Thoughts on Cultural Appropriation

The above article is a fascinating read. It alludes to the long-standing tradition in the west of a phenomena known as cultural appropriation. We see this in modern Yoga practice, for sure.

Yoga cannot be separated from its deep roots in Vedic wisdom. Hatha Yoga is as much a spiritual practice as it is a physical. Yet, we see practitioners and teachers more caught up with the alignment of their femur than their moral compass.

This is not to say that India is without its charlatans. One need only watch the Netflix documentary, “Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator” to get a taste for how a man can sour such a wonderful practice. However, Bikram is not Yoga. Yet, it seems we have become obsessed with the physical, “body-toning” effects of Yoga practice. This seems to be the wave Bikram rode on. He warrants no further mention.

Make no mistake, the physical practice called Hatha Yoga is an absolute joy when practiced properly. It uplifts the mind and body and brings wonderful calm. Meditation quickly becomes less of a thing you do as opposed to something that simply happens.

What we need to ensure, however, is that we pay homage continually to the source of this wonderful practice and teaching. At this present moment more than ever. There can be no greater way to use your privilege than to celebrate the depth of the culture from whom this teaching has been received.

Do you know who Shiva is? If you are reading this you must be curious about Yoga. Shiva is considered the Lord of Yoga. He is the destructive, transformative aspect of God. In Vedic philosophy, God can be celebrated in her many individual aspects or in his impersonal aspect, Brahman. Shiva is one of her personal aspects.

Similarly, what better way to celebrate the present-day civil rights movement in the US than by schooling yourself on the depth and nuance of hip-hop music. Why not acquaint yourself with the origins of jazz music or the blues? These musical traditions have incredible precision and technique.

Whatever about financially supporting a culture, at least we can begin by acknowledging the treasures these cultures have shared with the world. I mean, the Wild West has pillaged just about everything else from the African, American, and Indian nations, the least we can do is respect the intellectual treasures these cultures have shared with us.

Ní neart go cur le chéile.

There is no strength until we all band together.

Together does not only mean welcoming people of colour into the white world, it means asking for a welcome into the rich culture which has been denigrated for far too long. It does not mean asking can you say that word or this word. It means realising how history may have been rewritten and it means allowing those subjugated voices to be heard for the first time in centuries.

I have been listening, and it has unearthed a lot of unconscious bias. This piece may well be littered with such errancies. However, it is written from a place of openness and I’m sure that much is more than evident.