by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Yoga is a culturally sensitive issue, apparently — it’s in the news yet again, thanks to a piece by a Michigan State University professor who declares that white people practicing yoga are “connected with a system of power, privilege, and oppression.”
“While the (mis)appropriation of yoga may not be a life-threatening racism, it is a part of systemic racism nonetheless,” states an article co-written by the professor, Shreena Gandhi, and Lilli Wolff, a self-described “antiracist white Jewish organizer, facilitator, and healer.” …
… The problem, according to the article, is not necessarily that white people are doing yoga, but that “few white people make the connection between their love of yoga and their desire and ability to access traditions from historically oppressed communities of color.”
When this article first gained some publicity, a lot of people were taken aback by its claims. I wasn’t; this line of thinking is not new. I actually wrote about it back in 2016, when a blogger at the Huffington Post argued that doing yoga for the physical benefits only — without engaging with its cultural elements — was “appropriation.” I thought the same thing then as I do now: I am white, I sometimes sort of stretch in my living room and call it “yoga,” and I’m not sorry.