A Spiritual Profit for Western Yogis? The spiritual significance of postural yoga for religious “nones”

Samantha Ashley Bahan


Is postural yoga evolving beyond merely a fitness practice into an important component of the spiritual lives of religious “nones” in British Columbia and perhaps elsewhere in North America? This article looks at Christian and Hindu perspectives of contemporary debates over the westernization of yoga, and utilizes qualitative survey data to investigate the spiritual value that yoga is taking on for nonreligious millennials seeking to enhance the self. Societal shifts indicate a growing cultural value of discovering one’s individual authenticity through self-development efforts, and research suggests that yoga is one way that this is being pursued. Using media coverage of two controversial Canadian incidents — the cancellation of a proposed mass yoga class on Vancouver’s Burrard Street Bridge, and the cancellation of a free annual yoga class over concerns of cultural appropriation at the University of Ottawa — this article explores different perspectives of practicing postural yoga in North America. It is argued that postural yoga is evolving into a spiritually beneficial or profitable component of the lives of many religious “nones”, and that future contestations of the practice of postural yoga may require consideration of its value in the spiritual lives of a growing population who have no religion.


Postural yoga; yogaphobia; religious "none(s)”; yoga on Burrard Street Bridge; yoga at University of Ottawa; spirituality of yoga; cultural appropriation of yoga

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.18357/tar71201615677

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ISSN 1923-1334 (Online)

University of Victoria