For example the arts of Tai Chi, Yoga, and Mindfulness have been, in the eyes of some, watered-down for the Western lifestyle. There is no argument on this point. For the majority of people, yoga is asana practice, Tai Chi is choreographed form, and mindfulness is learning to pay attention to the moment. And that's all. Of course, those who have chosen to delve deeper into these arts know there is more--lots more--to these practices. We assume they are presented this way to make them easier and appealing to more people. And that assumption wouldn't be all wrong. It also wouldn't be all right.
So, yes there is more to be gained by following a full curriculum, if one is so inclined. Having practiced Taiji, Raja Yoga, and Zen Buddhism, I have glimpsed at the depth of these practices. Like all esoteric systems, they are designed for more than the local studio on the corner is going to offer. However, that local studio on the corner is supplying an immensely important service. Consider dropping all the romanticism that accompanies devotion to purity, and look at what happens when the average Joe or Jill learns a few asana, or a condensed Tai Chi form from that corner studio, or learns basic Mindfulness through a corporate EAP, but is otherwise continuing to live his/her typical suburban lifestyle. A lot happens. It would be redundant for me, on this blog, at this time in history to repeat all the scientifically-proven benefits of these practices. So, yes this "Westernization" is a good thing.
On the other hand, there is the completely legitimate concern that the full power of these practices could be lost through dilution. There is also the very real concern of misinformation. As noted above, right now the majority of people in the West think yoga is synonymous with asana practice. It is even a novel approach to introduce meditation into some yoga studios, which is ironic given that historically a yogi was one involved in meditation. Further, there are those who consider Tai Chi to be nothing more than an exercise for old people, with no redeeming martial value whatsoever. There are practicing Buddhists who are rightfully concerned about only teaching an aspect of practice, Mindfulness, without the grounding that typically accompanies traditional training. These are all legitimate concerns. Perhaps the ones who can keep the traditional aspects of these arts are those of us who are interested in tradition, but understand the value of simplification and adaptation. I fully believe there will always be those who will keep tradition alive and promote it to those who are interested. I also think it is safe to acknowledge that there are bits and pieces of these various practices that can benefit those who don't have, or will not take, the time to learn traditionally. I don't think that should be a threat.
And then there is the reaction to pop-culture that tends to go the other way. For instance, the formless martial art, yoga without asana, spirituality without meditation. I have considered this a lot, and to a degree I find wisdom in the foundations behind these approaches. For instance, Bruce Lee's formless form and eclectic approach to martial training has really changed the nature of martial arts in the West. To that end, Lee is informed by Krishnamurti who practically destroys all formal spiritual approaches. In large part, I am attracted to this type of thinking. One of the foundations of my Taiji training is to search for and find the true meaning, the essence, that underlies the art. What I feel I am finding is that essence is basically the same in all art. The only difference is in how we express it, and in fact it does not need expressing at all--at least ultimately. But as I have experimented with an anarchistic look at things, I have come to appreciate the different elements, not in and of themselves, but as aspects of this underlying essence--crucial parts of the whole.
I just read a very interesting article on The Middle. In a nutshell, the middle is the largest part of practice and the thing that is easiest to share. But a traditional approach would include not only the middle but the top and bottom as well, the things that shore up the middle. So, there are those who only concentrate on the middle, but a thorough understanding acknowledges not only the middle, but the ends as well. In fact a deep understanding of the middle is found at the edges. But that doesn't mean the edges are more important than the middle. As wisdom arises we see the integral nature of practice. While we may get frustrated that Pop-Yoga (or Qigong, meditation, Taiji, etc...) is shallow compared to a traditional approach, but that doesn't mean we need to throw out the baby with the bath water. Asana is still a crucial component of Raja Yoga, as form is still important to traditional Taiji. If we are going to appreciate traditional practice, we can appreciate all of it. At a certain point we will naturally innovate and create our own practice, and that's OK too. For those of us who have opportunities to teach, we should approach our students where they are and be grateful we are able to help them where they are. It's all good.