The Power of Namaste

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I didn’t grow up with a namaste greeting tradition. It wasn’t for any disrespect – it just wasn’t a form of our cultural practices. It wasn’t because we were NRIs but possibly because within the community, we largely socialized with the Catholic Mangalorean folks and as friends, there was an open blend of Indians from different states and even people from other countries. There was absolutely no derision towards the practice, but there was also no compulsion or education to apply this – except for greeting the Hindi teacher when she entered the class room in school (I studied in a CBSE convent school).

So, growing up, we really didn’t know the significance of namaste apart from understanding that it was an Indian cultural practice and we were familiar enough with it from Indian movies and our national and cultural events at the Indian embassy.

Well, truth be told, not many urban Indians, both local Indian residents as well as NRIs,  really know the relevance of this gesture today. I know this to be true from the many yoga practitioners & workshop participants I meet at my various talks and events. So I stopped giving myself a hard time over my cultural ignorance around it a long while ago.

That didn’t mean I stopped the process of learning more about it.

The yoga journey gives us ample opportunity to bow down into namaste. The expected culture of a yoga class often begins and ends with a namaskar mudra, but except for a few schools, not many taught about the significance of this gesture.

Let me begin by speaking for myself. I don’t greet my own teacher with a namaste and this is someone I respect immensely and look up to as a mentor, friend and guide. I am respectful and courteous (when I’m not cracking up about something and being my usual firecracker self), but I’ve not greeted him with a namaste. I will make it a point to greet him with a namaste the next time and see what our reactions are.

Not many of us greet our teachers with a Namaste either – definitely not if they are contemporary, urban yoga teachers…. and well, the teachers don’t always ask for it or greet in that fashion either.

Namaste

The divinity within me bows down to the divinity within you.

So without going into the specifics and etymology of the word, very simply put, the language of Sanskrit and culture of the ancient vedas and yoga have infused a lot of significance into namaste. Unfortunately, not many people really feel that spiritual connection when saying namaste, and the greeting itself is often said in such casual and colloquial intonation and inflection that one is left wondering, if it is of any relevance at all.

My fellow desis would know of numerous other traditional gestures that are now practices with hilarious insignificance, and sometimes irreverence too – the ‘touching elders feet‘ practice, for example, where many people barely bend enough to reach the elder’s kneecap – but well…

Here’s why I’m writing about it despite it not being my culture or tradition by birth.

When I moved to India, there were a number of senior people taking their morning and evening walks in my residential complex. I didn’t know these people, but we would often make eye contact and soon progressed to exchanging smiles. With some women who didn’t speak English or Hindi, we moved on to a generally comprehensible, “Good morning, aunty” and for the rest, a polite nod of acknowledgement as I went on my way to drop the kids to the gate for school or on my way back home from the supermarket.

With some people, however, there was a different energy to the interaction. I couldn’t pinpoint it and the instinctive greeting that was evoked was the humble namaste.

I didn’t do anything dramatic with it. Like I didn’t, you know, join my palms or anything as I said it, but I just smiled and said, ‘Namaste‘. I’m guessing there was a slight bow to my head, and my eyes probably softened or something and my tone must have been softer.

I said namaste… and there was absolutely no discomfort in it.

Gradually, I stopped noticing it, but just for long enough to realize that I only greeted certain people with a namaste…. so I assumed it was the vibe I experienced around them – or that I only spoke to them in Hindi and perhaps that was why a ‘Good morning/ Good evening’ didn’t seem appropriate or in context – but that was odd because that was what I did with some others.

So it got me thinking a bit and made me smile… because I liked to experience namaste in my life that way, although I couldn’t really understand what that experience exactly was.

Then last month happened.

It happened at the next door supermarket where I make my daily pilgrimage to. I enjoy making small talk with the cashiers and the shelf staff, so I know them fairly well. I was standing with my daughter peering at the shelf for some Haldiram snacks when suddenly one of the staff passed by, but not before pausing to look at me and say, “Namaste, Madam ji!

