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Stop the Westernization of Yoga Which is Diluting and Misappropriating the Essence of Ancient Hindu Practice

Stop the Westernization of Yoga Which is Diluting and Misappropriating the Essence of Ancient Hindu Practice

  • The commodification of yoga risks reducing a profound spiritual practice to a mere fitness trend.

As the International Day of Yoga is celebrated on June 21st across the globe, I can’t help but meditate on the misappropriation of yoga. In Carmel, Indiana, one of the best cities to raise a family in the Midwest, life moves at a leisurely pace. Yoga studios dot every corner, offering a sanctuary of peace and a promise of balance. Yet, as I roll out my mat and join the chorus of deep breaths and flowing movements, a disquieting thought tugs at my mind: Has the essence of yoga been lost amidst the commercialization and Western reinterpretation?

Yoga, a practice with ancient roots in Hindu thought and philosophy, has transcended its origins to become a global phenomenon. Its physical, mental, and spiritual benefits have captivated millions, transforming lives and fostering a sense of community. There are more than 35 million yoga practitioners across all religious spectrums in the USA alone. However, as yoga has traveled from the sacred spaces of India to the trendsetting studios of the West, its original essence has often been diluted or misappropriated.

The commodification of yoga is evident in the profusion of designer yoga wear, luxury retreats, and celebrity endorsements. While these may make yoga more accessible and appealing to a broader audience, they also risk reducing a profound spiritual practice to a mere fitness trend. The core philosophy of yoga, which encompasses ethical living (yamas and niyamas), breath control (pranayama), meditation (dhyana), and a quest for self-realization (samadhi), is often overshadowed by an emphasis on physical postures (asanas) alone.

To “Take Back Yoga to Its Roots” is not about excluding anyone from the practice. Instead, it is an invitation to honor and preserve the authenticity of yoga.

This reductionist approach not only diminishes the holistic nature of yoga but also disrespects its rich cultural heritage. The appropriation of Sanskrit terms, symbols, and rituals without a deep understanding or respect for their significance can lead to a superficial engagement with the practice. It’s not uncommon to see yoga instructors with little to no knowledge of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the Bhagavad Gita, or the Upanishads‚ÄĒtexts that form the philosophical backbone of yoga.

To “Take Back Yoga to Its Roots” is not about excluding anyone from the practice. Instead, it is an invitation to honor and preserve the authenticity of yoga, recognizing it as a cultural and spiritual heritage of India. Here are a few steps we can take to reconnect with the true essence of yoga:

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  1. Educate Ourselves: Understanding the history, philosophy, and cultural context of yoga is crucial. Reading primary texts like the Yoga Sutras, the Bhagavad Gita, and exploring the teachings of traditional gurus can provide deeper insights into the practice.
  2. Respect the Tradition: While it is natural for practices to evolve, it is important to honor the tradition by using Sanskrit terms correctly, acknowledging the cultural origins of yoga, and avoiding the commercialization of sacred symbols and rituals.
  3. Holistic Practice: Embrace the eight limbs of yoga as outlined by Patanjali, which include ethical guidelines, breath work, and meditation, alongside physical postures. This holistic approach can lead to a more profound and authentic experience.
  4. Support Authentic Teachers: Seek out teachers who respect and understand the cultural and philosophical roots of yoga. Supporting these teachers helps preserve the integrity of the practice.
  5. Community and Inclusivity: Foster a yoga community that is inclusive and respectful of its diverse roots. Encourage conversations about cultural appropriation and work towards creating a space that honors the practice’s origins.

Yoga is a gift from India to the world, a practice that transcends physical exercise to touch the soul and spirit. By taking yoga back to its roots, we can ensure that this ancient tradition is honored and preserved, allowing it to flourish authentically in a modern context. Let us roll out our mats with reverence, breathe with intention, and move with awareness, embracing yoga in its full, transformative glory.


J.R. Sandadi is a long-time Carmel, Indiana resident. He migrated to the U.S. in the early 1990s and worked in the IT sector for 25 years before retiring from the corporate world. He volunteers his time with Hindu SwayamSevak Sangh (HSS, USA), and Sewa International USA. Sandadi is also involved with multiple interfaith initiatives across Indiana. He is a founding member of the Indiana Multi-faith Network.

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The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of American Kahani.
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