We have previously seen protests on colleges to end yoga classes as “cultural appropriation.” Now Michigan State University professor Shreena Gandhi has written a long critique of white people who practice yoga as promulgating a “system of power, privilege, and oppression.” Gandhi insists that yoga is an extension of white supremacy and the “yoga industrial complex.” Ganhdi co-authored the piece with Lillie Wolff who describes herself as “an antiracist white Jewish organizer, facilitator, and healer.” Wolff has called for “decolonizing” yoga.
Gandhi has cited her “scholarly work on yoga” and argues that yoga classes “allows western practitioners to experience the idea of another culture while focusing on the self.” The article argues that yoga classes should be conditioned on white people acknowledging their cultural appropriation, being forced to learn its history, and lowering the costs for poor people and people of color. It appears that the prostrate position will precede the lotus position in your next yoga class.
Yoga . . . popularity was a direct consequence of a larger system of cultural appropriation that capitalism engenders and reifies. While the (mis)appropriation of yoga may not be a life-threatening racism, it is a part of systemic racism nonetheless, and it is important to ask, what are the impetuses for this cultural “grabbing”? In order to delve deeper into this question, it’s useful to look at the roots of U.S. white dominant culture, the foundation of which is rooted in enslavement of West Africans and settler colonialism. Decades of assimilation and the cultural stripping of Europeans as they arrived to the U.S. produced a white dominant culture. People of European descent replaced their ethnicities (i.e. German, Polish, English, Italian, etc.) with whiteness and the privileges that came along with that identity. This history is especially relevant right now as we are seeing white men taking to the streets in mobs shouting, “We will not be replaced.”
While my comments will likely be dismissed as an expression of privilege, I find this type of analysis to be highly superficial and conclusory. I remain surprised that such work is treated as a substantive academic contribution by some. It constitutes little more than a chain of stereotypes and political commentary dressed up as pseudo-cultural analysis. My concern is that criticism of such work is becoming more difficult for academics who fear to be labeled as insensitive or hostile or even racist.
The authors treat the assimilation of cultural influences as a type of misappropriation as opposed to the natural influence of different cultures on a pluralistic society. As an Italian, I see much of my culture replicated and then expressed differently by non-Italians. It does not bother me because it is part of a process of translation and growth. I will often tell my kids what an Italian dish should look like or how a holiday was practiced but this is not to resist “misappropriation” but to reinforce our own connections to our cultural risks. Indeed, I have found most people interested in the sources of practices, dishes and influences.
The thing I love about this country is its pluralism and assimilation. There is always a certain translation and evolution even within a culture. Practices evolve with communities and that evolution extends their reach and influence. It is not an act of colonialism but translation.
What do you think?
81 thoughts on “And Now The Prostrate Position: Michigan State Professor Denounces Yoga As Appropriated Through White Supremacy”
That excerpt from the SJW professors feel just like one of those abstract bots that can spew out essays that superficially look like real professional journal articles.
Gary T – I do not have a cite to the article, however, 50% of scientific papers were unable to be duplicated.
These people are just nuts, and did you hear what a “professor” said about soldiers?, just a bunch of nutcases, quite incredible that the so called elite or people with studies could say so many dumb things.
There’s merit to what you’ve written, Jonathan, but your analysis is superficial:
“Most yoga teachers in America do not learn about Hindu tradition or Indian cultural history. Generally in the United States, people practice the physical aspect of yoga, the postures or asanas, which comprise only one-eighth of the practice as a whole. The physical practice — think flowing from one pose to another with awareness of the breath — does help many people decrease stress, anxiety, and depression. However, when “Western” yoga teachers train other practitioners to relate to yoga only on a physical level, without exploring the history, roots, complexity, and philosophy, they are perpetuating the re-colonization of it by diluting its true depth and meaning. This modern day trend of cultural appropriation of yoga is a continuation of white supremacy and colonialism, maintaining the pattern of white people consuming the stuff of culture that is convenient and portable, while ignoring the well-being and liberation of Indian people.
