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

Via elephant journal
on Jul 18, 2012
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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.

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

Thai Forest Tradition Buddhist monk.

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

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

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

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

Really folks?

That’s all you can think about?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: “Was she Sikh?”

Girl: “No, I think she’s Muslim.”

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

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

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

And it just goes downhill from there.

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

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

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

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

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

In short, yes. Big time.

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

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

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

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


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Editor: Bryonie Wise

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

  1. Nike Merritt says:

    In any spiritual practice there will always be those who cannot overcome the belief that if they pay enough and go to enough cool things, they too will become cool and enlightened, however, their spiritual youth and arrogance will overcome the merits of whatever lastest trend they have attempted.
    Most Americans are of European descent, and the Christian church pretty much killed all cultural native heritage there,, with all ancestor knowledge now just being speculation, myth, and downright invented fiction. As Joseph Campbell pointed out, the Christian Church is the church of money, so who can blame white Americans for turning to other native cultures to try to find some meaning and spirituality?
    My daughter has a name for people who carry this too far- "featherchasers" -people who will follow any native like a rockstar groupie and put aside all common sense and decency in an attempt to become authentic whatever themselves.
    Spirituality will always be an individual pursuit, teachers can only point you in a direction, but you have to go there yourself,
    And forgive yourself and everyone else on the way.

  2. Katherine says:

    boredom is so… boring. You have the power to bring the depth that you crave to your community and your experience. Clearly you have pinpointed exactly what you don't like about it, now BE something that fulfills you. Its no ones job but your own to inspire you.

  3. mithras says:

    Oh dear, oh dear.

    You started off your yoga practice with a marketing fad ("hot yoga") promoted by an Indian with enormously materialistic tastes and then became disenchanted. And now it's the fault of Westerners?

    Did you do any research before diving in? Did you look at the yoga schools developed by the disciples of Krishnamacharya (the 'father' of modern yoga)?

    Do the names B.K.S Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois, T.K.V. Desikachar and Indra Devi have no meaning for you at all?

    How about Sivananda? Satchidananda?

    As for India, have you been to Varanasi lately? It's filled with yoga studios "cashing in", not by catering to Indians but entirely to Westerners.

    In short, really is a bad idea to denigrate yoga in the west (or in India) based on one's own poor choices.

    But not to worry, yoga will survive.

  4. listentoeveryone says:

    So is there a part II where you describe your personal practice of yoga and how that in any way played into your decision to quit? If you feel so passionately this way, why choose to cut the cord? Nowhere in your article did you mention anything about your practice or if you were teaching, but why not not use your passion to fuel teaching to inspire people rather than criticize a popularity of naive students. If everybody were on the path to enlightenment, they wouldn't need yoga. That is why yoga is necessary in the western world. My advice? get back on your mat, deepen your practice, step outside of your ego and into compassion, take action to change what doesn't sit right…

  5. lisa says:

    amen annie..and thank you for this. i got a similar impression as you from this article. when i decided to adopt a regular yoga practice (and as a single, never married, never rich mom to a then teenage boy), I "creatively financed"..ie..bartered w a studio. i scrubbed toilets and showers and kept the studio clean each week and could attend classes as often as i wished..and i did…nearly every day and still..for years. i don't think the fact that i am a white girl (eastern european jewish girl whose been told i could pass for an indian girl, which i took as a huge compliment) and may like to get some henna or learn sanskrit or study ancient indian and yogic texts precludes me from deserving all the benefits of yoga.

  6. earlnjasmine says:

    I enjoyed reading this article very much. There were many good points in questioning the authenticity of practicing yoga in North America. I feel many people treat yoga like a form of physical activity and do not want to learn the many things yoga has to offer. We all are unique individuals, the western world will never become the eastern world and vice versa. Let's not pretend to be someone we're not and start being authentic and open with our limitations, understanding, knowledge and ourselves.

