I am often the only ethnic Indian in the yoga classes I attend. At first I cared but not much anymore. That said, reading this post about late Ashtanga guru Pattabhi Jois and his sometimes creepy adjustments reminded me of one of my theories about why more of my people don’t embrace yoga as we know it in America.
Therefore I would like to visit this state of affairs and have listed below my theories why Indians don’t do yoga (suspicion of lecherous fellow countrymen is #3).
1) It feels silly to learn this ancient Indian practice from Westerners.
2) Yoga as it is taught in the West is one-sided (asansas performed by lithe men and women in luon) , nowhere resembling the practice as our parents know it (breathing, philosophy, mediation)–therefore it feels false and incomplete. When I was little my dad told me about sadhus (holy men or yogis) that could slow their heart rates down to barely beating solely with the powers of their mind. And sadhus are understood to be skinny old ascetics that live in caves, meditating. (My dad, for the record, is a orthopedic surgeon, well trained in Western medicine.)
3) We are suspicious of fellow desis* that bring Indian stuff to the West, as Indians are corrupt and cheats, out to make a buck and grope white women (see picture). In other words, Indians know that Indians are not the philosophical sages that orientalist Westerners** hope them to be. And yoga (in America) is the child of this.
4) Indians are not health conscious.
5) Indians are cheap, and yoga studios are expensive.
6) I am wrong and Indians do attend yoga classes in proportion to their prevalence in the population. Or maybe they go to different types of classes than I do, such as the gym or the YMCA rather than to studios (due to their cheapness as described in #5). This theory is a shout out to the economists out there.
Also, I have a somewhat related question: do Americans prefer to get their yoga from Indians or non-Indians? My feeling is that it doesn’t make a big difference, with non-Indians having the edge on physical teachings, and Indians having the edge on the mystical stuff. Mystical being a catch-all term for everything that isn’t asana.
*The Urban Dictionary defines desi as “a word derived from Sanskrit. Means ‘one from our country’; a national opposed to a foreign. Usually refers to people from India, Pakistan, & Bangladesh.” For example, although I am American, I am desi.
**Hyperbole for discussion purposes.