Yoga between a religious heritage and a consumerist spiritual utopia - have we really stolen yoga from India?
Katerina Vidner Ferkov
Paper short abstract:
In 2014 India established a Ministry for Yoga with an intent to preserve their national heritage. While in the past decades yoga became a global phenomena, with a big economic impact, engaging with individual spiritual landscapes as well as cultural environment.
Paper long abstract:
Yoga with its unique physical exercises and spiritual practices seems to occupy our cultural environment: it appears on tea bags, T-shirts, billboards and on magazine pages. It's status outside India is shifting from fitness and spirituality to triviality. In 2014 Indian government established a Ministry for Yoga with an intent to preserve their national heritage: "India's new minister for yoga has called on his countrymen to reclaim yoga from the West, criticising Indians for ignoring their heritage." Interestingly yoga institutions in Europe and United States of America already exist for a few decades.Yoga Alliance gave certificates to over 60.000 yoga teachers and over 3700 yoga schools. One can practice hormonal yoga, queer yoga, yoga for dogs, naked yoga and other variations. Some even propose that "the market place is the ultimate quality control" when it comes to yoga. The market place of selling knowledge about yoga is indeed open in India and Western countries, but not all perspectives share the same values. Through the anthropological perspective I observed Indian and Western attitude towards yoga as Indian heritage and as contemporary practice. Did Westerns colonize yoga through the market appropriations or did yoga colonize contemporary spiritual utopias and bank accounts? This paper will aim to present an anthropological insight based on participant observation of yoga practices in Europe and India.
From religious heritages to spiritual utopias: reflecting upon religiosity of the 21st century