Commentary: Yoga is widely misappropriated in the West

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I am currently enrolled in Yoga Study and Practice I at Ithaca College, and my professor is James Eavenson. Class with professor Eavenson is much more than an hour and fifteen minutes of practicing strenuous poses, as one may believe due to its Physical Activity and Leisure Studies classification. Eavenson has studied yoga in India and logged over 25,000 practice hours. He believes it is important for his students to harness the traditional values of yoga, not the Americanized version. In addition to calming our minds and breaths, Eavenson stresses the importance of noticing and appreciating the movements of our bones and muscles rather than focusing on the discomfort we may be feeling. He also chants mantras — sacred syllables — to open and close our classes. Personally, I have noticed changes in my emotional and physical well-being since beginning these classes.

During my last class with Eavenson, he mentioned how yoga is becoming a victim of cultural misappropriation. Cultural appropriation is when one culture adopts another culture’s practice for its own benefit. While it may sound similar, cultural misappropriation is a different concept completely. The definition of this term is when a language, lifestyle, ritual, or other cultural tradition is superficially adapted without a deep understanding or context of the practice. If one researches yoga at all, classes with names like Hot Yoga or Power Yoga will appear from a Google search. Students at Ithaca College can even take classes like these.

Inside and outside the college, yoga is being disrespected. Eavenson believes that realizing this fact is “a very important and ongoing education to the Ithaca College Community, Ithaca itself, and eventually even the United States.” Because of this ignorance, the Indian government has decided to start filming various yoga poses in order to prevent Americans trying to patent them. It wasn’t enough for Americans to misinterpret and butcher the sacred practice of yoga; they want to own copyright on poses too.

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