Is yoga racist?

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A Michigan State University religious studies professor Shreena Gandhi has claimed that white people who do yoga contribute to a “system of power, privilege, and oppression… White Americans should learn yoga’s history, acknowledge the cultural appropriation they engage in and possibly reduce the cost of yoga classes for poor people, a group that often includes people of color and recent immigrants, such as Indian women to whom this practice rightfully belong.”

Wow. Who knew that those whites doing the downward facing dog were poking their posteriors to the poor and minority groups? How can whites overlook this? Why aren’t they donating to yoga scholarships or at the very least paying double their yoga lessons to subsidize them? Can we see the statistics or proof showing how the poor, people of colour and recently arrived immigrants value yoga as their highest priority injustice?

Every person who has done yoga in CM’s experience has done it for the health, meditative and stretching benefits. Anyway let’s see what minorities say about yoga.

According to an article in the Washington based  The Healthy African titled ‘Namaste : Black Girls journey to Yoga’ it noted the following,

In my journey to being a healthier individual I have come to realize that a healthy body cannot be attained without a healthy mind. Yoga is a practice that truly takes this holistic view of health . It is not about competition or singular priorities…I find that Yoga is a practice many more women of color should be looking to as a means of attaining a healthy lifestyle.

The author isn’t asking women of colour (presumably her audience) to even out the ethnicity imbalance in yoga classrooms but seek it for the health benefits. Perhaps Professor Gandhi should check that minorities follow the same guidelines on the history of yoga.

Afrogirl Fitness also wrote an article titled ‘Yoga for Christians’

As a Christian, I am always questioned about my yoga practice and its connection to my Christian faith. The question recently posed to me was “As a person of faith, are there aspects of yoga that you omit from your practice?” Currently, the answer is yes, simply because there are so many aspects of yoga that I am still learning and applying to my Christian faith. Yoga goes beyond the physical practice (asana) as stated in the yoga sutras, with the ultimate goal being self –realization.

No it doesn’t seem African American yogis that are Christians are crying out for equality in the classroom either.

Rina Jakubowicz was born in Venezuela to a mother from Cuba and father from Argentina. She moved to Miami at age 4 and now lives in Los Angeles. She noted that not many Hispanics were doing yoga due to language difficulties and has started to promote yoga classes held in Spanish. She said to Yoga Journal,

Well, a top priority for me was to get yoga out to people and use it to help inspire others and get them to incorporate it into their lives…Yoga hasn’t been presented to Latinos. They might feel like it is not accessible to them—there haven’t been a lot of Spanish yoga classes…If you make it available, people will start doing it.

Then there is the story of Rodney Yee who has been in the yoga game since 1980. He wrote on his homepage, “His appearance on Oprah in 1999 helped catapult Yoga into the mainstream. Other highlights in his long career as a premiere Yoga teacher include the co-owning of Piedmont Yoga Studio, his vast output of videos with Gaiam, and his eloquent workshops around the world.”

Surely Mr Yee is the root of the problem and the target of any attacks by the professor. Had he not catapulted yoga into the mainstream then we wouldn’t have as many whites doing yoga. Shame on Mr Yee for creating jobs and helping more people of all backgrounds access healthy lifestyles. Shame on Oprah for promoting him.

In summary it seems more and more  blacks, Hispanics and Asians merely embody yoga’s spirituality to help develop PERSONAL growth. It doesn’t appear to be anything else that’s driven it.

Perhaps Prof. Gandhi should be seeking her own personal growth by crawling out from beneath her own yoga mat before the Dean sees how completely lame her teaching methods are.

Liberalism: let’s find a cure.

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