Although I largely agree with his point I think that this post by Ed Driscoll at Instapundit, an indictment of “cultural appropriation” as applied to the practice of yoga, is giving me whiplash. I think that the very idea of “cultural appropriation” is on shaky historical grounds and is largely romanticism. There are very, very few cultures that derive nothing from other cultures.

African cultures from Somalia to Ivory Coast are heavily influenced by Arab culture. Arab culture is heavily influenced by Greek and Roman culture not to mention the cultures of their more immediate neighbors. And so on. Even China which prides itself on having pulled itself up by its own bootstraps probably owes a lot more to foreigners than they’d like to admit. There’s a book on my shelf from a very famous linguist and scholar of Chinese that suggests that China’s traditional writing system was derived from an earlier non-Chinese source.

It takes real chutzpah to claim proprietary ownership of something you didn’t develop.

But attacking those crying “cultural appropriation” about yoga classes in defense of Western values is a mite much for me.

10 comments… add one
  • Janis Gore Link
  • Janis Gore Link

    That practice was recommended by church leadership instead of yoga. It could be pleasantly done with Gregorian chants in the background. Then the Southern Baptists could co-opt yoga with a back of Lee Greenwood.

    I took yoga to satisfy a PE requirement at SMU when I attended back in the late 80s. It was the best hour or two of the week. But it, too, was about asanas. Recommended reading for the course:


  • michael reynolds Link

    I used to be against the whole notion of cultural appropriation. Then I realized that the single biggest example of cultural appropriation ever is the Bible. Jews wrote it for Jews. Christians have culturally appropriated it without so much as a dime in compensation.

    I’m arguably a Jew: pay up.

  • The Hebrew Bible is an excellent example of the point I’m making. It’s an anthology, a combination of works some of which ultimately derive from Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian, and Egyptian sources.

    Practically all cultural artifacts are like that including the Qur’an although that it isn’t is an article of faith among Muslims.

  • sam Link

    Golly, do we have eschew mathematics, then? The zero and all that.

  • As I’m sure you know, the concept of zero was invented independently by the Babylonians, Indians, and Maya. I’m not sure how you’d arbitrate about whose culture you were appropriating.

  • bob sykes Link

    What the Church recognizes is that yoga, like Buddhism and other eastern religions, is an incompatible alternative to Christianity, and so they rightly condemn it.

  • I believe it’s a bit more nuanced than that, bob, at least in the Roman Catholic Church. So, for example, about yoga in 1989 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger wrote “Some physical exercises automatically produce a feeling of quiet and relaxation, pleasing sensations, perhaps even phenomena of light and of warmth”. To whatever degree the poses and stretching exercises of yoga, its physical aspect, can be separated from its mystical and spiritual aspect, it’s not incompatible with Christianity although devout Catholics must reject those mystical and spiritual aspects.

    Similarly with Buddhism the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism:

    1. There is suffering in the world, both of the mental and the physical variety.
    2. Suffering is the result of inordinate attachment to one’s desires.
    3. By doing away with inordinate desires (or attachments) you can do away with suffering.
    4. There is a definite method by which one may achieve this goal: the Noble Eightfold Path (pursuing right view, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, concentration).

    are quite compatible with Christianity. Additionally, both Catholicism and Buddhism encourage meditation and traditional Buddhist approaches to meditation may be incorporated into Christian meditation. Devout Catholics must reject the atheistic or gnostic strains in Buddhism but otherwise they’re not incompatible.

    There are many Catholics who also consider themselves to be Buddhists and, as Pope Francis might say, who am I to disagree with them?

  • Janis Gore Link

    I’ve never paid much attention to the metaphysical aspects of yoga. But that would be because my teachers didn’t emphasize them in the classes that I have attended. Probably much like the classes at the college.

    Pietra Fitness provides the physical benefits of yoga without worry about Hindu influences. The movements look good, and I find Gregorian chants soothing: https://pietrafitness.com/

    The developer was given permission to be certified in yoga and adapted what was useful to a fitness program acceptable to the Church.

  • Andy Link

    I’m half Irish, so I guess it’s time for me to do my part to take back St. Patrick’s day and Leprechauns.

Leave a Comment