I can’t quite explain how deeply touched I was at his gesture. He didn’t join his palms in a namaskar or anything; his hands were full with 2 shopping baskets he was probably going to home-deliver, but he stopped to greet me. I was full of an unexplained emotion that I am feeling even now as I type these words remembering and reliving that moment. (That was when I knew this blog was on its way.)

And then sometime last week something else happened.

There is this little stall outside the supermarket (the same daily pilgrimage site) where an elderly Sikh gentleman sells kathi rolls and momos as an extension of his son’s restaurant further down the street. The family knew us in passing – regular supermarket customers, etc. and his momos are delicious! It was the day that I went up to him for a plate of momos and this very composed gentleman stood up, smiled at me, joined his palms and said, “Namaste, ji

Again, there was deep sense of something that words couldn’t quite explain.

Over the days, I was warmed by these exchanges of namastes that never demanded anything beyond it, but still made me feel special enough to receive them in the midst of other shoppers, or sometimes when the Silk gentleman would pause in the doorway as we passed each other to join his hands and say, ‘namaste‘.

I grew used to it although I couldn’t explain it then. Today I think I recognize it – a little – although it is still largely incomplete in expression – but maybe enough to share the feeling in its incompleteness?

It was a sense of presence, a powerful sense of belonging of sorts. These people were not family, I don’t even know their names (well, I’m guessing one of them must be a Mr. Singh), but the greeting fostered a sense of connection – a grounded sense of respect. What was it that I felt? A sense of support. I still don’t know where this is coming from, honestly, but it was comforting feeling of family and trust.

Perhaps this came from the time when Mr. Singh told me that I could Paytm him later for my 3 plates of momos as my phone was left charging at home and I didn’t carry cash. Or maybe it was his smiling customer relationship skills of telling me I really didn’t need to worry about payment. Or was it the time he brought in a plate of special biryani that his wife made and packed a takeout for us to taste knowing he would meet us in the evening? Or perhaps it was that time when we didn’t take our grocery bag and that store staff told me to leave it behind and he would get it delivered at home?

Or was it the sheer presence of goodness and goodwill that was present in the humble namaste? A power that has the ability to reach beyond the confines of what is proper and what isn’t and connect us to the deeper fabric of life – and deeper still to the underlying essence of what it means to be a spirit taking a human form?

Whatever it is…. it just is.

तत् त्वम् असि or तत्त्वमसि

Tat tvam asi

That art thou….You are that

Namaste

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Naked Yoga? To be or not to be…

This thought’s been long brewing but last week something snapped. I came across an Instagram post of a yogi I followed and she was naked. Completely naked. But here’s the thing.

1. Nothing on her body surprised me – I had all those bits on my body too.

2. Nothing about the image surprised me – I’ve seen naked bodies all my life – personally & -professionally – naked bodies – alive & dead – in the room, on the lab table, in text books images as well as media showcasing highly graphic & provocative imagery as well as body positive movements. Well, an anatomy teacher really can speak body parts without flinching… but… this was different.

This one upset me…. on a very different front.

I felt offended as a yogi.

The picture was supposed to be a symbol of body positivity, acceptance and a rebellious act against body shaming, etc Her body, her pictures – I didn’t care about that. But the caption included a reference and gratitude to yoga for allowing her the courage to do that & the ongoing conversation and comments with people signing up to practice with her or learn from her to be able to come to that level of courage and/or body acceptance.

Now, hang on a minute.

I agree with a lot of people working in various ways to make peace with their bodies and learn acceptance and self-love, but…. that is not yoga. Yoga can help amplify the process, but it is not the reference point for nudity and instagram following.

Anyway, the algorithm apart, I was offended for the culture of yoga.

I felt hurt & sick to my gut that a practice that comes from a place of conservative society is used to navigate body positivity through nudity.

Like, seriously?

Do we have to be naked to truly accept our bodies?

