The Superbowl between yogis was a sad game, where no one won.
Sunday was a challenging day. My mind was racing between zero to a million thoughts of monkey minding. As I sat next to my dad, trying to keep him company with the super bowl, men chasing a ball to see who wins. (Seriously, I don’t think I will ever understand this sport, no offense). I found myself engaged in a different kind of Superbowl online.
The hot topic of Yogi’s trying to show their expertise about yoga because there have been more and more talks and articles about #whitesupremacy and #culturalappropriation. This is a sad subject for an “Indian Woman raised in the West”. Because of life circumstances, my parents had to live out of their own state, be relocated to another part of the world, because of the partition. Since then, they have had no place to go “home “ too. What did that make me? Born Indian, Dutch Passport, Caribbean roots with all flavors of nationality. Maybe the identity is really a cultural misappropriation. :). My parents raised us to be tolerant and to get “over” ourselves if we treated another race differently, we were raised with both cultures, and also about a woman’s role in the Indian society.
Now back to the present moment, The Superbowl yogis, I was struggling with the mind, because, in many ways as with the Indian Roots in me, I’ve been subjected to many moments of doors closed in my face from Western yoga centers, because, well, let’s just say I didn’t feel as if I belonged there, being a Modern Indian Woman seemed to be an intimidating factor, but let’s not tell these centers that now, because they will respond differently. Fact is these articles has sparked a fire of “ we need to defend ourselves” modus from the West.
Fine, I may not have the “Yoga Journal“ look, “instagram acrobatic poses” and the number of likes on my page may not be hot enough, because I don’t flower puff things nor do I teach Pretzel Yoga. All those things matter, apparently, because here in the West, centers actually interview you to get a “gig” or teach yoga. In fact all, what I do is: sit down with a cup of coffee, oops yes, coffee not tea, and talk to clients about becoming friends with themselves. “UN-coaching” their beliefs, instead of selling them many products to keep them in the trap that they are not good enough and save them from spending tons of money on personal development.
Now many Indians, actually refrain from sharing how they truly feel about what the West has taken on as yoga. Which with all due respect, they, too, played a very economic card. But to point fingers at India about speaking up, and how dare they monetize on Western People, is somewhat also, a bit.. Hmmm… well, you know, not really honest. I mean really, it takes two tango right?
So…. Dare I speak up about the cultural appropriation of Yoga? I walked into it that conversation and BOOM! …. It was getting a bit spicy, like the Superbowl, only the ball was the exchange of words about who is the more intellectual one or “wiser”one and little about how to re-address this issue, freeing it from all the cultural appropriation. I began to realize that this why many of the real true yogis no longer devote their time sharing their wisdom and opt for silence.
As tons of the yoga teachers flock to the post: give opinions, trying to look wise, educated with big words, all forget that too much words, defeats the real benefit of yoga: free people from their attachments to all their thoughts in their head. This is a very simplistic statement, (before the expert wolves come with a big huge theory again). The yoga in the mountains and the yoga in real life will differ, fair to say, times have changed
Many teachers are too busy trying to enlighten people with spiritual hocus pocus words such as: Ahamkara, Samsara, Upanishads, Kundalini, etc, etc, thrown into the pot and criticizing India for also being spiritually materialistic. Completely forgetting about the teacher trainings in the States, that have the approval of the Yoga Alliance, and talk very little about the depth of yoga, why is that India’s fault? Many yoga centers “needed” trainings because the profits are in there. Hmm….
It’s a fact that Yoga Alliance, you know, the need to have a certificate standard of the West, is more valued than the slow practice of East, which is more essential to strengthen a skillful practice for the yoga teacher’s mind itself. This alliance has consented to many yoga trainings that are… Hmmm… how to say this…. “Watered down?”, but dare an Indian woman speak about this , guaranteed, there will be several men, yes…. Men, ready to share their big knowledge bank of yoga and how terrible India to monetize on spirituality, because no one can handle those kind of accusations.
Indians have their perspective on yoga, too, but rest assured the West doesn’t know about them fully; they can only draw conclusions, because they went to live for a limited time and felt they integrated in the community, unless similar to a background like mine, you were born in India and have roots of both worlds.
The fact is many Indians have a different way of responding to events, but will not share it with the West, is it right or wrong? No, it’s just not how they communicate, they differ than the West. Has India also participated in watering down the practice of yoga, yes. Does it all matter? Yes, but not to the extent where it becomes like a #Superbowl for each side, there are no winners or losers.
Again….. It takes two to tango, East and West have participated in the dance together.
A conversation in such posts speaks many subtle layers. All people are looking for today is to find some peace of mind. Anxiety, ADHD, Depression is also influenced by the lack of trust and fear to express the self, all playing a role with the mind habits, and in a society raised on “something is wrong with us”. Take a look at the amount of adverts for medical pills? Over intellectual and too much knowledge is also part of the “something is wrong with us “syndrome.
I wish I wasn’t, but I’m disappointed, there is so much benefit that can arise out of a yoga center, no matter where in the world these centers are and addressing culture is important. It will always differ from country to country, be a wise teacher on adapting the practice requires being skillful in the awareness. While I was sitting there reading the posts, I was thinking what is more important, can yoga centers be a place to give people relief and peace of mind or a bunch of people trying to show how spiritual they are by talking about the what yoga is in the “true” form?
