blatant commercialization of yoga doesn’t only happen in the west

The Kapoor sisters promise a "world class" chain of yoga centres in India

The Kapoor sisters promise a "world class" chain of yoga centres in India

It’s not uncommon for some self-righteous Western yogis to perceive India as a place with a pure, holy, spiritual approach to yoga. However, Western-style commercialization happens in Indian culture as well, as seen in this recent news item on, the Bollywood Hindi Movie and Music source.

Actress superstar sisters Kareena Kapoor and Karisma Kapoor are teaming up to open a chain of yoga centres. Apparently they both practice yoga as a physical pursuit and means of maintaining their fit figures. While they haven’t determined where they’ll start their franchise, they clearly already have a vision for it.

Kareena [says] that yoga is India’s gift to the world, a gift which the west has accepted with arms wide open. Talking about her favourite, power yoga, Kareena says that it helps in keeping the body and mind in perfect harmony and she plans to see to it that they have well qualified instructors and all the world class facilities at their yoga centers. Kareen plans yoga centers with sister Karisma!

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[j'aime] john hughes

  1. I remember once a friend of mine, who was really getting into reading books on eastern spirituality, in between acid trips, talking about how amazing it’d be to grow up somewhere like India where everybody’s already enlightened…and it seems a lot of western yogis have the same attitude (with western influence the snake in the garden to explain anything that isn’t pure in the east).

    Ultimately, that kind of romanticization is just the opposite side of the coin of looking down on other cultures–it’s easier to see people in India as either pure and spiritual or backward and ignorant than to realize that they, and their practices, including yoga, are as diverse as we and ours are, and always have been. As Annie Dillard wrote: “There were no formerly heroic times, and there was no formerly pure generation. There is no one here but us chickens, and so it has always been: a people busy and powerful, knowledgeable, ambivalent, important, fearful, and self-aware; a people who scheme, promote, deceive, and conquer; who pray for their loved ones, and long to flee misery and skip death. It is a weakening and discoloring idea, that rustic people knew God personally once upon a time—or even knew selflessness or courage or literature—but that it is too late for us. In fact, the absolute is available to everyone in every age. There never was a more holy age than ours, and never a less.”

  2. I’m surprised that more people there have not exploiting yoga. I don’t think it has to do with pureness as much as disbelief that there is money to be made in yoga. Still amazes me that I never see Asians in yoga classes.

  3. “for some self-righteous Western yogis to perceive India as a place with a pure, holy, spiritual approach to yoga”

    I would not say self-rightous as much as I would say misguided.

    I was inspired to go to India to study yoga by my teacher, Srivatsa Ramaswami, who studied with Krishnamacharya for more than 30 years — you can’t get any “purer” than that. However, I was under no delusion that India was all peace love dove spirituality and yoga and incense. Far from it, when you see beggars with half their faces gone from leprosy. Slumdog Millionaire was pretty tame compared to reality.

    However, I have met many people who think that all Indians do yoga — NOT! It is very common for Indians to ask what your job is and when I say “yoga teacher” every one has said “be my teacher, I need yoga!”. I’ll say, “what?!? you live in the country that gave yoga to the world, why don’t you do yoga?” “Too busy, too much work.” So no different from anywhere else.

    In my experience (and I stress, MY experience), yoga is different there than here, but that’s because I study at a school that is dedicated to traditional classical yoga. You can go to India and find plenty of places that cater to westerners, and I can tell you that you can find plenty of “yoga shalas” that likey American dollars very much, yes yes, madam.

    I can also tell you that there are many Indians who consider anything “western” to be better. While these Bollywood sisters may open “world class facilities” for yoga, I can assure you that the yoga masters who you have never heard of will continue to teach in places like Varanasi and Rishikesh in open air yoga shalas on the Ganges.

  4. Thanks for your insightful comments here, you three! Linda, so great to get your personal experience in India. And Dr. Jay, love the Annie Dilliard quote! So relevant.

  5. I agree with Linda-Sama. It is Westerners who are making Eastern traditions, from yoga to Zen Buddhism, doable for “anyone.” Here, yoga and meditation are more hobby than lifestyle; Westerners simply fit such practices into their existing household/career schedules. There, only a subset of the population commits to these practices but in a serious, lifestyle-changing way.

    But, who knows, all might change with the introduction of Western yoga to … India. Crazy.

    Anyway, what really caught my eye in the two photos: Doesn’t the sister on the right totally resemble Chelsea Clinton?

    Yoga Spy

  6. yogaspy is correct. in India for many people, yoga is a lifestyle, even if the yoga is “only” pranayama and meditation, no asana practice. in fact, I know more than a few Indians who consider asana a very small part of their yoga practice. try telling that to an American “yogi.”

    and as for the sister on the right, my first thought when I saw her photo was that she was using Fair N Lovely cream, a cream that is sold that Indians — women AND men — use to lighten their skin because lighter is “better.”