And more importantly, why did one need to connect the power of yogic practice with the attitude shift to pose in the buff on IG?

While I’m quite the liberal for an Indian or even for an Indian yogi, I do understand the culture of my roots and of heritage. And this felt offensive & disrespectful. I may be your liberal Indian yoga teacher in contemporary times, but I’m not radical to disregard the sanctity and devotion – the honor and respect that I was trained to offer to the practice or the culture of my practice. I do not mean ritualistic – I mean respectful.

What I fail to understand is how some of the yoga teachers seem to talk yoga philosophy and yogic wisdom, but it seems rather textual instead of fully living it. And others take a very tangential approach by making references to certain yogic terms and terminology, but basically working on other aspects of holistic wellness and referring it to yoga – but painfully, not practicing yoga or honoring it.

Practicing yoga doesn’t mean you suddenly dress in Indian clothes, put on a bindi or tilak and dress in a sari or dhoti – heck! even I don’t do that! But it certainly does not mean you work on body acceptance, post nude pictures and claim that to be a result of yoga. It is not.

I’m not suggesting that yoga teachers across the world observe a set code of conduct that includes behavior, but a certain level of decorum especially attributing it to the origin and roots of yoga could certainly be worked in…?

As for me, I pose for the camera, yes…and I love it… but  most certainly, I am not going to pose naked in the name of yoga. I would probably feel it disrespectful to my teachers, my lineage and my students to do that. I may be liberal, but not at the cost of disrespecting a tradition and culture of the practice.

What This YJ Issue Got Me Thinking About

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Earlier this month, a lot of the Western Yoga community expressed their upset and displeasure at Yoga Journal’s split covers on their Leadership Issue – some issues having plus size, queer, teacher of colour, Jessamyn Stanley and others featuring Maty Ezraty another fabulous able-bodied, white teacher. Both teachers are wonderful in their own spaces and in the work they do, but yoga activists in the community, many of them known to me, called out Yoga Journal for this because it had been observed over numerous occasions in the past that YJ was being exclusive in their coverage of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) teachers or other teachers from marginalized, minority sections of the yoga community.

I expressed my upset on Instgram & Facebook as well….and some of my other teacher friends – prominent and well respected in the western yoga community (Jivana Heyman, Amber Karnes, Susanna Barkataki, Dianne Bondy, and many others) – raised it to YJ, who eventually issued a statement on the matter.

Well, when I read that statement, I felt that it just used all the essentially ‘politically correct’ words in a group of sentences – words that perhaps Jivana or Susanna must have said in their conversations and posts, and then issued a statement to hopefully settle the matter with the masses.

Anyway, after my initial frustration with the incident – I eventually realized that was even though the exclusion extended itself to me too (as an Indian / brown/ plus-sized teacher lacking representation) technically, my feelings on the matter, might not actually matter to YJ. That didn’t stop me from voicing my feelings.

But, I thought about a couple of things:

  1. We lack yoga glossy magazines in India. And the ones that we do have lack in quality – both aesthetic as well as content. Magazines like YJ glamorize and beautify the yoga industry to the extent that when we desi yogis travel internationally, we pick these publications.
  2. These magazines highlight a very able-bodied asana approach of yoga, interspersed with a few points here & there on wellness & spirituality, but largely commercialized consumerism of yoga-wear (usually not the plus sizes, but can find something), yoga bars, packaged teas, props and asana classes – all wayyyy to expensive for the average Indian yoga teacher, who… cough cough… anyway earns wayyyy to little to afford those programs.
  3. These programs may complement Indian yoga teachers who generally face a dearth of quality educational programs (with structure and regulation) – but unfortunately, the expense (not to mention visa, travel, accommodation, etc) that makes it highly inaccessible. The research put into a lot of yoga-related aspects in the West can be a great add on to Indian yoga teachers’ practice, teaching & training – and of course so much more knowledge sharing that can happen the other way round too.
  4. There were a few comments on Social Media that said, “YJ is a publishing house” and “I wouldn’t worry too much about what YJ thinks and prints because they’re only printing about yoga – they’re not necessarily yogis…”

Now this is where I actually got uncomfortable. YJ is a published magazine – printing issues and e-magazines about yoga. They have subscribers all over the world – including in India. They were making money printing and publishing stuff about yoga (yogic or not) but they had a responsibility to uphold the values of yoga.

