Book: Discourses of Crisis and the Study of Religion
Chapter: 14. Yoga’s ‘Flexibility’ in Brazil During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Yoga is well-known for its flexibility, which goes much beyond the exotic postures associated with it. In South Asia alone, Yoga’s ideas have a long history of adaptations within Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. More recently these ideas have traveled widely around the world, forming a movement encompassing diverse communities linked through shared practices, values and aspirations under today’s fashionable label ‘yoga’. Based on my recent field observations, I here ask how the Yoga movement is responding to the COVID-19 crisis in Brazil and what lessons we may learn by observing such adaptations and developments. The first part of this paper investigates the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Brazilian Yoga movement: Is the number of people interested in yoga increasing, and if so, why? How are instructors and practitioners coping with lockdown policies? What strategies have been deployed in the cities, in the ashrams, and within the online space? Above all, how enduring are these adaptations and in what ways could they be reshaping the yoga landscape? The second part of the paper then discusses the nature of this yoga movement asking what is shared with a wider international yoga public and what is peculiar to the Brazilian situation. Also, how is the technology of communication blurring borders and contributing to the already prominent culture of hybridism in Brazil? To address this question, I apply Meredith McGuire’s (2008) approach of “lived religion” with special attention to issues of individual practice and hybridity. Moreover, for the sake of highlighting the experiential nature of yoga as a system of practices, I engage Foucault’s (1982) concept of “technologies of the self”. Finally, I For conference participant use only. Not for reproduction or distribution. Do not cite without permission of the author. NAASR Annual Meeting 2021 reflect on the flavor of yoga in Brazil as Indian ingredients are combined with African and indigenous ones.