Who Owns Yoga? ~ Dolphina

Via elephant journal
on Jul 15, 2012
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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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59 Responses to “Who Owns Yoga? ~ Dolphina”

  1. Posted to Elephant Yoga on Facebook.

    Lorin Arnold
    Blogger at The VeganAsana
    Editor for Elephant Food and Elephant Family.

  2. Mark Ledbetter says:

    Ironies and interesting questions abound here. Maybe I can add one more. Dolphina politely refrained from pointing out that Gypsy is a a corruption of Egyptian, the "owners" of belly-dancing. They came from that direction so that's what Europeans called them. But actually they came from India, the land that "owns" yoga. Whatever her actual genetic makeup, Dolphina has sufficient cultural claim on both, that is if we are delving into the sticky goo of cultural ownership and/or attempts to crossover to other cultural identities.

  3. yogasamurai says:

    Every woman is a goddess? Last I looked there aren't millions of goddesses? So what do you guys do — time-shares?

  4. yogasamurai says:

    As for belly-dancing, or any other learned tradition, I think it just comes down to how respectfully you do it. Most women I know who are belly-dancing are really really into it, and people of all cultures love them for it. Do people bring the same authenticity and grace to yoga? Some do, but let's face it, many don't. There's just too much status, power and money involved now, and it's a real commercial industry. If belly dance were all the rage for some reason it would be the same

    I think yoga has a unique history, though, that tends to lend itself to charlatans in a unique way. It's just deeply ingrained, at least for a good 120 years — the sales pitch to the West, but the "show" in general was there from the beginning. What's the difference between "shaman" and "showman"? Just a letter or two?

  5. I have to agree with Dolphina on this one. We aren't even sure of the origins of yoga and bellydance. Some researchers even believe these traditions came from other, more advanced civilizations from other planets in the galaxy (the Indian texts go deep into this and even have maps of where the gods came from other planets). So who are we to say what came from where. We are still figuring out where WE came from!

  6. @GoddessLife says:

    Mark – thank you for reading and for your provocative comments! Sounds like we could have an interesting discussion:) Dolphina

  7. Sun says:

    I truly understand how important it is for some people to hold on to their traditions and feel the profound sense of identity and belonging that it gives, but following this woman’s logic comes down to saying Indian doctors should stick to Ayurvedic medicine and India should stay away from high-tech science. And what about Indian researchers in those fields and others? Should they be banned from making discoveries?

    There will always be people to lose some of the original essence in the process of learning something ancient and teaching it to others, but there are also many who will do it respectfully and lovingly. Adding one’s own essence to something existing is part of the evolution process, and as long as it is clearly stated, I don’t see a problem. In the end, the only thing permanent is change, and as the world and the human race expand, all new things find their place.

    I find Shiva Rea impressive and to be honest, in a way, seeing a ‘blond chick’ teaching yoga at such a level is inspiring as it does help crossing the cultural line that might create the feeling one can never access the purity of a method because of the cultural difference. As for Dolphina, her energy is beautiful and I truly enjoy her DVDs. Beauty and femininity. I love her xxx

  8. @GoddessLife says:

    Yoga Samurai – Agreed! Many western women have studied the art of bellydance very seriously and I personally have traveled to the Middle East to teach women how to bellydance because there is no venue (dance studio, gyms, nightclubs, restaurants,etc) for them to learn! Thank you for reading and your thoughtful comments. Dolphina

  9. Stephanie says:

    Dolphina, I purchased your Goddess bellydancing workout a few years ago and I LOVE it. All I can say is to IGNORE the haters!! Keep doing what you are doing beautiful Goddess.

  10. Tanya says:

    Great article Dolphina…it seems to have ignited a few passionate responses, seemingly from those who might feel "stolen from". Are not all cultures stolen though? I prefer the world "evolve", because essentially we cannot critique another from thieving our culture unless we are without thievery ourselves…which no culture is. Each culture is an evolution of another and since there is still no definitive evidence of where we all originate, we really can't lay claim to any cultural traditions. Certainly we can feel more akin to traditions than others if we have grown up with them in our culture, however unless we ban travel and free will (which seems to go against the philosophies behind the practice of yoga and belly dance), then people really have the right to decide for themselves whether this is a path for them or not.

