Summary: This College Humor sketch features a fictitious Mahatma Gandhi taking a yoga class at a trendy studio. Cultural appropriation, or the adoption of specific elements of one culture by another, is its central theme and issues of race, class and privilege run throughout the video. With the exception of Gandhi's character, all of the other students and the instructor in the class are white, and dressed in what is considered appropriate workout attire by dominant western culture. The instructor critiques Gandhi's technique and use of the Hindi names for poses, asserting that the pose he’s working on is actually called “up dog” and, not to worry that “you’ll learn the terminology.” The video draws attention to the impacts of appropriation on the practices adopted. Those in the class are highly concerned with the social prestige that comes with participating in a cultural trend and with “burning carbs” rather than understanding the customs and spiritualism that has informed the practice of yoga. Calling attention to the décor of the studio, which features statues of Hindu gods no one but Gandhi can identify, further illustrates the subjugation of Hindu tradition to a trendy aspect of western culture. When Gandhi finally leaves the class in indignant rage, the class sends him off with Namaste, to which he responds “You don’t know what that means!” The instructor in the video defends herself against Gandhi’s criticisms by stating that she is a certified instructor under the guidance of Carl Smith. The power dynamic present in the video, which leads to Gandhi’s departure is what allows for appropriation to take place. This power dynamic allows the economically elite practitioners of yoga in the United States to not only change and adopt yoga, but also to monopolize, formalize, commercialize, and institutionalize it.
Submitted By: Miranda Ames