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Healing through Yoga

“Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it.”

— Khalil Gibran.

Introduction:

Healing and self-care is necessary for our journey through life. Each movement and action we take to reach our path is meaningful when done with intention. Therapeutic practices help when we understand the flow of our energy. The flow in our energy influences every system in our body. Yoga therapy is modeled to connect our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical well-being through movements and flowing techniques. It’s not about controlling our body, but for letting go of the negative energy and allowing the positive energy to flow to strengthen overall well-being. I have deeply appreciated the peacefulness and strength in calmness this practice has given me. Throughout my life, I have dealt with severe anxiety and stress to control and know exactly where I need to be. Yoga offered a route to let be and find peace in letting be. It restored a sense of peace. It restored the need to be mindful with every thought, action or word delivered.

Understanding our mind is a powerful tool. My dad would always share with me that “Hum ko man ki shakti dena. Man vijay karen.” This quote is from an old Hindi movie. It shares that it’s important to conquer our own minds before trying to conquer the minds of others. Through yoga therapy, our mind is conquered and our body and spiritual being follows with every intentional movement. The study, Evaluation of the Effectiveness and Efficacy of Iyengar Yoga Therapy on Chronic Low Back Pain, done in 2009, showed that the group involved in yoga resulted in statistically significant reductions in functional disability, pain intensity and depression [1]. Another study concluded that participation in a two-month yoga class can lead to significant reduction in perceived levels of anxiety in women who suffer from anxiety disorders. This study showed that yoga can be considered as a complementary therapy or an alternative method for medical therapy in the treatment of anxiety disorders [2]. If we share this technique with women of color and decolonize the “whiteness” associated with yoga, we can use this as a tool to empower, guide and strengthen the resilience of women of color to conquer hurdles.

Historically, yoga has also shown many healing influences. The origination of yoga was in India. In its earliest form, yoga was a practical discipline incorporating techniques for the development of a state of mental and physical health, well-being, inner harmony and, ultimately, an experience involving the union of the human with the universe. The first organized medical application of yoga started in India as early as 1918 at the Yoga Institute near Mumbai [3]. With this start, yoga proliferated in India through hospitals, ashrams and clinics [3]. This led to the emergence of “yoga therapists.” Several studies have shown that both short-term and long-term practice of yoga techniques are associated with a number of physiological and psychological changes, including reductions of basal cortisol and catecholamine secretion, a decrease in sympathetic activity with a corresponding increase in parasympathetic activity, reductions in metabolic rate and oxygen consumption, salutary effects on cognitive activity and cerebral neurophysiology, and improved neuromuscular and respiratory function [3]. All in all, yoga therapy is restorative to every cell in our body. It is a natural remedy for self-preservation.

This blog will continue to delve into the variations of yoga therapy and the beauty that lies in it. Thank you for reading the introduction to yoga therapy! Keep shining and learning.

Building Habits for Peace

  • pandemic: COVID-19.
  • terrifying leadership – president?
  • death of George Floyd. He was arrested because he was trying to buy a pack of cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. He was 46 years old. He died Monday in the city he moved to for a better life. Several people caught him through their iPhone cameras during his last breaths. Floyd was held down by a Minneapolis police officer’s knee. The video shows Floyd pleading that he is in pain and can’t breathe. Then, his eyes shut and the pleas stop. The officer, Derek Chauvin, was arrested on Friday and faces charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter, according to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman (1, 2). As said in the words of George Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, this was a ‘modern day lynching (3).’

It’s a disharmony of events. A falling apart of the fabric that holds community. A time that will be greater than the Great Depression of 1929. This is a part of our history forever. A marking of the tragedies that represent the traumas that fragment our society. It almost feels as if a Pandora Box of nightmares were opened to show the underlying atrocities. We can’t hide from the depths of racism, inequality and inaccessibility to healthcare, sexism, injustice and ignorance that contributes to the pandemic. We are now at the forefront, facing it head on.

I have hope though. I have deep sincere hope in people that there will be a rebirth. Through this time period, I believe that the revolution we need to make begins within ourselves. Amidst this pandemic of riots, disharmony and hardship, we can refocus our energies to guide us to find our strengths. Changing little behaviors, such as being more active, going for a run, practicing meditation, sending positive messages and reading more about the things you truly love bring harmony. I recommend Deepak Chopra’s 21 day of abundance meditation guide. These audios have been so charging and helpful in boosting an abundance mindset.