    I agree the Yoga seems to have lost some of it's beauty in contemporary culture, some may say it has been bastardised…but really, those who know the philosophies and heart of Yoga, let that pass as "just another exercise routine" and know that it doesn't in any way diminish the true practice of Yoga. In fact, Yoga as a simple exercise routine seems (in my experience) to lead people to seek out the "real" Yoga, which in essence winds up spreading the philosophy and helping people…and what can be bad about that in the end?

  11. Sphinx Louisiana says:

    I was on a path of becoming a serious belly dance instructor and professional dancer when I was diagnosed with cancer in 2009. After dancing for 6 years,my whole dance perspective changed with my cancer. Dolphina's methods taught me how to channel that fear and frustration into self confidence and self realization. She is an amazing woman, regardless of genetic decent.

    Belly dance has stemmed from a collection of movements throughout various cultures due to the Romani people, who were the travelers of the time, moving from region to region learning the dances of the people. Whether the dance was used as entertainment, a birthing technique, traditional cultural movements, or representations of the goddess is unknown. What IS known, is that the benefits of it helps women work themselves from the inside out (spiritually, mentally, and physically), and that regardless of cultural decent, this gives women the various amount of positive energy in their life through correct posture, pain relief, confidence, self-worth, and fitness technique. So what is the real problem here? I think it is jealousy, because Dolphina is a beautiful soul who makes her living doing what she loves! Who wouldn't be jealous?! Hehe.

  12. Kelly says:

    I love what you do and I'm sure that there are many women all over the world who will agree 🙂 Keep rockin' & shimmying 🙂 xxx

  13. Connie says:

    We all belong to the human race. The way we grow is from learning from each other. Sharing traditions like yoga and belly dancing unites us as a race. Who cares who started the tradition as long as the tradition (i.e. yoga/belly dancing) is done
    with skill, beauty, grace and respect. Can't we all get along and enjoy each others traditions and learn from each other? Dolphina keep doing the beautiful work that you do empowering women no matter where they come from. When we all join together in love and appreciation maybe our leaders will do the same : ) and the world will be a better place to raise our children and pass on our traditions!

  14. sarah says:

    Great article!

  15. Tania says:

    Your focus should be on your accomplishments as a teacher. You have inspired so many women to adore their bodies. Your art as a dancer resonates our soul to metamorphis our beauty within out. Don;t ever give time and energy to the nay sayers, they are iwithout merit of mention . Amen….love your spirit.

  16. Venus says:

    As I said on Facebook, ignore the haters! Every culture has stolen from

    other cultures. So if you really get down to it, no one “owns” anything.

    I have no Gypsy blood, but have been educated on their lives, rituals and spirituality from Romani that have welcomed my white, red-haired, Irish-Danish self with open arms.

    Sharing heritage and culture is how we learn. It’s exactly what brings us together. Cultural ignorance does nothing but start wars and feed prejudice.

  17. martyna says:

    Great post. I agree with you 100% I believe people who critisize how yoga, belly dance has evolved are probobly holding on to the past with much sentiment and sense of "it was better" . Lots of times people comment negatively simply to elevate themselves for many reasons.You see, I LOVE the fact I can learn belly dance in north America and that I can fuse styles and play infinitely with costumes without shame. Yoga and bellydance are movement practices that add to human experience. MADE by PEOPLE for PEOPLE to enjoy, cherish and learn. Evolution of these practices is allowing to express oneself.with less rigidity, more creativity and self expression vs. "thats-how-is-done" type of mindset.

  18. timothy martin says:

    i'm of native american ancestry does that make my shamanism any better or different from those in russia or africa? i think NOT. lets face it the world is multi racial and cultiral and it has always been so for humans fel the need to explore and learn. as far as it goes that woman herself obviously doesnt understand her own culture or what all the Gods/Goddesses say about LOVE!

  19. Nina H says:

    I'm not sure I understand the idea that you can "claim" bellydance or yoga at all. Sure – they may have spiritual roots in some countries – but today yoga is largely used in the world simply as an activity for health benefits (as bellydance seems to be as well). You could argue that other activities with health benefits, any sport, any outdoor activity like hiking/rock climbing, or any of the other number of workouts done by people across the world had a founder at one point – yet very rarely do I see countries fighting over those; i.e. "I created football/soccer/baseball – you can't play it!". Rather countries across the world embrace the idea that everyone plays, and have created worldwide tournaments and games like the Olympics to join together and engage in (mostly) friendly competition. Why do we need to fight over something that could potentially connect millions or billions of people? Why can't we simply just use yoga/bellydance as merely one more activity that we all share? – Whether it has a spiritual element for all or not shouldn't matter. It's sad that anything connected to religion or spirituality in this world is not used to connect, but is rather used to spark conflict and hatred. Can't we all just get along?

