class problems–many of which you may not have to deal with because those people may not be in your everday milieu.

    anonymous May 19, 2011 5:57pm

    Hi SAL
    This article was not about race and class diversity in Brazil. It was about yoga in Brazil.
    I live in Rio- my perspective is definitely influenced by living here. It has more of an African influence
    than the more European influenced south. Brazil is a multi-faceted country as is the United States.
    We are talking about huge countries with hundreds of millions of people. They have dealt quite differently
    with slavery and colonialism.
    There will always be exceptions to generalizations.
    Living outside of my native country for five years has never made my own cultural biases and conditioning more apparent. And yes those are based on my upbringing as a white women from California educated in the Ivy League. That being said, when I get together with African-American friends living in Brazil, we often have similar experiences of living here.

    The composition of culture is not interesting from a point of view of right or wrong.

    it is interesting from a yogic perspective of how identity is created.

    What I teach when I am in the States is totally different than what I teach here. Brazilians don't need to be told to drop their awareness to their hearts. This is a heart-centered culture. The process balance through yoga is a different one. Yoga provides a vast toolbox, as a teacher I find that different tools are needed here than are needed in the US or in Southeast Asia.

    anonymous May 19, 2011 6:39pm

    To take all that into account it would be a paper and not an article on a site :). It's also written throughout the piece that it is opinion based. Obviously it is from her experience and the people she has interacted with, which I know to be a fairly diverse group.

    I see you point but we'd have nothing to read with our tea in the evening if this had to be scientific ;))

anonymous May 19, 2011 3:28pm

I wonder how much you are filtering through your white privileged foreign perspective. I'm sure a lot of sentiment from Brazilians are not conveyed to you as an outsider. Just a thought.

    anonymous May 19, 2011 4:39pm

    Janice- Probably everything is filtered through my white privilege foreign perspective. How could it not be? Does that invalidate my perspective completely? I am wondering what in particular you find less valid because of the color of my skin and the fact that I was born in another country. Hopefully more Brasilians will comment here.

    anonymous May 19, 2011 6:58pm

    Do you live in Brazil? Brazilian? Because that comment, in a whole, is of someone who really does not get this culture. Brazilians have no problem sharing their sentiment to foreigners, strangers, Brazilians, trees, or anything else.

anonymous May 19, 2011 2:45pm

appreciate the perspective, Kim. Thanks for it.

anonymous May 19, 2011 2:03pm

So interesting. Your various perspectives make sense to me: all of them. I appreciate your vision of yoga in Brazil against yoga in a culture which was founded by Puritans. I also hope the Brazilians hold strong. Hilary

anonymous May 19, 2011 12:34pm

Hi Kimberly,
Nice writing and very good insights.
I am brazilian, living in SF/CA and I practice Anusara…
In my opinion, there are so many distractions in Brasil.. soccer, beaches, gorgeous girls/boys, consumerism and the infrastructure and natural problems we have like traffic, floods, pollution, not well educated population that believes Petroleum is the solution. Adding the fact that kids and the people in general at least in the big cities are less connected with Nature. This make the Society a little bit confused. that's what I think, Brazilians are confused now. I guess things will change after 2012.. the seconf wave of Peaceful Warriors will arise. 🙂

anonymous May 19, 2011 11:16am

I wish the modern day workplace valued Brazilian concepts like "It's drizzling therefore I must stay home". 🙂

anonymous May 19, 2011 11:16am

Interesting insight.

I'm curious about your comment that Americans have become "reconnected to spirituality through yoga". I find that when an activity is adopted to "fill a hole" as you say, it can often become a fetish. This seems to be true in the US, anyway. It's amusing to me how many Americans have co-opted gurus, malas, bindis, kirtan, etc. with such a ferocious cultishness.

I like what you said about Brazilians being "more embodied" and am glad to know that they have a healthy relationship with yoga. I imagine it makes it more meaningful for you as a teacher (when you can get them to show up!)

    anonymous May 19, 2011 1:27pm

    The US has the highest form of capitalism. It is no surprise that yoga, like other things capitalism gets it's hands on, is filling a hole, Unfortunately, that hole will never be filled. We are manipulated and exploited from day one. Large corporations are cashing in on Yoga "big time". Don't worry Brazil is catching up with us. Corporate Greed and consumerism is everywhere on the planet.
    A possible role of yoga in wide-world change is to furnish a correct picture of reality and assist the people seeking wide-world change to discharge their patterns of confusion, ineffectiveness, misunderstanding and take charge of their lives It is possible to develop sufficient yoga teachers to meet the needs the community and it is possible to establish effective enough communication between such people all over the earth.

anonymous May 19, 2011 11:12am

@Joslyn, the sunshine might cut into the French melancholy. However it will be made up for by leisurely Sundays and hall passes every rainy day, holiday, or lie in.

anonymous May 19, 2011 10:45am

I find the connection between attachment to yoga and a culture of shame super fascinating. I think you might be onto something there, Kimberly! Also, I too think that rain, low blood sugar, and sleeping in are legitimate reasons for blowing something off. I'm starting to think I should move to Brazil.

    anonymous May 19, 2011 2:43pm

    sounded appealing to me also.

