Yoga Medicine® – Home Forums Yoga & Politics 2024 – Final Exam: Essay #3 Reply To: Yoga & Politics 2024 – Final Exam: Essay #3

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TiffanyTiffany
Participant

    The topic of cultural appropriation in yoga has weighed heavily on my mind for a long time. As a socially and economically comfortable white American woman teaching yoga professionally in my tiny hometown in rural North Carolina, this has been an area I have felt stuck in navigating for a few years now. I value all opportunities to learn about others’ cultures especially since I mostly connect with Hispanic farm workers in my local community where I teach. I also consider it part of my responsibility as a yoga teacher, to gain an understanding of the history of yoga and the politics embedded in that history. I found this course to be thought-provoking and immensely beneficial for navigating my own personal and professional journey with cultural appropriation in yoga. With a deeper understanding of some of the more spiritual aspects of yoga such as chanting, using Sanskrit, and quoting the yoga sutras that we discussed throughout the training, I have more confidence in my decisions as a yoga teacher in my community. For many years, I have neglected to share some of the spiritual teachings of yoga – mostly due to ignorance and lack of understanding on my part. Honestly, I was intimidated and felt unqualified so I have stuck with the therapeutics of yoga and the many physical and physiologic benefits in my teaching career. I have often felt pressured to be a more spiritual teacher. After our deep dive into the history and politics of yoga, I feel more confident in my decision to focus on the physical and physiologic benefits of yoga and more equipped to blend that with new-age spirituality through mindset, positive psychology, and neuroscience through the benefits of a mind-body integrative practice such as yoga. I feel confident in sharing yoga from this perspective because it feels authentic, and I have seen in those I work with the many benefits of the movement and breath work. I think at the core of my inner reflection throughout this course was an analytical look at my why for teaching, which has always been to share yoga with those who may otherwise not even try yoga because they can’t relate to the practice for any number of reasons ranging from physical health or religious beliefs, or just simply because of social barriers such as geography and costs. I haven’t found an eloquent solution to many of those barriers, but I have made all my local classes “Pay What You Want” which has helped at least with the issues of costs, and I’m fortunate to have a “day job” that allows me to do this, which I realize is not an option for many. It isn’t a perfect solution, but in my rural community, I have seen benefits. At times, I have felt that because I’m not a “spiritual” teacher, I was watering yoga down by focusing on the science. This course has taught me that is not true at all, and in many ways having a more scientific approach can make yoga more relevant in my community. Thus, to address cultural appropriation in yoga, I would encourage my colleagues to do a similar thoughtful inner study, maybe take a course such as this one to help clarify some of the considerations of yoga history and politics since it is so complex and often misrepresented in popular culture and even in the profession of yoga, and share aspects of the culture from an honest and authentic perspective. Finally, I think giving thoughtful consideration of the intentions of what a teacher shares is of utmost importance. Simply recapitulating knowledge without a clear and thoughtful intention can be irresponsible and in some cases alienating and harmful, therefore, being intentional with teaching is of utmost importance, as truly knowing the why behind what you’re teaching should guide you.