It really got me thinking – within India, we have our fair share of exclusivity – both within and outside of yoga. We didn’t have as much as BIPOC issue, but we certainly did buy in to the ableism that is perpetuated in mainstream media. I was looking for an image of an Indian teacher in ashwasanchalanasana (equestrian pose) on Google this morning (Go ahead and try it! This is what I typed: Indian yoga teacher ashwasanchalanasana / equestrian pose) and any guesses on what I came up with?

We are just so under-represented in the yoga world despite being from the country where yoga originated and are buying into the supremacy of ableism and further allowing it to define who we are as teachers ourselves.

I can imagine that not many Indian teachers may be dipping into the history of yoga to resonate very strongly with the effects of colonialism and cultural appropriation that I am referring to – but they wouldn’t deny that we have bought into the idea that yoga is a huge business in the western world and the consumerism of it is slowly seeping into the Indian yoga community too.

I find so many Indian teachers tagging superstar yogis of the US and being a part of asana challenges and getting their bracelets and tights and all of that. Yes, it builds community and I’m all for that, but I can’t help but feel that this is largely coming from the place of ‘acceptance’ or just not feeling accepted and falling into that vicious cycle of succumbing to a stronger power.

What would it take for the yoga industry to bring the focus on the land, people and culture where it originated? The source from where they make their millions from? Or what would it take for us, Indian teachers, to actually behave in a way of being accepted by ourselves?! Taking full ownership of our skill, our exposure and our heritage.

This isn’t the part where we say if we’re Indian so we’re born yogis – no way! We’ve had our fair share of those kinds. We’re talking about Indian teachers of substance. Teachers who really live and work their purpose in the way they teach, practice and continue to learn. Indian teachers who really contribute to modern yoga with a strong foundation of knowing their roots and heritage – and if they don’t know of their yogic roots & heritage, then to at least begin the inquiry! Not many TTCs & YTTs in India spend adequate time on teaching about the history of yoga to their teachers in training. I guess even the schools assume that asana is the way.

Well, a lot more where that came from – but for now, I’ll leave it at this… and remain with my thoughts….

Too Stuck For Yoga

Some months ago I experienced a major upheaval. It was a personal thing but it was major – life-changing – and not in a good way. It was one of those major ‘life-altering’ life events – the moments where Life plucked me out from straight un-forked road I was trundling on and unceremoniously  tossed me on some unfamiliar dusty road and grunted, “Off you go, Luvena!”

endless road

Anyway, as is my wont, I straightened myself, looked around, got my bearings in order, looked to the North Star for guidance and continued the slow and heavy walk – the trundle.

What’s this got to do with yoga?

Let’s see….

Everything!

For me, yoga is not just my time on the mat, it is a way of  life and a blueprint for living. It guides my thoughts – helping me make peace with the crappy ones and soothing my mind when better sense prevails. There’s no line between my asana practice and my thoughts….

But here’s what happened….

I stopped moving.

I stopped my asana practice.

No matter what I did I couldn’t go to asana.

I felt stuck.

I would go to bed every night with a sense of what I would do the next day, how I would ‘show up’ on the mat and how I would practice my chosen asanas for an hour…. and then I would wake up every morning, send the kids to school, teach some classes, deliver some lectures, meet my friends, do the mom-thing, do the dog-mom thing, do do do…. and find myself in bed at the end of the day beating myself silly about how I had not shown up on the mat – not shown up for myself…

And not have moved.

I kept thinking that my body needed movement. And then I kept counter-thinking that my body needed the rest. Ugh! It was confusing and it was petrifying – this constant thinking – of these confusing thoughts.