  7. Edward Staskus says:

    Apropos of your reasoning, I would say that whenever I shop at our local grocery store I notice there are innumerable foodstuffs I either do not eat (animals), think are bad for me (sugary drinks), and mostly avoid (processed). I notice there are lots of people buying these items (97% of Americans eat animals).
    There are many foods I do like and they are what end up in our shopping bag. People are more than what they eat so I don't avoid the animal-eaters, even though I disagree with them. I would end up friendless. I don't avoid the grocery store. I would end up starving.
    I agree with some of what you wrote, except for your conclusion. There is no sense in throwing the baby out with the bath water.

  8. Patience S. says:

    I agree with a lot of your observations, but I am going to stand up for sanskrit. Someone else brought up how latin is still used in a very universal way(science,medicine,etc.) and so is sanskrit…or so i feel it should be. I teach a few classes that have little to no english speakers, sure they don't know sanskrit either, but I like the idea that all my students are equally confused…kidding…but really I like that for a few moments we all speak the same language. I like knowing that someone could move anywhere in the world and take a yoga class…unfortunately I'm finding less and less people using this tool, and I think that's just a bummer.

  9. earthenergyreader says:

    Edward, I think I should be more specific – I have not given up my practice, though I am taking a retreat for now. What I have given up is being near the "scene" and the paraphernalia around it. I'm looking for a space which resonates much more deeply with me.

  10. earthenergyreader says:

    My objection is the use of the language as a mechanism to come across as more legit in the hands of someone who is doing it because it's trendy or fashionable. (Blissananda – Seriously?)

  11. Edward Staskus says:

    I think I know what you mean. I wrote a piece for EJ recently called 'Exercise for the Elite', and much of what you wrote resonated with me and what I researched about yoga in the West.

  12. […] few days ago, I read this article in Elephant Journal by an author whose distaste for the West’s cultural appropriation of yoga […]

  13. […] few days ago, I read this article in Elephant Journal by an author whose distaste for the West’s cultural appropriation of yoga led […]

  14. jonathan says:

    These type of articles are why I dropped my EJ account. I think I'll delete the bookmark now and go back to simply focusing on my yoga practice.

  15. betterdeal says:

    Sounds like there's lots of opportunity to improve yoga where you are: in particular making it more welcoming to the whole community. Perhaps suggesting schools where you are adopt an aim to grow into a collection of people who represent the whole community would be a good idea for some; and for those of you who teach, maybe look at ways to appeal to the diverse cultures and ethnicities in your area. Other organisations such as charities have faced similar challenges and may be able to offer help with achieving such a goal.

    Let's not retreat from the challenge, but take it on with relish! Yoga for all!

  16. kalika5 says:

    In my opinion you have several points that are true. As a yoga teacher, I believe in the traditional yoga. In my opinion, in the Western world many are not ready to practice yoga as practiced in India. Why, because we live in a society were we are trained to work and live hard to achieve a certain so called quality of life. Yoga is about union, being in oneness with all. We as yoga teachers are here to teach others to live in union first with ourself and then others. We are here to serve and be the yoga that lives in our heart. In my experience it manifest in the way one teaches and what can be transmitted to others. For me that is true yoga.

  17. Oh close your eyes and breath

  18. Kat says:

    As I was told in the sixties before my first trip to India – if it costs money, it ain't spiritual. If you want to do hatha yoga for your health, fine, but don't confuse it with a spiritual practice. There's always karma yoga, etc. if you are interested in spirituality. Can you imagine Mother Teresa doing asanas?

