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Vlog/Blog - $h*t You Shouldn't Say on Yoga Shirts

cultural appropriation Oct 17, 2019

Hey, how’s it going?! Welcome back to EB Yoga!

Today I’d like to talk about $h*t you shouldn’t say on yoga shirts.

I’ll start by saying that I am 100% guilty of doing this. Every shirt that you see in this vlog/blog is something I wore at one time. You can go into my online studio and see all the videos of me wearing these clothes. But at the time, I didn’t know better. I didn’t know that my clothes could be seen as offensive or disrespectful. 

I had heard of “cultural appropriation” but I didn’t fully understand what it was until I took a training with Alexandria Crow and Amara Miller.

Cultural appropriation is when someone from outside of a culture, takes something from a different culture, whether that be knowledge, traditions, or cultural expressions, and takes them without any permission, or understanding, or acknowledgement of the culture from which they took that. So perhaps they’re taking something from another culture and they’re using it to make money or because it’s “cool.” They’re getting some sort of benefit from it, without acknowledging where it actually came from and understanding and appreciating that.

Cultural appreciation will be the opposite. It’s when you borrow or take from another culture, and you have permission and understanding and you acknowledge the source culture from which that tradition came.

In my opinion, in America, we’re not doing a very good job of appreciating the yoga practice and were actually doing a lot more cultural appropriation. Basically, we’ve taken this ancient spiritual practice that originated in Southeast Asia, and we’ve turned it into an aerobics class with a sprinkling of spirituality in there, sometimes. Sometimes there’s no spirituality at all and it’s just a straight up aerobics class. The focus of a lot of yoga classes in America is just to get hotter classes, faster classes, more challenging classes, crazier poses, and combining yoga with other physical activities.


Now, I’m not saying every single yoga teacher in America is guilty of cultural appropriation, but before you put your hands up and say “that’s not me!” let’s take a look at some of these things because I really didn’t have a clue until I was educated. Cultural appropriation is a big, important topic and I will definitely be making some more videos on that topic. But today I just want to focus on some of the $h*t you shouldn’t say on yoga shirts.

As I mentioned, yoga is an ancient spiritual practice, originating in Southeast Asia. Yoga is not a religion, but it is a spiritual practice. So similar to religions, that have symbolism and traditions, yoga also has its own symbols, traditions, and language.

So let’s look at yoga vs going to church. Again, spirituality and religion are different, but similar enough that you can see the amount of respect that you would have for a church or religion and why are we not showing that same respect to our ancient yoga practice?

And then we have mala beads, which I can do a whole other video on, but let me just ask you this, would you wear a rosary out and about as a necklace or a bracelet? I love my mala beads and I used to wear them as jewelry every day. But if I am using my mala to meditate in the morning as part of my spiritual practice, then does it make sense to use it as a piece of jewelry? How is that showing respect to my spiritual practice and my mala as a spiritual tool?

 

Now let’s take a look at OM.

Om is considered to be one of the most sacred sounds in the yoga practice. It is considered to be the sound of the universal energy and and a unifying, uniting sound. It is not a sound or chant worshiping any god, but rather symbolizing the connectivity of the universe.

Om may be chanted at the beginning or end of a yoga class. But often in America, Om is left out in terms of “chanting” and it’s the Om symbol that you see all over clothing. A yoga teacher friend of mine told me a studio she taught at put Om stickers on the ground to mark mat spots.

So imagine Om being this most sacred sound and symbol, and let’s just throw it on a sticker on the ground and on some t-shirts...

So my question is, what if we took a sound, a symbol, a word, that was really important in another religion or culture, and just slapped it on a bunch of t-shirts, made funny slang sayings about it? What about Amen? I actually found t-shirts that said “Amen for Ramen.” Does that offend anyone? Anyone???

 

Namaste...
Namaste is perhaps the most common yoga word that we just slaughter. Namaste is a respectful greeting, used for both hello and goodbye, and meant to show the person saying it has the understanding of seeing the divinity in all beings. In America, we say a lot of times, the light within me sees the light within you, or the divine within me sees, honors, accepts, the divine within you. We put a lot more words to it, to interpret it, when really it’s mostly commonly a respectful greeting.

To me, the key word here is respect. When we use Namaste at the end of class, it’s supposed to be a respectful thing. As a teacher, when I’m saying that to my students, I’m trying to acknowledge that we’re all in this together. We’re all equal, we’re all the same, we’re all one. That was always my definition/interpretation when I used Namaste in class. I’ve kind of stepped away from saying Namaste just because of the context and reputation it’s getting. It’s not seen as this light, positive, respectful word anymore. We’ve lost a lot of respect for the word, in my opinion.

I am guilty of the Namaste jokes. I have taught workshops called things like, Namaste In Tonight. So again, 100% guilty.
And please don’t get me started on the Namaste Rose and Namaste Cabernet...that’s another video.

So I hope you learned something in this video and understand where some of this yoga stuff is going awry and where we need to be more respectful and acknowledge the roots of our yoga practice. I try to live by the Maya Angelou quote, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

So as I’ve stated several times in this video, I’m not perfect. I’m guilty of cultural appropriation too. But, not that I know better,  I’m trying to do better. Remember Maya Angelou “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

 See ya next time.
Peace.

Elicia

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