things white people do

one interpretation of Kali

Given all the recent uproar about yoga advertising, I want to ask this question again:

why is American yoga such a white thing?

This post is from 2007 and three years later I am still asking the same question.

The Color of Yoga

I am white (but have been told “you’re not all that white”), so why does this question bother me so much? Maybe because I grew up on the south side of Chicago? Maybe because I lived with Tejanos on the Texas/Mexico border? Maybe because my ex-husband is Mexican?

Don’t know. But the way yoga is advertised bothers me, maybe because it seems so exclusive — despite all the peace-love-dove New Age rhetoric — when it should be inclusive of older, rounder, darker.

The ads in Yoga Journal for Kripalu are the only ones that are realistic because they have all colors, all shapes, and all ages.

You bet I am tired of the skinny, young, white women in yoga advertising AS IF that is the only type who does yoga in America. Brooks Hall is on fire with her post about….another ad using a skinny, young, white woman. How original Corporate America.

“slimmer calmer healthier” — notice which word is first in the ad.

As someone who taught yoga in a community college to young women with eating disorders, these people just DON’T GET IT.

“The ways of materialistic culture as seen in this advertisement seem to be trying to cleanse yoga of its Indian-ness, as if the strangeness of it is a form of pollution.”

Yeah, let’s just make everything white bread because that’s what we are really comfortable with since yoga is a white thang anyway. Scroll down to read the Minority Yoga Report:

I could go on, but what’s the point?

I teach to Hispanic women at a domestic violence shelter and they connect to yoga and meditation more so than many people I’ve taught at yoga studios. I can count on one hand the number of people of color I have taught in 9 years of teaching.

With the latest discussion about Yoga Journal, the mass-marketing of yoga, all the blah blah about how wonderful it is that yoga is reaching the masses, that more and more people are exposed to yoga, how yoga is so “mainstream” (and I do not believe it is)….where is the increase of people of color taking yoga classes?

Or have our white sensibilities forgotten them in all the rhetoric about how absolutely fabulous it is that so many more white people are taking yoga now?

11 thoughts on “things white people do

  1. Interesting question. In my own international yoga school, we do have many Asian, some African American and a whole host of other cultural groups. Still, our group IS predominately white.

    And most classes I attend are full of white/Asian students. Of course, they are also predominately female.

    It'd be awesome to do a cultural study on yoga – to understand the awareness of yoga in each cultural group in a given country. The thoughts, feelings and understanding of yoga. Without that kind of study, I'm not sure we can know for sure.

    Could it just be a financial thing? I doubt it. I mean, I know a lot of white female yogis without a lot of money who make paying for their yoga classes their priority.

    So it must be something cultural, too. Some barrier that we just don't see from our white western point of view perhaps? Even for those of us that really aren't that white beneath the colour of our skin?


  2. true, svasti. like I said in “The Color of Yoga”, there is the idea that yoga is religious which can be scary to devout Catholics or Jehovah's Witnesses like the women in the shelter where I teach.


  3. Your post hits the mark. I am white, but utterly round. I'm beginning to embrace my utter roundness – so I don't read yoga journal (for that and many other reasons).

    And I am also frustrated with the philosophy of yoga being so ignored.

    Thanks for your honest words.


  4. At our studio we have a really nice mix of the bunch and our teachers are African American (2), Asian (1), White Women (2), Men (3). All ages, shapes, and sizes to boot! You will also find our students are just as well mixed of the bunch because they probably feel comfortable and accepted. You will also find many of us don't care for Yoga Journal. Awesome post.


  5. This is so interesting – I also find is fascinating that yoga in New Zealand is largely the preserve of women, when in the history of yoga there have been times when it was almost exclusively the domain of men. Thanks for asking the important questions and for your comment on my post about yoga and body shame. I think you and I could have a very good, long conversation over a cup of tea one day!


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