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Click here to look at my powerpoint: Western media’s portrayal of meditation and yoga

(Be sure to click on the tab, speaker notes, below the powerpoint to look at my notes for each slide).


Ann Louise Bardach, “How yoga won the west,” New York Times, 10/1/2011 (

Leslie Davenport, “10-minute meditation for a more peaceful holiday season,” Huffington Post, 11/19/2011 ( ).

Mayo Clinic, “Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress,” Mayo Clinic, 04/21/2011 (

Wildmind Meditation, “Meditation may help tune out brain distractions,” Wildmind Buddhist Meditation, 11/21/2011 (

Mary Billard, “In schools, yoga without the spiritual,” New York Times, 10/7/2011 (

Elena Brower, “9 Yoga poses to connect the body and mind,” Huffington Post, 11/15/2011 (

Christopher Muther, “Downward facing dude,” Boston Globe, 11/10/2011 (

Meredith Hoffman, “Off the Mat, Into Court: Lawsuit Pits Bikram and Yoga to the People” New York Times, 12/1/2011 (


Meredith Hoffman, “Off the Mat, Into Court: Lawsuit Pits Bikram and Yoga to the People” New York Times, 12/1/2011 (

This article is about two studios (Bikram Yoga NYC and Yoga to the People) in New York that offer Bikram Yoga (series of yoga poses done in a heated room); the founder of Bikram Yoga, Bikram Choudhury, is suing the studio “Yoga to the People for copyright infringement, seeking monetary damages and asking a federal judge to block Yoga to the People from offering its hot yoga class.”  The owner of Yoga to the People, Greg Gumucio, began as Choudhury’s student & decided he wanted to start his own studio that was less expensive for students; therefore, the competition between the two studios has led to this lawsuit.

When I first looked at this article I was quite surprised because I had never heard of a lawsuit between two yoga studios.  The tone of the article is pretty neutral towards both of the studios at the beginning of the article; however at the end of the article there are direct quotations from students of both studios that are against the lawsuit.  I also don’t think that it is right for studios to argue over which yoga moves they can and cannot do or own.  If everyone in yoga copyrighted their own yoga poses then nobody today would be able to enjoy yoga to its full extent.  The author does not relate yoga, in any sense, back to it religious origins, but it is interesting that the last line in the article states: “There is a line in the Hindu scriptures: ‘Let good knowledge come to us from all sides,’ ” Mr. Mehta wrote. “There is no follow-up that adds, ‘And let us pay royalties for it.’ ”

Final Project Proposal

For my final project, I am going to analyze how Western media portrays meditation and yoga versus Eastern perspective.  Therefore, I will look at different types of sources from each perspective.  I will look at sources from the United States’ news (NY Times, for example) and compare them to articles written by Easterners (Buddhist authors).  From the articles I have read and posted about in my blog so far this fall, here is one Western article I will analyze: NY Times article and here are two Eastern articles: Article by Buddhist teacher & Huffington Post article.  Here are some additional articles I will probably include in my media analysis (Yoga and Your Soul’s Four DesiresNo, I Do Not Owe my Yoga Mat to Vivekenanda).  From the articles I have read so far I have found that Western media focuses on meditation being non-religious and used to clear one’s mind; whereas Eastern perspective emphasizes meditation being a critical aspect of religion.  I will present my project in a power point; analyzing each of the articles from both media perspectives.  If pictures are included in the articles, I am going to include these pictures in the power point to exemplify points of each article.  Once I have completed the power point, it will be uploaded onto Slide Share in order to be presented to others.

Islam meets reality TV

Hussein Rashid, “Islam meets reality TV,” Washington Post: On Faith, 11/11/11 (

On Sunday, November 12th, a new reality TV show, All-American Muslim, will air on TLC.  The show is about the lives of American Muslims in Dearborn, MI, where the largest concentration of Arabs in the United States is.  Even though Arabs only make up about 20 percent of the worldwide Muslim population and the American-Muslim population, the show will still exemplify the lives of a particular group of Muslims and the diversity within this group of what it means to be a Muslim.   Here is a video preview of the show.

From the article, it is obvious that the author’s perspective is positive toward the religion Islam and its followers.  In the beginning of the article, the author mentioned that in order for a large number of Americans to learn about Muslims and their daily lives, it has to be through TV since television is such a large component of American’s lives.  The idea of this show is opposite to what we talked about & viewed in class on Friday.  Muslims are usually negatively portrayed in the media (they’re shown as violent in many movies).  This show, however, will have a positive portrayal of American-Muslims.  It will bring up many different opinions and aspects of American-Muslim lives, which will hopefully help American’s past negative images of Muslims.



