H.Rajput-Week Six-Cultural Boundaries or Consequences of Globalization

I am Indian, was born in India, but was raised in America for almost my entire life. As a first-generation Indian-American, my roots are complicated and diverse enough already, but the times that I grew up in definitely made things a whole lot more intricate. As someone who’s relatively young, I was born in the mid-90s and got to grow up while America, as well as the rest of the world, was becoming increasingly homogeneous.

In my household, when I was growing up, yoga was something that my mother forced me and my brother to learn. Less for the physical benefits, but more to help grow our spirituality, intellect, and inner balance. As a child, I always knew that it was a sacred art, and differed depending on where in India you learned it. As I grew older, however, I began to notice the spread of yoga, even in the little town that I grew up in. It was interesting to see how quickly it spread and became this heavily commercialized shadow of the original practice. In high school, I was never offended if any of my friends singled me out to come to yoga class with them, but I felt this sense that the Western world was missing out on a lot of what yoga is actually about when I attended these classes. There are also many things that get lost in translation when you don’t fully understand the language (Sanskrit) and fill in the blanks liberally. Yoga isn’t necessarily best when it’s outsourced to 50 minutes classes, rather it’s long-term progression of better understanding your own body and mind. That’s why I’m perpetually wary of Western yoga, because it leaves out a lot of the crucial things  and focuses more on glamorizing  the activity as a never-before-seen kind of weight-loss/flexibility/calming sport.

People who are really dedicated to learning it properly and becoming instructors who understand the actual benefits have done miraculous things for those in rehab, the disabled, or any other number of people who were struggling to walk or recover after a traumatic event. Modern medicine takes a lot from ancient medicinal practices, and overall makes treatments more holistic for patients. Similarly, I think the way that we learn to move our bodies and perfect our physical form shouldn’t just be limited to the country we live in. So many professional athletes nowadays implement yoga and Pilates into their daily workouts, and ultimately help average people get a better understanding about the capabilities of their bodies.

Although this is how yoga has spread in the recent years, many centuries ago (when Buddhism and Hinduism were just getting started), yoga was an esoteric discipline that was taught only to the holy sages and priests. It spread throughout South and Southeast Asia (China) due to the expansion of both Hinduism and Buddhism. Even then, the Buddhist monks made amendments to the practice and a new form of yoga sprung up among Buddhism, that was markedly different from the Hindu type.

5 thoughts on “H.Rajput-Week Six-Cultural Boundaries or Consequences of Globalization

  1. I really enjoyed your post about yoga and how the Western world has adopted it. I really do not know the history behind it, but would now love to learn how different it is and how it has progressed. Not everyone supports to the idea of yoga being used in the non-traditional sense, and some feel that it is cultural appropriation. I am pretty sure that you have to be certified to be a yoga instructor, but do you feel that instructors go through the real understanding of where it came from, not just the medical aspect that it can provide? Would you also say that yoga is very different in India than it is in Western countries or is some yoga the same? In the U.S I think that yoga has really turned into a marketable endeavor to some, taking away the spiritual aspect around it. Which I think makes it more “western”, but kind of sad.

  2. I really like how you start off with an intro that shows that you have a unique perspective to this topic. Also your realization as to how yoga was very interesting because you got to see one of these changes as it was happening. It was nice how you included almost all of yoga too, saying how the language and where it came from and all that. Though I feel as though it would have been nice to see more examples of things besides yoga. You did a really good job and went super in depth in yoga, but I feel like since you have lived in such vastly different cultures it would have been cool to hear more about the little changes you would see in day to day life. Overall this was very interesting, neat, and focused. But like I said, some diversity would have been nice. Good job.

  3. First I’d like to say that I am so glad I stumbled upon your post. I never knew the origin of yoga and I am guilty of feeding into the commercialization of yoga. It is really interesting that it was once a sacred practice done by priest and now it’s something people do as a part of their daily exercise routine. When I think about how culture is adopted and spreads geographically, I think about the spread of commerce, trade, and people travelling. Globalization relates to globally conducting business whether that’s opening up shop in another country, producing things for another country, or trading with another country. With that transfer of goods and services comes culture. I could imagine like yoga was adopted globally so were other cultural adoptions. Being that the practice, custom, or good is away from its origin, it will expectedly lose its originality. It will transform.

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed your post and perspective on the cultural spread of the practice of yoga. This is an excellent choice of topic because the art of yoga is a perfect example of an activity that was taken out of its traditional structure and diffused throughout the world, all the while being modified to fit the new target participants. As we see with the globalization of various practices and techniques, the modifications can actually begin to negate the original purpose of the act. There is also a tendency in the Western world to adopt the cultural customs of foreign cultures, and glamorize them to produce a profit. Some might even label this as a form of cultural appropriation. Like you stated, there are many positive results to the globalization of yoga (such as rehabilitation and therapy), but there is a large distinction between the original sacred art and the Western version we see today.
    Thanks!

  5. I very much enjoyed reading through your post about yoga and cultural appropriation in the United States. I also wrote a piece on the same topic. I agree that there is a lot of basic essential ideas that we learn from Yoga in it’s true form that is being lost in the modernization of Yoga. Since it’s becoming such a hot commodity for being a fitness type activity it is definitely losing a lot from it’s original form. This complicates things because Yoga in it’s purest form should be something for everyone, but in this capitalistic world many people are using it as a monetary gain for themselves. The exploitation of Yoga in the western world hurts not only the essence of yoga, but also our own culture. I read an article a few months ago about how one of the teachers at a Yoga class in the south was making the students say Namaste before starting, but she was shut down fairly quickly from the parents because they felt there was a religious influence coming from the class. It seems like the culture in this country wants to take Yoga, but strip the roots off so it can be a new “progressive” western culture workout. I really enjoyed reading your post, great job.

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