I enjoy practicing yoga because it helps strengthen my mind and body. A friend told me he feels a viscerally negative reaction to American, white, yoga culture. Since I often find myself in predominantly white studios, I was curious about his opinion. His criticism was not about yoga itself but the western, Capitalist approach to the self. First, he feels the western culture’s focus on individuality tends to disregard societal and collective responsibility. I get his criticism. I dislike studios that play cheesy music and tells me to ‘just move however it feels good and thank yourself for coming to the studio.’ I’ve been having a striking image of people practicing yoga in fancy activewear, drinking fresh-pressed organic juice in plastic bottles, while the amazon is burning on the background. Pleasure carries the ghost of nihilism and lethargy. Second, he feels critical of the cultural appropriation and whitewashing of culturally rich, traditional practice. I agree there’s an uneasy tension between cultural appropriation and appreciation. If I focus on my self-care but do not care for the others, environment, and society around me, it’s essentially a selfish-care. Self-care is not a solution to a societal problem. On the other hand, if I just focus on the others, environment, and society, there is no self to conduct the change I want to see. I won’t invite him to join me but I will continue practicing yoga while looking for an integrated approach to the self and the world.

Practicing self-care, not selfish-care