We associate the word yoga with peace, relaxation, acceptance and healthiness. Unfortunately, however, the business of yoga is competitive and often judgemental. I have been instructing for about seven years now and I am saddened by a lot of what I see. There are still some amazing studio owners, albeit not too many, who are trying to survive the corporate world of Yoga and who know the history, lineage and want the best for their clients. Yoga, in Sanskrit, means to yolk or come together in union. So if this is the case, why is there such controversy in the last several months about “white” yoga instructors adopting cultural and spiritual practices into their lives and teachings such as wearing Mala beads and lighting incense or sage before class? I am THAT girl. I am a white yoga instructor who has never been to India, although I hope to eventually. I am well educated and continue to study yoga history and philosophy. I am classically trained in Ashtanga and I live by the 8 limbs of yoga. I have adopted many of the Indian practices such as taking my shoes off when entering a studio (because the feet are considered impure), lighting incense, I have Hindu dieties such as Ganesha to remind me to listen more and talk less and I wear Mala beads not only when chanting mantras, but most of the time.
All of these things deepen both my physical and my spiritual practices. Not all people who wear malas know their meaning. Many wear them purely as a fashion statement, but what is really wrong with that? Their wearing them shows that they like them and maybe, just maybe, eventually they will learn the meaning. Which, by the way, each stone has healing significance and the term Mala is dervived from the Sanskrit term japamala, which is a string of beads used for prayer similar to the Rosary in the Catholic faith.
Try to keep an open mind, listen to understand and create your own opinions based on love and respect. The above video is the opinion of a YouTube channel called Honest.
To me it is a coming together of a variety of religions and traditions, which brings us closer to unity, oneness. Cultural appropriation, according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture.” According to Wikipedia it has more to do with minority cultures' traditions being adopted by a dominant society. I can tell you with great certainty that I do not believe in cultural appropriation in its current form. In fact I believe it has become very divisive and in a day when we need to let go of differences and come together as one, this only stirs controvery. I deeply respect the traditions that I have adopted. Why can’t we let our differences in color, race, ethnicity, religion and sexual preferences go and all learn from each other. Adopting things from other cultures should be a compliment. Why is it causing such arguements? I am open minded, so if you want to leave a constructive comment below I am open to learning and undestanding all views. The famous Yoga Girl, Rachel Brathen, was just recently accosted on her blog and on Instagram over this topic. I feel for her because as instructors we are still human. We do our best and try to incorporate these traditions into our yoga classes to spread the love and the history behind this beautiful practice.
Let’s continue to let go of our egos, live with love & embrace all cultures in a respectful way. Rather than live and learn from fear, let’s teach and learn from a place of love and acceptance. My personal yoga philosophy that I talk about often is awareness, acceptance and forgiveness. I am not saying you need to practice this, but I share it because I deeply believe through my own personal experiences that these three things help us overcome our greatest obstacles. I know when I look through the exterior bodies of strangers that within them is me and within me is them. So I try everyday to embrace the fact that we are all on this journey together as one.
Coming up on Tuesday's blog, Paul continues the topic of the importance of self love. We hope that you will join this conversation! Have a beautiful weekend!
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