You probably have noticed one of the latest trend related to Yoga harassing your Facebook feed with annoyingly cute videos ; goat Yoga.
photo credit : Gellinger / Pixabay
Goat Yoga is exactly what it sounds like ; practicing Yoga, most likely at a farm, surrounded by free range goats that come to you as you sweat in your downward facing dog. “ And there is a problem with that??? ”, are you asking me, thinking I am just a heartless freak?
Well, yes, and here is my opinion on the subject.
I love goats. I mean, look at them, how adorable are they? I also love yoga. Actually, I even try my best to not only love, learn and teach it, but to also live it. But these two elements mashed together in some sort of selfiable, instagramable trend leads me to question the respect and care we, as westerners, pay to the origins of this deeply spiritual philosophy that is Yoga.
When you see or hear the word Yoga, what is it that comes up to your mind? Most likely something like white skinny 6-packy girls wearing Lululemon and doing all sorts of athletic poses. Don’t you think this is kind of a problem, since yoga is originally from India, and that it has very, very little to do with exercise nor leggings?
Goat yoga, beer yoga, wine yoga and other Buti Yoga fitness activities are very most likely and quite visibly cultural appropriation to me.
The Cambridge dictionary defines cultural appropriation as “ the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture ”.
Isn’t this exactly what privileged white people do with yoga? Practicing it, teaching it, spreading it OUR way, without even being aware and mindful of the roots of this beautiful heritage? Yes, I do include myself in there. Though, by educating myself, I am becoming more and more aware of the everyday, casual cultural appropriation happening in today’s Yoga world. Acknowledging this is, I think, a giant step in the right, respectful way.
Since it became a trend in the recent years, I have always been vaguely uncomfortable with wine yoga, for example, without being able to explain it aloud. It was a clogged feeling around my throat. And this same feeling appears whenever I see pictures of Yoga practiced and monetized, with a furry animal on it. I think all these add-ons to make Yoga appealing to a certain public are diluting the essence of the Yoga teachings. I mean, for sure, in my opinion, Yoga can and should be modified to suit all sorts of populations, from seniors to injured people, but the core should be the same, meaning, the practice should always be honoring the Hindu culture in which it is anchored. I don’t think that it is mindful of what Yoga truly is, to put a goat on it.
Yoga is the union of the body, the mind and the soul as one, and a path to enlightenment. A spiritual quest to become better version of ourselves, and to connect all beings together. It is a way of living that involves so much more than a physical aspect. It involves, among others, honesty, non-violence, breath work, meditation, compassion, as stated in the eight limbs of Yoga, the foundations on which it is based.
Granted, I find it amazing that Yoga is more and more practiced and taught, because the world definitely needs more of it. Though, I don’t find any value in walking over its beautiful traditions with drunken steps, because someone thought drinking beer at the same time was a good idea. To me, this is the perfect example of cultural appropriation.
I am certainly not an expert on the subject, but rather, someone who is very much interested in making the world a better place, one Yoga class at a time, and to me, that involves respecting the true nature of it. Therefore, I think that as Yoga practitioners/teachers/lovers from anywhere around that tiny globe we live on, we really have to open our minds and hearts and learn about the roots of the cultural tradition that is Yoga, and do everything possible to honor and respect them. Together, we can and we must find ways to bring this cultural heritage forward. And this certainly doesn’t involve alcohol, jewelry displays and other sacred objects misuse nor does it include cute animals.
What are your thoughts on the subject? Have you ever thought of Yoga as a cultural appropriation?
Let’s start a discussion that must take place.
P.S. Here are just a few links to articles on the subject that might shed a clearer, brighter light on what exactly is cultural appropriation regarding Yoga, and how to practice it without being harmful to others.