I insist for justice to begin from within. Cleanse and work on yourself to recollect. There is a whole new challenge we will take on once we are strengthened and vitalized within our own bodies.

(1) https://www.mercurynews.com/2020/05/29/why-george-floyd-was-arrested-and-what-happened-in-the-minutes-following/

(2) Obama’s Statement

Image

(3) https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/30/politics/george-floyd-brother-talks-trump/index.html

Boundaries, Relationships and Culture

*Trigger Warning: Content may include strong material.

Learning how to make new boundaries can be tough. Boundaries matter deeply in every segment of our society. An overarching idea of boundaries is present in our daily lives. These boundaries have an impact locally, nationally and globally. We are all effected by them and direly influenced by the way they are enforced. We’re in a pandemic right now, and we have to maintain a 6 feet distance from one another; respecting this boundary means respecting one another’s well-being, health and life. It’s taken a while to recognize the importance of this “social distancing.” Similarly, it’s taken a while for me to be more cognizant of boundaries in relation to “relationship management.” Consumed by the constant need to feel involved, it is easy to forget understanding the individual limits and capacity each person has. And, I guess, I’m saying this out of my mindset: as a people-pleasing person, it can be so difficult to get out of saying YES. It can be frustrating when someone doesn’t respect unsaid boundaries. And it can totally lead into an unsafe culture. Advice is often given from one’s own perspective — the limitation of empathy all together. What is a relationship? What are the boundaries that we each want to set in order to really create a safe space? What is the significance of creating a safe space?

It’s fascinating how relationships work. Relationships help communities thrive based upon the health and wealth they bring. When communities build stronger relationships, they work in congruence. As humans, we are interdependent upon one another. I used to get really weighed down by the idea of “independence.” It used to frustrate me, consume me, and trouble me when people pointed out: You have to be independent. I was really trying my best, but I felt a little lost in the way to find what that even meant. It is so so much deeper than that. Independence doesn’t mean that you can’t have support, but it’s actually about creating ideas and forming newness among a crowd of supporters. Studies have proven how deeply relationships affect our overall well-being [1]. Science has shown that the amygdala isn’t just about responding to danger, it’s also about safety.

Successful companies that have an incredible work-culture present this type of interplay. The one thing that strikes the strongest in creating a culture of cohesion are belonging cues. Google is filled with belonging cues. People feel a part of a team. They work well through the understanding that their body is constantly feeling safe, connected and immersed in projects. Particularly, on May 24, 2002, Google’s founder Larry Page wrote a note on the wall stating, “These Ads SUCK.” Google’s competition with another big company called Overture was not going well. Google was not accomplishing the task of matching up the right words or terms to the appropriate ads. Jeff Dean was one of the last people to see this note. He was on the Search team, he had literally no business doing this work. But it deeply intrigued him, so he sat down and started working on it. Somehow, after hours of tinkering with the problem, he found the solution. AND IT WORKED. It boosted the engine’s accuracy by double digits. Advertising was providing 90 percent of Google’s revenues. When Jeff Dean was interviewed, he said that he barely remembered the moment. He said, “it was normal.” His response showed that this type of effort was normalized. Therefore, achievement wasn’t rooted in managing what it brought the individual, but it was focused around the problem. They didn’t manage their status — they worked in unison, quickly, efficiently and without making it about anything else other than the problem at hand.

Google won because it was safer. It was a safe place to connect. People felt comfortable working on tasks. When safe communities are formed, people can work more cohesively, sustainably and in unity. Cohesion isn’t a task of intelligence; it’s based on signals of safe connection. BOUNDARIES and respecting those lines that we can push off to the side as “blurry.” Tackle the complexity with simplicity. Relationships, unity and working in teams bonds people to work on a task. It pushes people to come together and manage their power to allow it to manifest into something bigger than themselves.

Belonging cues are necessary for our well-being. Connecting and being a part of a community is healing. If you want to produce work, one must learn how to find ways to keep the amygdala at peace. Yoga, meditation and mindfulness allow us to reconnect with every part. We create a safety barrier around ourselves to face and shelter the peace within us. As we progress into these unprecedented times, remember to connect, find peace and work with your community. I’ve learned a lot on maintaining safety, peace and boundaries in different aspects of life. I’ve learned how to be more acutely aware with how I make boundaries to bring in connectivity through my mind, body and spirit. I have so much hope.

