Cultural Appropriation: Yoga and Belly Dance

Despite the lazy spell I’ve been going through this week, I’ve recently become more health conscious than I ever was.  One of my new doctors (everyone is new since I’m so new to the North Country) had a short discussion with me about heart disease.  She looked over my family history, saw that it has occurred in my tribe, and wanted to emphasize what I could do now to try and prevent it down the road.  She validated my diet but encouraged me to exercise more.  I also know that my metabolism will not be what it is forever.  To stay healthy I need to become more active.

I was running (and intend to get back into that once my foot feels a little better), but my mainstays have been yoga (through the Wii fit) and belly dancing.  Now, between trying to develop a better spiritual grasp of vegetarianism and my growing interest in yoga, I’ve started to read more about Hinduism and Jainism.  How timely, then, that today’s Wild Hunt post is about how yoga is Hindu.  Now, I already knew this, but the point of the post is that many people do not.  The dominant American culture has been stripping away the spiritual significance of yoga for years (hence Wii Fit yoga!…er, I guess that’s Japan’s fault…).  This is nothing new.  The Pagan community is well aware of the term “White Indian” and the negative consequences associated with it.  Is the same thing happening with Hindu practices?

One could argue the same thing about belly dancing.  Many in America have embraced it as a workout.  To others, it’s viewed as a burlesque dance.  The history of belly dance seems to be part mythology – it’s so hard to figure out exactly where it came from and why.  A popular belief I’ve is that it was developed by women for women; mothers would pick out wives for their sons based on birthing shape.  Whatever the true origin, you cannot remove the Middle Eastern heritage of belly dance.

This brings me to a new spiritual quandary: how can I practice yoga, belly dancing, and Druidism while being respectful of each practice/history?  I know I’m not the only one dealing with these issues.  In the end, I think the key is, as the linked article relates,  to be respectful and mindful of the heritage of a certain practice.  Try to learn about its roots, engage in the community, or at least give credit where it is due.

What do you think?

[ For my LJ friends, please visit me at: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ ]

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