Thursday October 19, 2017

A young American Hindu woman says: Do not de-link Yoga from its roots

History dates the practice of yoga to the sixth and fifth centuries B.C.E., where it developed in India as a Hindu tradition

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Female yogis
Female yogis from 18th-century India , Wikimedia commons

By Gauri Rangrass

I remember the first time I wished I were white. I was four years old. Since that day in kindergarten, I have dreaded roll call. My cheeks would burn as teachers stumbled over my name on the first day of school every year. Classmates would snicker when my grandma picked me up every day. Why does she wear clothes like that? What’s that dot on her head? I wanted to erase every part of me that didn’t share a common thread with the homogenous white community that surrounded me. My Dadiji, whose wardrobe consisted only of saris, and whose makeup collection consisted solely of vermillion powder, eventually stopped picking me up from school because I told her I could just take the bus.

My brownness was harder to hide. It was something I spent fifteen years of my life trying to like, and eventually, love. My internal battle with Hinduism was even more difficult. It was not long into my childhood before I started to reject my Hindu identity. I fought with my parents when they encouraged me to go to the temple. I never bothered to learn the significance of Hindu traditions, which were often the only way my mother could make her new home in Michigan feel familiar.

The first time I picked up and read a Hindu philosophy book, I was sixteen. I learned about Dharma and how Hinduism is more of a way of life than a truly organized religion. It made sense to me. It felt intrinsic. By the time I started my freshman year at Northwestern, I had finally reclaimed Hinduism as a part of my identity.

Maybe that’s why, as I sit on a yoga mat in Studio 2 in SPAC, anger rushes through my veins when a white instructor presses her hands together, leans over, and says, “Na-mah-staaay.” I’m the only brown person in the class and it seems that I’m also the only one who feels uncomfortable returning the gesture. Not once does the instructor reference the Indian and Hindu origins of yoga. It’s alienating to see these strangers to Hinduism partaking in this religious practice with more comfort and more entitlement than I can ever imagine finding within myself.

History dates the practice of yoga to the sixth and fifth centuries B.C.E., where it developed in India as a Hindu tradition. Considering how popular yoga has become in America, it’s surprising that it only gained prominence here during the 1980s. It’s infuriating for me, as a second-generation Indian-American, to observe yoga becoming reduced to a Western subculture. Among the many college gyms and strip malls where Western yoga manifests itself, perhaps its most visible presence is on Instagram. Searching for “#yogaeverydamnday” yields millions of self-timer photos of white girls posing in expensive activewear, captions littered with trending hashtags, but void of any reference to Hinduism.

Girl doing yoga
source: Instagram

It seems to me that’s what Western yoga is all about, image. It’s about body image. It’s about looking hot. It’s about looking happy and looking trendy. Whether or not it’s actually genuine, these white yogis sure want to show their followers just how enlightened they are. They want to be seen in their tight-fitting yoga crop top and Lululemon leggings, with their mat slung across their back and a seven dollar green juice in hand. Many will show off their “Om” tattoos as some sort of fashion statement. They’ll quote the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu scripture, in their captions to make themselves seem complex, mystical, exotic.

Related Article: India the home of eternity and peace : Swami Jayramdas

Why can’t this trendy yoga persona also include a true understanding of yoga’s Hindu origins? Why is yoga only cool when it has no ties to brown skin? How can Western yoga so liberally use Sanskrit words but feel no obligation to think critically about what they mean or where they come from? Take, for instance, the following paragraph from The Greatist about common yoga poses:

Plus, striking an impressive asana (yoga lingo for pose) looks ridiculously cool. The only problem? Sometimes it sounds like our yoga teacher is speaking in a different language, which makes it slightly difficult to follow along. With Sanskrit names like utkatasana and trikonasana, yoga poses may sound a lot more like spells you’d learn at Hogwarts than shapes you can actually get your body to make.