“We would be remiss if we did not acknowledge the far too few practitioners who go much deeper than just the physical, into the ancient yogic teachings, and do their best to humbly honor and learn from the lineage they have the privilege of accessing. It is possible for authentic, respectful, and accountable cultural exchange to occur, and for the practices to have a profound healing effect on the practitioner. Herein lies the invitation for white yoga practitioners to go beyond an unaccountable surface level relationship with yoga to a deeper, more transformative place of practice, awareness, contemplation, and engagement.”
The bottom line is that it is no one’s f’ing business whether or not another person has “sufficiently” studied the background of a physical activity, like yoga, in order to participate or engage in such an activity. A lot of horseshit, if you ask me. It’s no one’s business if another has “sufficiently” studied the historical background of, let’s say, boxing or fencing, etc., in order to engage in those activities. The same applies to yoga. Study it, don’t study it. . .no one’s business. These academic lunatics have a screw loose to start dictating crap about the need to fully explore and investigate the cultural significance of our everyday activities, especially when the ones guilty of dictating such nonsense chose to migrate from some sweltering, God-forsaken, hell hole, without widespread indoor plumbing, enough food for the population and a prevalent, defective mindset which imprisons individuals in a caste system, from which there is no escape. No one needs lectures from some person, who couldn’t escape her fantastic and wondrous culture, fast enough, to come to the shores of the US to partake of our substandard culture. Where is the person demanding that Ms. Gandhi study the background and history of antibiotics and vaccines, which she, along with her family, partake? Huh? They, surely, didn’t have their origins in India. Not much, in modern life, does. Does she refuse medicine, which, by the way, would be all types of medicine, since she is not fully knowledgeable as to the historical background of each scientist and his ethnic and religious background? India isn’t exactly a hotbed of scientific discoveries. How far do these idiots want to take this nonsense?
Well said. Today’s left is all about being in everyone else’s business but their own. They want to know what you are eating and drinking and smoking and then judge you for it. They want to make sure your entertainment has their stamp of approval lest deviant ideas intrude. They want the narrative in the news to remain affixed and heaven help us all if anything ever challenges that narrative – no wonder so many of them wanted Jeb Bush to be President. The left loves to lecture down from on high but can never accept crtiques of their own shortcomings.
If it’s cultural appropriation to do Yoga fine, I’ll say I’m doing Fosbert McGee excercises that just so happen to look a hell a lot like Yoga. And no, I won’t share Fosbert’s story because I don’t want anyone to culturally appropriate my Fosbert!
without exploring the history, roots, complexity, and philosophy, they are perpetuating the re-colonization of it by diluting its true depth and meaning.
I’ll see you’re horseshit Eastern cultural appropriation and raise you our Western Civilization. Once you study OUR history, roots, complexity and philosophy, then you maybe, just maybe will see it’s our culture that’s worth preserving.
I wonder what the professor thought about Hillary Clinton’s ‘appropriation’ of the yogic technique called ‘alternate nostril breathing’ that she used to help heal from her election loss?
These are the people that teach your children.. HELP!!
So who teaches that Professors classes while he or she or it is adding to the Fictionary of PCRap?
“The thing I love about this country is its pluralism and assimilation.”
Assimilation is key. Too often immigration discussions here and abroad get stuck on integration and associated physical and societal borders.
Bullsh*t like this is how people like Shreena can draw attention to themselves when otherwise they would be ignored. The interjection of “oh, that’s White Privilege” or “that’s cultural appropriation” is a Free Ticket to whatever conversation is going on, even if the speaker is as dumb as a bag of hammers on the subject topic.
Imagine a conversation between Einstein and Schrodinger about cats in a closed box, and some PETA person chirps in about how putting cats in closed boxes is cruel and unusual punishment for cats. People would tend to laugh at the buttinski. But let the topic be racial, or genderish, and people fall all over themselves to accommodate these idiots and take them seriously.
Meanwhile, I am giving fair notice that I have culturally appropriated this:
Calma e tranquilidade são as ordens do Senhor… Calma e tranquilidade para receber o amor…
“Imagine a conversation between Einstein and Schrodinger about cats in a closed box, and some PETA person chirps in about how putting cats in closed boxes is cruel and unusual punishment for cats. People would tend to laugh at the buttinski.”