  19. Prabuddh says:

    Wow..Judgey judgemental. while I agree with the fact that yoga has lost it's way in America you sure do generalize a lot. I am white and yes I chant in sanskrit and I have a sanskrit name. i didn't make it up. It was given to me by my guru to remind me of what I should be aspiring to become and it has helped me over the years remember not to stray to far from my spiritual goals. That said I'm not enlightened and have a long way to go. I have seen all of the trappings of American yoga from having worked in the industry and practiced since about 1994 but now I practice at home because I don't want to be involved in the scene anymore having seen to much stuff that I feel goes against why i started practicing. My guru has many many Indian followers and when i go to her US ashram there are more Indians than westerners although there are a good amount of those as well. What strikes me about the Indians I meet at the ashram is how kind, devoted, patient and accepting they are of others. Not saying this is true for all Indians or every single Indian there but the ones I connect with are like that. When i'm entering the temple and a little Indian boy tells another child to "say hello to Uncle" meaning me, I feel a small joy inside that i have an extended spiritual family. Being with my guru has not always been a piece of cake but i have gotten much out of it slowly over time. i am much different today then i was eight years ago when i began following her and hopefully i will be much different from who i am now in eight years future. I will be visiting the ashram in India this December where there no running hot water and people sleep on thin mattresses on the floor in small quarters. I am looking forward to it and there are no five star accommodations there. I am aware that this doesn't make me Indian and in India there are temples that will not allow me as a westerner to enter and Hindus who will not accept me and look down on me. That is their problem not mine. I'm not sure what you are so angry about, but yes you seem really angry towards "white" people. My guess is your issue is deeper than that. You come off as not only angry and judgemental but also as deeply cynical. and before you write me off as a rich white person because i can afford to go to India, I have been waiting for eight years because I didn't have the money for the ticket and I will be on bare bones budget when I am there but I feel drawn to go and I am following that calling.

  20. bennyk says:

    You make some good points but maybe you should try something other than Bikram. He's not exactly known as the poster child for selflessness or deep yoga practice.

  21. Marci says:

    Recognizing that something or someone we love and believe in is flawed and inconsistent is part of the journey. My guess is that you will come out the other side with more compassion and peace. I feel your pain and have been there. There are free and inexpensive classes and many many yogis of integrity. Joy to you.

  22. chad says:

    A. Why doesn't the author start free yoga classes for the American poor and dispossessed–working mothers, poor immigrants, all the people she's concerned about?
    B. Western authors recently have claimed that yoga as we know it is less than 100 years old. So, I imagine it is still evolving.
    C. Indians, such as those working the phones for Amazon, Apple, etc., have taken Western names, and even though India is still supposedly conservative, the rich there party and spend wastefully.
    D. Smart westerners know that they're being duped by Bikram, the Maharishi, John Friend, Yogananda, but keep on anyhow. People here want a spiritual framework outside of Christianity. I'm sure Indians still chant in Sanskrit.
    E. So many Indians in the U.S. are arrogant and elitist, like the author of this article. Maybe they need to take a humility pill.

  23. Boodiba says:

    I've had a lot of similar feelings about the yoga scene. For me, the solution has been a lot of self practice. I spent seven years working and learning in shalas, while practicing occasionally alone. I had a few bad experiences with teachers and then retreated to nearly 100% solo for the past nine months. It totally helped! I might return to a studio now but I think I'm refreshed and recentered and can shield myself from the aspects of the group that I DON'T want.

    You can leave the scene but keep the yoga.

  24. meme says:

    I have read several rants on EJ about what irritates the writer in yoga class, really not what I want to pay to read. I was ready to cancel my subscription. Yet, here we have another writer airing their irritation, with several excellent and very valid points, and we are not willing to embrace their point of view? The author is entitled to expressing their point, and very good ones at that. The yoga community is overall very exclusive. I am a yoga teacher, a 54-year-old Caucasian, female and I feel exclusion in the local teaching community. I have stepped back from the teaching community because of the untruths, shallow practices and commercially driven training programs. I don’t use Sanskrit and have been looked down upon as “not really teaching yoga” because of I don’t try to use it. My students don’t speak Sanskrit so I have no reason to use it. There are a number of teachers that feel superior because of it. The yoga community constantly touts “yoga is for everyone” yet many expect them to speak Sanskrit and fit into size 12 or smaller Lululemons. I continue to teach as I enjoy serving underserved populations I work with. It’s not about the money, I love what I do. There are therapeutic benefits for my students; I will not walk away from them. I love them and I love what I do. I am sad to see the glossy consumerism that the yoga world and I thank the writer for saying what needed to be said.

