Selling Yoga: Branding Religious Practices (RELS 348)

In his Article “Colonial Flavored Yoga” in the Huffignton Post (February 27, 2015), Joshua Virasami criticizes aspects of yoga taken up by Western yoga studios. He suggests that western yoga practices are in direct conflict with more traditional eastern yoga teachings. A prominent yogi Sadhguru on discusses the practices of traditional yoga. Sadhguru stresses that Eastern yoga is grounded in the search for dialectic between internal and external wellbeing. This wellbeing is not a search for “health” because, Sadhguru suggests that “using yoga just for health is not wrong, but it is a crime.” This argument reiterates the notion that traditional Eastern yoga practices are used for something more than just health. Virasami’s article appears to side with yogis such as Sadhguru when he claims that western yoga practices have re-appropriated traditional eastern yoga.

To Virasami what western yoga practice has become today is a mockery of a religious, spiritual betterment. The West has stripped the practice down to fitness and important features such as that of self-knowledge and doing selfless service for others, are completely ignored. Virasami further asserts that yoga has been turned into a fad that pushes away from its roots of self-enlightenment and betterment of the world and towards a trendy way to keep fit. Like Sadhguru’s argument that yoga should not be used for the pursuit of health only, Virasami claims that by making it only about health, western yoga practices are rooted in a colonial mentality. Virasami takes a strong opposing position to the picking and choosing of the parts of yoga the West decides to take up in practice. Homi Bhabha describes an assimilation attempt of a cultural aspects as “a discrimination between the mother culture and its bastards, the self and its doubles, where the trace of what is disavoweled is not repressed but repeated as something different –a mutation, a hybrid.”(Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture, Pg. 159) This quote indicates that the West has tried to hybridize yoga into their culture, as Virasami sees it, unsuccessfully. The way in which the West has made yoga a commodity to be sold illustrates colonialism. By removing spirituality from yoga, Virasami, argues that yoga becomes an extension of colonialism.

I believe that Virasami is too harsh on the West’s idea of yoga. He outlines strong argument for his case against the stripped fitness practice, however, Virasami does not acknowledge the studios and practices running that are more true to the traditional teaching of yoga. The article should specify that it is focusing on looking at main-stream YMCA yoga that is proceeded by jazzersize. There are practices that differentiate between aspects and types of yoga that remain more true to the practice as it is outside of colonialism. Although Virasami brings up points that are important in discussions of western appropriations of eastern traditions and religious practices, his focus is too broad.



Works Cited

Bhabha, Homi. The Location of Culture. NY: Routeledge. 1994. Print. Pp. 159.


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