Is Yoga Cultural Appropriation?

Yoga has become a popular activity in western culture.  I have been practicing yoga on-and-off for about 16 years and have recently started a learning project to try to learn more about yoga, improve my own yoga practice and discover if a regular yoga practice would increase my energy and well-being.  You can read more about that here.

Over the past year or so I have begun to hear this question more frequently: Is yoga cultural appropriation?  At first I was surprised by the question.  But it soon began to make more sense.

So first, let’s look at what exactly is meant by cultural appropriation, also sometimes known as cultural misappropriation.  Wikipedia defines it as “the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture”.   Wikipedia explains cultural appropriation further;  when elements of one culture (music, dance, spiritual ceremonies, modes of dress, speech and social behaviour) are adopted or “borrowed” by people of another culture.   When asking whether a behavior is cultural appropriation those who study it  consider the issue of colonialism; unequal relationships between indigenous peoples and the colonial power, or a marginalized group and a majority group.  They also consider whether the marginalized group feels disrespected by the behavior.  They ask whether these cultural elements are trivialized, used for fashion, or if they lose their original meaning.

Jaswir Dhillon claims that yoga is not cultural appropriation, but that yoga is for everyone, that it is beneficial for all and should be available to all.  I learned that yoga means “union”.  Dhillon is from India and has experienced colonialism firsthand.  I strongly urge you to read his article, as he explains these views so much better than I can.

SandhuBhamra-Yoga-Sketch

Photo source: Susanna Barkataki

Susanna Barkataki disagrees, and explains how to decolonize your yoga practice.  She states that the million dollar industry of yoga in North America has taken it out of context.  She explains that she is not saying that yoga is only for people from India, but that the true purpose must remain intact.  Barkataki offers 5 ways to decolonize your yoga practice: 1. look within yourself, 2. explore, learn and cite correct cultural references, 3. ask ourselves, and other yoga teachers, the hard questions, 4. live, know, share and practice all 8 limbs of yoga, not just asana and 5. be humble and honor your own and other people’s journey.

Anupreet Sandhu Bharma explains that you must consider whether yoga is religion or not before you can understand if it is cultural appropriation.  She tells us that Hinduism is difficult to compare to western religion.  There is no word for religion in Sanscrit.  The closest word that exists is Dharma, which can be understood as a righteous way of living.  Yoga was intended as a way to meditate and be at one with your spirit.  Bharma states that,  “it is through the practice of Yoga, one can reach Brahm, the Supreme, Absolute Divinity, attain moksha (loosely translated as liberation from the cycle of births and deaths)….the eternal way of life”.  Again I encourage you to read what Bharma has to say as it is truly insightful.

You can read more from S.E. Smith or Sarah Ratchford who agree that yoga is indeed cultural appropriation.  Or you can check on some conversations on Quora about the topic.  You can also learn about the Take Yoga Back movement.

After considering what these authors have to say here are my personal thoughts.  I have learned a great deal from what each author had to say and I plan to continue to learn more about the true purpose of yoga.  I will continue to be sensitive to the culture with which yoga orignated.  My yoga practice is in my own home.  I refuse to make it about capitalism and commercialization.  It is entirely about connecting myself to my inner spirit.  I also meditate and practice breath exercises.  I am just a beginner.  I have so much to learn.  I will continue to honour the origins of yoga.

So do I believe that western yoga is cultural appropriation?  I think it depends.  Yes, sometimes, I believe it is.  However, I believe it can be done in a manner that is not cultural appropriation.  I plan to follow the advice of Susanna Barkataki as I continue my yoga practice.

What are your thoughts?

 

 

Online Harassment and Societal Attitudes about Women

This week in EC&I 831 we are learning about the heavy but important topics of Trolls, Bullies, Racists and Masogynists on the internet. The readings for the week all relate to online harassment and threats, especially of women. I want to talk about how these online issues relate to societal attitudes in general. Additionally, I will talk about the term rape culture. I know this is a difficult subject. But it is one that infuriates me and that I believe we all need to talk more about.  I would also like to refer to the recent trial of Jian Ghomeshi.