  25. Tomasz says:


  26. Sorry comment was meant for the author

  27. Theresa says:

    1. You can find authentic teachers not all are frauds about how they live their life, investigate your teacher first, just like in India when searching for a guru, keep searching, you may have just been in the wrong classes. Anything where turning the heat on in the room suggests that the teacher is not understanding the essence of the practice is generating heat from within through the breath. Same with classes that use music, the aim is for focus on inside not via the senses.

    2. 1200 a year for yoga is money well spent, many people can find that cash for cable TV, cars, cinema, drinks and inner out, etc no matter what they are earning, for some people it is a matter of priority in life and that is when it becomes what it is meant to be.

    3. Agreed on the sari and bindi wearing thing it's ridiculous and probably more prevalent in the USA than Western Europe.

  28. What does the Pussy Cat dolls dressing up like Indians have to do with Yoga? They dressed like that because they performed the English version of the song "Jai Ho," for the blockbuster movie, "Slumdog Millionaire." The movie had nothing to do with yoga and neither did the song. I know people who can't stand yoga but who love Bollywood. It's not the same thing. You are comparing American social trends such as clubbing to yoga the way your friend mistook an Indian Sikh for an Indian Muslim. You do not like it when people generalize but you are doing it in this article. In fact, the philosophy of yoga can easily be compared to other great philosophies in any culture. Making into an "Indian" thing is superficial in of itself.

    So there are white people in your yoga class. Does that bother you? Why does the color of someone's skin bother you? Underneath, we are all the same. I'm not a white person. I'm not brown or black either. I'm human.

    Of course, I have to agree with some of your examples such as yoga teachers threatening to cut people off for not being vegan, etc. Obviously, this is not the way an enlightened person acts. Of course, this isn't a reason to give up yoga. I've been to those circles but yoga and life has taught me that there are many other teachers and schools who aren't as "glamorous" but that fit my personality better. These days, I surround myself with more local students and teachers. I teach at a local YMCA where parents can take yoga while their children take other enrichment classes. The Y offers financial aid to people who can't afford membership and they offer unlimited yoga class. So even though you claim that:

    "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."

    I have learned otherwise. Yoga has taught me that anything is possible. I just want to help people take some time out of their day to meditate and connect with themselves and their bodies. If people do this for themselves, they will find their own answers. No need to complicate matters. The rest is just "maya." They are distractions and a part of life. Yes, people can be annoying at times but yoga has actually taught me to tolerate them better than not.

  29. CarolineChildOfAScot says:

    After reading (and liking) many of the comments here, the one that says it best for me is you, @HeroesTraining.
    By the way, I am a single mother on social assistance. I am also white. I'm really kind of offended by a lot of what this woman wrote. She obviously feels superior to me but I submit to her: I'm a freelance artist and hustle everyday for the next paying job; I rent Yoga videos from the library and my 8 year old & I enjoy posing along with them every morning- when I can, I clean a studio for free classes-and take what I learned home to my eager daughter; oh, did I mention that I am raising an awesome, kind, funny, empathetic, smart and beautiful child? Alone. Who is really superior here? I'll answer my own question. Neither of us. Because, at the end of the "day" (meaning life) we both will someday take our last breath- albeit in different places & circumstances- but our last, just the same. Until then, can we refrain from judging others the way that so many of us do? I'm guilty of it as much as the next person; but, at least, I'm aware of it. Are you, Irasna?
    Look, it's called the Human Experience. Enjoy it while you have it, lady!

  30. Lori says:

    I get what you are saying, as a Yoga teacher in the northern burbs of Chicago I see so much of that here, but I do see many teachers changing their classes to donation also, and offering free classes to the unemployed and suffering. So maybe it is the direction you are looking. There is good and bad in this World we live in,we choose what we want to see.