Wait a minute….

Thoughts… thoughts…. thoughts..? Wasn’t that what all of us yogis were on the path to master? These thoughts – these vrittis, the ripples of our mind?

And here I was with this overload of thoughts – of panic, fear, doubt, self-doubt, survival…. thoughts that were an aftermath of definite trauma – trying to force myself to move and pitifully failing…. and beating myself up mentally for failing.. more thoughts!

Or was I failing after all? Because as much as my ‘should’ voice was nagging me to move, my body and my ‘wait-a-minute‘ voice was surely but strongly heavying itself down to pause, to still and just stay put. I was, for lack of a better word, rebelling against my choice to move and instead succumbing to my subconscious, wise need to still.

As a philosophy, yoga isn’t as much of what we want for ourselves but more of what happens to match what we need. And even then, there is no right answer to surely know what we need v/s what we want and desire especially in the aftermath of trauma. I mean, think about it, we have a cold or the flu and as we recover, we rest it out. But after trauma, emotional upheaval and mental turbulence, we plough on full-steam without taking a moment to catch our breath, or look at our wounds and bruises. We don’t stop long enough to even see if we need any mental bandages or antiseptic!

Well, I didn’t…. until I paused to hear what this mental trundling was all about. And then I heard.

I just needed my savasana after all – because some days savasana is all that is available to us – and all that we truly need.

Guess what happened after that?

By simply allowing myself my time to pause and still and savasana, I started moving. The mental demand to a 90 minute personal practice was met with the rebellion to shut down, so I started taking a few minutes of ‘forward fold immersions‘ as I started calling them. I would get off my laptop frequently (like I did just now 🙂 ) and walk a bit around the house with deep belly breaths and neck rolls and hip rolls and whatever it is that seemed like a simple and easy response to my body’s need.

I started moving.

I slowly moved from being stuck to being yoga.

I assumed I had fallen back 5 steps, but actually I had just turned around and walked forward 10! I had learnt 15 new things about myself and I had thrown light on the pain and hurt of the trauma and confusion. I had dislodged myself from my rut.

That stuck-ness had saved me – and moved me deeper into my asana – my yoga – even if it was savasana…. because that is what I needed.

savasana

Yoga During Your Period

One of the most common & frequently asked questions by yoga practitioners is about the practice during their period. And I guess this very natural phenomenon has been studied quite deeply even in yogic science – of course, we know how it has been influential in other socio-cultural and religious rites.

Anyway, as far as a yoga goes, the opinion of whether or not to practice of yoga during one’s menstrual cycle depends upon a number of things – the philosophy and teachings of the particular style and lineage of yoga, the individual preferences of the practitioners, the menstrual flow, PMS variations, and so on.

For me, I haven’t experienced PMS symptoms for most of my menstruating years – no mood swings, bloating, period-related diarrhea, breast tenderness, cramping, pain, skin breakouts, etc. I did however, notice that around ovulation time (about 14 days before the next period) I would feel extremely hungry – this proved to be a better indicator to charging my cycles than many other calendars and also honed my skills on listening to my body and understanding changes.

In recent months, however, especially over the last year, I noticed significant temper outbursts around the ovulation week. I wouldn’t have mood swings, but I was definitely on edge and my patience would be at its lowest level (not a good mix with teen and pre-teen kids going hormonal at home either!). Incidentally, this would also be the time when telemarketers and banking goof-up apology calls would somehow manage to sneak through the Trucaller block list!

There was another odd symptom of physical discomfort that I noticed. A few days before my period, I would feel the misalignment in my SI joint (Sacro-Iliac joint). This would feel like a small joint twist and I wouldn’t feel agonizing like when it had dislocated a few years ago, but it would be like the joints had loosened overnight and they just slipped over each other. This would further settle down into a dull, buzzing very low intensity but highly annoying ache in my lower back and my hips that sometimes radiated upwards along the muscles around my lower spine.

