What Was Revealed When Yoga Came to Malaysia?: Untangling the Concept of “Asian Spiritual” Culture

Ms Miki Kurihara1

1Sophia University, Japan

Yoga is diffused to all over the world and practiced with different purposes nowadays. It is generally regarded as a “spiritual” culture in sociological studies, but its mystic image was composed with the influence of Western gaze (King 1999). In short, there is a simple assumption of dichotomy between the modern West and the others under this representation. On the other hand, in the case of Malaysia, yoga practitioners need to be more careful about the social meaning of yoga due to its multi-religious situation. Therefore, to analyze the way of practicing yoga in Malaysia is to investigate the structure of yoga more precisely. I specifically focus on the relationship between spirituality and body technique, based on field research conducted since 2017 in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor. My main methods were interviews with yoga instructors and participant observation in their classes. I found that the instructors used their ingenuity to make practitioners aware of their own physicality, and move beyond a fixed doctrine. This study not only shows the dynamic mobility of Asian culture and people, but also contributes to a postcolonial view on “Eastern body technique”.


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The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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