What does it mean to be a lifelong practitioner of yoga?
If you’re a new student of yoga, meeting these seasoned and talented yoga practitioners is so intimidating. Especially if you have that feeling of unworthiness. Maybe you found yoga on Instagram or YouTube and you see other yogis and their gurus, and suddenly you think to yourself - “wow, maybe I’m not a real yoga student?”
But there is nothing further from the truth.
On this episode of The Yoga Inspiration Podcast, Susanna Barkataki is helping us explore the ins and outs of the new yoga student’s spiritual journey. Susanna grew up with the folk knowledge of yoga in the backdrop of her life, but growing up with mixed heritage in the United States meant that she never fully realized yoga’s teachings until she accepted them for herself later on in life.
Susanna wanted to reclaim the wholeness of who she was, to absorb every element of each of her ancestral cultures, and to bring this myriad of experience to her yoga practice. There are alternative yoga lineages that are evolving with our modern way of life, and Susanna is here to tell yoga students of all levels that we can still honor the roots of yoga without having to re-invent the spiritual path.
So many new yoga students experience a backlash of what many call a “cultural appropriation of yoga”. We may feel as if we are stepping on the toes of an ancient and established spiritual journey, and this can make us feel unworthy or embarrassed of our own attempts at poses and spiritual reflection. On the other hand, it might inspire some yoga students to create their own version of yoga, one that’s better suited for them.
Susanna says that isn’t necessary. We discuss the differences between cultural appropriation and a true cultural appreciation, one that accepts the traditional teachings of yoga but also embraces the evolution yoga students everywhere are currently experiencing, and how new students can find teachers that truly meet their needs.
The guru-shishya, or student-teacher relationship in yoga, is a key aspect of your yoga journey. But finding a mentor isn’t easy, especially for Westerners who have a hard time battling the ego, both in themselves and in the culture that defines most North Americans today. Susanna shares her experience with yoga teachers both in the West and in India, and her biggest advice for new students today is to find a teacher that supports your vulnerability as a new student and helps you cultivate that better version of yourself that you’re seeking.
In this modern age, especially with COVID-19 keeping all of us in our homes, yoga is more accessible than ever. No matter where you’re starting your yoga journey - be it online or with a guru - there’s no reason for new students to feel unworthy of the practice. As Susanna says, we are all within a web of knowledge, and we are each contributing to this knowledge as we explore our own yoga journeys together.
If you’re a practicing yoga student - no matter where you are on your journey - I want to hear about it. Please share a bit of your yoga journey with me and my listeners. Send an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me - what does yoga mean to you? You could be invited to guest spot on The Yoga Inspiration Podcast with Kino MacGregor!
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