  20. Karla A. VanAlstine says:

    Enlightening article, Dolphina! What a shame that we are addressing these issues in this day of age. Keep up the magnificent work that you do…continue to empower us Goddesses…and maybe with blogs like this, it will bring cultures together with one shimmy at a time!

  21. Annie Ory says:

    Dolphina I think you are asking a meaningful question and that the dissent is not about you personally, but a feeling many brown skinned people in the world feel, that somehow they can never get a piece of the pie, even the pie they made. Your compassion is evident. It's not personal and not taking it as personal gives you lots of space for compassion and understanding.

    No one owns the gifts of culture. Tea ceremonies, belly dancing, yoga, rap, candles in the window, evergreens for winter festivals, harvest celebrations, dance, music, clothes, prayers, poetry, plays, food, religion, spiritual practice, are all things that cultures naturally share, because it brings cultures closer together and protects us from war when we understand and embrace other cultures.

    You, Dolphina, represent the unfairness of lottery of birth. You are American. You are white. You are healthy and whole, you have been given every opportunity and with the same cultural gifts available to others have made something, seemingly lucrative of them. It is a fact, though in no way your fault, that you are much more likely to be able to make a living from what you're doing than is a brown skinned woman anywhere. The disenfranchisement of people of color is a huge problem in our world and one we will eventually have to deal with in a meaningful way as a culture, a global culture. In the end, we are one people, at war with ourselves, and the culture of world will someday be one of peace and harmony. I believe that.

  22. Kim Blish says:

    I find it interesting that the "hater" inferred what you were doing. To me the picture shows a woman dancing in celebration. How could anyone fault you for that?

  23. Pankaj Seth says:

    More output of the sort done by Phillip Goldberg (American Veda) will over time change the feeling held by many Indians that their contributions as a civilization remain unacknowledged. it goes far beyond the appropriation of Yoga into Doga and other nonsense, and into the teaching of history in the West… history of medicine/surgery, mathematics, astronomy, logic, art etc. So much from India has long arrived in the West, but remains unacknowledged, unknown, untaught. Sorry to hear you got caught up in this dynamic in an ugly way. You've responded well to it though by writing this blog and posing an important question for us all to ponder.

    For me, its about how much respect and knowledge one brings to their vocation. I'd prefer whomever gives this in full, irrespective of their cultural background.

  24. May Saille says:

    Both Dolphina and Shiva Rea have worked very hard to get to where they are in life. There is nothing magical about years of hard work and dedication. How is it that someone could only see the end results and completely discount a life of study, hard work and disciple necessary to achieve anything of value? To live the dream requires that you risk walking on the edge every day–not exactly a comfortwble place to be all the time. The negative comment is a good example of a person who doesn't understand what it takes to follow your heart. To assume that the way a person looks equates to success is incredibly naive and those who believe that line of thinking are in for a big disappointment. It's what is inside that counts, what you are willing to give and share is what matters.

  25. glo says:

    great article, dolphina. continue to stay inspiring in a world of haters..i disagree with a guest comment above though about ignoring the haters….the haters are who need the most love in the world.

    as for who owns what, to me, everything is everything. we and everything are all connected somehow. we are connected through the ancients, spiraling through recent times. keep doing what you're doing, you inspire.


  26. Barb F. says:

    Yoga and bellydance are older than any race. People have been doing these activities for longer than any country had a name. India was not called India (Egypt was not called Egypt, etc.) when people first started these traditions. No culture/race/country owns these actiivities. No one can 'own' the natural movements of the human body. And no one knows where these traditions were originaly started. Anyone who claims that their country/culture/race owns yoga and/or bellydance are ignorant to the history of mankind.

  27. Rochelle says:

    I adore Dolphina and admire her wisdom. Any person discovering and loving bellydance, yoga… or any other art form raises this world's vibration and beauty. Claiming ownership is just so limited 🙂

  28. Pankaj Seth says:

    There are no maps of where the gods came from in Hindu texts. This is ridiculous.