  31. Mike C. says:

    You didn’t “leave yoga”, you have finally found it! I’m sorry you got duped into thinking Bikram would be a real yoga class just because it’s in the name, it isn’t, it’s just an exercise class where your likely to be insulted.
    The classes I go to teach me to honor and strengthen my connection of mind,body,and spirit. I love it when my teachers speak sanskrit, they also quote Buddha, Lao Tzu, Mother Theresa, Jesus, Lennon/McCartney, Roger Waters, and Snoopy to name a few. I agree that “Yoga” in Socal has become very commercial, but there is still enough beauty here to match anything coming out of India. Find me and I’ll show you, Shanti my friend

  32. earthenergyreader says:

    Thanks meme, I completely understand where you're coming from and I think it's great you're teaching those less sexier populations and groups. I'm not a teacher, but if I were, I'd probably be doing the same.

  33. earthenergyreader says:

    Boodiba, I'm pretty much doing the same. I left the scene but do my practice at home. I don't see myself returning to the studio anytime soon.

  34. warriorsaint says:

    I have been waiting for a piece like this for a long time

    I live in the Little India area of Jersey City, NJ. There are a few yoga studios in the area that I have visited. I was always curious why I never saw anyone from India taking classes. Over the years I had become friends with the many India women who both take and teach at my local Pilates studio. Seems (at least with N. Jersey E. Indians) in their culture yoga is on par with folk dancing or Polka in Middle America. An old, quaint art not a all in line with what educated Indians what to have associated with India. I thought this was an anomaly until I read this piece. Thanks for a confirmation.

  35. sandara says:

    I'm surprised it took you so long ( 8 years ) to come to these conclusions, some of which are quite valid. Discernment is important in everything we do,but no reason to be negatively critical.On one level its all totally obvious but on another its irrelevant.Observe what:s going on but don't involve yourself if its not for you.Just choose who YOU want to be, where you want to go, how you want to get there and follow your own path,Don't waste time and energy castigating what others are doing.
    Let go and move on.

  36. earthenergyreader says:

    "I almost want to say you owe people an apology not so much for what you wrote but for the negativity you added into the world."

    You might as well be more honest and upfront and say "You owe people an apology for having an an opinion which doesn't jive with me and I can't deal with , now be quiet and go away and let me live in my bubble"

    "If you believe in freedom of speech, you believe in freedom of speech for views you don't like. If you're in favor of freedom of speech, that means you're in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise." -Professor Noam Chomsky

  37. kcain48 says:

    Please feel better soon. All this criticism and fault finding can't make you feel very good.
    You might take a look at the 'Open Letter to YA' article in this posting and note how someone can see room for improvement and put energy into positive suggestions rather than criticism and scorn.

  38. elephantjournal says:

    elephant, for better and worse, is big enough now that the energy in the dialogue and questioning in such pieces as this magnetizes not only respectful debate, but rudeness. My favorite sort of comment: "don't insult yoga, eff you!"

    That said, most of the comments, critical or positive or both, as well as your article, help to further genuine dialogue, understanding and curiosity, questioning. With thanks for inspiring such a discussion:



  39. elephantjournal says:

    Always a good thing to do. That said, when you come up for air, there's the question of lineage, and caring for the integrity of our practce, and the true joy and alleviation of suffering inherent in it. The dialogue, and doing so respectfully, is a part of our practice.

    As I comment to the author, who was remarking on how negative some of this discussion had admittedly become (I just deleted four or five that mistook personal attacks for open dialogue):

    elephant, for better and worse, is big enough now that the energy in the dialogue and questioning in such pieces as this magnetizes not only respectful debate, but rudeness. My favorite sort of comment: "don't insult yoga, eff you!"

    That said, most of the comments, critical or positive or both, as well as your article, help to further genuine dialogue, understanding and curiosity, questioning. With thanks for inspiring such a discussion:



  40. elephantjournal says:

    That's ridiculous, I'm sorry. Money, as many note, is just energy. Say I buy a local custard apple and give it to a child—has giving money to the farmer or grocer fouled the exchange?