John Oliver spoke about Online Harassment in a segment of Last Week Tonight.  By the way, I’m so glad John has a talent for making poignant, important statements in a hilarious format that gets people’s attention.  In this show John states, “ If (online threats don’t) seem like a big deal to you, well then congratulations on your white penis.” As you are busting a gut you realize John makes an important point.  This is a problem that generally affects women.  Men may not even notice.  They can look the other way.  John goes on later to say, “It can potentially affect any woman who makes the mistake of having a thought in her mind and then vocalizing it online.”  John also refers to the common practice of victim blaming in society and describes how poorly equipped police forces are to deal with these crimes.  Near the end of the show, John states, “It comes down to us and fundamentally changing the way we think about the internet because you hear people play down the dangers of the internet as they say ‘relax, it’s not real life’. But it is. And it always has been.”

In Matt Rozsa’s article With Gamergate, it’s Not Enough to Ignore the Trolls he explains that online harrassment is a gendered phenomenon and that 73%of cyber-stalking victims were female. He also quotes the Roman philosopher Seneca, “that shame may restrain what law does not prohibit”  Rozsa is referring to the unfortunate fact that our legal system does a poor job of protecting women from these crimes.  He is encouraging us to shame those who harass and threaten online.  We need to stand up to these harassers, not ignore them.  He quotes Amanda Hess who says, “No matter how hard we attempt to ignore it, this type of gendered harassment – and the sheer volume of it – has severe implications for women’s status on the internet.”He also writes about Caroline Criado-Perez who states, “If there’s one thing I want to come out of what happened to me it is for the term “don’t feed the trolls to be scrubbed from the annals of received wisdom”. Criado-Perez’s comments means that we need to stop telling women to just “shrug it off” when they are harassed and threatened online.

I agree with John and Matt.  Whether it is online or in real life, we need to stop blaming victims and change our attitudes.  I believe we live in a society that allows, even encourages, men to see women as objects.  We see images of nearly naked women acting sexual to sell everything from cars and beer to clothes.   Movies and music still portray women as objects to be controlled and used.  Remember that it wasn’t really that long ago that women were literally considered property.  We have not even reached the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in Canada or the U.S.

Now I would like to go a bit further and talk about rape culture.  Please stay with me here.

Wikipedia describes the term rape culture  as”a setting in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal views about gender and sexuality”.

Last week Jian Ghomeshi, a Canadian journalist, was acquitted on all charges of rape and choking of three women.  The reaction to this verdict was split.  Some said that justice had been done as the judge could not find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  Many were outraged.  Outraged because this keeps happening.  Most women who are raped do not report.  Those that do, generally do not have justice on their side.

 

 

Photosource: Huffpost Canada

Let’s think about it for a moment.  How can rape be “proven”?  If the woman immediately goes to a doctor and has any marks on her body she will have a better chance of proving she was raped.  However, if she does not go to a doctor, or if there are no marks on her body, her chances of “proving” the rape happened are not good.  It is her word against his.  And even if there are marks on the woman’s body, and the man says, “but you wanted rough sex” it is still her word against his.  And whose word unfortunately holds more power in our society?  Well, let’s be honest, his.

These cases are also further complicated because women who have become victims of rape, especially date or acquaintance rape, often continue to communicate with their perpetrator.  Sometimes women are unsure themselves whether to call it rape, especially if they were attracted to the man.  They feel ashamed and blame themsleves.

The outcome of Jian Ghomeshi’s trial outrages me.  As a society I feel like we have not come very far. We need to continue to work to raise awareness.  So what can we do?

If you have not seen this video comparing consent to tea please watch it.  Again, the humour adds to the power of the message.

Please also read about Rape Trauma Syndrome and self-blame.

