Let’s try this again…

As some of you may or may not know, my yoga article got picked up by Elephant Journal a few days ago and after a few thousand hits, several hundred FaceBook shares and many, many comments on EJ as well as Reddit, I think a few details need to be clarified.

1) I’m not an anti-white racist bigot, despite what many of the thinly-veiled racist comments there indicated.
Anyone who has read my blog and picked up my vibe knows how insanely crazy that assertion is. I mean really, Indians are actually considered members of the Caucasian race as well. One of my family branches is white and so are a great majority of my friends and neighbors. I harbour the most insane  naughty fantasies crushes on a bunch of white dudes like Henry Rollins, Michael Fassbender  and Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien. My article is basically about pointing out the lack of diversity, the cultural (mis)appropriation and the excessive commercialization of yoga these days.

Who in their right mind would be racist towards *this*????

2) I don’t hate yoga, I dislike the commercialized and contrived culture which has grown up around it. There are a few of us left who look at yoga as a spiritual discipline and the immense healing potentialities it offers and actually don’t want to have anything to do with this “market or spa yoga”.  Ditto for “rock star yoga”.


3) Yes, I’m angry and frustrated at what’s happened to yoga. So shoot me.
It would seem airing anger and frustration is some kind of a taboo now and even more galling by someone who knows how to spell properly. As one reply on EJ rightly pointed out, anger is just a feeling. What’s important is how you express it and deal with it and I expressed mine in that article.

There are far more constructive ways of expressing anger.

4) Rocking the boat will not make you popular and neither will writing a controversial article.
I wrote that article to air my opinion and perhaps it was strongly worded but sometimes the only way real and meaningful dialogue can happen is by being as blunt and direct as possible. I think by being excessively diplomatic or politically correct, you end up with an argument that almost looks like a white-out and goes no where – sorry, I couldn’t resist 😉
5) Relax, people it’s an article, not a hand grenade.
I was hoping the article would provide some food for thought and even some self-reflection. Why are you really doing yoga? It was never meant to offend anyone or their practice…Except maybe the Lululemon clad mall rats who were going to go to GLBL Yoga in Central Park.
So to my naysayers, chill. Like seriously. Chill. Wanna come over sometime for home-made curry, samosas and pistachio kulfi instead? My Punjabi Lamb shanks in spinach and tomato sauce are known to be restaurant level gourmet fare (sorry, I’m not vegetarian but I can always offer you Aloo Gobi and Pakoras instead) We can sit on my porch, eat with our hands and discuss. Just bring a bottle of wine (Vinho Verde, Pinot Grigio or Reisling) or some sangria please.

There’s no such thing as too much sangria!

Categories: Raise your EQ, Yoga | 18 Comments

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18 thoughts on “Let’s try this again…

  1. I decided to leave my comment here instead of Elephant Journal. As I scrolled through your article there, the hot looking white girls in the yoga ads on the sidebar kept grabbing my attention. It’s all kind of a joke now. Everything America touches seems to get spoiled by greed. This is nothing new.

    • It’s unfortunate it’s come to that point. I think there are some well-meaning people who are trying to veer the commercialization of yoga towards a more genuine direction but as long as market forces dictate “the scene”, they’ll remain marginalized at best, I think.

  2. Pingback: Do Yoga, Meet Hot Chicks and Score! | A Cookbook of Consciousness

  3. Visiting Elephant Journal inspired my first blog post in a couple of months:

    • EJ basically almost forces you to become a member in order to read the articles, whenever you click on a link, you’re immediately taken to the “Become a Member” page. I got around that by using my browser’s “Back” button and re-clicking the link. It takes a few tries but you eventually get in.

      The commercialization of absolutely everything in America and most of the industrialized world nowadays is because of the system underneath it all. As long as we work within the context of a market and capitalist economy, this commercialization and merchantile mentality isn’t going anywhere, unfortunatley. And people won’t know any better and people will continue to get disillusioned.

  4. kezalu

    I think it’s a shame you had to clarify things. Your original message was clear and far from racist. You obviously struck a raw nerve with some, but I think that’s a good thing. People have to be alerted to the way their thoughts travel at times and stop falling for all this commercialised garbage. You planted the seed, time will do the rest. I have to disagree with you though on your choice of crushes. I mean, what about Clive Owen and Rupert Penry-Jones?