  41. elephantjournal says:


  42. elephantjournal says:

    There are 100s of thoughtful, positive, serious yoga articles for every controversial article about the past, present and future of yoga on this site. Both play their role in establishing and forming our present and future. We can, again, re-learn to engage with those we might disagree with (and in an independent, reader-created site that we sometimes disagree with) without leaving. We don't need to be sycophants or haters, here: we can be ourselves.

  43. jonathan says:

    I'm all for open dialogue, it's the blatant racism that bothers me. I'm sure Deepak Chopra is not upset with the millions he's earned in/on the West.

  44. Desi and proud says:

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

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

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

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

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

  45. Lucy says:

    Your point is valid, but regardless of whether it's yoga, standup paddling, environmental causes or whatever it is. I think all those statements you made could be found in any thing that becomes pursued with a purpose of good intentions and then distortions occur. Just like dropping a stone in a pond ripples occur that no one can control. Rain falls on the just and the unjust. Doesn't make it good or bad. It just is. It is my belief we each have to make conscious effort to look inside and not get side tracked from our focus. The frustration is understandable but it's how we deal with it that is important.

  46. Ted says:

    I am a white male who can barely touch his kneecaps. I am in love with Kirtan and chant in Sanskrit to myself when driving, in my living room, in nature. I have no desire to be a Hindu (although I respect those who are). I believe it would be a terrible tragedy to "let Sanskrit go". I cannot explain why, but the Sanskrit words transport me and Kirtan has deeply changed me for the better.

  47. Plamen says:

    All said does not seem to have anything to do with Yoga. I believe, that it has been your Ego who wrote this- just do not listen to it. Yoga has nothing to do with Studios, Gyms and so on. It is very individual preferably daily practice- it is your true self which defines the pace and nobody can go all the way that you have to walk instread of you in order to find your real self, no matter how much cash you pay.
    Well, the way is hard … there are not only asanas (the physical part roughly said) … there is struggle within … Ego is the hardest opponent (masking as the closest friend) one would ever meet.
    It is really pitty that sacret words like Yoga and Yogin are used in a sense that they are not meant to be.
    With regards to Sanskrit … as we all know, it is a language based on the initial energy vibrations … it can be used as a tuner to tune you to these vibrations, but before all, you should be ready to be tuned in. Nothing is obligatory … there are so many ways … and this is Yoga.
    And please remember … the SOUL does not have colour!!!

  48. Gina Hudson says:

    My husband and I have been watching this debate and we're quite surprised at the level of hostility it has provoked, hostility among a set of people who are claiming to be “spiritual” and practicing ahimsa.
    Irasna, I think that you’ve stayed relatively calm in your responses to those who are foaming at the mouth, as you wrote earlier, you’re right, this is going to be a difficult conversation to have and walking through those “landmines” of race and culture is going to require patience, tolerance, responsibility and maturity – things I have not seen on display within the responses here. In fact, what it does sound like are a bunch of babies on the playground who suddenly had their toys taken away from them. Petulant, spoiled, petty…and sheltered or… angry that someone burst their bubble.
    I don’t agree with every point you wrote especially around Sanskrit and non-Indian gurus, but you have every right for expressing your opinion, even strongly. This debate is quickly degenerating and morphing into something different so I can’t say I blame you for not responding anymore to the reactions here. I’m Italian-American but my husband is African-American and even within our marriage those issues of culture and race are constantly thrown in our faces, we both decided that we were going to deal with it by learning from whatever it brought up. It's not easy, but it is easier if there is some form of mutual respect there. That has deepened and changed everything especially at how we look at things now. We didn’t find your article to be racist at all, I have no idea where people are getting that unless of course they’re projecting something of their own issues onto you and what you wrote. I think you’ve provoked some real soul-searching by pressing some of these buttons.
    I left a response on your blog too, in case the editors of EJ decide to take down this comment.
    P.S I had a HUGE crush on Rick Springfield also as a teen in the 80s, good for you on getting his notice with your article!