Lodro Rinzler, “Meditation: Finding Contentment in Everyday Life,” Huffington Post, 11/1/2011

This article, written by Lodro Rinzler (a meditation practitioner and teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage), portrays what people are looking for when they walk into a meditation center.  Rinzler says that the main reason people come to meditation centers is because they are looking for a sense of contentment in their life.  The three main principles (outlined in the article) of gaining this sense of contentment are discernment, gentleness, and learning to be now.  When reading about these three principles it reminded me of the movie we watched in class about Vipassana and how it is used for people in prisons.  The word vipassana literally means to see things as they are (reality) and this concept was put very straight forward  in the article: “the heart of meditation practice is learning to be content with what is going on right now.”  Prisoners going though the 10 day session of Vipassana gave them the time and space to face their struggles, deal with them, and come to a realization of reality. This form of meditation was more of a healing type of treatment (non-religious).  The type of meditation that Rinzler talks about is more religious based, but it is obvious from many other articles that meditation in the Western world is not necessarily for religious purposes; meditation is done more to understand one’s behaviors in the present and to learn how to deal with the struggles and stresses in life.

Barbara Demick, “In China, self-immolations add radical bent to Tibetan protests” LA Times, 10/23/2011 (,0,840542.story)

Tibet rally in New Delhi

Tibetan people in New Delhi rally to express solidarity with Buddhists in Tibet. (Tsering Topgyal, Associated Press / October 23, 2011)

On Monday of this past week, the ninth young Tibetan killed herself by self-immolation in a protest against Chinese rule.  This twenty year old woman was the first woman, a Buddhist nun, to kill herself in the protest.  As a result of the self-immolations, the exiled Dalai Lama led a day of prayer and fasting on Wednesday.  Also because of the rise in protest, Chinese authorities have increased their security in Aba, the city where most of the self-immolations have occured.  The self-immolations of the monks were done to rouse the Tibetan people into protest against the Chinese government.

This article shows that the ritual suicides being done demonstrate that Tibetans are shifting away from the Dalai Lama’s teachings of nonviolence.  Even though the monks closely follow what the Dalai Lama says, they have become very frustrated with the Chinese government and therfore want to protest.  This is similar to what happened in the 2007 Saffron revolution in Burma where the Buddhist monks led the uprising against the government.  One implication we talked about in class was how Buddhists main focus is for the greater good and so sometimes it might be okay to kill others (or yourself, in the case of the Tibentan protest) if it’s for the greater good.  Another intersting aspect of this article is the neutral perspective (maybe slightly positive toward the Tibetan monks) of the article.  A lot of the time, news articles are more negative towards religions and its followers; however, this article simply states what is going on with the Tibetan protest (the self-immolations of the monks) and how the Chinese government is responding.  The article does stir up some emotions though because self-immolation is not a light subject whatsoever.  It will be interesting to see what happens in the future with this protest.  Will more monks kill themselves to get the Tibetan people more involved with the protest? What will the Chinese government do if this protest escalates?  All of these questions will probably soon be answered.

Mary Billard, “In Schools, Yoga Without the Spiritual” NY Times, 10/7/2011

This article is about yoga classes and programs being taught in schools and how the religious aspect of yoga is not supposed to be involved at all.  One specific example given in the article is called Bent on Learning; this ten year old program is offered at New York City public schools as an instruction in yoga and meditation to students.  The yoga is meant to reduce stress and improve concentration of students and does not have a religious element to it.  One of the founders of the program said, “No om. No prayer position with the hands. Nothing that anyone could look in and think, this is religious.”  Even though most of the article is about non-religious yoga in public schools, there a few paragraphs right at the end of the article that mention private schools with after school yoga programs that are more religious in nature.

This article is from the opposite point of view than my last blog post (Western instead of from a Buddhist point of view).  The tone of the article is positive towards yoga in general, but emphasis the fact that the yoga done in public schools is not religious whatsoever (showing separation of church and state).  Even though it was mentioned in the article that some private schools that do teach yoga incorporate religious aspects into the programs, this was not emphasized at all.  For instance, one charter school with yoga as an elective class included ringing a singing bowl. “Such a bowl is sometimes used in religious ceremonies, but here it (in the yoga class) had the secular goal of quieting rambunctious children and focusing their attention.”  Therefore it is shown that despite the attempt to include religious aspects in yoga, in the Western world this combination of yoga and religion is not as coherent.  Overall, this clearly shows that Western point of view of yoga and its purpose is not necessarily of a religious background, but used to relax oneself and reduce stress.

