Why Yoga Land Is A Mess!!
Updated: Sep 10, 2021
Two to three years on and not much has really changed within Yoga Land! On the contrary, it has become even more entrenched in capitalism and nepotism is on the rise… it seems to be the only way to get ahead in an industry that is unforgiving and very exclusive.
Established yoga sites, platforms and teachers show their solidarity by tokenizing American Desi teachers, who in turn will only uplift other teachers who align with their perspectives and messages. Seriously one does not stand a chance in an industry that is reluctant and closed in their outlook towards vedantic teachings.
Yoga, no longer seen as purely a physical practice, is now being understood as a spiritual practice towards ‘self-realization’. This is a great welcome, but what has not changed, is the syllabus and teaching methods of yoga teacher trainings and workshops. It is still about ticking the right boxes, focusing on asanas and being aligned with western governing bodies!
There is very little to none, on what is Sanatana Dharma, its culture and application in yoga. Two years on and the focus has not shifted from ‘to namaste’ or ‘not to namaste’ and cultural appropriation. There is no right answer and never will be, as India is a country with 28 states and each state has their own rituals, festivals and clothing.
The teachings of yoga’s philosophy are being used to promote personal agendas which can be harmful to dedicated practitioners. Yogic texts are still being taught through a colonized lens, leading to heavy misinterpretations and the erasure of traditional Indian teachings and teachers. So much for decolonizing yoga!
The lack of acknowledgment or acceptance of yoga’s birthplace as being from India, has given rise to yoga being called South Asian. Labeling it as a ‘South Asian‘ practice is like cutting the roots from the tree and propping it up with all kinds of western definitions and expecting it to conform. Surely this will lead to a slow death? If we continue to erase or disregard yoga’s birthplace, its culture and wisdom… then the yoga we are trying to honor, will be nothing more than passing trends designed to fulfill momentarily needs and will further alienate one from the spiritual aspect of the practice.
“You see the truth no matter how hard it is will hurt but lies will erase and destroy.”
What has changed… more POC teachers are standing up and claiming the same respect and teaching opportunities as their peers... and will continue to do so until it becomes the norm. However like any industry there will always be ‘celebrities’ and Western Yoga has its fair share. With this type of status, doors open to all kinds of attractive deals. In an all-white industry there is a rise of ‘South Asian yoga celebrities’ with book deals, selling products, and branded trainings but what is ironic is… in accepting and promoting these deals, they seem to have strayed away from their own initial or core values. To stay in the game, one’s integrity and values do get comprised or white washed! This simply reflects the power, reach and control that the yoga industry has.
“Being brown skin does not make me an expert on yoga”- Savira Gupta
Studying, seeking the right teacher, understanding yoga through yoga’s perspective and how to apply it in one’s day to day life was and still is vital for my own spiritual, personal and community growth. To have a good grasp of this vast knowledge, to teach from yoga’s lens and not from mine nor a western/colonized mindset is crucial and this is severely lacking within this power-hungry industry. Let’s be honest, there are no short cuts to understanding a living culture and its spiritual philosophy and how can you, if you are continually excluding traditional Indian voices from your workshops, trainings and conferences.
The pandemic has created a culture of shaming, bullying and calling out. Sadly, this has led to studios shutting down and yoga teachers stepping back from their career out of fear, frustration and confusion. However, I have seen a rise of students and teachers who are genuinely interested and open to diving deep and wide into yoga's many texts to understanding the Bhagavad Gita from its original essence and not from the western viewpoint of it 'being political' or 'social justice'.
The western yoga industry seems to think that what is taught or defined by them is set in stone and therefore the rest of world must abide by it and this offers no room for different perspectives, critical thinking and open discussions.... are western yoga platforms afraid of being challenged by authentic voices and teachings?
Artwork by: Richa Maheshwari