Bob Weisenberg May 19, 2011 10:34am

Love this cross-cultural perspective, Kimberly. Thank you.

Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

Bob W. Yoga Editor
Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
Follow on Twitter

anonymous May 19, 2011 4:36pm

Que interessante que foi isso que voce pegou do artigo. Voce li até o final? Se eu achasse que tudo era melhor nos Estados Unidos, pode ter certeza que eu não moraria aqui! Eu adoro o cultura e o povo Brasiliero. Já foi muitas vezes para India- eu não sugeria India para o melhor encinamento do yoga asana. Mais adoro a India para o devoção. Tambem adoro o coração do povo Brasiliero. Pode ler o Love Letter que escreveu para o seu pais.

anonymous May 19, 2011 4:41pm

So you missed the whole premise of the article which is that the strengths of Brazilian culture and society make it less necessary for a practice which Americans are using to address stress, shame and anguish? If I thought everything in the US was better, I would not be living here. I love Brazilian people and culture.

anonymous May 19, 2011 7:16pm


Why do you feel qualified to speak for Brazilians?

I explicitly separated facts and opinions in this article. My opinions, based on traveling in Brazil, talking to yoga teachers and students, as well as my lived experience here for the last five years, being married to a Brazilian from a different racial and socioeconomic background and state.

I am not speaking for Brazilians; I am speaking for myself. What I have observed.

I live in Santa Teresa which is surrounded by favelas. I see them out my window every day. There are homeless chlidren who live on my street who I also interact with most days. Do I live in a favela? No. Does this make me blind to the blinding disparity and distribution of wealth? Absolutely not! On the contrary, I am aware every day of inflation that is rising at an alarming rate and not just displacing the poor, but displacing the lower middle class and of the Pacification Project in the favelas, which is favela-izing the suburbs- the redistribution of crime that is in part motivated by the upcoming World Cup and Olympics.

The situation is far more complex than your statistics allude. In the US, house and field slavery was eliminated in abolition. Here in Brazil. the legacy of the house slave is alive and well. Apartments are designed with a separate entrance and room for the house help. I have never seen a nanny nor a housekeeper with lighter skin than the employer. The house help usually comes from the suburbs or the "communidade", another way of describing favela. Because most people have house help and it is embedded in the culture. No one from the lower middle class on up cleans their own house. They have someone at least once a week to clean it. You see this stratification in India and many 3rd world countries where the dispariities in wealth are so great.

Anyone interested might want to check out the recent PBS documentary on race in Brazil narrated by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.l. I really disagree with the conclusion though that there is a "racial democracy" here.

anonymous May 19, 2011 8:01pm

Reality is always basically benign. When this benign-ness seems to be overshadowed by disasters or accidents or the consequences of distressed decisions made in the past, one can restore one's perspective by taking a broader view. Always the negative phenomena are over-matched by the positive reality surrounding them.
Each human being necessarily builds a unique, mental model of the universe. Even when completely rational, such a model will still be unique. The different models, however, can be brought into as close an agreement as desired
Almost all differences which exist in the behaviors and functioning of humans are cultural, are learned and acquired characteristics. Any human being given the opportunity, can aquire and master the same culture and skills which any other human being has been able to do. We are much more alike than different.

anonymous May 20, 2011 5:11am

I wonder if Kimberly might be isolated culturally from the majority of Brazilians and might have fallen into romanticizing the actual condition of the vast majority of Brazilians which is perfectly understandable. Perhaps being a yoga teacher is just putting her in contact with the upper class who probably are happy. I think if this was just about yoga is would not have caused such a fuss, but think the generalizations regarding people are a bit overreaching and debatable. Thanks for article.

anonymous May 20, 2011 11:39am

Joe, you are contradicting yourself. First you say reality is benign, then you call some phenomena negative and others positive. Who decides these values? And what is this agreement are you referring to that human's "mental models" can be brought into?

People have been waiting and hoping for some kind of global unity or "world-wide change" for ages. In my opinion this kind of wishful thinking is a waste of time.

I'll agree with you that humans are basically the same, with the same potential for all kinds of behavior– hostile, destructive, empathetic, you name it– and that we are vastly influenced by our experiences and cultures. But cultures in turn are reflections of their environments, which is why the idea of a global culture is not practical. We can already see the destructive aspects of importing a global culture, i.e. capitalism, around the world. One size does NOT fit all.

anonymous May 20, 2011 2:30pm

Every person is always free to choose for himself or herself the viewpoint that he or she will take towards any situation and is free to change that viewpoint whenever she or he wishes.
Complete freedom of decision offers us the opportunity to direct our OWN lives by making our OWN choices rather than being enforced by patterned behavior on old recordings of distress or based on the operations of oppression in the oppressive society.

" If you have no critics you'll likely have no success." Malcom X