Lewis Richmond, “The purpose of Buddhist meditation is to be real,” Huffington Post, 09/26/2011, (

This article, written by a Buddhist writer and teacher, is about the true meaning of  Buddhist meditation and how meditation in the West (which is gaining popularity) is done in order to calm ourselves; instead of finding truth and what is real, like Buddhist meditation does.   Americans do not apply this dimension to their meditation rituals. We simply use meditation to get away from the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives and to calm our minds.  The author writes that there’s nothing wrong with using meditation to calm ourselves, but once we have done this we should go deeper to understand ourselves and the reality we live in.

The tone this article has is the opposite of what is usually presented in media; there is more of a positive tone towards Buddhist meditation than of the West and how Americans use meditation in their lives.  When reading the article I thought it was rather shocking that there is a different tone in the article than most media coverage.  However, it makes sense that the article was written this way considering that the author is a Buddhist writer and teacher.  Overall, I think this article is pretty good and interesting because it shows how meditation is different for each person (in particular: differences in meditation practices in the West versus the East) and how meditation, whichever kind, is purposeful in everyone’s lives.

Barbara Bradley Hagerty, “The Hard Economics Of High Holy Days”, NPR News, 09/27/2011 (

The end of last week marked the Jewish New Year celebration, Rosh Hashana. This article discussed the impact of the slow economy on religion specifically Judaism. This article was a little surprising to me since even though I know that churches have to raise money and pay for buildings and other materials, economics is not usually the first thing that comes to mind when religion is mentioned. Also, it was interesting that the joyful New Year celebration is juxtaposed against tales of congregations losing members and thus funding. One such church had to merge with another in order to keep their building. And the interesting part was that one is a Reform Jewish congregation and the other was a Conservative congregation. Again, I don’t know all that much about Judaism but I found from the article that Conservative are the group that follow kosher laws, while the Reform don’t.
The tone of the article was analytical, but not harsh at all. The point of the article was more to bring the topic to the public. The emotions that are felt from this article, if any are more pity than anything for the churches that are forced to merge or close because of the economy. However, the end leaves the reader a little hopeful due to Rabbi Levi’s positive tone about the merger the Conservative congregation with his own.
This article is most interesting to me because it makes me wonder how congregations of other religions are being affected by the economic downturn. Are some religions affected more than others?The Jewish mostly have membership dues but Christians usually do not, does this magnify the economic effects more for one than the other? It would also be interesting to look at congregations in different areas, urban and rural and see if there’s a difference, as well as congregations around the world. Much like the article stated, the combining of congregations is “bittersweet” since it ends the independence of one, but brings new people together.

Kimberly Winston, “Judaism without God? Yes, say American atheists,” The Washington Post, 09/23/2011 (

Despite the fact that I do not know a lot about Judaism, the headline of this article was quite shocking to me because I thought that one of the primary facets of Judaism is belief in God. Since the title does not go along with what I believe, I thought it would be interesting to read.   The article is about how some Jewish people who attend synagogue often and take part in many Jewish traditions, do not actually believe in God. Some couples attend synagogue (even though they don’t believe in God) primarily because they want their children to be brought up in a Jewish culture and understand their heritage.  The overall conclusion of the article is that it is possible to be Jewish without believing in God.

The way in which the author wrote this article does not make her argument very convincing.  Throughout the article, there are many quotations from people who are Jewish and don’t believe in God.  The author uses these quotations to make her point, but does not give much outside support for her reasoning.  Therefore, a large percentage of the article is rather opinion and not facts that can be supported.  An example of how the author uses broad generalizations in this article is when she writes, “At the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, many Jews who identify as atheists, secular humanists and other religious “nones” attend synagogue.”  What does the author mean when she writes “many”? It is not shown in this article the percentage of Jews who don’t believe in God, which shows that it is probably not a large percentage right now.  The author should not generalize these facts to all Jewish people.  The overall tone of the article towards Judaism is non-traditional and emphasizes that you can still be Jewish without belief in God.