top of page

What does it mean to decolonize yoga?

Yoga has become synonymous with bendy skinny fit people contorting themselves into shapes. When we think about what yoga is we may envision brands like lululemon, Om symbols and people saying "namaste".

Yoga is actually an ancient spiritual practice with its origins in the Indian Subcontinent. It's a discipline and philosophical system aimed primarily at quieting the mind for peace, to alleviate suffering, respond to life consciously and for the attainment of moksha or "self-realization" - but we don't see much of that out there in the Yoga world.

In Patanjali's yoga sutras, a key text for students of yoga, he writes: "yogas chitta vritti nirodhaha" yoga is about quieting and stilling the fluctuations of the mind (1.2); yet mainstream yoga here in the west showcases mainly flashy inaccessible postures; expensive garments and gear; and fitness trends that make the practice seem like a fitness trend that is only for a select few

Nothing can be further away from the goals and aims of the practice.

Originating in the Indian sub-continent, yoga is a many thousand year old practice of stillness, awareness and contemplation. Yet it's been reduced to a fitness commodity that some claim to be over $100 Bn industry (Grand View Research)

Along with this commodification has come cultural appropriation, and marginalization of yoga over time. This is harm to the culture and people that birthed these traditions.

To decolonize yoga is to challenge and dismantle this harm that has occurred over time. It involves acknowledging and addressing the historical and cultural context in which yoga has been practiced and taught, particularly the ways in which Western colonialism and capitalism have influenced and distorted the practice.

Decolonizing yoga requires recognizing and validating the roots of yoga as South Asian. It includes re-connecting yoga to its own definition of itself: as peace of mind, stillness and focus and challenging the dominant narratives around yoga as fitness or as a wellness trend and the commercialization of the practice.

It also includes creating inclusive and equitable spaces for practitioners of diverse backgrounds and experiences. This can include investing in the voices and teachings of South Asian and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) yoga practitioners, re-examining the power dynamics within yoga communities, and challenging harmful stereotypes and cultural biases.

By prioritizing the holistic, spiritual, and transformative aspects of yoga, and making the practice more accessible and relevant to a wider range of people, we can work towards a more just and equitable yoga culture.

xo Aarti

1 view0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page