    • Clive has the whole manly-British guy thing going on, Rupert looks like a “bad boy” to me, in other words, he’s probably a barrel of laughs 🙂

  5. Pingback: Why I left yoga (and why I think a helluva lot of people are being duped) « The Shift Has Hit The Fan

  6. I liked your elephant journal article, because it is generally true and personally challenging despite my own connection to traditional yoga that is practiced and followed in Indian, where my teachers have been acknowledged, etc. I do see it failing to be egalitarian or merit-based in the West. I do see the swamis from the West in this tradition retain possessions, behave in fearful, materialistic and petty ways, attempt to claim copyright on and commercialize what they claim to be timeless, eternal revelations for all humanity. At best these efforts would prevent clowns from taking and selling the copyrighted works and lectures and passing themselves of as gurus or teachers when they are full of dangerous, dark desires. More practically there is a worldly concern to create income for the ashrams and pay for theses swamis to retire in something secure and comfortable.

    I haven’t made it to India yet, but I am a tall, blue-eyed Caucasian who can read, write and speak Indonesian well enough to see that a lot of languages have Sanskrit words, and knowing the two helps supply a little more meaning to my clumsy Sanskrit chanting. I know that you wrote you are Sikh, and in addition to Swami Rama’s Himalayan tradition (through Swami Veda’s Minneapolis Meditation Center) another early yoga contact for me was an American -Caucuasian – Sikh family. Recently I’ve come to realize that the Kundalini Yoga (TM) offered in America has as it’s founders and promoters the children of the CIA’s top spy catcher, and that CIA trainers, and through them, NASA have incorporated so practical application of ancient Indian, yogic methods to self mastery, rapid learning of languages, adopting and maintaining false identities, etc. In Indonesia, I was usually suspect by some part of the security state for being a spay, simply for learning the language. I have read that Swami Rama was accused of being a Western intelligence asset. We live in a crazy, paranoid world where interest in another culture, travel to another land are suspect. Still, if Eat, Pray, Love is the only thing people have read about Indonesia or India, its better than having no awareness at all beyond a dim memory of watching India Jones in your youth. These are two of the most most populous nations and contain some of the oldest civilizations and most Americans are robbed of their own human potential for not knowing anything of that part of human history, whether or not Vedic Nirukta or tantric rites can help secure better parking spaces or more sexytime.

    I think my cooking skills would be improved by sampling your recipes, and the conversation – and what I have already read – is worth a bottle of wine.

    (Also, I’ve read a similar scold against the U.S. mode of commercialized yoga, and a cohesive argument about why we might deserve false gurus in Robert E. Svoboda’s “AGHORA III: The Law of Karma” on page 175. )

    • I’m actually Bengali, but I used the Sikhism as an example for my article.
      I agree with much of what you write, what saddens me is all this other “stuff” has been lumped into yoga. What happened to genuine spiritual inquiry and focus? What galls me about yoga nowadays is that it just assumes that you want to be anchored in a deeply materialistic world and fails to take into account that there are a few of us who have otherworldy interest.

      I did not know of the CIA/NASA and TM connection but stuff like that doesn’t surprise me anymore. The CIA has been using evangelical churches for years now esp. in South Korea and increasingly Africa, to make the missionaries pave the way for the incoming market economy which will follows them. It stands to reason they would do something similar with other traditions.

      It’s too bad your own interest was construed as something suspicious. Unfortunately the developing world has a history of this sort of thing happening way too much. The Peace Corps, developed by Sargent Shriver, JFK’s brother-in-law, was founded specifically as a way to spy on other countries using international aid and development as cloak.

      What recipes do you have?

  7. I’ve made some good stuff out of the Ayurvedic cookbooks by Johari and by Morningstar, but I’ve learned how to put care, love and devotion into food from a woman named Indira who used to come cook for Swami Veda when he was in Minneapolis. I cooked up some very large batches of kitchuri with the owner of Gandhi Mahal restaurant in Minneapolis for occupy – I thought it important that such a large group under such stress should have healthy, affordable food created with intention of fearless nonviolence, and full of fresh, organic, local ingredients that might contain more prana.

    I have figured out how to make dosas and a few other dishes with the help of YouTube and lots of trial and error. What do you recommend?