Yoga Asana
Urdhva Prasarita Ekapadasana , Wikimedia Commons

Spells you’d learn at Hogwarts? Last time I checked, J.K. Rowling published her first book in 1997. Sanskrit has been around for 3,500 years.

So, no, by going to a few yoga classes, you’re not “finding your Om.” It’s not that easy. It took me years of feeling othered, years of questioning my brownness, years of pushing away my family’s religious ideology before I found my Om. I’m no yogi, but I am a Hindu who has struggled in a white-centric society to understand and love every non-white facet of my identity. So the fact that today’s instructor feels entitled to a Hindu practice without once referencing its origins makes me mad. For her to so casually greet our class in Hindi – “Nah-mah-staaay” – without acknowledging that she is borrowing from a long-standing Hindu tradition is problematic. Twenty students will leave this SPAC studio today lacking awareness of the cultural and religious significance of yoga. That leaves me feeling unsettled.

Western yogis: For you to appreciate and enjoy yoga is fine. By no means must you become a Hindu in order to practice this tradition. However, a line is crossed when you fail to give credit to yoga’s roots or use it as a prop to gain social media attention. Yoga is much deeper than an Instagram presence. So next time you liberally use a Sanskrit phrase or think about quoting the Gita in your caption, please ask yourself: Do you genuinely know the significance of these words or are they just Harry Potter spells to you?

This article first appeared on May 2,2016 at Northbynorthwestern website. Published with due permission. Gauri’s Twitter handle @GauriRangrass

 

 

 

3 COMMENTS

  1. Yoga is the ultimate form of meditation and exercise. Even broken spinal spinal cord can be fixed with the help of proper Yoga. Thanks to India for introducing the world with such a beautiful cure to many disease.

  2. Yoga is indeed a very beneficial exercise. Not just Indians but people outside India are also taking a liking towards Yoga.

  3. If we peek into the benefits of yoga, it gives us relief from countless ailments at the physical level.

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Check out Instagram Profiles of Paw-some Indian Celebrity Pets!

As much as we would like to know about our favorite celebrities, it is their four-legged best friends that equally catch our attention!

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Have you seen Priyanka Chopra's four-legged best friend Diana? Instagram

Mumbai, October 19, 2017: My Instagram feed is perpetually filled with pictures and videos of cute animals.

A baby goat sipping milk for a bottle with a feeder. A small puppy wearing a bow-tie. And a tiger who jumps into his trainer’s arms for a hug. For a lot of us, a major part of our time online is spent looking at pictures of baby goats, puppies, elephants and almost all other animals. Their cute antics warm our hearts and bring a smile on our face.

Saying that we all religiously follow our favorite stars on Instagram will be an understatement. Correct me if I am wrong, but fans know when was the last time Priyanka Chopra left her comfy Mumbai apartment for a coffee stroll, or what did Sushant Singh Rajput wear for his meeting.

Now, what happens when these two combine?

Our favorite celebrities and their pets? Sounds like heaven to me!

If you are a regular Instagram user, you would know of the hashtag – Dogs of Instagram.

As much as we would like to know about our favorite celebrities, it is their four-legged best friends that equally catch our attention! Many celebrity pets have their own Instagram accounts that you must follow if you aren’t already. Check out our list!

 1. Tia

Instagram handle: tia_thetzu

Tia is a super cute Shih Tzu puppy living the diva life in Mumbai with her darling ‘mummy’ actor Sophie Choudry and ‘granny’ Yasmin.

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Tia with her family. Instagram

One look at this little one’s Instagram account and you are sure to start judging your own profile.

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Tia, the Shih Tzu. Instagram

 

Tia can be seen accompanying mama Sophie to the groomer’s, at the airport, for pilates, and almost everywhere else!

Oh, did we tell you that Tia has also featured as the cover girl on one of India’s leading dog magazines?

This self-proclaimed ‘mama’s girl’ has swanky birthday parties, car rides and is a favorite with the paparazzi!

