Those who rail towards cultural appropriation are frequently in cahoots with religious extremists accountable at once or indirectly for oppressing minorities of their country of starting place.Inside the wacky world of American yoga 1 “Namaste, brother,” says Chaitanya, a stout, rosy-cheeked man from Charlotte, North Carolina, smiling extensively at me and my pal Alison. He wears a sleeveless orange tank pinnacle and white cotton balloon pants. He tells us the moniker became bestowed on him after a tricky naming rite conducted on the banks of the holy river Ganges in the north Indian metropolis of Rishikesh. He paid 10,000 rupees to a Hindu priest for the conversion from Keith to Chaitanya. “Only $150 for a whole new existence, guy! It’s a steal if you think about it.”As I’m soaking up this information, he asks us to come to his stall to balance our chakras. “We all have stagnant strength and negative feelings trapped in the body crying out to be launched. I call it ‘cosmic goo.’ It’s my task to suck it out and make you fly,” he says, making a whooshing sound with his lips.

We’ve had many similar conversations considering arriving at Symbiosis, a “pageant of transformation” held annually at distinct venues in California and Oregon, extremely famous with ravers, neo-Buddhists, yoga nuts, urban shamans, crystal fairies, biohackers, Psychonauts, indie rockers, and Rastafarians.
I decline Chaitanya’s generous provide, bringing up a yoga event we’ve signed up for. Ten mins later, we find ourselves among a crowd of human beings facing a DJ console. Yoga of Bass was conceived via DJ FreQ Nasty (Darren McFadden) and yoga teacher Claire Thompson to “explore the ecstatic, life-converting reports people have with song, yoga, and the dance ground.” Their workshops include discussions on how the rave enjoys neuroscience and Buddhist psychology to “yoga trance dance” periods, set to international dub and bass for the meditative sound restoration. I’m no longer bought on the new age spiel, but I can’t deny that it all does sound like an alternative fascinating.


Soon Alison and I are swaying to the sensual rhythms of the large audio system. Her jaded New York persona shows signs and symptoms of thawing. I spot a grizzled white guy with a messy grey beard approaching us on the dance ground midway through the session. “Are you Indian or Latino?” he asks me directly. A bit taken aback; I am certain of my Indian heritage. He introduces himself as Surya (evidently, Hindu names are in vogue in California). He launches a wild rant about how the pageant organizers are “plundering the nation secular assets of the worldwide south” and “stealing our sacred traditions.”

He gesticulates wildly and sniffles as he talks. He tells me that he is an activist, a self-appointed parent of “indigenous understanding” that, in his view, turned into being misappropriated by using the “capitalist hetero-patriarchy” and milked for max gain. Surya is at festivals and yoga studios every day, protesting cultural appropriation by accosting random humans and handing out pamphlets. He ran a Facebook institution that was given close down while many humans stated him to the government for threats and intimidation. He desires to recognize if I’ll join his marketing campaign to “keep the dharma.”

I roll my eyes and observe Alison, who is in splits from being attentive to him. I must ask him why he has appropriated an Indian name; however, I stop myself simply in time. Alison rescues me by announcing we need to run or we’ll get caught in rush-hour traffic. He hands me his calling card earlier than we part approach.
Hindu nationalists and the Christian right have one factor in not unusual: a shared hatred of Muslims, mainly to the incongruous sight of brown human beings operating with white supremacists closer to the erasure of different brown human beings.

With the speedy proliferation of yoga within the West, specifically in America (it pulls in approximately $eleven billion per year), more and more aggressive calls to police the industry. Surya belongs to a developing tribe of converts — so-called “white Hindus” — who accept as true with its miles their karmic duty to keep yoga from those who defile it.

A textbook instance is David Frawley, aka Pandit Vamadeva Shastri, an American trainer of yoga, Ayurveda, and Vedic astrology, and now a mascot of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a right-wing Hindu paramilitary agency, whose founders had been deeply influenced by Hitler and Mussolini. Frawley is continuously engaged in battle with the perceived enemies of Hinduism, namely liberals, academics, journalists, Muslims, and Christians, all of whom he rails against for their supposedly “anti-national” perspectives. He has many lovers who share his dream of establishing a natural Hindu theocracy.

The yoga lifestyle wars, while continually contentious, have handiest intensified with the upward thrust of Hindu nationalism. This ideology threatens to flatten Hindu ideas’ dynamic pluralism into a static monolith. This mentality percolates into the wider yoga globe to set up yoga as a symbol of Hindu gentle electricity through events like the International Day of Yoga.

As Debashish Banerji, a scholar at the California Institute of Integral Studies, advised me in an interview, “Due to the proliferation of Western instructional fashions and the assimilation of postcolonial populations underneath worldwide capitalism, most people of middle-class India lacks a foundation in its conventional scholarship yet seeks the psychological security of countrywide identity. Yoga is touted by way of the Hindu right as just this badge of countrywide identity; so that a huge phase of the majoritarian populace unthinkingly embraces its chauvinistic identity politics, a maximum risky improvement.”

Navigating the trenches of present-day yoga international can sense like treading thru a minefield. Susanna Barkataki, a board adviser for the Yoga Alliance, the most important yoga certification frame in America, has been waging lonely warfare to honor the cultural diversity inside yoga traditions while ensuring that every one of the voices clamoring for interest is heard.


She wasn’t usually an insider. Her early tries to initiate dialogue with the Yoga Alliance fell on deaf ears. “I had been writing to Yoga Alliance for over a decade, for many years asking them to address many things which include the need for doing greater to renowned South Asian roots and contributions to yoga,” she tells me. “For years, my writing went unanswered. I had given up desire when Yoga Alliance reached out and requested me to be a part of a collection of consultants on a committee for their standards evaluation procedure. I’m grateful YA invited in ‘outsider’ perspectives, and as a South Asian, I say that with irony.”

Barkataki lately prepared a web summit to discuss cultural misappropriation in the yoga international. Unfortunately, it did not go down nicely in some quarters. Some participants of the Global Decolonizing Initiative, a Facebook organization ostensibly created to deliver consciousness of cultural appropriation, had been visibly disillusioned at how the occasion opened up. The group is crawling with David Frawley knockoffs, with names like Devi Bhaktananda, Yamuna Devi, Gayatri Devi, and Nalini Devi, who spend their spare time demanding approximately Starbucks employees don’t pronounce “Namaste” in the right manner.


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