As women, we need to be strong and confident.  We need to raise girls who are strong and confident.  We need to raise boys who are respectful and stand up for women also.  We need to stop using or encouraging language that promotes negative attitudes about women.  We need to speak up.  We must not ignore the trolls.  And we must not ignore rape culture.  Also see some useful resources below that I found in my research.

And please share your thoughts.

No! The Rape Documentary

Rape Culture 1975 Documentary

The Unslut project

The Hunting Ground

Wikipedia list of documentaries about violence against women

 

Purposes and Types of Yoga

In my research about different types of yoga I have found five basic purposes for doing yoga.  I have also found over thirty different types of yoga.  Below is a list of the purposes of yoga and the types of yoga I found.  Meditation and Pranayama (breathing exercises) are also important yoga practices.  See also the sites below where I found this information.

Five Reasons for a Regular Yoga Practice: (in no particular order)

1. Stress release, better sleep  (yin, hatha are good for this purpose)

2. Better focus, concentration, energy (meditation and Pranayama are best, see below)

3. Pain Management, healing from an injury – (Iyengar)

4. Fitness, Weight loss – (ashtanga/power)

5. Sprituality, preparation for meditation – (yin, hatha)

Types of Yoga: (in no particular order)

The most popular types of yoga are Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Hot Yoga, Yin Yoga and Iyengar.  Over the years yoga has evolved and changed (in some good ways, and some not so good ways).  See my post on Yoga History.  Some of the many other names that have been given to types of yoga are found below, for interest’s sake.

Sattva, ISHTA, Integral, KaliRayTriYoga, Bikram/HotYoga, Hatha, Vinyasa/Power,

Kundalini, Ashtanga, whitelotus, Iyengar, Baptiste, Anusara, Restorative/Yin,

Svaroopa, Jivamukti, Prenatal, Kripalu, Sivananda, Viniyoga, Tantra, Ananda,

Bhakti, Jnana, Laya, Karma, Raja, Mantha, Moksha

For more information on these types of yoga see the websites below.

Some helpful sites about Yoga:

mindbodygreen

Gaiam

matsmatsmats

Health.com

Hellawella

DoYouYoga

Yoga.com

What is your favourite type of yoga and why?

This week’s Yoga Practice: March 19

This week’s Self-Evaluation

This week I was able to fit in three sessions of Yoga with Adriene (Yoga camp, Days 8, 9, 10).  My practice definitely increased my energy, positivity and ability to deal with stress.  I felt calm and relaxed.  Each time, my practice helped my body to loosen up and feel more comfortable.

Please see my post this week on Buying Cruelty-Free, Vegan, Socially Conscious and Environmentally as this relates to a Yoga Lifestyle.

Buying Cruelty-Free, Vegan, Socially Conscious and Environmental

Previously I have posted about the idea of a Yoga Lifestyle as well as my choice to be a Vegetarian as part of my lifestyle.  I would like to share another part of my lifestyle that has come about as a result of being a vegetarian and believing in the Yoga Lifestyle; using cruelty-free, vegan, environmental and socially conscious products as much as possible.

First let me explain what each of these mean.

Cruelty-free –  cosmetic products that do not test on animals; including make-up, lotions, shampoo, conditioners, soaps, cleansers, deodorants, toothpastes, etc.

Vegan – products (as above) that do not use any ingredients that come from animals; such as gelatin or glycerin and also includes leather

Environmental – products that do not harm the environment (the use of or the production/packaging of the product)

Socially conscious – products that are not made in factories that use/support forced or child labour.

I began researching and purchasing products adhering to these principles about five years ago.  I have since learned a great deal and found many companies and products that I love.  It isn’t as difficult as you might think to support these principles.  And I believe that the more we, as consumers, buy according to these principles, the more demand there will be for companies to adhere to these principles.  If we can reduce suffering of any kind, why wouldn’t we?

Unfortunately, I still have some leather furniture in my home, that was purchased before I began buying vegan.  I still own some leather shoes and boots.  I have not gone so far as to get rid of these items.  But I do the best I can with my new purchases.

