Waving the saffron flag

Meera Nanda is critical of myths about the timeless Hindu nature of yoga.

By and large, the US yoga industry does not hide the origins of what it teaches. On the contrary, in a country that is so young and so constantly in flux, yoga’s presumed antiquity (‘the 5,000-year-old exercise system’, etcetera.) and its connections with Eastern spirituality have become part of the sales pitch. Thus, doing namastes, intoning ‘om’ and chanting Sanskrit mantras have become a part of the experience of doing yoga in America.

I’m reminded of Kelly on The Office, dressing up in a sari and piously saying “namaste” when she was applying for a Minority Training Program, which was funny precisely because the rest of the time she’s hyper-American and the opposite of pious.

One would think that yoga’s popularity and Hinduisation would gladden the hearts of Hindu immigrants.


The leading Hindu advocacy organisation in the United States, the aforementioned Hindu American Foundation or HAF, is hardly beaming with pride. On the contrary, it has recently accused the American yoga industry of ‘stealing’—even ‘raping’—yoga by stripping it of its spiritual heritage and not acknowledging its Hindu roots.

And so another bogus grievance is born.

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