Initially, I’d wonder if I had lifted something incorrectly or slept badly and would take time off to rest and take it easy, until it took a few months to realize this was clearly period related.

PMS

And I brought along my yoga to address this.

To clarify, I come from the Hatha lineage and school of thought and I believe that yoga can be practiced on every day of your period too. Of course, I also avoid inversions especially on heavy flow days (and if someone has menstrual disorders, then inversions are best avoided throughout the period days).

Here’s what I did:

On the mat, my asana was purely to de-congest and mobilize tight muscles especially in my lower back and stretch the abdominal muscles. Child’s pose (balasana) is soothing for some – for me, it is a very aggravating and uncomfortable posture, even a wide-knee child’s pose bothers me. Instead, I prefer a reclined bound angle (supta baddhakonasana) to be my better alternative. Supporting my back with a bolster makes this even more nurturing.

Supine twists are gorgeous… no, make that gorrrrrrjusssssss for a congested lower back. The slower you twist, especially incorporating mindful and simple breathing, the back responds with as much gratitude for your consideration.

The cat-cow (marjariasana) followed by cobra (bhujangasana) are others that not only relax the spine but also stretch the abdominal muscles to further massage the abdominal area and allow any uterine tightness to relax. I raise my legs against the wall in viparita karani and wow! that really helps to ease my legs after a long work day – with or without my period!

My all-time go-to ragdoll pose / standing forward fold (uttanasana) is something I don’t always find comfortable if I’m experiencing that SI joint symptom, so I skip it altogether. Instead, I lie down on my bed (supine – face up) and allow my upper back, neck and head to drop down the side of the bed. This creates a gentle traction with my head drawn towards the ground with gravity and helps to stretch my neck that may be sore as a result of a tight lower back. (Avoid this if you have cervical spine disorders)

Image result for neck stretches off the bed
Image Source: http://www.ba-bamail.com/

Then for my pranayama, I do simple, gentle 1:1 deep, mindful breathing… and I bring myself to meditate – especially when I’m having one of my ovulation-week crabbiness.

What else do I do?

Apart from yoga, I may snuggle up in bed with a good book, have some tea (I’m a tea person – so I’ll choose anything from chai to turmeric blends to herbal infusions or my yogi tea.. I’m also not a green tea person, just saying..), or a warm bath (throw in some bath salts or epsom salts – but avoid soaking for more than 10-15 mins), a self massage or abdominal gentle massage, or simply turning in with a hot water bag is quite soothing too! Of course, it always helps if the kids choose not to squabble right at that time, but well, you can’t always have it all 🙂

This thing called ‘Consent’

As part of Teaching Methodology, I’ve been talking about ‘Consent’ in my recent YTTs (Yoga Teacher Trainings) over the past few weeks. As an Indian yoga teaching in India). All I can say is that as a concept the whole idea of consent in the Indian culture, is sadly, just raising its head. In my observation, there are 2 major things at play here:

  1. The realization that an individual (as well as a yoga practitioner) has agency. (considering the rampant patriarchal bias), and,
  2. The status of a teacher in Indian culture – very elevated (all the more for spiritual gurus and, well, yoga teachers.)

In the Indian context, somewhere along the line, women have been objectified and the basic sense of body boundaries seems to have been lost. This is not the general rule – but socio-culturally, this has been an after-effect of patriarchy. And we see this in varying shades across economic strata.

For women (and yoga practitioners) to become aware that they actually do have a say in who can touch them, where, when and how much, how often, etc, is a new thing. Almost all women who come into yoga studios have a history of abuse, eve-teasing, being groped, cat-called, molested, sexually assaulted or even raped. Sadly, many of them have usually normalized the injurious and traumatic touch with a ‘cant-do-anything-about-it’ attitude. So teaching them about consent and that they can refuse touch is a big thing – novel approach, but much needed.

Even if it means saying no to touch – with sexual connotations or not.

