Kino's Yogi Assignment Blog

Namaste and Cultural Appropriation

Yoga is an ancient practice, passed on from teacher to student over the millennia, and the tradition of yoga is kept alive by the students, people like you and me taking time to get on the mat and practice every day.

The culture of yoga is essential to the student’s journey, and everyone who practices yoga is in debt of sorts to the practice itself. We owe it to ourselves and the future generation of yogis to protect and honor the culture and teachings, but while we’re practicing today in the modern world, we must do our best to respect the ancient culture of yoga and acknowledge the cultural appropriation that is happening within yoga.

I talk today of the most obvious cultural appropriation I’ve seen – that of namaste. This word has been appropriated across the West on t-shirts, wine glasses, used as catcalls, and to sell mimosas at brunch. This appropriation completely leaves its true meaning behind, which is dangerous for the incoming generation of yoga practitioners who may not know any better. 

To clarify: cultural appropriation is when the dominant group of society takes pieces from non-dominant cultures for their own use and ultimately profits from it in some way. With this in mind, I discuss the true meaning of namaste, its etymology, and how appropriation can dilute its impact on our yoga journey.

As students of yoga, we must strive to find a balance, educate ourselves and those around us to respect culture without appropriating it for ulterior gains. We must move into a space of knowledge and not just practice. Yoga gives us the spiritual tools to move away from ignorance and into the truth, and it is through our practice that we can not only educate ourselves by helping teach others the true roots of the culture and the practice. 

My advice to those of you listening and practicing now is to keep it up. Keep it up but remain humble in your practice. We are all indebted to those who practiced before us and shared their knowledge. Honor them by studying the history of yoga and meditation. Immerse yourself in the culture and learn as much as you can. It will only enhance your experience on the mat.

Listen to my latest episode of the Yoga Inspiration podcast here.