It is easy for me to be critical of yoga as it is practiced in the parts of the USA that I have lived.
Cultural appropriation? Check.
Shallow spiritualism being careful never to go to deep and challenge anything? Check.
Safe space for wealthy white people? Check.
Individualized, consumeristic way to deepen our alienation and avoid actual religious community? Check.
Yoga is part of a full religious tradition in other parts of the world. Here? Not so much.
But there are beautiful things about it.
People are connecting with their bodies, a first step in connecting with the earth of which we are made and to which we will return. People are learning to breathe, to focus, to pay attention to themselves and their bodies. This is all a potent antidote to many of the problems of alienation we face.
It is way more hospitable than traditional religious communities in the USA, especially for people who don’t fit with and recognize the harmful lies of many of the structures and norms too many of those communities uphold: white supremacy, regimes of shame, heterosexism, etc. A person can go to yoga for free (suggested donation of $5) at the church where I serve as a pastor, and it is in many ways a far more accessible spiritual and religious experience than what we do on Sunday mornings.
It could be an entry point into learning about and appreciating culture and religion from a part of the world that is marginal in some of our thinking in the USA. “Shithole country” or source of wisdom and healing?
What do you appreciate or not appreciate about yoga?
When was the last time you got down, off of any furniture made in a factory somewhere, maybe even out into the soil from which you were formed, and simply breathed, inviting your body to open and move patiently, quieting all the noise and listening to its voice, your body’s voice, the voice of the silent shining one inside all things?