One group, the Hindu American Foundation, has launched a “Take Back Yoga” campaign to address what they see as a fundamental disconnect between yoga and Hinduism.
Sheetal Shah, senior director at the foundation, says the group started the campaign when it noticed that while “Vedic,” “tantric” and many other words appeared regularly in yoga magazines, the word “Hindu” was never mentioned.
So, the foundation called up one of the country’s most popular magazines to ask why.
“They said the word ‘Hinduism’ has a lot of baggage,” Shah says. “And we were like, ‘Excuse me?’ “
Shah says she understands why some people have a problem with linking yoga and Hinduism. Many American practitioners associate the practice with something pure and serene, she says. But when they think of Hinduism, she says, they think of “multiple gods, with multiple heads and multiple arms. Colorful [and] ritualistic.”
It may be difficult for people to see how these things fit together, Shah says.
With the Take Back Yoga campaign, the Hindu American Foundation is hoping for broader acknowledgment that yoga has Hindu philosophical roots — while also emphasizing that it is universal and appropriate for everyone.
“What we’re trying to say is that the holistic practice of yoga goes beyond just a couple of asanas [postures] on a mat. It is a lifestyle, and it’s a philosophy,” Shah says.
“How do you lead your life in terms of truthfulness? And nonviolence? And purity? The lifestyle aspect of yoga,” Shah says, “has been lost.”
“Colourful and ritualistic”?
No, no, you mean brown. Say it with me. “Many American practitioners associate the practice with something pure and serene, i.e., <I>not brown</i>.”
I mean I don’t disagree with the objective at all, but let us not tiptoe around the fact that lots of white people in America are quite racist.