The illusion of white supremacist yoga

20.01.2019 | By TINTIN ALASSAN

It is lovely how exercise, meditation, cleanliness, transcendence, trendiness, unification and the environment are linked to yoga, whereas, when we think of white supremacy, oppressiveness or racism, it is challenging to relate these terms or feelings with the peacefulness and clarity of yoga.
Why should we even think of comparing or tying them together in the first place?


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The issue

Shreena Gandhi, a Religious Studies professor at Michigan State University, with the help of Lillie Wolf, an anti-racist white Jewish organiser, facilitator, and healer wrote an interesting article: Yoga and Roots of cultural appropriation.
It was introduced with these words: “To the so many white people who practice yoga, please don’t stop, but please do take a moment to look outside of yourself and understand how the history of yoga practice in the United States is intimately linked to some of the larger forces of white supremacy”.

Of course, this quickly became an interesting topic of debate especially in America, with its war against white supremacy and racism in general.
The fact that even though Yoga did not originate from America, it was being consumerized and made more and more difficult for people of culture in America to partake in: either through exclusiveness, exorbitant prices, amongst other things – all in tune to white supremacy.


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The fact

Many people still believe in white supremacy today, and there is also quite a number who are very comfortable with it even though it is one of the most significant forms of racism today and is very much in existence not only in America but in many countries all over the world, African countries not excluded.

Is this normal? No!
Could it be right? Absolutely not!

The ideology of white supremacy or any sort of discrimination goes against the principle of yoga, which transcends above hatred and all kinds of negativity and tunes into inner peace while cleansing mentally, physically and spiritually- depending on your personal need.


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The questions

Let us ask ourselves: what is white supremacy?

Is it suggestive racial hatred?
The superiority of white people to people of other races?
The structural or societal racial bias that favours white people?

Let us think and be honest with ourselves.

Where do we lie?

Are we oppressed or the oppressors?
Are we comfortably aloof because we are not affected directly?
Do we cringe at symbols of white supremacy or turn a blind eye because we just don’t care?
How have we contributed to the ongoing battle against racism?

These are good questions to ponder on.

With yoga being a trend in America, this, of course, will be heavily consumerized, and notwithstanding its origin,  religious or spiritual concept, there will always be a market for it.
Think of the consumerism of yoga in the clothing sectors, the food sectors, health sectors, as well as the fitness and entertainment sectors.

Will people buy into this? Yes, they will!
Will there be a backlash about exclusivity? Of course!
But will people still buy into this? Yes.

We will always have a strong opinion on anything we feel segregated from.

It is, as a matter of fact, human nature.


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The reality

Let us take a deep breath,
Inhale deeply, close our eyes and relax.

Let us focus on the positive energy around us,
on our personal health and less stressful things.

Let us think of that place in our head,
where we go to when we want to escape from our everyday lives.

Let us enjoy some inner peace, silence, relaxation and embrace life.

Don’t you feel better just thinking about it?

Now, back to the question on yoga constituting to white supremacy and being oppressive.


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The yoga industrial complex should never be a ‘thing’ even though it is – it goes against the principles of yoga.

Let us remind ourselves of the origins of yoga as well as why it was developed before we try to make it our own and change the rules.

We should be very aware of the fact that yoga does not encourage oppression or white supremacy – people do, and that racism and white supremacy are not subject to just yoga but to almost every aspect of our lives.


The end of white world supremacy or any type of supremacy aimed at hurting other starts with us!

Irrespective of skin colour or race, we owe it to ourselves to make an effort to contribute to the positive changes in the society today.

When addressing racism or white supremacy, we need to focus on the main root of the issue: we, as human beings.


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Let us stop creating more problems in our society.

We need to try to understand how it affects us personally and think of what we have personally done to eradicate this issue.

In like manner, let us question ourselves on if we have the right to embrace a different culture then dictate how it should be carried out and who can partake of it.

If yoga is made exclusive to any group of people, as a matter of fact, it is no longer yoga but a bunch of people paying a lot of money to stretch together.

True yoga is not about the shape of your body, but the shape of your life. Yoga is not to be performed; yoga is to be lived. Yoga doesn’t care about what you have been; yoga cares about the person you are becoming. Yoga is designed for a vast and profound purpose, and for it to be truly called yoga, it’s essence must be embodied.” —Aadil Palkhivala, Fire of Love