Last yr, Yoga Journal ran a travel essay by a US-based yoga teacher who had visited India together with his household. His account was not in contrast to many Western accounts of India and within the vein of what we name “poverty-porn.” In these tales, India is persistently described as a spot the place these from North America or Europe can “find themselves,” “surrender,” “find grace in poverty,” “learn tolerance,” “experience culture,” or “withstand an assault on the senses.”
In different phrases, for all too many white yoga practitioners, India is the opposite. It is the “dirty” escapist fantasy that results in a “life-changing, transformational” expertise for vacationers.
Most vacationers, even educated yoga practitioners, might not understand that this angle perpetuates colonial and structural types of racism. Structural racism, also called white supremacy within the US context immediately, just isn’t about particular person acts. Instead, it’s concerning the institutional, taken-for-granted privilege that makes it potential for a US citizen to simply purchase a vacationer visa to India, when the inverse is subsequent to unimaginable for the typical Indian. In different phrases, structural racism determines who will get to go the place and how. So, earlier than you propose a visit, mirror on why you need to journey to India and contemplate the broader historical past and implications.
Many individuals see journey because the antidote to racism. Travel can permit us to see cultural variations—that is true—however when “difference” turns into a supply of self-affirmation, journey is lowered to a type of virtue-signaling, or self-congratulation, which solely results in extra re-centering of the white expertise. Many journey to locations black and brown people come from to expertise private “transformation” within the face of devastating inequity and name this gratitude. We have all seen one of these social media submit: the “simple happiness of the locals, despite the fact that most live in poverty, made me realize how fortunate I am, and how easy it is to be happy.” This is a normalized type of racism, like referring to African-American music as “ghetto” or the on a regular basis racist query brown people know all too properly: “But where are you FROM?”
The difficult facet of this, for a lot of the white individuals who train and apply yoga (about 85 % of yoga individuals within the US are white, based on the National Institutes of Health), is that you have to confront and deprogram the angle that prioritizes intentions over impression. Ask your self truthfully, “Am I going to India to make myself feel better about my place in the world?” Or worse, “Am I posting about it on social media so I can pat myself on the back for it?”
See additionally What It’s Like Being an Indian-American Yoga Teacher
Put one other approach, touring to a spot—the place locals can’t simply journey to the place you’re from—to “bring back” one thing you’ll be able to then market or promote isn’t dharmic or yogic. It’s not even appropriative. The phrase for that type of transaction is imperialism. If you’re a white yoga instructor, chances are you’ll go to India to raised perceive and study one thing, and whenever you come again you are feeling that it provides worth to your teaching, which you primarily promote. Is this improper? Well, sure. Someone who lives in North America is taking mental property from India and turning round to show it and promote it at a revenue whereas nothing goes again to the nation of origin. This results in the erasure of indigenous information, and extra importantly, that is precisely how white supremacy endures in 2019.
It’s exhausting for a lot of to listen to this, however business yoga doesn’t have a reasonably story, and, as with many features of our tradition in 2019, we’re lengthy overdue for an trustworthy dialog about how race, capitalism, and colonialism have performed and proceed to play a task in shaping what we expect belongs to us. The query then turns into, what can we do with this data, not solely as people however on a structural degree? How can we proceed in a fashion that results in justice and fairness? Ultimately, the query extra yoga practitioners have to ask themselves earlier than they journey to beforehand colonized areas shouldn’t be “How can I do what I want” however “Why do I think I have a right to what I want?” This isn’t nearly you or your intentions, nevertheless “good” they could be.
And lastly, when you nonetheless need to journey to beforehand colonized areas for yoga tourism, we encourage you to think about these questions earlier than you go:
Would you continue to go in the event you weren’t taking footage or couldn’t publish about your journey on social media?
- Would you continue to go in the event you weren’t taking footage or couldn’t submit about your journey on social media?
- Would you continue to go for those who could not purchase something to convey again (souvenirs for your self or to promote) or leverage your time in India for monetary achieve?
Books to Read on Colonialism
For extra details about structural racism and how colonialism formed international racism and injustice, take a look at these assets:
About our authors
Rumya S. Putcha, PhD, is a scholar of postcolonial, important race, and gender research. She’s the writer of the forthcoming guide Mythical Courtesan / Modern Wife: Performance and Feminist Praxis in South Asia, and her subsequent challenge is titled Namaste Nation: Commercial Yoga Industries and American Imperialism.
Sangeeta Vallabhan has been learning motion for greater than 30 years, first via dance and then yoga. She has been educating yoga in New York City for over 15 years. As the creator of solemarch, Sangeeta encourages college students to make use of the practices of yoga to repeatedly hunt down their very own voice and their true sense of self. Learn extra at sangeetavallabhan.com.