Secondly, the Indian culture, even in modern education systems, largely place teachers on a very high pedestal. This is true even, or more so, for yoga teachers, who are confusingly seen as highly evolved beings who can do no wrong. The irony, of course, they also see them are individuals who possibly do not need to be paid for their seva. (“Wait, isn’t yoga supposed to be free?”)

Anyway, this is important in a yoga class setting, especially in an Indian yoga class context because many practitioners come in with both these beliefs – that they can’t say, ‘No’ to touch and/or manual adjustments if they feel uncomfortable and definitely not say, “no” to a yoga teacher!!

So the western yoga community has come up with this innovative tool, a prospective accessory that yoga classes may choose to use – consent cards – offered to practitioners in studios with the intention of allowing them to let the teacher know if they welcome hands-on adjustments / touch or not.

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Picture Credit: https://kindyoga.com.au/

I’ve raised the concept of consent cards with my YTT students and they seem to be confused in how to use them – the application of consent is tough. I wonder myself how convenient they would be for me to use, because I can be very clear with making my consent or dissent known, but consent cards / stones, might be a distraction. Plus, and this is more important to note that a card can only give so much consent – further experience in the adjustment is only when it happens – how much adjustment is too much? When does the practitioner refuse the adjustment? Is it Ok to refuse adjustment after agreeing to it earlier or even after turning the YES face up?

Well, like all things consensual, the practitioner has the right to refuse manual adjustment or any touch at any point in time

I cannot stress this enough.

Here’s what I suggest teachers do:

Seek consent at the beginning of the class, and definitely during class if you want to offer an adjustment. But my #1 philosophy to train them in is – to simply avoid manual adjustments altogether.

Also, I feel that a 200-hr (RYT200 / YTT200) certification is just not adequate to fully understand manual adjustments and how to offer them because bodies are so different and yoga teachers learn a lot from experience and deeper training. It helps to learn from classroom continuing education as well as self-study and experience, about trauma-sensitivity, mindful teaching and the fact that people are not just their bodies, they are a body with a mind, a spirit and deep and rich emotional history to consider.

So, with the Indian context, I believe we have to address two things here.

Firstly, to educate our practitioners about boundaries and agency (though this doesn’t always come under yoga teaching), but it is important to empower them that way… and secondly, more importantly, to be sensitive to the fact that our society in itself is looking at change – and changing a culture can only happen by engagement, education and walking the talk.

Day 15: Honoring My Yoga Roots

As we come to the end of the challenge, we were dared to commit to the cause of the Dare To Discuss Yoga Challenge, facilitated by Susanna Barkataki. And there’s as much commitment to the cause from my end as there is from those who participated from the other end of the spectrum.

I’m no different to the rest of us who participated in the challenge. We all introspected and reflected on what it meant to really shine light on cultural appropriation around us and to take the time to honor the roots, tradition and culture of yoga. This is as applicable to me, an Indian Yoga Teacher, as it is to those who are just now aware of the implication of decolonizing yoga.

There is a massive need for us to actually have teachers in India reclaim their understanding, sensitivity and appreciation of their yoga heritage. Not many people know. Yes, there is always that sensitivity to our culture, but somehow, even as a YTT program, the focus is on asana and then some philosophy and in some schools, the application of appropriate and well-rounded teaching methodology.

Educating our teachers about yoga culture is important.

And that is going to be a huge part of my teaching curriculum in addition to teaching body positivity, inclusion and, of course, yoga anatomy & physiology.

I see my path slowly clarifying, emerging & settling around…

So, I make my commitment..

#Dareyouryoga

 


 

This blog is a part of a very unique yoga challenge led by my dear friend and fellow yogi, Susanna Barkataki – the Dare to Discuss Yoga Challenge. Both of us feel quite deeply about cultural appropriation and bring an authentic purpose to shine through constructive discussion, dialogue and education to make people (yogis & non-yogis) aware – to ‘lessen the appropriation and up the honor’, in Susanna’s words. In support of the challenge and the work, I shall be blogging my introspection and reflection here to share the conversation and build the cumulative effect.