July 15, 2012

Who Owns Yoga? ~ Dolphina

I admit it. My tail-feathers were seriously ruffled today.

It all began when I posted a picture on my facebook page of me bellydancing at my dear friend’s baby blessing with Thoreau’s exquisite quote:

When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times, and to the latest.

A friend shared my picture and quote and then a woman of East Indian descent posted underneath:

Between her and Shiva Rea, I guess blonde chicks are gonna capitalize on all of our traditions and spiritualities . . . Glad to know people out there carrying the Orientalist mantle of Ruth St. Denis forth, self-promoting, and makin’ money. What would we do without them?


Being a “blonde chick” in the world of bellydance, I have faced this sentiment and far worse throughout my career. I have dedicated my life to empowering women through my work and I am part of a supportive community which I adore with all my heart. I also have my “haters” and I have made peace with them.

However, in this case, what gave me pause was her “ownership,” mentioning “all of our traditions and spiritualities.”

Who owns yoga? Who owns bellydance? Who owns these ancient traditions?

Is there truth in her comments? Does someone who was born in India have more shares of stock in the business of yoga?

Is someone from Mumbai better suited to share the secrets of inner peace?

Should Eminem not be allowed to rap because he is white? Is he stealing from blacks?

Should only Egyptian women be allowed to instruct other women to shimmy? And must a woman have dark hair (and how dark is dark enough) to teach others to feel confident about their body?

Is the issue truly about white people stealing yoga, bellydance, music and ancient traditions from the brown/black people?

I personally believe yoga, dance, music, ancient traditions and spiritualities are for all people and intended to unite all humans. Cultures and traditions are lovely, but not when their purpose is to segregate.

With all the struggles we face worldwide, I believe it’s a tragedy to not join together, regardless of color. (By the way, I’m a Bulgarian Gypsy and gypsies are one of the most persecuted races of all time.)

What do you think?

Who owns the ancient traditions? Must we examine the ideas, color lines and religion/culture in order to teach or receive the benefits of yoga?


Dolphina founded her company, GoddessLife, on her belief that every woman is a goddess. During a spiritual quest in the Caribbean, she was involved in a near-fatal boating accident in which she was rescued by dolphins which altered her name and life forever.

Dolphina is a mademoiselle with a mission to make a difference in our world one goddess at a time. A powerful teacher, dancer, author, activist and businesswoman, Dolphina has overcome tremendous odds to create a company who’s sole purpose is to support and empower women.

Dolphina is the creator of the best-selling Goddess Workout Bellydance DVDs and CDs series and is the author of Bellydance (DK Publishing), which has been published in 13 different languages. Dolphina has been featured in over 100 magazines and numerous television and radio shows, including Ellen, Conan, Sex and the City, Live with Regis and Kelly, The View as well as Time, Cosmopolitan, Glamour and Fitness.


Editor: Thaddeus Haas

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