Also, I have found it difficult to buy clothing that is socially conscious.  There are a few sites online.  And occasionally I will find clothing in a local store that is tagged saying it is made in Canada, or is socially conscious.

Some of the products that I have fallen in love with can be found below.  Some of these can be found at grocery stores or Old Fashioned Foods.  Some can be found at hair salons.  And others have to be ordered over the internet.  Other products can be made at home with basic ingredients from your fridge or pantry.  Generally, if a product is organic, it is usually vegan as well in my experience.  Some of these products are very reasonably priced and others are more expensive.  I believe living this way can be achieved even on a meager budget.  All of these products are beneficial to the skin and overall health, as opposed to toxic, harmful ingredients in other products.

Many of them make products for men, women and children.

Pacifica – cosmetics and cleansers

Neuma – hair products

Desert Essence – hair products, lotions, soaps, toothpastes

Kiss My Face – hair products, lotions, soaps

Gardener’s Dream – face and body wash and lotions

 

These pictures are my own.

I would encourage anyone to try these products and others like them and increase the demand for companies to be more socially conscious, environmental and kind.

You can also look for these symbols when you shop.

Leaping bunny  

Vegan Symbols 

And read more at these sites:

list of vegan beauty products

Another helpful list

I would love to hear from others about your experiences!

Equality and the Internet

This week I am posting about equality in the context of two related topics that were new to me. The first topic is Net Neutrality. I had never heard of Net neutrality so I really needed to get some background. In my post I will explain what it is, why it is important and what some of the experts have to say about it.

The second topic is that of free internet services and the potential for these services to bring knowledge to the disadvantaged and developing countries.

Both of these topics are related to equality among people; people of all races, whether they are wealthy or not, or whether they live in the first or third world.

Photo Source: Glowbugsandglassbulbs

So, what is Net Neutrality? Wikipedia describes it as “the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet the same, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication.”

 

In a speech he gave for the Association of College and Research Libraries in 2015 Lawrence Lessig, a proponent of net neutrality, describes it with an easy to understand analogy (17:58, see below). He compares the internet to an electrical outlet and competing internet providers to appliance companies. So, in a two-tiered system, if you were to buy a Sony appliance it might not get the same power supply as a Panasonic, depending on the contract between the appliance companies and the power company.

So how does net neutrality affect equality?  Lessig says neutrality fosters free speech and leads to further democratic participation. Lessig also states that monopolization of the internet would stifle diversity of independent news sources as well as innovation. Basically, we need the net to stay neutral so all perspectives can be considered on the internet, and so that the wealthy are not at an advantage of getting information that is unavailable to the middle class or those in poverty. It is also important that all innovators, regardless of their social standing, have equal access to learn and to innovate.

Cade Metz’s article Backlash Against Facebook’s Free Internet Service Grows describes Mark Zuckerberg’s effort to bring free internet service to the developing world. Zuckerberg claims that his service Internet.org and his app Free Basics will bring the benefit of internet knowledge to the two thirds of the world who currently do not have it. Zuckerberg claims that this is a humanitarian effort and that his service can co-exist with net neutrality. However, some countries will not partner with Zuckerberg as they believe that Internet.org does violate the principals of net neutrality. Internet.org was made available to some countries in 2015. Similar sites such as Wikipedia Zero and Google Free Zone are also available. I feel I need to learn more about these services before I form an opinion of their value. I would like to believe that they hold amazing potential to spread the knowledge and to empower people in parts of the world currently in need.

I believe that the internet is part of the knowledge economy and that it can be a powerful equalizing force in our world. Now that I have a basic understanding of net neutrality and services such as internet.org, Wikipedia Zero and Google Free Zone, I want to know more. I am intrigued and I see the possibilities. I will continue to read more about this.

I can also see how this relates to education, especially justice education. I teach in a school where the majority of students are from a low socioeconomic background. I can see how net neutrality is important for equality and the future success of my students.

