This article is an elaboration on a very valid viewpoint about the commercial popularization and dumbing-down of a private and serious practice. However, a humble stance to take on "Westerners doing yoga" would be one of appreciation for the fact that such a multi-layered, healthful, and sacred spiritual practice is at least being looked into and respected for its benefits, rather than shunning it as nothing but a mere capitalist exploitation of something meant only for serious Indian practitioners.
Besides, having grown up in the US as half Indian, you, Marina, are at least technically a Westerner. Would you disagree?
Perhaps the offense you feel at the bastardization of an ancient cultural practice is a reflection of your own predicament of slight alienation and judgment of Western culture from a half-Indian raised-in-America point of view. That is okay. I am half white too. To a degree, I know how it feels. Though I choose not to demonize other Americans for their curiosity with different cultures, as we, being a very young country, seem to lack our own. That is okay.
Just as new Indian immigrants, visitors, etc. are not to blame for being appalled at the offensively mild and money-driven version of their sacred practice, Westerners are not to blame for embracing the American yoga movement through the available vehicles. Hey, at least we're doing it at all, right? God knows we need a little more cultural appreciation...and if it has to be injected into us via weekly classes and Chopra books, so be it.
You did touch on this ^ briefly in statements like, "On the other hand, I know my own reaction isn't entirely fair. Yoga has become--on some levels--part of the American culture." But you then went on to list some scenarios in which yoga was shamefully Americanized. Surely the Indian officials who have tried to compile digitally filed yogic writings and video pose series to claim that yoga belongs originally and only to India have also thought something along the lines of, "Gee, the world would probably be a better place if everyone practiced yoga."
I know that's how I feel after a long session.
And I'm not Indian.
It would be to everyone's benefit if this controversy was approached not with Me-Mine-ing, but rather a humble heart and an openness to share something that undoubtedly does us all worlds of good.
Bikram - I know plenty of Indians who are cautious of Western Yoga practices and there is good reason for it. All you have to do is look at the history of white people and how they treat other cultures - most have an inaccurate stereotype that they place on our heads. There is a difference in appreciating another culture to trying to mimic and profit off of it. It's sad when you hear "they are more Indian than most Indians". Really? Indian-ness is more than aesthetics - it starts at home with our families and connecting to our ethnic roots and spirituality. Indian is not something you can wear, taste, buy, or roll off the tongue with a few Hindi words. Remember that Westerners don't have to deal with the responsibility of being minority and trying to maintain both cultures - most white people feel they can pick up or discard whatever culture is the flavor of the day based on popular pop culture (70's Beatles, 90's Gwen Stefani, Madonna). Real respect for ones ethnic heritage (Indian) can never be understood by one not raised in it and living it day to day. As for Yoga, yes it is good for all. I have been practicing Yoga at home for 13 years - I avoid the classes for the same reasons posted in the article. It's ridiculous how Yoga has been become about $$. And one last thing, you say "appropriate western culture", colonialism imposed that upon us - in the West and the East. I would prefer to wear a sari every day but my work dress code is based on rules made by the dominant Anglo culture. The difference there is that they have a choice of being a part our culture - we were forced to become a part of theirs.
I am not sure why author is surprised that south-asian immigrants are out of touch with Yoga, but familiar with cheap hindi dance and bhangra. Three south-asian countries, India, B'esh and Pakistan are now dominated by a political culture of corruption, colonial conquest and spiritual nihilism. Urban space in those countries are anything but Hindu culture, the ancient culture that gave birth to a profound practice of Yoga. This author represent a small group of upper middle class India who studied in missionary schools, speak English at home, appropriate western culture in India, and then get mad when they see American following the Hindu culture that they thought "soo backward"....well, south-asia may try hard to suppress Hindu culture but world is now embracing the universalilty of this profound spiritual movement. Hatha yoga is exercise, westerner likes it , they are into it..they are turning into Hinduism.....you south asian, the India, do not complain about it. Hinduism and Yoga does not belong to india, as India govt and middle class who pretend to run that country of poverty tried and still trying so hard to oppress the Hindu culture for last fifty years
i wan't to free book if is it possible, can you do it