Complete with her cute shoes and bows in almost all colors, Tia makes for our favorite celebrity pets!

 

 

 2. Batuk Nath Rai

Instagram handle: batuknathrai

Don’t go by that name; Batuk, as he is fondly called by his over 31 thousand Instagram followers is a naughty beagle and a spoilt kid.

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Batuk Nath Rai is a beautiful Beagle. Instagram

Living the thug life with his parents, television-actors Kishwer Merchant and Suyyash Rai, Batuk Nath has the most beautiful pictures!

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Batuk with his parents. Instagram

 

The four-legged pooch is frequently visited by actors from the Indian television industry and the chap has a picture with almost all of them on his social media.

Batuk scan be seen sleeping with dear mumma Kishwer on the bed and nibbling on her hair ties and even headphones! But one look at his innocent eyes, and you wouldn’t even think of scolding him for his naughty errands.

Not to miss, Batuks’s small house made of white wood!

 

 3. Diana Chopra

Instagram handle: diariesofdiana

Who doesn’t know the heartwarming story of Priyanka Chopra and her little baby Diana, living (when together) in a swanky New York apartment?

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Diana lives with Priyanka Chopra in New York. Instagram

While our desi girl is winning hearts globally, Diana does not seem very desi herself.

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Instagram account of Diana is filled with her playful pictures and videos. Instagram

 

On her Instagram account, Diana can be seen chilling in a comfortable shark-shaped bed with food and water and a pink towel surround her sides.

There is also a video of a gruesome fight between Diana and a chew toy. Of course, our not-do-desi Diana won!

Diana, like her name suggest, lives a royal life with the cameras giving her equal attention, every time she accompanies mom Priyanka Chopra.

 

With her pink collar and cute antics, Diana is on top of our cutest celebrity pets’ list!

 

 4. Monster Kundra

Instagram handle: monsterkundra

Monsty, as he is fondly called, is a fluff-ball in white and hints of brown!

This cute little ball of cotton is not much into pictures, but boy, his videos! Monster’s Instagram account has a lot of videos that will be hard to put down!

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Monster looks like a ball of cotton. Instagram

Moster is a spoilt son to dad Karan Kundra and mom Anusha Dandekar and features on their Instagram and Snapchat accounts too!

Cute Monster doesn’t look much of a brat to us, however his dad Karan thinks otherwise. Either way, Monster makes it to our best celebrity pets’ list for his adorable, hard to ignore self!

 

 5. Masti

Instagram handle: sakpataudi

Masti is Soha Ali Khan and Kunal Kemmu’s Beagle. While the little star does not have an Instagram account of her own, she blesses mom Soha’s Instagram account quite frequently.

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Masti with mom Soha Ali Khan. Instagram

Contrary to all other celebrity pets, Masti seems a calm and composed star child.

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Masti with her newspaper. Instagram

 

 

You will find her sitting comfortable on Soha’s lap, looking into her eyes with true love and nothing else.

Did we tell you that Masti seems like a very smart and avid reader? You will find multiple images of one of our favorite celebrity pets sitting with a newspaper, lost in thoughts.

 

 

Our personal favorite, and the one picture that broke the internet has Masti sitting with mom Soha and little Taimur Ali Khan! Ah, so much cuteness in one frame!

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Masti with Taimur. Instagram

Masti resembles her mother Soha and her royal demeanor; she is composed, very well behaved and royalty-like! All these trains make her one of our favorite celebrity pets!

– Prepared by Soha Kala, Twitter: SohaKala

 

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Here’s how you can keep up with your fitness this Diwali!

Do you wish to celebrate a celebrate guilt-free Diwali? Read on!

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Diwali does not mean you will have to compromise on your health, Wikimedia

New Delhi, October 17, 2017 : Saying no to sweets becomes near impossible around Diwali, making many conscious of their weight, calories and sugar level going up. Be active and restrict to two drinks to enjoy festivities with full fervor.