  29. Kerri Connor says:

    People who feel that their traditions are being stolen need to remember a couple of things — 1) Imitation is the sincerest and best form of flattery!. 2) No man is an island. We live in a global community where knowledge is passed around on a daily basis. The fact that someone wants to take part in the traditions of another country is a GOOD thing. it means they want to broaden their knowledge base, they want to be open minded, they want to learn all they can! It's the people who REFUSE to learn that they should be worried about. To me the comment this woman made about Dolphina proved one thing and one thing only — SHE is the one with severe self esteem issues. Sounds like some rather massive racist issues as well.

  30. Pankaj Seth says:

    Oh really?

    For one thing, Yoga is not about 'natural movements'. It is instead a worldview, not a set of exercises. And though it addresses the human condition and thus can be seen as universal and universalizing, it most certainly differs from other worldviews which also aspire to being a universal message. And it most certainly has a historical origin in the people now called Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. This worldview is different than of the monotheisms and modern science. It is welcome that those who are attracted to this worldview know this history. Here is a blog by Philip Goldberg which is helpful… http://www.huffingtonpost.com/philip-goldberg/eme

  31. Michelle Cole says:

    As a survivor of sexual trauma at a very young age, Dolphina and her DVD's gave me the chance to get comfortable enough in my skin to even consider dancing in public, in a class with other women. To inspire me to want to strive to one day do the same for other women in my rural hometown.
    To make contact with our inner Goddess and shine with that absolute essence of Love and compassion for ourselves and others. To have the courage to channel that energy into a dance for an appreciate husband, lover, my personal Horned God is something I wouldn't have today without the blessings Belly Dance and Dolphina's positive teaching has brought to me!
    My first question to the person insulting Dolphina was "Do YOU honor your traditions? Do YOU celebrate the great feminine energy through dance and do you seek peace of mind through meditation and yoga yourSELF?"
    Because, someone that followed these calming, confidence building techniques would not have room in their heart to feel such venom for another woman doing the same.
    Regardless of age, class, race, religion, culture or hair/eye color.

  32. Vicki says:

    Without the Dolphinas and Shiva Reas of this world, bellydancing and yoga may not have the widespread practice that it does today. Do these forms of mind/body connection feel less sacred due to commercialization? Perhaps to some. If you focus on what is important – you and your practice – then everything else is just noise. If you think that the "right" yoga or the "right" bellydancing is based on a historical practice, then practice it exactly the way our ancient ancestors did. If yoga and bellydancing to you include a blend of or one or more forms of practice, then do it that way. Point is – do it your way – the mind/body effects will be much better than focusing on how other people do it.

  33. Candy eaton says:

    As a 'blonde chick' myself and also a Middle Eastern drummer in a male dominated world of drummers, AND a belly dancer as well- I got your back Dolphina! You are empowering the sacred art of belly dance and the women that hold this art dear.If someone wants to lay claim ….this dance is for women, by women, ALL WOMEN!!! Its basis is moves that mimic child birth, so if you have a vagina, that's right I said VAGINA!!! This sacred dance belongs to you! No matter what color your skin or ethnic background. Dolphina, YOU GO GIRL!

  34. Pankaj Seth says:

    Insofar as Yoga is a worldview and not reducible to a set of exercises (which are optional anyhow, and not essential), one can track the origins and evolution of this worldview to the Indian subcontinent. This worldview differs from the monotheisms and modern science (which arose elsewhere). The former is in great decline in the West and many find modern science too materialistic. Such persons are attracted to many of the teachings about self and world, the nature of suffering (that it is not due to original sin, divine punishment, but due to ignorance (avidya), that are found in the Dharmic texts, in the Yogic worldview forwarded in these texts.

    But when Yoga is reduced to doing exercises, then anyone can claim to 'do yoga', and then talk about how the human body's movements cannot be 'owned', that its their right to do Yoga in this or that new fashion. But the exercises could be completely disposed of and the worldview would still be there and be Yoga. Whereas ditching the worldview and doing the exercises could be called 'doing yoga', but that claim is increasingly being seen as ridiculous and/or self serving.

  35. Constandina says:

    Very interesting question Dolphina. I am of Greek and Cherokee descent. Does this give me the right to certain dances, philosophies, foodways or anything cultural? Only if my heart is engaged, in my opinion. Besides, culture is only 3 days deep. Go within (as you advocate) and find we are all united. No one owns bellydance or yoga, just like no one "owns" the land. Thank you for bringing this up Goddess !!