 

What are your thoughts on net neutrality and Internet.org? How can educators work to support net neutrality and equality for all our students?

Week 9 Response: Identity, Reputation and Social Capital

This week in ECI831 we are reading about Identity, Reputation and Social Capital.  Some of the readings posed questions such as are resumes dead, how one can land a dream job by using the web in creative ways and is Facebook only a place where we display our best, fake selves?  While another reading helped us understand how to manage our digital identity in constructive, careful way.

After reading these articles I still had more questions.  There are many Youtube vidoes and online sources to learn from.  One video that I found particularly helpful was Managing Your Digital Identity by Kate Myers Emery of MSU.

Of course, it is important to manage your digital identity and ensure that when a potential employer or anyone at all Googles you, they find positive, informative information about you.  And certainly, we want to do everything we can to ensure that no one can use our identity in any harmful way.  After considering these ideas I decided to look a bit deeper.

I think an even more interesting topic is identity in the larger sense.  Who is it that I want to be?  How do I want people to percieve me?  The answers to this question may be somewhat different when you insert the word online.  However, I believe to a great degree the answers will be the same.  In my online search about identity I found a number of interesting videos on the topic of mashing online identity with “real-world” identity.

In the video below futuristic novelist William Gibson predicts that future generations will make no distinction between online identity and real world identity.

Another interesting (and shorter) video of William Gibson’s ideas can be found below.

Classmate Carla Cooper also referred to transparency.  I agree with Carla that transparency is a key aspect in thinking about who we are in real life and online.  What is really the point in “faking” our identity in any space?  Why not define our “brand”?

As teachers (and parents) we have the ability to affect the thinking of our young people on this topic.  I believe we have a responsibility to have these discussions.  It is important that we talk to them about who they want to be and how they want to be perceived by others.  We can all “design our identity” online and in real life.  In my opinion, this is not a negative.  In fact, you might think of it as one of the important purposes in life.  We are constantly defining and redefining ourselves, trying to figure out “who am I?”.  The reality is that defining our identity now involves the internet as well  as the real world and real people.  The more conscious we are about our identity, the better, I think.

What do you think?  Should we (or to what extent should we) make a distinction between our “real-world” identity and our online identity?

 

Online Resources for Yoga

Since I began focusing on my Yoga Learning Project I have researched many online resources.  I would like to review the sites I have tried as well as tell you about the pros and cons of Online resources versus in-person resources.

The best resource I have found to date for my own personal preferences is Yoga with Adriene.  Adriene’s site is through Youtube.  See more about my thoughts on this site in a previous post Week Four – Yoga Progress.

Some of the other resources I have tried are:

YogaGlo.com

SattvaSchoolofYoga

Jason Crandell on Youtube

I also enjoy going to local yoga studios when I can.  We have many in Regina.  Below are the three studios I have tried out over the years.  They are all fantastic.

Mind’s Eye Yoga Center

Maha Yoga

Bodhi Tree

However, I prefer to practice yoga in the comfort of my own home and without having to spend money.  I believe we should all be able to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle without spending a dollar.  Yoga was not created thousands of years ago with the intention of making anyone rich, only healthy, happy and more aware.  This is why Yoga with Adriene is currently my first choice.

I certainly understand that Yoga Instructors need to make a living.  And I am glad this option is available.  Without having an instructor in person, you do miss out on having someone to help you make corrections to your poses.  You also miss out on the relationships and energy of others in the room.  Having a community is certainly an important aspect in learning and progressing at anything.  I am currently trying to build an online community.  This also fits into my busy lifestyle more easily, as it is challenging getting to a studio for scheduled classes.

I would love to hear from other yogis out there.  What are your thoughts on paying for yoga classes? And what are your favourite online sources?

Yoga Progress: March 6, 2016

This was a busy, stressful week!  Don’t we all have them – the weeks that are even crazier than a typical week!?

I was able to fit in 2 sessions, one of which was encouraged by my daughter who is also becoming a young yogi herself.