Create a space of safety and present those belonging cues to your loved ones. Designing a culture of safety allows for higher levels of productivity. Keep shining my folks!

[1] The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle.

Uncovering Feminism through Covid-19

Corona Virus has isolated us, demanded a change within our mental mindsets, and tested our ability to maintain positivity.

As humans, we have a strong component that separates us from computers and robots. We have emotions. Critical to the fabric of our humanity, we commit ourselves to this practice of working through our emotions. We ground ourselves in understanding the feelings internally and the emotions we present externally. We assume that we understand ourselves enough to constantly keep going forward, but do we truly? Covid-19 has been a forced time for reflection, home time, check-in with reality, and to recognize that we actually need to slow ourselves to be human. People are getting sick, dying, hurting and feeling depressed. Each news showing presents us with a new challenge. We hear of the doctors, health-care professionals and grocery store people doing their work and carefully keeping distance. As we keep progressing in this pandemic, we progress in the limits of our systems and the hardships we are constantly battling: lack of ventilators, masks, gowns (PPE in general), testing, loan relief, and more. Dr. Ahmed, pulmonologist in New York, stated that “the patients are very sick.” She continued to add that “This is a very severe lung injury. It is affecting people of all age groups [1].”

The SARS-CoV2 is a respiratory virus, meaning that it can enter and invade your respiratory system. Metaphorically, our land has been hit by a lack of genuine care towards people. We seem to have forgotten the values that make us understand and provide for those in need. However, this pandemic has gained some traction towards unity and community. It’s not time for individualism. It’s easy for me to say this and type about it so casually, but it’s even harder to make a change out of it, to DO something about the fact that our healthcare system has turned into a monetary giant — compromising the health and well-being of our people. At this time, we should practice mindfulness, fullness and wholesomeness. What else can we do at this time? We can control our emotions. We can control the perceptions. We can control our own mannerisms to make this better. Therefore, we must take this seriously. We must keep our bodies in alignment with our minds to maintain a fit health set to push forward.

As a personal goal, I have been practicing a 21 days of abundance podcast led by Deepak Chopra. It is all based on meditation and internal work. It works off of the abundance mindset. I have also been baking more in the kitchen to take my mind off of stress factors. Measuring, singing and pouring all the ingredients to see the final product of a deliciously home-made cake, brownie or scone!

Broaden the horizon of the limitations we place in our own societal norms, a feminist approach, to challenge the knowledge issues we have to face in the unprecedented and uncertain times of today.

Here is a brief mechanism of the Corona Virus:

“Of note, just because two different types of viruses are both considered respiratory viruses, doesn’t mean that they are the same in other ways. The many viruses that cause the common cold including four other types of coronaviruses (OC43, HKU1, NL63, and 229E) behave very differently from the SARS-CoV2. Similarly, the SARS-CoV2 is not the same as the flu virus. Repeat, they are not the same. If you were to ask whether the flu and COVID-19 were equivalent, the answer would be no times no. As Yoda would say, the same they are not SARS-CoV2 and the influenza virus. SARS-CoV2 gets into your respiratory tract when you breathe in respiratory droplets that have the virus or smear the virus on your face with your grubby fingers or some other contaminated object. The infection tends to begin inside your nose, you know that place in which you may periodically put your finger. The virus looks a little like either a morning star, one of those spiked medieval weapons, or a spiky massage ball.

SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus

These blood vessels bring blood from the rest of your body that is low in oxygen and high in carbon dioxide, a waste product of metabolism. The alveoli serve as swap markets or little eBays where oxygen from the air that you breathed in is exchanged with the carbon dioxide in your blood. The carbon dioxide goes into the alveoli, where it may be exhaled up through your respiratory tract and out through your nose and mouth. The blood that is newly infused with more oxygen subsequently travels to the rest of your body to provide all of your cells with the oxygen that they need to do stuff like live and help you take selfies of yourself.

You can see how your lungs are so important and should be among your top five favorite organs. When your alveoli don’t work properly, your body can become starved of oxygen and unable to get rid of carbon dioxide. Things can quickly go downhill after that happens.

