Cultural appropriation? Hindu nationalists used yoga as an anti-colonialist export


I get VERY ANGRY when people wear horned helmets and pretend to be Vikings. BERSERKER RAGE.


Most people do yoga because they like doing yoga.
Attaching abstract political concepts to it and making them feel vaguely guilty about it is a bit cruel and unfair.


Vivekananda was an exponent of Jñāna yoga, a class of yogas which represent systems of philosophy and logic. It doesn’t have anything to do with Vivekananda’s lifetime contrasted against “today”. It is merely one of several branches of yoga practice which are equally “modern”.

Also, Hindu chronology is cyclical rather than linear, so it often doesn’t fit neatly in linear measuring systems.


As regards complaints of appropriation, I find that people tend to be hugely inconsistent with how they localize culture, along with ideals, practices, religions, ethics, etc they associate with them.

I am a Tantrika, a Yogi - which involves elements people usually identify with Hinduism and Buddhism. Being in the US, in New England, I don’t toot my horn about this. But aspects of my world-view do at times need explanation in my social interactions with people. So people have at times accused me of inauthenticity, saying that I am not entitled to those kinds of cultural participation because of where I am, and the people around me. This leads to awkwardness when I respond by needing them to explain what culture I should have! Sure, much of my thinking can be traced to the East, but typically, theirs can also. How is living in the US or Europe with a distorted interpretation of Abrahamic religions and ethics any different? Sure, I am not (that kind of) Indian, but neither are they Nazarene or whatever. Neither their views nor mine are anything indigenous to Connecticut. And more ironically, if I in Connecticut try to live like a native of this area, people would likely rant that this was also cultural appropriation, because I should live like a European person!

Basically, ideologues like to play bait-and-switch with alternately universalizing concepts, and then forcing people to identify with specifics. If your system of thought (or exercise) works, it should work for anybody who can do the practice. But if you want to then turn around and use it as the brand that sets your chosen tribe apart from others - you create conflict, and limit what you initially claimed to be universal. Organized religions, countries, economists - all who make “universal” systems for all to use do this. It is merely the colonialization of belief, of socialization.


seeing as how the press obviously did not vet the teacher’s assertions–as

pretty well addresses, the class was cancelled because not enough students were showing up and the CDS didn’t want to waste money paying the teacher–I’d say this is more like what @Missy_Pants said in the other thread; backlash against cultural appropriation is just what the media wants to talk about, so they are. the facts are of tertiary concern.

something I missed/can’t figure out, though: if the teacher was lying to save her job, why did she volunteer to keep teaching for free when she replied to her axe letter?

anyway, aside from all that, I actually liked this bit, so I don’t really know what that says about me at this point:

the way that some contemporary activists would silo different
cultures—as if anything that travels from outside the West is too
fragile to survive a collision with raucous mixed-up modernity—is
provincialism masquerading as sensitivity. There’s no such thing as
cultural purity, and searching for it never leads anywhere good.


I think one basic axiom here is that cultural practices aren’t meant to enrich people’s lives and can be “owned” by whoever chooses to practice them, but that they belong to some culture that needs to be protected, against people who are not regarded as individuals but merely as agents of a wasp/cis/male majority culture . How this fundamentally illiberal and cultural collectivist idea folded in under the latest post-modern interpretation of the term “social justice”, I am totally clueless - it doesn’t help that I consider myself kind of a socialist and believe that social justice is primarily about material and legal equality, while words and discourse are secondary phenomena.


It’s one of those things That I have a bit of a problem with, as it seems to be coming from a strange place.

To me, the whole concept seems to be based on a category mistake, as “culture” is not something that can be “owned”, without taking a ridiculously maximalist approach to the fiction of “intellectual property”.

As I said in another thread, all culture belongs to all people, who are free in their creativity to remix, share and enjoy it in whatever way they want, whatever self-appointed cultural elites say.

To me, the concept also invokes an uncomfortably volkisch view of humanity, as split into separate and immutable groups, and where someone on the inside who has never created, participated or performed anything can exclude outsiders who have.


To me its less about exchange and more about power structures.

If you have a marginalized and oppressed group with specific cultural markers, be they head-dresses or embroidery patterns, to have those makers used by non-members… especially used by members of a group that has traditionally done the marginalizing and oppression, and without the inclusion or consultation of members of that culture… then that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

The Navajo Nation have trademarks, and will sue any infringement of that trademark. Which strikes me as deliciously just. (

And then on the other side of the scale… you have a fashion house admit to stealing indigenous patterns for their clothing, but only because they were sued by another European fashion house who owns the copyright to those patterns. Which strikes me as horrifically evil. (


You dang millennials, thinking everything more than 2,000 years is old!


Agreed. But things are getting silly. I see “White people think they invented empanadas” going around right now under the banner of cultural appropriation because someone made a folded pumpkin pie. Forgetting that the Portuguese and Spanish invented empanadas, and a few hundred years before that was the Cornish Pasty. (Which I’m sure has a predecessor.)


Horrifically evil? Hyperbolic much?


You can appropriate my haggis and bagpipes. Please. Just take them far away when you do.


Everything I know about yoga I learned as a kid from John Astin on the Addams Family.

And from Diane.

Back then they called it Hatha Yoga, which is a little more specific than plain old “yoga,”

This is not to be confused with “Yoda,” which is something completely different.

Or is it?.


But, if I have both Norse and Celtic ancestry, and the Celts did wear horned helmets…


The article does not describe yoga as I think of it. This unfortunate gloss assigns ignorance to all Westerners

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The WHAT? I don’t even…

I wouldn’t argue with extremist or xenophobic, violent would be the party, not the regime (we ARE a democracy, ya know) but OK, exulted in the globalisation of Yoga for sure.

But used it as proof of Hindu superiority? Wha? No, they haven’t… Let’s not be grossly reductionist - it hurts the rest of us fighting woo back in India…

It’s not the adding, but the multiplication - the weights people are using for the different pieces of data are overblown…

Yeah, Yoga always had Asanas, but it was always much more than that. It’s a philosophical school (and probably a way of life) that includes physical well-being. 19th and early 20th century practitioners put more emphasis on the physical aspect and combined it with practices from around the world - you know, the way knowledge actually evolves… So the statement is true and also not-true… :wink:


I just liked the Slate comment section.
But this comment in particular -

“cultural appropriation is a joke, full stop. who gives a f0ck if we have taco bell in america or kentucky fried chicken in china? if they dub baywatch into german and it becomes the number one show in europe, does that threaten san diego with cultural hegemony? you people need to get a life.”

Although Baywatch was supposed to be in Los Angeles… They’re always grouping us Southern Californians together! :smile:

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So, it isn’t cultural appropriation if some people intentionally taught it to others even if there are Indians who complain about it?

I don’t believe cultural appropriation is a bad thing nor do I feel even remotely bad about oppressed people having part of their cultural popularized, but let’s not pretend for a second that non-Indian Yogis stopped at just copying asanas.

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So that person would have no problem with US flag bog roll then?