The other day, I wanted to purchase a sustainable brand of a Yoga mat. So I visited almost 5–6 websites to find the perfect one, and on each of the websites, all the models were White.
The photos were mostly of thin, tall, (mostly) blonde white women in their 20s and 30s striking a Yoga pose wearing modern activewear. I wasn’t astonished, but it made me think.
So I went to the famous stock photo websites Unsplash & pixabay and typed “Yoga”: the same thing happened. White, thin women in their 20s and 30s.
[I tried typing “Yoga wearing Saree” in Pixabay and Unsplash and literally found one photo of an Indian woman doing Yoga, which also cost $12.]
Out of Touch
For some reason, suddenly, White people (especially women) have become the poster boy of Meditation and Yoga. We hear about Yoga with Wine, Yoga eating Pizza, Goat Yoga, and whatnot. I don’t really get offended by the unusual “evolution” of Yoga but what bothers me is how it has entirely been disconnected from its roots, so much so that the critical aspects of this form of exercise have been left out of the conversation.
Is anyone even asking old gurus or families in India (or other Asian countries) about what Yogic living represents?
Yoga originated in India around 5000 years ago. Along with the different basic poses found in modern Yoga, it entails a manner of living.
In India, Yoga is done by young, old, men, women, other genders and of all body shapes, sometimes wearing a Saree, salwar kameez, or even a Dhoti (traditional clothes).
Additionally, Yoga was never meant to be done inside closed studios. It was supposed to be done in open and fresh spaces where breathing in and out helped fill your lungs with fresh air. Doing Yoga in a closed room (almost) defeats the purpose of what the art entails.
But how would a modern Yoga instructor know all this if we are so out of touch from its origins? You know how?
By including the real experts in the conversations. People who have read about the scriptures. People who understand what these art forms entail. The world is connected now and we no longer have the excuse that we cannot “reach-out” to people in other corners of the world.
Additionally, what surprises me the most is that despite having an Indian population of 1.3 billion, how could literally all Yoga companies only find blonde, white women to model their products or their Yoga studios?
I completely understand that we now live in an interconnected world. We eat avocado toast for breakfast, Thai fried rice for lunch, and probably Pizza for dinner. We cannot hyper-focus on the origins anymore. It’s just not practical. Additionally, if we are to consider the human race as a single entity, we cannot create segregations. I get all that.
But even keeping the “Indian” part aside, not finding a single model of any other ethnicity, body type, different hair was weirdly uncomfortable for me.
Indians can do Yoga. Koreans can do Yoga. African Americans can do Yoga. White people can do Yoga. You can do Yoga in any clothing, not just activewear. Represent. Represent. Represent!
Bringing diversity into advertising can critically help spread this vital form of exercise to more masses. It shouldn’t become another form of “Veganism is only for rich, white people”.
Yoga is a beautiful art form that each one of us in this world can learn without feeling the guilt of cultural appropriation. But the more we channelize an art form to a single race, clothing, or status, the more we are pushing others away. This art form is meant to be shared in all its glory. It brings positivity to your mind and nourishes your body.
Throw light on yourself, but also bring others to light so that we can all (Asian, Indian, White, African American) get the best out of the art form.
After all, isn’t that what spirituality is all about? Sharing space and spreading love?
Check out my YouTube channel for inspiring videos: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBfUxVSxC0koxGSkwzVRYzQ