The practice of Yoga has long been associated with improving the quality and wellbeing of individuals who practice the discipline. Started more than 6000 years ago, originating from the Indian subcontinent, Yoga has religious, physical, and religious connotations that aim to offer the practitioner a positive balance in life. Yoga has been exported to all corners of the earth, and with it, the questions of race within the yoga practice have reared their head. The essay aims to critically understand how Yoga and race intersect, precisely how Yoga and black American culture overlap, and what intersectionality reveals.
As stated earlier, Yoga originated from the subcontinent of India and its exportation to Europe. Subsequently, America carries the history of colonialism within the desire and power to appropriate from historically oppressed communities of color. Therefore, the practice of Yoga is rooted in the colonial ideology that has over time become ingrained in practice attaining the status of systematic racism in current times. And the argument is further proven as most individuals practicing Yoga are white people. Hence, as a black individual, I view Yoga as a white man’s practice. While I do not critically understand its over plan with racial injustices, I view the practice of Yoga as a white man’s form of exercise.
My view is further boosted by the fact that the history of colonialism is filled with the violent appropriation of native cultures for the benefit of white people. The practice of Yoga has become popular in Europe and America for it reinforces the ideas of India. the idea of India from a white perspective is that Yoga is a native natural occurring practice that allows them to engage in the ideology of another culture which in a way shows respect to the Indians natives who practice Yoga. But that line of thinking is far from the truth and reaffirms white supremacy views. Yoga as practiced within the ideology of whiteness is a direct consequence of cultural appropriation that reinforces systematic racism while appealing to white fragility. Therefore, in my view, Yoga is a practice that has been appropriated from a less powerful group like myself and is a form of soft power used by white people to silence its connections to colonialism and white supremacy.
While the argument of cultural appropriation regarding Yoga practice may be dismissed as culture is not static and in the rise of global multiculturism caters to intermixture, the question of power and how Yoga is being used to reinforce inequalities is a real racial problem. In India,, President Modi is turning Yoga into a political and nationalism plan calling for all Indians of goodwill to practice Yoga as a form of creating cohesion and understanding among Indians. Yoga is quickly becoming a political tool that can promote inequality among populations. And in my view, as a black individual, given that Yoga is promoted practiced by the white community, I believe that “well-meaning westerners can find themselves colluding with right with hiding nationalists”who are using Yoga as a political tool to maintain and grab more political, economic and social power.
As a young black woman, I have conflicted views on Yoga being a religious and spiritual practice. Yet yoga practice is not tied to any form of religious or spiritual ideology.And given the historical racial foundations of my religious views, I do not believe that Yoga offers any form of religious and spiritual nourishment. And my view is further supported by several religious movements that do not view Yoga as a part of their religious practice. For example, the Muslim and Christian religion views Yoga as a practice against Islam. The United States courts ruled that Yoga is not inevitably linked to faith, and the practice is devoid of any religious, mystical, or spiritual trappings. Hence, my view is that Yoga is not linked to any religious or spiritual ideologies and is only for exercise.
Despite the racial challenges that face Yoga as a practice,, it is critical to note that the black community, especially black women, do practice Yoga. The belief that the current fragmentation of Yoga renders it inauthentic is not true as there is on “legit original tradition only contextualized ideas and practices organizes around the term yoga.” From Rosa Parks to Tina Turner, powerful and political black women practice Yoga as a form of healing and meditative practice.
As a young black woman, it matters that Yoga is only a form of exercise. The race and gender issue in Yoga makes it a complex and confusing practice. However, the practice is devoid of religious and spiritual trappings, which makes it only a form of exercise. The physical practice of Yoga does aid individuals, including myself, decrease stress, anxiety, and depression. Yet dealing with Yoga at only a physical level as a black woman erases the historical roots of Yoga which perpetuate re-colonization.
As a young black woman, I believe that Yoga is only a form of physical exercise. Yet the yoga practice is a form of cultural appropriation which reinforces systematic racism and continually positions whiteness as the dominant force in practice. The practice does not have any religious and spiritual affiliations, but its physical practice continues to perpetuate the re-colonization of the ancient practice in modern times. The intersectionality of yoga and race is complex but the link of yoga to colonialism and white supremacy has been exposed and noted.
Anthony Appiah, Kwame. 2018. “From Yoga To Rap, Cultural Borrowing Is Great; The Problem Is Disrespect”. The Wire, , 2018. https://thewire.in/books/cultural-borrowing-kwame-anthony-appiahbook-extract-lies-that-bind.
Burke, Jason. 2015. “Modi’S Plan To Change India And The World Through Yoga Angers Religious Minorities”. The Guardian, , 2015.
Gandhi, Shreena, and Lillie Wolff. 2017. “Yoga And The Roots Of Cultural Appropriation”. Praxis Center, , 2017. https://www.kzoo.edu/praxis/yoga/.
JAIN, ANDREA. 2018. “FOX NEWS CONTROVERSY ON YOGA AND WHITE SUPREMACY REVEALS PROBLEM OF YOGA DISCUSSION”. Religion Dispatches, , 2018. https://religiondispatches.org/fox-news-controversy-on-yoga-and-white-supremacy-reveals-problem-of-yoga-discussion/.
Kremer, William. 2013. “Does Doing Yoga Make You A Hindu?”. BBC World Service, , 2013. https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-25006926.
 Burke, Jason. 2015. “Modi’S Plan To Change India And The World Through Yoga Angers Religious Minorities”. The Guardian, , 2015.
 JAIN, ANDREA. 2018. “FOX NEWS CONTROVERSY ON YOGA AND WHITE SUPREMACY REVEALS PROBLEM OF YOGA DISCUSSION”. Religion Dispatches, , 2018. https://religiondispatches.org/fox-news-controversy-on-yoga-and-white-supremacy-reveals-problem-of-yoga-discussion/.
 Gandhi, Shreena, and Lillie Wolff. 2017. “Yoga And The Roots Of Cultural Appropriation”. Praxis Center, , 2017. https://www.kzoo.edu/praxis/yoga/.
 Ibid, 2017
 Burke, 2015
 Anthony Appiah, Kwame. 2018. “From Yoga To Rap, Cultural Borrowing Is Great; The Problem Is Disrespect”. The Wire, , 2018. https://thewire.in/books/cultural-borrowing-kwame-anthony-appiahbook-extract-lies-that-bind.
 Ibid, 2018
 Kremer, William. 2013. “Does Doing Yoga Make You A Hindu?”. BBC World Service, , 2013. https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-25006926.
 Burke, 2015
 Gandhi and Wolff, 2017