Yoga Sins

Just hanging out, appropriating some culture. Mostly because my culture can’t come up with anything better than yoga.

So far we’ve got binge-ing, perpetual upgrading, arguing about Love, arguing about God, deifying beauty, and competitive breeding.

As a cultural icon once said, when you know better you do better. Yoga is better. All my culture can offer me is fitness and pharmaceuticals. Religion killed off wellness in my culture. So really, how could I not choose a culture of wellness over dependency?

What’s the point of staying in my lane when the road goes nowhere I want to be?

My culture is now saying I don’t deserve yoga because I am not brown. This is exactly why I seek something better; because my culture is preoccupied with failure. In many cases it is simply the failure of its members to be born differently.

My culture has bullied me for not being good enough as long as I have been alive. Now it wants to bully me for not sticking around and not paying other people to fix me. I found a better way to think and live and heal and thrive. But now I am told I can’t even do that right.

My failure to defect without stealing a culture is apparently another genetic defect. I can’t help it because I’m white, and this is what white people do. I guess if I was going to leave the hive I was supposed to remain unwell, never learn, and never evolve.

As I understand it, the only way I am allowed to practice and not be guilty of at least some amount of cultural appropriation is to convert to Hinduism. Except I learned in yogic history that yoga predates Hinduism. So I’m stealing it from a culture that adopted it from a previous culture but which gets to claim it by virtue of geography. Okay, but if I stipulate that Hindus now own yoga as a culture, converting just to save myself some criticism seems more disrespectful to Hindus than what I’m doing now. Another white girl abusing her privilege, and since I have zero Hindu presence in my community I am guaranteed to do it badly even if I tried.

In truth, I can’t convert to Hinduism because I believe my feet are sacred. I can never consider pointing my feet at or toward a statue to be disrespectful or offensive or sacrilegious. My feet are more precious and divine than any statue on the planet. If I converted I’d be lying, playing along, and appropriating a religion for social approval. I won’t treat my feet that way.

So really, I guess I’m just fucked, which is a hallmark of my culture. See y’all? I am doing it right.

The new yoga police have agreed that we can all practice yoga as long as we follow a set of rules to prevent offending the people to whom yoga truly belongs. I’ve read them. Most of the rules govern what we should and shouldn’t do with yoga accessories. Beads, clothing, statues, images, symbols, placement, height, etc. Few of them govern what we do with our bodies.

Google a dozen articles on the cultural appropriation of yoga and see for yourself. So far the only physical crimes not related to yoga stuff are not knowing enough history, getting tattoos of deities on our dirty bodies, and we are not supposed to say Namaste anymore. The rest is about stuff. Seriously, we’re fighting mostly about merchandising and a greeting. (Sigh) Fine, fine, sacred is sacred.

I once gave a yoga mat to a student because she couldn’t afford one. It was a good yoga mat that will last her for years. She gave me a scarf with Ganesha on it. It was her own scarf. She wore it while meditating. She probably didn’t know any better. She offered it to me in gratitude. By proclamation of the yoga police I am not allowed to wear it. I get why; I really do.  But gratitude is sacred too. Just sayin’.

It doesn’t even matter that I’ve studied the history because it was my job to teach it in the yoga school I appropriated. It doesn’t even matter that I know what the Aum symbol means. The yoga police can’t tell the extent of my education just by looking at me. All they can see is that I am non-brown and wearing stretchy pants. Anywhere in the vicinity of a mat I am probably going to be charged with one or more yoga sins and they would no doubt be correct. As a cultural bastard I’m always going to be guilty of something. I will never be right enough for everyone. All I can be is well.

— Mercy

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