Bad at Cultural Appropriation
I started writing this post three months ago and I'm still not satisfied. Probably because for all my indignation over the misuse of mala necklaces, dream catchers, and other sacred objects in western yoga culture the fact remains that I'm a privileged white gal practicing and teaching an Indian tradition. It's really hard if not impossible to do that without acting like an offensive twit sometimes. To anyone I have ever offended- I am sorry. I have no answers or excuses- all I can say is I'm working on it.
I think the exchange of wisdom across cultures is a great thing. We have so much to learn from each other. The problem, as I see it, with us western yogis is that it is not an exchange. We just take stuff. We borrow bits and pieces of the exotic that appeal to us without any regard for the people it came from- their history or their present circumstances. We morph traditions, practices, and teachings to fit our western paradigms and in the process loose their original intent. They become superficial or, to our greater detriment, another way to reaffirm what we already want to believe. It's a situation that degrades everyone involved.
Yoga is changing. And it can be hard to differentiate between which changes are evolution and which are commodification. I'm continually trying to find some sort of reconciliation between traditional teachings and practicing in a way that speaks to the realities of modern western life. Not dogma, but also not frivolity with the sacred. It's a tough one.
Should westerners stop practicing yoga altogether. No, there's no denying that many of us benefit from it. Should we question what we're practicing/wearing/buying/chanting and its origins, and change our ways based in what we find? I think so. It's not an answer but it's a start. Yoga has many aspects but blind faith is not one of them.
Wondering where to start? Here are a few articles and videos to get you started.
What is cultural appropriation: https://yogaappropriation.wordpress.com/
What you can do: http://upliftconnect.com/decolonize-your-yoga/