Here’s how you can keep up with your fitness this Diwali! Nutritionist Nmami Agarwal and Preeti Kakkar, nutritional expert at Credihealth, have listed what people can do to celebrate guilt-free Diwali:

  • Plan your day: If one meal goes for a toss, make sure the rest of the meals are on track. For instance, if you’ve reserved a table for dinner, then make sure your breakfast, lunch and snacks are balanced and healthier.
  • Festival and alcohol: Just restrict to two drinks. Alcohol dehydrates your body. Avoid taking cocktails and aerated drinks too as they give you just extra calories.
  • Be active: Physical activity will keep your metabolism active too. No matter what, engage in at least 20 minutes of physical activity every day. It can be in the form of dance, walk, jogging or yoga. You may find it hard to believe, but Surya Namaskar is the best way to fight exhaustion.
  • Don’t give up on sweets: It would be a crime to cut out the sweets entirely during this season. So, choose the healthier options and watch your portion size. Go for dry fruit, phirni, kheer, dark chocolate and date mithai instead of other sugar-loaded sweets.
  • Hydrate well: Don’t wait for the thirst to strike. Keep hydrating yourself at short intervals. Moreover, it will keep you stay full and energized in the rush of all preparation. (IANS)

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Hinduism is Not an Official or Preferred Religion in Any Country of The World, Says a New Report

Though Hinduism is the third largest religion of the world, it is not the official state religion of any country according to a Pew Research Center Report

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Hinduism is not an official religion of any country in the world. Instagram.
  • No country has declared Hinduism as its official state religion – despite India being an influential Hindu political party
  • Hinduism is not an official or preferred religion in any country of the world, according to a Pew Research Center report.
  • 53% of 199 nations considered in the study don’t have an official religion
  • 80 countries are assigned either an “official religion” or “preferred religion”

Nevada, USA, October 16: Hinduism is the primeval and third largest religion of the world with about 1.1 billion followers of moksh (liberation) being its utmost desire of life. India is among the category of nations where the government do not have an official or preferred religion.

Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank headquartered in Washington DC that aims to inform the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world.

The report states that a country’s official religion is regarded as a legacy of its past and present privileges granted by the state. And a few other countries fall on the other side of the gamut, and propagate their religion as the ‘official religion’, making it a compulsion for all citizens.

It adds up on the context of allocation that more than eight-in-ten countries (86%) provide financial support or resources for religious education programs and religious schools that tend to benefit the official religion.

Hinduism
Islam is the most practiced official religion of the world. Instagram.

Commenting on Hinduism, the report states:

In 2015, Nepal came close to enshrining Hinduism, but got rejected of a constitutional amendment due to a conflict between pro-Hindu protesters and state police.

Although India has no official or preferred religion as mentioned in the Constitution,it was found by PEW that in India the intensity of government constraints and social antagonism involving religion was at a peak. “Nigeria, India, Russia, Pakistan and Egypt had the highest levels of social hostilities involving religion among the 25 most populous countries in 2015. All fell into the “very high” hostilities category,” the report added.

As per the 2011 census, it was found that 79.8% of the Indian population idealizes Hinduism and 14.2% practices to Islam, while the rest 6% pursuit other religions.

While Hinduism stands up with the majority, Article 25 of the Constitution of India contributes secularism allowing for religious freedom and allows every Indian to practice his/her religion, without any intervention by the community or the government.

Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, President of Universal Society of Hinduism, applauded the Hindu community for their benefaction to the society and advised Hindus to concentrate on inner purity, attract spirituality towards youth and children, stay far from the greed, and always keep God in the life.

According to Pew, these are “places where government officials seek to control worship practices, public expressions of religion and political activity by religious groups”.

-by Bhavana Rathi of NewsGram.  She can be reached @tweet_bhavana