A journey into Yoga Culture. True, it’s not the typical fare offered on my site but, as you will see, it takes on some of my favored issues: race, identity, symbols, and the construction of culture. The piece, published by The Atlantic’s Quartz under the title, American’s Ruined Yoga for the Rest of the World has stewed in my mind for years. The scene described below essentially crystalized a growing feeling that yoga had become a precious opportunity to indulge a sense of femininity. But at what cost? And what does femininity mean? I attempt to parse those issues out in this piece.
Countless articles about the highly lucrative and often ridiculed yoga culture begin by locating us within a spacious, candlelit studio with polished wood floors, possibly bamboo in—pick your random major metro area. On the occasion of my visit to a new studio around the block from my apartment in Harlem, I didn’t get past the reception area or the blonde waif with a face scrubbed free of character, who informed me that following an introductory series, I would be expected to pay 25 bucks for the privilege of accessing the space for a self-led practice.“So I’m paying you to teach myself,” I said, clarifying the deal that all but included a bridge. “Well in India,” she replied, invoking the yogi motherland, its mere mention imbuing higher power credibility to what sounded like an old-fashioned big city scam. Maybe yogis practice to their own tune in India, but this is New York City, this is Harlem, and what I should have said while I was mindfully annoyed—but didn’t—is that this is the land of pricy Lululemon gear where yogis fit their lotus between a mani/pedi and a cocktail.