Buying and Selling Yoga

The multi-billion-dollar global yoga industry is known for a consumer idiom that attempts to sell evocative commodities, images, or ideas appropriated from India, resulting in countless commodities. Analyzing appropriation and commodification in the yoga industry is complex. There are forms of appropriation that most people would not find objectionable, but there are many other cases that exploit or do violence to yoga traditions, for example, by perpetuating racial stereotypes or exploiting stereotypes for the sake of profit. To be sure, appropriation can sometimes harm the appropriated community, compromise its integrity, transform cultural objects themselves, or wrongly allow some to benefit to the financial detriment of others. Another way to articulate these concerns is to point out that the appropriation and commodification of yoga is situated within a history of colonialism and capitalist exploitation. Social inequalities, colonial histories, orientalism, and racism all shape our ways of understanding who uses yoga and why. Although many yoga practitioners might resist critical reflection on these matters, preferring instead to speak of yoga as if it is a static essence, transmission is far messier and usually does not take place between social equals.

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Andrea Jain
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