I’m afraid you’re wrong Squeeky, the above suggestion would be JUDGED cruel enough to disavow the entire argument. Isn’t that exactly the main construct for the arguments today? That’s about all I see from the left on this blog, anyway.
Squeeky – I can just imagine the scene of Schroedinger’s cat alive or dead in the box and PETA coming to the rescue? 🙂
Crap academics is crap academics.
It’s unfortunate that the widespread move to empty the asylums has resulted in many of those individuals, who were previously housed in mental wards and cordoned off from the rest of society, being hired as academics at various institutions of higher learning. I wonder how Ms. Gandhi is guilty of appropriating the Western manners, customs and ways in her own personal life? That’s the problem. . .no one ever confronts these mental cases with the obviously hypocrisy in their own lives, where, upon examination, Ms. Gandhi probably lives nothing like other Indians in India, while she lives high on the hog in the US. How does Ms. Gandhi comport herself? Yes. That is the question. As an Indian woman, is she walking around Walmart, with her belly flopping out of some brightly colored rag, strewn around her in a haphazard manner, which drags on the dirty floor, catching any assortment of garbage and crushed produce previously dropped there? Is her outfit draped around her, as is typical in typical Indian attire, or is she guilty of milling around, in Levis and a Gap t-shirt, sporting Ray Bans, and appropriating my culture? I suspect that it is the latter, where Ms. Gandhi has some splaining to do of her own. You gotta love how someone, emanating from a culture, where the caste system is still the norm and women are routinely beaten and set afire by their families, for some perceived wrong, by their husbands and in laws, attempts to lecture us about appropriating her culture. She should be glad that there is something of value of which others wish to appropriate from Indian culture. There isn’t much. What? The maddening overpopulation of India? The abject poverty? The hot, sweltering and filthy stink hole that is India, with filthy animals, roaming the streets and defecating where people walk? Am i supposed to not notice and remain mum? Pretend that it’s a lufestyle and a culture that I wish to emulate? Sure, it’s fun to backpack through there, knowing that one has a pocket full of money and a ticket out of that shithole, but for those who must remain there. . .yeah. . .not such an adventure. Ms. Gandhi needs to be informed, in no uncertain terms, that other than the practice of yoga and, perhaps, Chicken Tikka Maasalah, there isn’t much that anyone really wants to appropriate from Indian culture. She should be proud that there is, at least, something. Yeah. I guess that I’ll have to tell her that after she leaves Starbucks, in her BMW, and on the way to the mall.
Obvious hypocrisy, not, obviously hypocrisy. . .
Do you subscribe to National Geographic??? They had a big article a month or so ago about feces, about literal sh*tholes in the world. After I read them, I give all my magazines to a friend who works at a nursing home (except the Acoustic Guitar type mags, oh and Poetry, I keep that one, Oh, and Jazziz, I keep those, too.) Anyway, here is an online link to the article, but trust me, the pictures were something else!
I just read it, Squeeky. Ugh. Instead of objecting to others, around the globe, practicing yoga, these b×××××es, with their panties in a wad, should be rejoicing and celebrating. Rejoicing and celebrating that there is something–anything–of value. . .something worth appropriating. . .from a culture so devoid of anything worth replicating. The Indians who come to the West, to either study or obtain technical jobs, fight to remain in the West. Fight to bring their spouses and children to the West. The problem is that no one, on college campuses, wants to speak out. No one wants to say the things that I am writing, and for obvious reasons. That person would be viewed as a pariah. . .a racist. . .at best. Perhaps Ms. Gandhi, when she has a chance, after she leaves Costco, with her minivan full of items, will read this article and get a clue.
This is the essence of totalitarianism. The state cannot post a standard for making a hierarchy based on a person’s born identity. To allow a yoga instructor to demand it is one step away from an official oath requirement.
The thing I love about this country is its pluralism and assimilation.
The and in that sentence seems to be the sticking point with those decrying cultural appropriation. Forget assimilation. It’s as though they desire to completely discard the melting pot principle, reject the notion of a tossed salad, and leave us with all the ingredients coexisting in separate containers. I would have said separate but equal, but that wouldn’t be acceptable for the social justice warriors that believe this generation owes reparations for the sins of previous generations. If you’re White, your guilty. If you object to that verdict, you’re a racist.
