Doublex: “Where the Whole World Meets in a Single Nest”

3 Min Read

## Cultural Appropriation in Yoga: A Reassessment

The Historical Context

The spread of yoga in the West is not solely a tale of Western exploitation but rather reflects a concerted effort by Indians to share their spiritual practices globally. The desire to undermine British colonial oppression motivated Indian nationalists to promote yoga in the West. Swami Vivekananda, a revered Hindu monk, emerged as an emissary, introducing yoga philosophy to America in the 1890s.

Modern Yoga: An Indian Innovation

The physical postures associated with yoga today, known as asanas, emerged later as part of the Indian nationalist movement’s efforts to create a distinct physical culture system. Indian practitioners combined elements from traditional tantric practices, wrestling techniques, and Western fitness influences.

Indian Agency in Globalizing Yoga

Indian innovators played a pivotal role in disseminating yoga internationally. Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, the founder of the vinyassa system, instructed his Russian student Indra Devi to share his teachings globally. Western studios and teachers, including Devi’s Hollywood establishment, contributed to the widespread adoption of yoga practices.

Critiques and Cultural Understanding

While Western interpretations of Indian culture warrant critique, it is essential to recognize that Indian writers on cultural appropriation often acknowledge the active participation of Indians in globalizing their spiritual practices. The mass marketing of yoga, exemplified by International Yoga Day, further illustrates the dynamic nature of cultural exchange.

Cosmopolitanism and Cultural Exchange

The spread of yoga in the West is a testament to the interconnectedness of cultures. Tagore’s philosophy of “where the whole world meets in a single nest” underscores the essence of cosmopolitanism. While power dynamics influence cultural development, dialogue and exchange can lead to enriching and mutually respectful interactions. As Kwame Anthony Appiah states, “Societies without change aren’t authentic; they’re just dead.”


The charge of cultural appropriation in yoga misrepresents the historical and participatory roles of Indians in its global dissemination. It overlooks the dynamic and transformative nature of cultures and fails to embrace the enriching possibilities of cross-cultural exchange. By embracing a cosmopolitan mindset, we can foster greater understanding and appreciation for the diverse contributions that shape and enhance our collective human experience.

Credit and rights belong to OMG I Yoga

Share This Article