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Is Western Yoga Cultural Appropriation?

I saw a bunch of articles yesterday calling out Kim Kardashian’s new line of shape wear, which she named Kimono, as cultural appropriation. This got me thinking about a question I got recently and whether I saw the western approach to yoga as cultural appropriation too.

Cultural appropriation is defined as “the act of adopting elements of an outside, often minority culture, including knowledge, practices, and symbols, without understanding or respecting the original culture and context.”

My immediate question would be, if you do have an understanding and respect for the original culture and context, can you still call it “cultural appropriation”? Is it always cultural appropriation just because it isn’t yours?

I have no idea about Kim Kardashian’s case, but as for yoga and its modern practitioners, I have some thoughts on whether western yoga is cultural appropriation.

If I’m answering simply, I’d say not necessarily. This question implies that all westerners doing yoga is cultural appropriation which I think is a huge generalization. My personal opinion is that you can fully appreciate AND respect a tradition even without having had a full immersion into it.

If you’ve never been to Italy but love cooking Italian food, is it cultural appropriation if your homemade version of tiramisu varies from what you’d get at the source? I don’t think so, and I see the modern practice of yoga very similarly. I think the tradition of yoga exists on a spectrum. On one end up have the “purest” most traditional form, and on the other end you have beer and cursing yoga. I think most people’s practice of it falls somewhere in the middle. They have a great appreciation for what yoga does for the mind and body, and while they may not know all there is to know about the origins of yoga, they still respect the roots of the practice.

For me, this is enough. I don’t want anyone who benefits from this practice to feel guilty for practicing because they might be culturally appropriating it. If you respect it, that’s all you really need.

This is my oversimplified answer but as usual, I’d love to hear from you. What do you think? Have Westerners culturally appropriated yoga? Did Kim Kardashian do the same with her new line?

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5 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Kimberlee Morrison

    June 27, 2019 at 11:09 am

    The appropriation isn’t in the practicing, it’s in the profiteering by the dominant culture. The business of yoga in the West strips extracts parts of Indian and Hindu culture while also stripping it of its roots by projecting the image of the dominant culture as what yoga is. THAT is the appropriation.

    But you’re correct, that practicing and even teaching yoga while honoring is history and heritage is not appropriation.

  2. Avatar

    unknown

    June 28, 2019 at 4:15 am

    Brahmavarchas International Yoga Academy” is a peace of evidence. We all believe that this institute shall benefit the students in national as well as international level and shall encompass the mantra “the whole world is one family”.

  3. Avatar

    Top yoga classes

    June 28, 2019 at 8:02 am

    Brahmavarchas International Yoga Academy” is a peace of evidence. We all believe that this institute shall benefit the students in national as well as international level and shall encompass the mantra “the whole world is one family”.

    Top yoga classes

  4. Avatar

    Mike

    June 28, 2019 at 8:57 am

    The entire concept of “cultural appropriation” is, in my opinion, a concept taken way too far for way too many reasons. It’s the equivalent of “stay in your lane,” which would mean for me that I could never do, say, eat, wear, or act any way other than a boring white man. Utter nonsense. The problem of culture arises if someone tries to claim the hard work or important traditions of another culture as something of their own design, or uses them in a mocking, inappropriate, or insensitive way. Those things should be called out for what they are – be it bullying, bigotry, or just insensitivity. But I’d like to see the term “cultural appropriation” itself meet an early grave before it becomes and unstoppable force in PC talking points.

  5. Avatar

    KK

    September 13, 2019 at 6:07 pm

    Mike, concur wholeheartedly.

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