Remember when President Eisenhower warned of the military-industrial complex? Apparently, there was something else he should have warned us about, the “yoga industrial complex.” According to Shreena Gandhi, a religious studies professor a Kalamazoo College in Michigan, the Americans who practice yoga are feeding white supremacy and promoting the “yoga industrial complex.”
Along with Lillie Wolff, “an antiracist white Jewish organizer, facilitator, and healer, an Organizer/Trainer with Crossroads Antiracism and has been a student and practitioner of yoga since 2003 ” Ms. Gandhi wrote an article called “Yoga and the Roots of Cultural Appropriation.” [Please note: as an “antiracist” white, bald Jewish, conservative writer, organizer, facilitator, and schlepping father of two, I would like it to be known I have no connection to Ms. Wolff beyond reading this one article]
In reality, the article is a bait and switch because it really is a tome about why they think capitalism is bad.
The writers urge,
To the so many white people who practice yoga, please don’t stop, but please do take a moment to look outside of yourself and understand how the history of yoga practice in the United States is intimately linked to some of the larger forces of white supremacy.
(…) In today’s consumerist age, yoga thrives because one can produce many products and start businesses using yoga as the foundation. The explosion of yoga studios, yoga videos, apps, yoga pants, and other yoga swag over the last two decades is evidence of this. Yoga contributes to our economic system, but never forget this system is one built upon exploitation and commodification of labor, often the labor of black people and people of the global south.
AH..it’s not really yoga that’s bad, it’s the American economic system. That doesn’t make sense, my father of blessed memory was a house painter, he learned his trade from his father who learned how to house paint in Russia, nothing southern about it. As for me I learned marketing in college and spent three decades rising in the corporate ranks by working my arse off. While I hired African Americans (actually, people of all races) there was no exploitation. As for commodification of labor, any employee in any company has to prove that they are worth their salary. Otherwise, they get fired.
The two continue to beat up on capitalism:
Yoga, like so many other colonized systems of practice and knowledge, did not appear in the American spiritual landscape by coincidence; rather, its popularity was a direct consequence of a larger system of cultural appropriation that capitalism engenders and reifies.