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Smithsonian's Yoga: The Art of Transformation Brings to Light Yoga's Hindu Roots

on 2014/2/6 4:50:00 ( 1764 reads )


SAN FRANCISCO, January 1, 2014 (Huffingtonpost): The much hyped Smithsonian exhibit, Yoga: The Art of Transformation, is packing up to move from its primary residence in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, DC to spring at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and summer at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Bringing to Light Yoga's Hindu Roots (TBY) is a project the Hindu American Foundation launched in 2010 after someone at Yoga Journal confirmed that the editors intentionally avoided the term "Hindu" in describing things that were, well, Hindu, because "Yah, you know, Hinduism has a lot of baggage." The aim of the project is at getting the millions of folks who say they "do yoga" to appreciate that 1) yoga is not just asana; and 2) while yoga does not proselytize or require conversion to reap its physical and psycho-spiritual benefits, it refers to spiritual practices that are essential to the understanding and practice of Hinduism. On the whole, we found that Yoga: The Art of Transformation aligned with the two fold goal of the TBY.

During the small group session with a diverse set of advisors that included yoga teachers, yoga practitioners, yoga researchers, and others, it was indeed interesting to hear the various perspectives of what each sought from the exhibit. Some were curious about the aesthetics and flow, others were interested in the supplementary programming, while others wanted to ensure that the science behind yoga was emphasized. For me, I wanted to drive home three main points: 1) the importance of using the word "Hindu," as opposed to favored industry codewords like "Indian," "Indic," "Sanskrit," or "Vedic" (none of which are inaccurate, by the way) as a descriptor where appropriate; 2) when it came to describing the unknown -- be it origins, dates, or sources -- that a certain humility be present in the descriptors, ie. "Some scholars believe..." or "The origins are unknown, but..."; and 3) where aspects of yoga's history were still contested or debated or differed from emic Hindu perspectives, that the multiples views be honored and given space.

If you're in the San Francisco bay area this spring or Cleveland in the summer, it's definitely worth experiencing.

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