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BOOK REVIEW - 'Do Better' by Rachel Ricketts

book reviews Dec 05, 2021
Bhakti Rose - Book Review - Do Better

Do Better
by Rachel Ricketts

Reading this right now and learning so much. Sometimes I feel like the unraveling of who I am will never end! Just when I think I've gotten to know myself really well (including the prejudices, the shadows, and the 'knowing what I don't know' bits) there is more to explore. I feel so strongly that those of us living with privilege have a duty to dig into it and explore how we can show up in the world without entitlement. This book is a great springboard for that exploration.

Reading this book got me thinking about yoga, cultural appropriation and 'doing better'. As yoga teachers one of the ways we can ‘do better’ in terms of examining our own assumptions and privilege is to consider the differences between cultural awareness and cultural appropriation. 

Cultural exchange is “engaging with a culture as a respectful and humble guest, by invitation only.” (Jarune Uwujaren) 

Cultural appropriation is “a process that takes a traditional practice from a marginalized group and turns it into something that benefits the dominant group – ultimately erasing its origins and meaning.” (Maisha Z. Johnson) 

Here are some signs of cultural appropriation that should be avoided by yoga teachers: 

  1.  Treating yoga like a solely physical activity 
  2.  Including shame and ridicule 
  3.  Not acknowledging where the practices comes from
  4.  Misusing sacred objects 
  5.  Not being accountable when speaking sacred languages 
  6.  A white teacher who ignores oppression 
  7.  Treating yoga like a commodity 
  8.  Only thinking about personal gain


So, Why Does it Matter? 

Racist Double Standards 

The British used violence, rape, and murder to take control of the South Asian sub-continent – and they approached yoga with violence, too. They forced people to convert to Christianity, and outlawed the healing and spiritual practices seen as “primitive” traditions, like yoga. So how did South Asian people preserve yoga through all of that? With incredible resilience – and also by taking huge risks, with many of them losing their land and their lives. With yoga being so popular these days, it’s hard to imagine having to go through all of that just to practice it... 

‘After being demonized as a “savage” characteristic of the cultures of people of colour, yoga was then repackaged in some schools as something white people could enjoy for entertainment and competition’s sake. [While] South Asians... [were] mistreated [for] following their cultural traditions... white people gain profits, attention, and credit for using diluted versions of the same practices’.  Maisha Z. Johnson 



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