  36. Sara Seiser says:

    I don't understand why there is so much predujice in the world, we are all human! it shouldn't matter what race someone is, the important thing is they are trying to make a difference in peoples lives and in the world and that is beautiful! Dance, yoga, anything that brings peace and happiness belongs to everyone, yes it's important to know where these things came from but they belong to all of us now. It's the 21st century people lets get out of the dark ages!

  37. Karla A. VanAlstine says:

    Enlightening article, Dolphina! What a shame that we are addressing these issues in this day of age. Keep up the magnificent work that you do…continue to empower us Goddesses…and maybe with blogs like this, it will bring cultures together with one shimmy at a time!

  38. Charis Luu says:

    The woman who posted the angry comment on Facebook obviously has her own issues. The majority of people that I have met from other cultures have always been thrilled to share their cultures with me and delighted when I absorb parts of their culture into my own life. If she is angry about “blond chicks” stealing her culture, then she needs to look within herself to discover the root of this anger. My guess is that the root has something to do with her own insecurity. I hope that she is one day released from this anger and insecurity and that she can one day be happy when she sees her culture celebrated by other races… even blond chicks…

  39. Patty says:

    I believe the woman who criticized Dolphina and Shiva Rae should check in with the eight limbs of yoga…seems there are some negative emotions she needs to purge. Maybe too she should realize that people from her own culture have been been “self promoting and makin’ money” off yoga for decades.

  40. Ava says:

    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.

    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.

    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.

    And so it is. The woman who wrote that comment would benefit from reading the above quote again and again. It is unfortunate when people feel the need to put others down. Most likely she needs your reflection as a reminder to open herself up! The fact that you are in such bliss in the photo (and in life) challenges her. No one owns anything in this life. We must take responsibility for our actions and fly as much as possible.
    What a celebration that was and is! You always bring me back to my truth Dolphina. Through laughter, dance and the dualities of this life. Thank you for being my blonde reflection!!! My sunshine spirit!! My Goddess full of grace!!!!

  41. Courtney says:

    A lot of good comments have been posted but there is one point that hasn't been made. In 2008, a group of women from Kuwait who were learning to dance from her DVD's, asked her to go there and teach a workshop. Since most "purists" who would consider the original "owners" of the dance to be the Middle east – one could say that Dolphina, by paying attention and spending her life learning about belly dance, and perfecting technique, was able to actually help bring the dance back to these women. They had lost the right to dance due to oppression and other things. Thank god a "blonde chick" had fallen in love with the dance and was able to help empower women across the globe to dance again.
    And to the comment about there only being a few goddesses so every woman can't be a goddess I say this. There are limited myths in mythology and billions of different stories in the world. There are limited goddess archetypes as well but billions of women who are shape shifting in and out of the different goddess types. Like a first time mother shifts from maiden to mother and later from mother to crone etc. Billions of women are embracing different goddess types all the time, sometimes shifting many times in one day! Yesterday I started out acting like Maeve – being responsible, making breakfast for the kids, then I was Artemis chasing bullies from the playground, then an idea to make sushi for dinner had me inspired like Brigid, then a friend revealed a truth to me and I was Maya lifting the veil of illusion to see something as it truly is for the first time. Being a goddess is a dynamic shifting state and every women embodies parts of all the goddess archetypes all the time. So every woman is a goddess, some just don't know it – so pass it on.

  42. Dorothy Lowry says:

    Might one acknowledge that the exercises, i.e. "doing yoga" can be an open door for people to begin to explore the more spiritual aspects of yoga practice? A means of being introduced to and learning about a worldview which might be beneficial to themselves and others as they advance? It might be seen as something of a snobbery to suppose that those coming to practice have to be "all in" or else ridiculous and self serving. Does one learn and evolve through yoga practice or come to it with a perfected spirituality, using poses as an adjunct? When I practice, I appreciate the opportunity to learn and to share practice, noting that I am fairly novice and that my practice is individual and has meaning to me, which may be different from others and from my teachers. As with any art or tradition, an institutional arrogance that says, "do it this way and believe this or you're doing it wrong and not really one of us" tends to marginalize those who are beginners or exploring from different traditions. You'll perhaps then understand why I say that I think your statement is, in fact, arrogant.