My energy was low and I was not able to make any progress in my yoga skills.  But the two sessions that I squeezed into my week certainly affected my well-being in a positive way.

See my self evaluation here.

Open Education: Reading Response March 6, 2016

This week’s readings and videos on The Open Education Movement were fascinating and

SpeakingwithSpirit.com

intriguing for me. I value creativity personally and professionally. I believe strongly in collaboration for teachers and students; that two heads are better than one; that true synergy is powerful and transformative.

We have the ability to connect, collaborate and create more than ever before in history. However, the resistance of government and big business are drastically slowing and preventing the possibilities that exist.

The video that stood out the most for me was The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz. Surprisingly, I had never heard of Aaron Swartz  and I found his story to be both inspiring and heartbreaking. Aaron was an amazing individual. His own obsession with knowledge, his belief that the world’s collective knowledge should be free and available to the world and his desire to fight for social justice resulted in tragedy. This was a tragedy not just for Aaron’s family but for the world, as we lost this bright star who may have made unimaginable breakthroughs in our world, had he been able to see his visions become reality.

The resistance to open access from the government and big business is terrifying. Aaron apparently was trying to make electronic documents about American law free and available to the public. As a result he became a threat. This should cause average citizens to wonder “what are they hiding?”. Shouldn’t the law be transparent? What would be the reason for a government to make it difficult for the public to gain knowledge that could help them gain justice for themselves? I’m sure you will come to your own conclusions.

I wondered if Canadian laws about open access were similar to American laws.  I found some information on Wikipedia and The Government of Canada website where you can find the Access to Information Act.  From the quick research I did, I found that it does not seem easy to gain access to government documents, as one must request these documents in writing, and permission to access them may or may not be given.  I did find some optimistic information at The Federation for Humanities and Social Sciences and The University of Ottawa. If you have any knowledge about the Canadian perspective, I would be interested to hear it.

This topic infuriates and scares me. I don’t believe in settling for the status quo. I believe we should participate in democracy and continually be ensuring that our world is fair and just for all. However, standing up for any cause has potential, sometimes catastrophic consequences, as exemplified by the story of Aaron Swartz. And it doesn’t matter if you’re on the side of what is right. It causes me to question how far I should go in standing up for what is right?

Picture courtesy of Reddit

Even something as simple as speaking out for progressive education or advocating for students can have social and professional repercussions.

I am glad that there are individuals fighting for open access and that the Creative Commons exists. However, we still have a long way to go.

This week’s readings and videos reminded me of some readings from previous weeks. I was reminded of The Theory of Multiples as explained in Clive Thomson’s Article Why Even the Worst Bloggers are Making us Smarter. Clive states, “When you can resolve multiples and connect people with similar obsessions, ideas flourish and multiply”.  Why would we want to prevent this?

I was also reminded of Attention and the 21st Century, especially, the idea of “crap detection”. Aaron Swartz was very good at crap detection. Unfortunately, it got him into a lot of trouble and cost him his life. I hope we can all detect crap when we see it (and it is everywhere, isn’t it?). What do we about it when we see it? That is the critical question. I struggle with it daily. What I do about the crap I detect varies, depending on my energy and courage at the time. It ranges from simple reflection to speaking up or informing students and my children. I have not taken any further action, although I am passionate about many social causes. As educators, I think we feel obligated to represent the values of the school system, even though they may not always be congruent with our personal beliefs. I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences about “crap detection” and action for a open education and other causes.

Cartoon of the discovery of the inverse impact law exhibit in the pre-modern hall of the science history museum
Picture courtesy of Absolutely Maybe: PLOS Blogs

Danah Boyd’s article Open Access is the Future: Boycott Locked-Down Academic Journals also really made me think. It made me wonder about my own thesis research. I will certainly be cognizant about my choices of journal articles and resources as a result.

 

 

This week’s readings have left me somewhat unsettled.  Amazing potential exists for progress and innovation. I would love to be part of it. But how?  And at what cost?

Picture courtesy of We Beat The System