Yoga is good for the body and in many cases good for the soul because it helps strengthens one ability to focus, quiet the mind and tolerate silence while overcoming physical limitations. Regardless of why people do this… it is beneficial. For that reason it has universal appeal and transcends cultural and national roots. Many of the early proselytizers of yoga were in fact Indian Nationals bringing yoga to the west… on a mission.
Shreena Ghandi is entitled to her opinion but it is strictly Academic and has no real resonance. The only reason to call attention to this extremely academic nonsense is to create click bait
“Shreena Ghandi is entitled to her opinion but it is strictly Academic and has no real resonance.”
Apparently, you have been living in a vacuum. I propose that all other humans stop driving cars since they were culturally appropriated from an advanced white European-based culture. Same with electric power. Same with, well, unfortunately, fast food. If this is an academic opinion, it reflects poorly on her academic enlightenment, which seems to be the norm for this intellectually dishonest, lazy, hedonistic, and narcissistic lot. Basically just another falling card in the crumbling card house of humanity.
Or, better yet, maybe the Germans should revoke the right of the world to use nitrogen fertilizer. That would change some opinions. Be really tough on the illegitimate birth rate.
Yoga master Swami Satchidananda & exercise master Jack LaLanne agree on master of the self.
I have suggested JT as white privileged, he is, as are all white people except the very poor and those suffering with debilitating mental health issues, but his critique in this case, imo, is right on. Using Italian cooking as an example, I have had Italian dinners prepared by Italians. I have had “Italian” food prepared by non-Italians. Big difference, one is excellent with all the right spices and prep, the other good but not as good. I see the “imitation” as complimentary of the original and, as JT points out, a part of the assimilation process. At one time the Italians were looked down on as immigrants, but just taste their food!!
I really don’t understand why the objection of yoga being adopted, even if imperfectly. Right now I see the adoption of yoga, even if it isn’t practiced in perfect form, as complimentary and healthful for anyone who does it. Guess I should read the paper and maybe see if some dialog with the authors would help me better understand their point.
No, if you dialogue with the Professors they will only confuse you, and probably guilt trip you into believing their nonsense. And you have already demonstrated that you are extremely susceptible to guilt tripping, particularly in racial areas.
You see, a lot of this kind of stuff requires you to first buy into a certain belief system. The same as with cults, where you have to first buy into the fact that the cult leader has some special source of knowledge o power, so that when he tells you something that conflicts with your own two lying eyes, you will believe him, and not your eyes.
These Professors would require to buy into the belief system of “cultural appropriation” where the very word “appropriation” darkens the phrase. Because who wants to have their stuff “appropriated”??? Just taken without any sayso whatsoever. Left out will be the fact that a culture is an intangible thing, something where you can “sense” the results, but not the culture. And, that there are no ownership rights in “culture.” It is not like an invention, or a poem, which takes some “sensed” form. The results of the culture likewise have no ownership. Italians don’t “own” pizza. It is just a thing they fix to eat. You could “appropriate” someone’s actual pizza, but you can’t appropriate the concept of pizza. Anymore that anyone could “appropriate” yoga, or jazz, or baseball.
That is why the whole concept of cultural appropriation is a stupid ploy on the part of Leftists to make white people feel guilty, in a cosmic sense. That is why such people as Shreena and her liberal galpal never complain about black women “appropriating” white women’s hair, with their hair weave. I mean really, if there is such a thing as cultural appropriation, isn’t Beyonce the poster child for it???
White privilege? You need Jordan Peterson.
Guess I have to give up Chinese and Mexican food.
The yoga industrial complex? Linda would be proud.
she would have dialecticalize it first it’s beyond her level of comprehension.
There is no White Supremacy west of Corfu. East of Corfu the Ten Commandments Do Not Apply.
All this race, race bo bace is getting tiring. The complainers need to go back to India or Africa.
Yoga came along back in St. Louis long after Yogi Berra had finished playing baseball. Yogi was from St. Louis. We had a dog named Yogi. I am put off by Yoga people and all their swirl. There is a TV show on PBS with a bunch of Yoga itchBays swirling around. Punch one for the Gipper.
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