If the viruses and the resulting battle make it down to your lungs and alveoli, it can become a pneumonia. Pneumonia is when your alveoli become inflamed and get filled up with fluid, pus, and other types of gunk. Gunk is a technical term for cells and other stuff. This can happen in one or both of your lungs, assuming that you have no more than two. Developing a pneumonia is when the infection gets really serious.”

[1] https://www.foxnews.com/media/dr-ahmed-on-working-in-ny-hospital-amid-covid-19-pandemic-its-extremely-tough

[2] https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucelee/2020/03/21/how-does-the-covid-19-coronavirus-kill-what-happens-when-you-get-infected/#f441abd61466

Yoga Meeting: Prof. Gail Abrams

Professor Gail Abrams, a yoga/dance teacher and professor for years, made the time to meet with me over this weekend. She taught in a liberal arts college for 30 years and shared her deep knowledge on movement and the importance of movement through culture, history and time. Movement is highly indicative of the way we understand, engage and share. Story-telling is all about movement. The way we hold ourselves at interviews is different from when we watch a movie in our family room. Each movement points towards an intentional sharing. Professor Gail Abrams introduced to me the concept of Somatic Yoga. Somatic Yoga was coined through Thomas Hanna. Somatic Yoga is all about first-person analysis of the body. First-person analysis means that it is based upon the internal experience of oneself, not upon an external experience. Physiology and medical treatments are based upon an external understanding. However, somatics is all about the internal experience. It unifies the internal experience with the future and past understandings of how one experiences matters. Furthermore, Yoga Somatics is a framework that highlights sensory motor amnesia.

Sensory motor amnesia explains the functioning occurring as we analyze our own experience, our own body. It is the conscious awareness of the movement that we are constantly doing. Descartes philosophy is explored in this type of yoga, “I thinktherefore I am.” The basis of this is argued against with, “I am self-aware, therefore I act.” This explains the first-body experience that somatics tries to understand. The body is a part of the system and the way we explore the body is shined through an experience from within. Therefore, self-awareness and cognizance of what the body is doing helps to explain and support the bodily movements. Self-awareness is key in understanding how to act in a more acute way. In this sense, sensory motor amnesia is a philosophy that shares how to heal the body through internal experience and awareness. For example, if one part of the body is no longer in peace with the other part of the body, then awareness has to be brought to the forgotten area. When awareness is brought, then the functioning can be refined to relieve the lack of movement or sensation avail in that area of the body. The unknown becomes known and the forgotten becomes relearned. This creates a functioning conscious system, where each movement is understood and defined through learning.

Yoga is truly powerful. Somatic Yoga can heal deep traumatic pain that rests in areas of our body that we are unaware of. Keep reading, challenging and perceiving new forms of awareness through daily practice. I feel deep appreciation and gratitude towards Prof. Gail Abrams for meeting with me and introducing me to this concept. It is still taking me a while to grapple with it; it’s incredibly restoring!

Here is an article associated with this post: http://www.drupal.oepf.org/sites/default/files/journals/jbo-volume-2-issue-2/2-2%20Hanna.pdf

Sensory Motor Amnesia is a state that occurs universally. It is a result of long-term stress upon the body.

Yoga: Healing Domestic Violence

As human beings, we are vulnerable. We make mistakes. We are born with open hearts and minds. We allow some people to see that. And as inhumane as it can be, others may take advantage of that. Then, those actions, formative moments, or reminders get lodged into our memories as trauma. Domestic violence is common around the world. This article will share about Domestic Violence in the United States.

According to the CDC, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men encounter physical violence by their intimate partner at some point during their lifetimes. About 1 in 3 women and nearly 1 in 6 men endure some form of sexual violence during their lifetimes [1]. In 2014, they measured that 19.3 million women and 5.1 million men in the United States have been stalked in their lifetime. 60.8% of female stalking victims and 43.5% men reported being stalked by a current or former intimate partner. These are only reported cases. The numbers would be deeply affected by the population focus. For example, if women of Color were chosen as a study group, the statistics would be significantly skewed, especially because they have centuries of Genetic Trauma to also cope with in their body.

