An oriental experience in the west

2. Everyday forms of orientalism – does this include yoga and martial arts in the West?

As addressed in lecture four Evans (2015) stated that the term ‘orientalism’ was originally meant to be a description for anyone who studied the Eastern cultures. However, it’s progressed into the concept meaning the representation the West gives the East in a stereotypical manner. Keeping this in mind, in today’s society we practice yoga martial arts on a daily basis. We walk past signs that read ‘mandarin oriental yoga and wellness’. The irony with this was mentioned in lecture 4 and is that these images of the East are in in fact generated by the West. This makes me think when we encounter yoga do we experience it in an oriental form or the way that the west wishes to represent it? Throughout this blog I’m going to address four stages of the way I believe the relationship between the West and oriental yoga works.

As the consumers are we aware that there is direct  marketing of oriental ‘yoga and wellness’ targeting us in the west? Nazrul (2012 p220) calls this ‘aggressive marketing for ‘wellness and spa culture’. His research focuses on the Indian ayurvedic medicine system and how it is portrayed in western media. He claims ‘many advertisements and web pages for such health tourist resorts use Western actors and actresses and show Westerners enjoying healthy lives. Nazrul (2012 p220)’. That’s just it, stage one the target, westerners wanting to enjoy a ‘healthy life’.

mandarin-oriental-dheva-spa-ayurvedic-treatment

Oriental remedies are practiced throughout the West every single day

The western views of oriental health and wellbeing are evident in just one Google search. The search finds thousands of oriental relax melodies, oriental luxury spas and resorts, acupuncture, martial arts and oriental yoga Facebook pages. Following stage one we reach stage two the marketing tool. Western marketing focuses on the target to market what is assumed to be an oriental experience in the west. It is argued by Aull and Lewis that ‘medical discourse produces a discourse of background assumptions and constraints that negatively stereotype the patient and disproportionately benefit the medical community.’ (Aull and Lewis 2004 pg 91) There’s stage four the benefit to the producer. Consumers get drawn in by the marketing of the product and this benefits the producers, in most cases the medical community.

ayurveda

The Ayurvedic approach to an illness is holistic and therefore after an Ayurvedic treatment a person will find an improvement in their physical, mental and psychological conditions. 

As a regular yoga class attendee and a training gym instructor I can argue that most people would not be engaged with the ideologies of Indian culture associated with yoga. I can admit I’ve always tried my best to understand the origins of yoga but have never gone into depth with researching it. Western society has adopted this practice and turned it into that of our own. Very rarely in a general yoga class do the instructors go into depth to inform the class of the origins of yoga, perhaps focusing more on the health benefits associated with it. To conclude on Ayurveda, Nazrul argues that ‘as part of the New Age Movement in the West, a commodified version of Ayurveda has been popularised as an alternative remedy to satisfy middle class health consumers’. (Nazrul 2012, pg230) This argument is exactly how I, as a consumer, feel why the orient is present in Western society, that is to ‘satisfy’ those who wish to believe in something to consume from the East.

Aull, Felice, and Bradley Lewis. ‘Medical Intellectuals: Resisting Medical Orientalism’. Journal of Medical Humanities 25.2 (2004): 87-108. Web.

Evans, N. 2015, ‘East Vs West: Orientalism’, Lecture Week 4, BCM232: Global Media and Social Justice, UOW, 24/03/15

Islam, Nazrul. New age orientalism: Ayurvedic ‘wellness and spa culture’ [online]. Health Sociology Review: The Journal of the Health Section of the Australian Sociological Association, Vol. 21, No. 2, Jun 2012: 220-231. Availability: <http://search.informit.com.au.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/documentSummary;dn=740929710850414;res=IELAPA&gt; ISSN: 1446-1242. [cited 15 Apr 15].

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One thought on “An oriental experience in the west

  1. Interesting read!

    I also did a blog around Ayurveda – it’s interesting to me as before researching this topic I had never heard of this expression only the disciplines associated with it (yoga, massage sessions, aromatherapy).

    I termed Ayurveda as part of New Age Orientalism because instead of the Western world being in dispute with such practices, Ayurveda ‘wellness and spa culture’ is seen as complementary (Islam, 2012).

    Do you think we as global citizens have the responsibility to know more about certain orient activities we participate in? I almost find myself feeling guilty for not knowing the origins behind such practices that I have involved myself with.

    During the colonial era, Ayurveda was seen as a health method not grounded in any scientific research and was made redundant in India by colonial rule. Now however the West is interested in such methods because it caters a need they have, (to remove themselves from their stressful and high pressured lives) as you have mentioned in your blog.

    I hope that we have enlightened our class members on these Eastern medical methods that are now branded to the West which were previously made redundant due to colonial rule.

    Islam, N. 2012, “New age orientalism: Ayurvedic ‘wellness and spa culture'”, Health Sociology Review: The Journal of the Health Section of the Australian Sociological Association, vol. 21, no. 2, pp. 220-231.

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