  8. The Buddha said

    “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”

    Here is a person following this wise advice yet people rush to crucify you.

    Jesus, the main role model for the Christian life style was jewish, born in jewish territory, who then went on to question tradition which lead to a new tradition many follow. Yet few question anything in front of their nose.

    Your article filled me spiritually. I will write to you this afternoon to discuss your wonderful original article.

  9. I love the article. It’s great. You’re great. If anyone didn’t like it, that’s their own problem. You can’t control someone else’s emotional reaction to your own honest sharing.

    I’m a white guy in Calgary who has only ever practised yoga for a few minutes. Obviously not the article’s target market. 🙂 But I really identified with some of the frustrated sentiments around commercializing spirituality. My spirituality is very important to me. I’ve taken a pile of courses, read a bunch of books, and practised some spiritual healing work in various forms. And I get a little nauseous when I hear the California-croon spiritual salesman voice, either in text or online, turning some hard-core spiritual concepts that are HARD to live by, into some kind of milky, pasty white (there, I said ‘white’) substance of goodness and light and positivity and gleaming teeth.

    My spirituality calls me to the deepest, most gut-wrenching, most difficult, courageous vulnerable authenticity, with both light and shadow, honestly looking at my own darkness as well as the potential for the most beautiful light that I have avoided. Do I live up to it? Hell no. But do I want to glaze over it with guru-frosting and pretend that I’m perfect? Hell no.

    You GO, Girl! Keep up the great work.

    I was about to say “Namaste” but then I laughed at the irony. So (because I’m white) Cheers!

    • Thanks Craig for the encouragement!
      I agree completely with you, that the spiritual journey is the hardest one we can undertake, if we mean it and decide to undertake it with full intention, sincerity and full commitment. Of course we can make it as easy and flakey as we want to by following these California “shamans” but that’s like being a starving person and eating a wafer and then expecting to be satiated and full. It ain’t gonna happen.

      Part of the reason why I think many of these “teachers” and that includes some (not all) yoga instructors is that we live in a culture which is excessively sanitized and has a hard time with dealing with things like emotional and spiritual discomfort. It’s easier to keep it all light and fluffy…plus it’s easier to sell. I mean real spirituality is ultimately about facing yourself and that includes the dark, uncomfortable ugly stuff as well. People hate looking in the mirror or having it held up to them and will often do anything just to avoid what should be confronted head-on.

      It’s all a journey. Some of us prefer the fast lane, I guess.

  10. Jennifer

    your article could have been about the yoga studio in my wasp-y upper middle class town. All I wanted was a place with a nice environment to safely practice and learn – and some of the teachers are great – but I got tired real fast of the new age mumbo jumbo about angels and spirit guides, the $99 a minute weekly seminars with some chick from california who channels ancient yogis for you, and the posters all over the place advertising the next yoga retreat in Bali, Peru, or Iceland. Yeah, it’s all about the cash. And once I went back to nursing school, I could no longer afford the $100 a month fee. It’s too bad, because going there did keep me practicing – and it was a beautiful environment – one just had to pick the right classes, the right instructors, to stay away from all the BS.

    • I know *exactly* what you mean. Part of the reason I went to a studio was to keep up my practice regularly and it was a beautiful and safe space, plus some of the instructors were and are very, very good with respect to adjustments and alignments, which was important in the beginning for me.
      The scene which developed just made me very tired quickly, but the commercialization aspect of it did not sit well with own spiritual search.

  11. Pingback: Yoga and Colonization: Let’s talk about it | Hey Miyuki!

  12. Saille

    As a pasty white girl who was just subtly called racist today (and told to check her privilege), I totally agreed with your article way back when I originally read it. I’m a hard polytheist and the one thing that has driven me, and several of my instructors nuts, is the fact that so many places want to remove the actual spirituality from the practice.

    I cringed when I saw the yoga studio going up less than a block from my office (which has small class yoga that focuses on all aspects), they claim it’s going to be the largest practice space in Atlanta, their rendering of the meditation room has everyone sitting on blue disks against a black floor and a “space” themed ceiling and surrounding walls. Of course, they’ll be catering to the soccer mom crowd that doesn’t want to spend their time learning about the limbs from my studio or a neighboring one that offers a similar set-up. It saddens me, but I hope that many of their students end up finding there is more to it than just glitzy rooms and too many people.

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