In further detail, studies share that yoga is a helpful intervention for depression and anxiety disorders, which may be beneficial for survivors of trauma. Preliminary research using a model of trauma-sensitive yoga, developed by the Trauma Center at the Justice Resource Institute in Brookline, Massachusetts, has shown a reduction in severity of PTSD symptoms and frequency of dissociative symptoms, and gains in vitality and body attunement [2]. This research study showed that after 10 sessions of yoga participants exhibited statistically significant decreases in PTSD symptom severity and greater likelihood of loss of PTSD diagnosis, significant decreases in engagement in negative tension reduction activities (e.g., self-injury). The control group in this study were women, who attended the Women’s Health Seminars. They showed significantly less positive results. Trauma is something so deeply nuanced that trying to offer a one-step-method places humanity at a disadvantage. One medication cannot resolve this issue.

In a clinic, hospital members tried understanding trauma survivors’ relationship to their bodies before doing any work. They used a “body awareness scale.” Then they formed a control group, which was a patient trauma group in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). The first round of results found that the patients who were doing yoga were feeling so much better [4]. Trauma-Sensitive-Yoga revealed profound affects in the patients, which led to re-connection to the world, awareness, and healthier relationships.

As shown, several research studies have guided us towards a deeper understanding for healing. Self-healing and preservation goes beyond medical treatments. There are several combinations of works that must be done to resolve the depth of emotional damage in our bodies. Through pressed emotional damage, one must heal through the affect of yoga. Domestic violence leads to deep trauma that is stamped into our system. Therefore, engaging with yoga benefits the whole body and leads to solutions for our well-being. Yoga is a source for healing and deep self-awareness.

[1] Huecker MR, Smock W. Domestic Violence. [Updated 2019 Oct 27]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499891/

[2] Clark, C. J., Lewis-Dmello, A., Anders, D., Parsons, A., Nguyen-Feng, V., Henn, L., & Emerson, D. (2014). Trauma-sensitive yoga as an adjunct mental health treatment in group therapy for survivors of domestic violence: A feasibility study. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 20(3), 152–158. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2014.04.003

[3] Rhodes, A., Spinazzola, J., & van der Kolk, B. (2016). Yoga for Adult Women with Chronic PTSD: A Long-Term Follow-Up Study. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 22(3), 189–196. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2014.0407

[4] West, J., Liang, B., & Spinazzola, J. (2017). Trauma sensitive yoga as a complementary treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder: A qualitative descriptive analysis. International Journal of Stress Management, 24(2), 173–195. https://doi.org/10.1037/str0000040

[5] L. Stankovic (2011) Transforming Trauma: A Qualitative Feasibility Study of Integrative Restoration (iRest) Yoga Nidra on Combat-Related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. International Journal of Yoga Therapy: 2011, Vol. 21, No. 1, pp. 23-37.

Reclaim your Body through Yoga

Living in a constant fear of being hurt isn’t normal. Living in reactions isn’t healthy. Living in anxiety is painful. Living is not a force, it is a flow. A flow of energies engaging our actions.

Living in the present is beautiful, engaging, re-vitalizing and energizing. Living in modes of healing is motivating. Living in the essence of inner peace is sacred.

Living in bare awareness and existence can be challenging. We live in a world of judgement. We live in a world that lacks validation. Unfortunately, we are all a culprit to this socialization. And sometimes, it hurts me beyond words to be aware that I have done that. Being self-aware is the first step. Partaking in action is the second.

Yoga is a process of engaging life back into our body system. It is a practice to heal the deep hurt that drains our well-being. Our feelings that remain unexplained, yet cause so much pain can be identified through yoga. The feelings of a lost friendship, broken relationship or death of a loved one run so deep that mindful practice to nourish our bodies with resources is necessary. Yoga helps achieve the balance our body needs when there has been an imbalance due to trauma, toxicity or any deep emotional damage.

Trauma-sensitive yoga is a form that is specific to the needs of survivors. It promotes self-compassion and deep understanding. I am in constant healing from the trauma that has depleted and taken away my energies from me. I am trying to relieve my hurt by practicing yoga.

From the book, Overcoming Trauma through Yoga, Yogis discovered there are two primary roots for physical suffering. “One is craving and it’s many effects: greed, grasping, clinging, addiction.” The other form of trauma is aversion: fear, terror, hatred, avoidance. Yogis well aware of trauma have been able to re-establish the imbalance of fear and switch off this control. This systematically establishes feelings of well-being and re-engages the reactions and feelings towards trauma.

Trauma-sensitive yoga can replenish and guide our body towards healing. Let this bring light to your soul. Reclaim the damage that has been placed in your body. Reclaim your body.

