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Yogic Subculture

  Whatever dictionary you consult, be it an app or a paper brick, the definition of "subculture" goes something like this: also called "subculture", sociologically identifies an aggregate of people or a social sector that is characterized by the broader culture in which it is incorporated by lifestyle and / or faith (not necessarily religious) and / or worldview.


Although strong in a well-structured description, since it is not a mathematical science, some sociologists give different interpretations of the concept of subculture, although in principle the subcultures can be truthfully defined through the contrast with the values ​​of the larger cultures in which they are immersed and from which they usually differentiate themselves through a symbolism based mainly on clothing, language and musical tastes. For this reason, the analysis of subcultures normally starts from the study of their external expressions and how they are perceived by the dominant society.


Having said this, subcultures can historically be considered a peculiarity of the second half of the twentieth century and since their nature has not remained indifferent to the passing of the decades, today we can speak of three main phases.


First stage: deviance. The development of a subculture arises in the face of collective models outside the legal norms, on which a lack of socialization with the dominant culture is grafted on the part of some sectors of the population that can thus prove to be as innovative, as destructive or renounced.

Second phase: resistance. The driving force behind its birth lies in the contrast between working class and middle class, each bearer of its own culture but in which the values ​​of the middle class are dominant. Subcultures arise above all among working class teenagers through a symbolic resistance to the dominant culture they cannot materially aspire to.

The role of the mass media, with its growing influence, on the one hand emphasizes its diffusion, on the other it weakens them by depriving them of their subversive charge as the components that characterize them are retransformed, through a vicious circle, into commodities destined first for the consumer of the middle class (fashion) and then that of the working class (mass market) to the point that it often appears difficult to identify a subculture when his style, especially in clothing, is absorbed by the mainstream for commercial purposes that are diametrically opposed to his ethics, think for example of the DIY (do it yourself) of the Punk universe.


Third phase: distinction. In the path that led them to the present day, subcultures have gradually become expressions of balance between identity and distinction, involvement and autonomy. The watchword is: fluidity. The idea of ​​the opposition between insiders / outsiders is replaced by that for the construction of new identities but outside of strong identifications. These subcultures are not only not in conflict with the mass media, towards which they are permeable, but above all they are totally connected with the new media and social networks that have by now assumed a central role in modern anthropological dynamics. Since compared to the subcultures of the past there is a tendency to be part of several groups of different interests at the same time, exclusivity has given way to inclusiveness: there are aggregates with a well-defined name, symbolism and systematicity, but also a total freedom to shift from one to another, to contaminate styles and generate something totally original; imagine a Dark walking around wearing an orange Moncler while listening to a song by Nicki Minaj. If on the one hand this is the natural consequence of the evolution of the context in which the subcultures are formed, on the other there is the double risk of a lesser recognizability of a subculture and that it may expire in the stylistic sphere alone, or even more before the media, mainstream, fashion and mass market each do their part.


Regardless of which phase they are in, subcultures can be the most varied and different from each other. In the collective imagination there are some that are much better known than others because, beyond specific links with history (eg. Skinhead), they have actually been more exploited for their exteriority. In a list that is therefore longer than we can hypothesize, we want to focus in particular on one of them:

the New Age.


The term "New Age" began to circulate in the United States to identify forms of spiritual subculture in the early 1970s. The New Agers belong to any social and economic band and among them there is a good number of managers, entrepreneurs and politicians, they practice meditation and concepts such as Buddhist awakening or the opening of the third eye and are also very active in the organization of Yoga seminars and tantric practices.

Already the generations of the late sixties had looked to the east to indulge a desire to break the socio-cultural patterns of the time and even earlier the hippie movement had shown a strong interest in Hinduism. The western yogic universe thus lived a life of its own outside the New Age, but the strong media coverage that the latter enjoyed (the subject of much criticism in this regard) indirectly influenced it in two ways: the first investing it with a caricatured aura, typical of the excesses of the "New Era", to the point that adepts of traditional disciplines from countries such as India and China, as well as a large number of Orthodox schools, have claimed that the New Age movement is a deliberate distortion of their own disciplines, the second pushing it into the consumerist orbit that soon produced its version, assimilating it to the wellness universe. Despite these shocks, Yoga has never really betrayed its nature because if it is established that once treated by the mass media and then absorbed by the market a subculture is weakened to the point of losing its identity, it is equally certain that the term subculture in the panorama yogic can be applied only and exclusively to its western contextualization and not to the Indian one where it is an essential manifestation of millenary history and culture.


When a subculture is diametrically opposed to the dominant paradigm we speak of a counterculture and on closer inspection the yogic spiritual values ​​have always been in sharp contrast to the material ones typical of a capitalist society. But is this really still the case? Statistically and understandably (by synthesis we leave out why) those who regularly practice yoga in addition to showing lower stress values ​​develop a strong awareness and sensitivity towards environmental, social and economic issues (in relation to institutions). In 2011, the European Union Strategy for Sustainable Development was launched in Gothenburg. In 2015 193 member countries of the United Nations approved the "2030 Agenda" consisting of 17 objectives for Sustainable Development framed within a broader action program consisting of 169 goals, associated with them, to be achieved, disarming coincidence, in environmental, economic, social and institutional fields by 2030, otherwise despite ourselves we will all do well to hope (delude ourselves?) in the Space X project.


Taking a snapshot of the present, the pixels of our screens therefore return the image of a subculture, that of Western Yogis, fluid, which embraces every social class, integrated into new media / social networks and therefore of "distinction", which, although already absorbed by the mainstream (for symbolism and for styles of practice) it supports, with some scratches but strong of a millenary history, in a "resistant" way its identity, while paradoxically finds itself immersed in an institutional context that if at first (as logic wants) it was opposed to it in its values, today (at least in its intentions) it sees it as a paradigm.


Considering that what is at stake is nothing less than the survival of our Mother Earth, the question that should be spontaneous to ask immediately, admitting that there may be a non-consumerist capitalism, is how to ensure that the “outsiders" become exponentially what would seem to be by now by right or "insiders ", especially when they themselves have already undergone their process of media transformation "from image in itself to image of self” (cit. Zenon). And more: how can one be "INEXCLUSIVE" in the sense of excluding those who are not inclusive? “The answer may lie elsewhere, but those who do not deal with elsewhere” (cit. Jep Gambardella - La Grande Bellezza) may find it in irony, sarcasm, irreverence, in mocking the excesses of fashion and the triviality of the mass market, contributing to them with the ultimate aim of conveying the diffusion of their message. A message that, "to preach even to those who are not converted" (cit. Rage Against the Machine), must necessarily transcend the physical human interactions that allow the development of elements that can only be understood by a small group of individuals. A collective experience with individual personalities (masters and yogis) is in fact as effective and satisfying as it is impossible to reproduce in the anonymous void of the web, where as a common language it is necessary to rely on the widely understood signals of pop culture as invasive on the web as it is the latter in turn proves to be a global and impersonal means of communication, voracious of that instant recognition to which we have become extremely subordinate in our way of expressing ourselves online.

In conclusion: it's all about breathe, kid. The rest is conversation.


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