  43. Dorothy Lowry says:

    Ahhh heritage. I admit that I find it hard to understand any sense of "ownership" on a tradition, be it yoga, bellydance, Mississippi Delta blues, Christianity, Sufism, or the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.I respect where all these traditions come from, but I don't believe anyone has exclusive claim to them. You might be from the old neighborhood, but you can't keep me from moving in.

    As the product of the American Melting pot I can "legitimately" (which I think is an absurd construct, but let's take the complaint as valid for the sake of arguing it) claim the musical, spiritual, and dance traditions of Northern European Celts, the amazing melding of indigenous and Catholic Spanish culture that emerged in California in the 1800's, the slave cultures of the West Indies, and that's for starters. Given that this post is unaccompanied by a picture, how would our Indian friend assign me a tradition to practice as "mine"? Readers don't know if I have my grandmother's black hair, my great-great-grandmother's chocolate skin, or my grandfather's blond hair and blue eyes? I lived in the middle east and danced with women who's understanding of belly dance has been passed down from mother to daughter for generations. They (and Dolphina!) taught me how to use what all of my ancestors bequeathed me to shimmy, move, and love my body, so may I belly-dance ma'am? Is my street cred good enough yet? Further, if I were a terrible person, could I tell this lady she really wouldn't be welcome at a Highland Games festival because, you know, wrong look and not a member of "our" tradition club? How fast would the racist flag be thrown (legitimately so) if I did so?

    Respect and reverence for culture, tradition, and spiritual practice is a good thing. It may be the thing that saves us in the end. But like many good things, it has to be given AND received to work. We all, regardless of heritage(s) should be mindful of this. Dolphina, dance on blondy!

  44. Pankaj Seth says:

    I don't find that what you and I have written are at odds. What exactly about what I wrote are your criticizing? In fact, might it not be helpful for people to know that there are no required exercises, that the bulk of 'doing yoga' is to reorganize one's reality maps. Why is pointing this out 'arrogant'?

  45. Allegra Pena says:

    Great article Dolphina. I am a Mexican American belly dancer living in Egypt. Although I don't have Egyptian blood I have been told I that when I dance I have feeling like an Egyptian belly dancer and I certainly have the soul of an Egyptian. If I were blond haired and blue eyed would I have the same feeling? I'm sure I certainly would because its in my soul. This dance, the music, the culture. I'm glad you have dedicated your life to empowering women and you are an amazing business woman and person, that is where the "hate" comes from. My motto in life is do what you love and be happy and if you are doing that then you are doing the right thing. 😉

  46. Linda says:

    I, too, love the richness the variety of cultures gives us. I'm a "blonde chick" as a young woman, but love my salt and pepper, cause I blend in more and people don't know what my ethnic background is. But is that first impression the one we can't get past? I have made it my mission to get inside those attitudes and tear them down. I want people to be who "they" really are and though culture contributes to that, it doesn't not complete the individual–we each have to do that for ourselves. Thanks, Dolphina for being strong!

  47. Loletta says:

    I'd kindly ask you to consider the opposite. No one with half a brain would openly label some ethnicity, nationality, gender, you name it, with a negative feature / stereotype. And if someone did, you could expect well deserved flames. Double standard here? I do think so.

  48. Patty says:

    I love what you do. You are a true Goddess. Keep ignoring the haters. Great article.

  49. Valmiki says:

    The issue is the manner in which cultural systems are being packaged and exploited.Whites are fond of insulting and demonizing ancient traditional practices only to become enamoured of said traditions when it suits them.The irony of belly dancing and yoga being marketed by whites especially Americans who "love" the art but not necessarily the people said arts come from is a sure formula for watered down versions which lends no development to what has taken a people centuries and more to construct. That said, no one owns legally yoga but India certainly has to be acknowledged as its epicentre just as rock and roll or the blues has to be credited as an American form. To do otherwise is to be pretentious.Keeping an Eastern art close to its pure form is hardly ever possible in a western frame s it may behoove whites and other races to at least reflect on whether they really ought to be even calling certain practices by said name.Mayhap the use of terminology to realize the new white style of others' art forms is what is needed. Think ofJamaica's ska and the development of England's Two tone and the USA's 3rd wave which allows the listener to understand that the music is Ska in origin but is now another entity.

  50. valmiki says:

    A ridiculous response. You are now reducing India to some sort of Hendrix esque Purple haze video with swirling images of Indian gods and goddesses alongside aliens and pyramids. Yoga is an Indian tradition. No one denies anyone from practicing yoga but at least have some respect for its progenitor.