White People and the Appropriation of Yoga

Being “positive” isn’t necessarily positive when you’re stepping all over something. Appropriation is still appropriation even if it’s well intentioned. ... I’m hoping people will then start seeing the same pattern in other industries because my project isn’t even about yoga really, it’s about colonization. Yoga’s just the vehicle. - Chiraag Bhakta

As an Indian American who grew up in New Jersey, artist Chiraag Bhakta couldn’t help but notice after moving to San Francisco that “the Bay Area has this bizarre relationship with Asian culture/spirituality” (Bold Italic). Similarly, as he started finding (and collecting) new age-y yoga ephemera from the ’60s through the ’80s, Bhakta noted the absence of South Asian people among the imagery. 

During the summer of 2014 his impressive collection was on display at the Asian Art Museum as part of its Yoga: The Art of Transformation exhibition. The installation, called #whitepeopledoingyoga, is a response to the commercialization, appropriation, and white-washing of yoga in our culture through an Indian American lens.

Below is a dynamic and brief (7 min.) presentation by Bhakta that focuses on California's role in the adoption, evolution, and popularization of yoga today.