Take a moment to pause and think about the context through which you are practicing yoga. How long have you been practicing yoga? Do you remember where you were when you were first introduced to the practice?
For many of us, myself included, we often first engage with yoga through a colonized lens. We signed up for a class at our gym or borrowed a few DVDs from a friend back in the day and never realized the spiritual experience that goes hand-and-hand with what has been marketed in the west as a fitness package.
But yoga is more than physical exercise. All life is yoga, and the practice of yoga is one of the major components of the Hindu faith. To remove this divine perspective is to essentially deny yourself the true practice of yoga.
Hinduphobia and the erasure of the Hindu culture have been growing in the yoga community. Sushma is here on The Yoga Inspiration Podcast to describe what Hinduphobia looks like, why the roots of yoga are integral to the practice itself, and how to practice yoga respectfully in our modern, diverse world.
Sushma was born and raised in India and started practicing hatha yoga when she was a kid. She moved to the U.S. nearly a decade ago to earn her Master’s and start a family. In her time here, she has witnessed the cultural intersection of Hinduism and colonized yoga firsthand. She is a primary source of the Hindu experience in the western world as someone who has re-discovered yoga on the other side of the globe where our spiritual methodology is more monotheistic and patriarchal.
These religious differences are not the only areas where we see Hindu erasure in yoga. We see it manifest in language barriers and accessibility. When yoga teachers don’t know Sanskrit, they are ignoring the lineage of the practice and the decades of training that goes into becoming a true yoga guru. It’s similar to stealing knowledge without first getting to the roots of where it comes.
This does not mean yoga isn’t for everyone. “All life is yoga,” Sushma says, but the practice deserves yoga students and teachers who are respectful of the history and willing to step out of their comfort zone to practice in a way that is culturally aware.
Sushma’s advice for contemporary yoga practitioners who want to do the right thing and practice yoga respectfully is to move forward working with your own biases, subconscious or otherwise. If you become a yoga teacher, then you are responsible for learning the roots of your practice. You deserve the experience of cultural immersion, and a trip to India to study the beginnings of the spiritual path will only help you gain a new perspective of this ancient practice.
Take advantage of the resources we discuss:
Hindu Student Council UnderstandingHinduphobia.org Remember, to make the effort is a sign of respect.
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If you want to share what you’ve learned on your yoga journey, get in touch with me at email@example.com. You could be invited to guest spot on The Yoga Inspiration Podcast.