Cultural Appropriation In The Wellness Industry | Lildonia Lawrence
This week's BYP Blog is a guest article from Lildonia Lawrence, a life coach, educator and yoga instructor. Lildonia produces monthly content for the BYP Network centred on wellbeing, wellness and healthy living.
The wellbeing industry is booming. The Global Wellness institute states that the wellness market in 2017 was worth 4.2 trillion. A large part of the industry is mind and body which is worth $595 billion;with more people than ever participating in wellbeing activities. I’ve worked in the industry since 2009, first qualifying as a fitness instructor and now working as a life coach and yoga instructor. I absolutely love the field and am passionate about the importance of self-care and wellbeing. However, as with every practice that becomes a commodity there is always a darker side.
A large part of the wellbeing business is based on traditions from around the world, for example, yoga, world dance, shamanism, and Eastern practices such as Qi Gong and Tai Chi. This is amazing! Our planet hosts a wealth of knowledge and gaining awareness from others is a beautiful thing. Unfortunately, not all wellness providers take the time to understand the philosophy of the nations they emulate and as a result, can sometimes miss vital aspects of understanding during delivery.
This is very prevalent in the Yoga world which hails from ancient Indian traditions. Yogic philosophy has a rich and extensive history, however, its most commonly recognised in the West as an exercise form. As with every popular trend, subcultures are created and with that comes language, fashion and associated behaviours. I’ve attended Yoga events where teachers have spoken in (what they deem to be) Indian accents, worn Bindi’s as a fashion statement and stated factually incorrect information about Indian culture and heritage. Similarly, within the wellbeing world, there is a booming Afro & Caribbean dance scene. This is
sweeping the nation with dance classes and crews popping up all over Europe. I’ve participated in dance classes with names derived from Patois but that make no linguistic sense. I’ve also seen groups of people effectively in Caribbean costume with red, yellow and green clothing, Rasta hats and faux locs, braids and twists.
Cultural appreciation is a beautiful thing and there is nothing more special then gaining an understanding of another’s values, beliefs and art forms. However, there is a difference between appreciation and appropriation and so people must be careful not to cause offence in their overzealous attempt to be part of a ‘scene’. When a majority culture adopts elements of an outside (often ethnic minority) culture without understanding it is culturally insensitive and has the potential to cause a lot of unnecessary offence.
I urge wellbeing practitioners to take care when showing admiration for other cultures. It’s important to do research into what you are portraying and to be aware of how you may be perceived by others, especially members of the culture you are representing. If you have friends from that culture, ask them if you’ve got it right and consider their feedback. With some simple steps, perceptive thought and considered delivery we can appreciate the beauty and diversity of cultures from around the world.
Lildonia Lawrence is a life coach, yoga instructor and sex educator working in London. She has a background in psychology and mental health and has spent many years working in the health and wellbeing industries. Her week is spent with a mixture of delivering health workshops, teaching group classes and leading coaching sessions. Alongside this, she works as a wellbeing writer for several publications. You can find out more about her work at @lildonia.lawrence