Yoga Feminist Yoga

We live in a society where whiteness is centered. The practice of yoga is centered on whiteness. Any bodies that don’t fit within this realm are marginalized. What is the intersection between the two? As a feminist praxis, yoga can be a tool to fight for social justice that is not reproducing colonial or anti-black shadows of oppression. In a book called Yoga, the Body, and Embodied Social Change: An Intersectional Feminist Analysis, the author challenges the capitalist, Westernized form of yoga that excludes any body of color. The platform of yoga can be an exercise of serious social reformation.

It is through this exercise of mindfulness people of color can feel empowered and strengthened to move confidently. Through flow and power yoga that is inclusive and centers the bodies, beings, spirits and voices of PoC, yoga can transform the landscape of what we observe as pure exclusivity.

Through intention, reformation and guidance of folks from marginal communities, we may find justice. Justice is something we must commit ourselves to in these practices of doing and being. Peace and energy is maintained through the recognition of doing what is true and appropriate. Yoga is a communal well-being effort. It is revolutionary through collective liberation.

[1] Yoga, the Body, and Embodied Social Change: An Intersectional Feminist Analysis. Ebook.

Blurred Lines? No. Crossing Boundaries in Yoga

*Trigger warning* This article will have content that is disturbing and sensitive.

She froze. “You don’t want to create a disturbance,” Ms. Evslin said. “You’re not sure what to do. And, you’re processing everything. Like, ‘What do I say? How do I handle this?’” [1]

“The merits of the women’s statements are debated by some yogis on social media” [1].

““We assume that yoga is this big mysterious thing, we have to be spiritual to do it and if there is something we don’t understand, we’re going to trust what the teacher tells us,” said Rachel Brathen, a well-known yoga teacher” [2].

Not all of the recent scandals have been sexual; some have involved financial impropriety or the physical abuse of students. During his workshops, B. K. S. Iyengar, who died in Pune, India, in 2014, openly slapped and kicked his students while telling them, according to the Times of India, “It’s not you I’m angry with, not you I kick. It’s the knee, the back, the mind that is not listening.” [3]

“Devotion to the guru is meant to symbolize devotion to the teachings, not to the man. But in the Western context gurus become rock stars, and students compete to curry favor with them. This gives gurus significant influence over their students, which is sometimes misused.” [3]

These are a collection of situations that were voiced and shared. Several more go unreported. These represent the unethical acts involved in this practice. It also underlines the misogynistic culture that forms within the world of yoga. There is a clear power hierarchical structure with the guru at the front and students learning, but this is further reinforced as the teacher controls the actions and movements of each student. Therefore, this practice needs to be carefully taught diminishing the political dynamics that are involved. Ethical and moral ways of doing yoga are necessary to establish a healthy, natural and harmonious environment. But, the changes need to be seen, not just talked about. This means that there needs to be a shift – a major shift – in the way this practice is taught, discussed, and even shared. It is scary, honestly, how deeply rape culture runs into every segment of society. It’s challenging to inhibit these actions, when some people have learned to be the way they are from childhood. Or when society does not put consequences to these actions. Teachers, gurus and people with power continue to perpetuate the violence through their authority. And it is not just in yoga; it’s rampant all over.

Yoga is a practice to cultivate openness and peace. Therefore, the identity politics of the teachers must be the priority. There needs to be more of a knowledge sharing that comes around in learning yoga. The words, the actions, and the movement need to match.

Boundaries are clear when there is discomfort. If there is a sense of something ‘wrong,’ it usually is wrong. Due to heightened sensitivity of the ‘Me Too’ movement, we are nearing slightly more awareness. But there is still questioning involved in whether something was not okay or too much. This is due to the lack of confidence instilled in women to not question authority and to regulate themselves, rather than question what’s actually happening. This happens everywhere. And now, yoga is spreading this even more. How do we stop this? By raising more and more awareness, dreaming of a world where women are confident in their abilities and practicing yoga where it is truly sharing love, energy and flow.

Sometimes, I feel like I spewing out so many big ideas, but they seem too big. Is it wrong to be so idealistic? Through idealism and optimism, I know dreaming can result in positive change. Dreaming gives us the possibility to achieve new boundaries. Boundaries that are respected. Clarity in unity. Remain idealistic. Imagine more.