If that exists…. As a wise friend once shared, when you point a finger at another, understand three are pointing back at yourself and one is lifted up to the truth.
Years ago, I walked away from this, and here I was walking right into it, why…. stupidity! Entertaining a conversation where everyone proving themselves is quite the opposite of what yoga is in the first place. And I included “myself” in the conversation…
Yoga is a practice and only through practice can understanding happen to what it really is.
The fact is:
1. When it got translated over the centuries, passed down from teacher to student, it was using words and open to interpretations and their perspective. There was no digital dictaphone, videos or other digital technology than the digits of a hand.
2. It’s not about expertise or looking wise, a teacher connected to the self will understand that any person who genuinely turns to yoga beyond their body is searching for one thing: to come back to their peace of mind.
3. The West struggles with the teacher-student relationship because it has cultural flavors in it. The idea of Gurus for many is just creepy, as an Indian woman, we not allowed to go to the ashram alone, because of man’s perception of women. But some people over obsess about their teachers and some teachers have fallen into the trap of taking advantage, both East and West.
Indian men who shared the yoga in the West, have shared the knowledge and sometimes tainted with their view of women. Yet, I’m cautious about this because as a woman, someday and I may raise a son, what would I want to impart to him? For me, it’s equanimity, the place where self-respect, freedom, and integrity are naturally coming together as a unity without borders. Yoga has shared these skills and tools that can be imparted to him. That’s how I rather share this practice, away from all the spiritual materialism.
Our circumstance of lives has changed, so have our habits and sedentary lives, especially the role of a woman. Is it not clearly visible that mostly women participate in yoga? Some think of it as an exercise while others are trying to find peace from their busy lives. I wondered why have they not gotten the upgraded version, I feel like a #Timesup moment in the yoga land, especially when it mainly comes from a man’s perspective. There are very few Indian women teaching yoga, because of cultural perspective and West have not really opened doors for them, so much for women supporting women and am not thinking about myself. Actually, I’m grateful those doors did close to my face, to understand the practice and feel the effects or rejection, and understand the practice of yoga instead of chanting some weird sentence because it makes me “look wise and spiritual”.
In Curaçao, where I use to live, Yoga was frowned upon, even the church was against it. Furthermore, as a woman, it was frowned up that I was teaching yoga and faced criticism from both: Men and Indians, Gender and Culture, which I spoke about in the book #befriendurmind.
Curaçao is a very unique island, many are raised and use to be educated to speak 4 languages minimum, and later on, I decided to learn more languages and study relationships. There was an unspoken division between race and yet, this island manages to stay peaceful and co-exist with each other. When the yoga center, I ran, gained its respect within the medical field as well as with other religions, one thing is clear: yoga is about equanimity. A place where no race, no gender, no religion, no intellect is higher or lower. A place where we are all the same, but it’s underneath these identities, a place of peacefulness, which many long to be in.
When someone walked through the doors, neither my “I must only teach Indian” approach happened or the “western style of yoga”. On the contrary, I felt a benefit to be a woman understanding both cultures, this practice is beyond our identities and it takes time to un-coach them, skillfully. The benefits are endless, it has helped people with trauma, terminal illness, seniors accepting aging, and much much more. With much delight, I even got to share the practice with Christians, because there was no need to use culture or religion, just practice out of equanimity and mutual respect.
The teacher has to go past this idea of looking all spiritual and shit, because it’s a practice to realize the self, without all these identities and it’s simpler to say and complex in practice. That’s why there was a Guide, to maintain us to stay in constant practice awareness of the self in speech, thought and (re) action.
Not everyone wants to go to that extent in spirituality, even yoga teachers, the longer we practice yoga, the “deeper” one begins to de-layer the identities, and the fear of the unknown shows up, this alone is foolish. I see young girls, becoming yoga teachers and burning out at an early age and have no idea why. The yoga teachers practice matters tremendously, beyond the physical postures. So for many teachers who want to consider continuing teaching yoga, Hmmm…. Practice spending a lot of time alone with yourself, without the self-phone, without walking, talking, or doing and discover the process.
In 2014, I walked away, because I’m not interested in the certification of Yoga Alliance or the title yoga teacher, it comes with many responsibilities beyond the Profession. The title has offered a space for many to cover up their insecurities, still hooked on the “feel good” yoga to temporarily relieve themselves from the emotional difficulties. The intense desire to show up as a leader, motivational speaker, or a famous yoga teacher becomes more important than being aware of the true intention why yoga can benefit the self and other. In the East, one of the highest practice is humility. It’s a practice and not an interpretation. The Superbowl between yogis was a sad game, where no one wins.
At the time I walked away, many, including myself, thought I was crazy because unlike many yoga centers, this one just kept making a profit by no advertising but am glad I did I closed it. I learnt to live out of a simple suitcase and meet many amazing souls along my travels and we connected from a place of equanimity. I rather be without the label, share the tools and skills from a practical perspective, and recognize that stretching the ass was not enough. I smile as I write this and think of the Peacocks in Retiro Park, Madrid, when they knew people admired them, they would whip out their feathers and show you. I always think about the spiritual people and their instagram poses and hear them say “we have to start somewhere”. I rather share the practice of freedom, patience and empower a person to be with themselves and their situations. It takes courage to walk through the mental difficulties, and this is not to be taken lightly. There is no Mc Donalds approach to the mind identities. Mental Health is vital to this age.
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