Why College Students Should Leave Yoga Alone

Concerns about cultural appropriation are overblown.



Yoga—or "mindful stretching," as we're calling it now—is the latest target of politically-correct campus censors. Since the practice originates outside the U.S., white people who engage in it are "appropriating" a culture that doesn't belong to them, according to the students who successfully shut down a yoga class at the University of Ottawa recently.

But, as I argue in a recent column for The Daily Beast, cultural appropriation is perfectly, well, appropriate:

Indeed, cultural appropriation, when done respectfully, has enormous social benefits. Part of the reason people are so much better off today than ever before in human history is that we aren't confined to the beliefs, cultures, resources, technologies, and traditions of the villages in which we were born. We can "appropriate" the best aspects of cultures from around the world, blend different ways of thinking, and produce something even better.

It's not even clear that cultural appropriation in the abstract is insulting to marginalized people. Marginalized people, in fact, have been some of history's most eager appropriators—borrowing status symbols from societies they admire in order to subvert their oppressors. As Charles Paul Freund wrote in Reason magazine, Russians toiling under the brutal despotism of the Soviet Union "appropriated" rock and roll music from the West in order to undermine the state-approved music scene, and Afghani barbers began administering illegal Leonardo di Caprio-style haircuts to customers in 2001 after copies of Titanic were successfully smuggled into the repressive country.

In their zeal to prohibit all potential offense, yoga's campus naysayers are aligning themselves with totalitarians who imposed cultural isolation on their people in order to keep them enslaved. If they want to encourage respect for other cultures, fine—but imitation, as they say, is the sincerest form of flattery.

Read the full thing here.