Reference [1]
Reference [2]

[3] https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/yoga-reconsiders-the-role-of-the-guru-in-the-age-of-metoo

Decolonizing Yoga

Normative whiteness. Dominant European Beauty Standards. It’s everywhere, especially where I live and practice yoga. Southern California is filled with hip peeps exotifying and trying to demystify the experience of colonization. Colonization seeps into the fabric of our society. Yoga is a constant reminder of that colonization and oppression. It represents classicism, ableism and exclusionary practice. It accentuates ‘otherness.’ As Martinez frames it, ‘otherness’ is the ability to objectify a part of self, another person, and/or a group of people that results in an imbalance of power. Yoga often erases the South Asian roots or even appropriates South Asian, Indigenous and African culture [1]. A study done in 2016 showed that Indigenous scholars have asserted that the authority to speak for or teach the knowledge belongs to its own knowledge keepers and scholars, and not to outsiders [2]. Oppressed groups are usually placed on the level of being listened to only if we frame our ideas in the language that is familiar to and comfortable for a dominant group [4]. This is how yoga has been translated into a form of a whiteness. The narrative of yoga has been co-opted by an erotic desire to control the oppressed. Yoga has turned into a site of systemic oppression. This post will go into the YOGA INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX. Sound similar to something? Prison Industrial Complex.

So, how do we practice yoga without it being marred from it’s actuality? This is through intentional and deep understanding of the practice. We have to challenge the power dynamics involved in this practice by uprooting the violence involved in doing yoga in such a superficial manner. Westernized yoga is a tool for oppression if not challenged. I asked someone who was working with me at a yoga studio what *this: Lord Ganesha* statue means and their response was, “Peace.” Nope. You’re all wrong. This is where the lines blur of respecting the authenticity behind yoga and the classicist undertones involved in appropriating it. Usually, it’s just a ton of white people leading the classes and owning the studio. Now lets mirror this onto the prison industrial complex.

The prison industrial complex accentuates the presence of racism, colonialism and slavery. Anyone deviant from the norm -white cis male, able-bodied – is a risk to normalcy. Anyone presenting deviancy from the norm is thrown into prison. Thus, instead of understanding the issues at the roots, the system further perpetuates the racism and locks them behind bars. I mean, nothing really can speak against these facts from 2016, “…people of color make up 37% of the U.S. population but 67% of the prison population. Overall, African Americans are more likely than white Americans to be arrested; once arrested, they are more likely to be convicted; and once convicted, they are more likely to face stiff sentences.” Furthermore, Angela Davis states, “imprisonment has become the response of first resort to far too many of the social problems that burden people who are ensconced in poverty. These problems often are veiled by being conveniently grouped together under the category “crime” and by the automatic attribution of criminal behavior to people of color” [5].

Westernized yoga is forming the yoga industrial complex. Have any of you heard of the Caron case that happened? To give you some background, here is a summary: Caron wrote a post on her experience as a white woman teaching a class with one black woman. “She imagines her yoga classroom not to be a space for that body or Black bodies, as she specifically states that Black students were few and far between, as were African American instructors, though she notes the “sizeable number of Asian students.”
Her description of the Black female student shifts in the post from ‘fairly heavy’ to
‘heavyset’. She felt that the African American woman’s (unspoken) “despair and resentment and then contempt” must have been directed at her presumably for being thin, white, and a regular yoga practitioner. Moreover, she describes this Black woman as hostile and understands that she, the author, would be the recipient of “racially charged anger.”’ This is abhorrent. It’s so painful to read and even more painful to visualize. This is only one instance of yoga industrial complex. It’s a form of imprisonment, not the freedom we expect to see in the landscape of yoga. Yoga industrial complex isolates anyone who does not ‘fit’ into the category of the norm. The prisoner is the one who no longer adheres to the common ground.

If challenged, yoga can turn into a landscape for revolutionary change. It can be a site to find true authenticity ONLY if it is practiced with meaning, intention, and understanding. It can be the start to seeing embodied change within folks of color, which can lead to social change. When we see folks of color transforming their healing into forms of resistance – we will see social change. For this reason, we should start pushing to understanding the way we practice yoga. Yoga is revolutionary. It begins in our body and guides us towards social change, a new kind of yoga: Feminist Yoga.

Before ending this article, I will leave you all with a quote from Pedagogy of the Oppressed: “Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world” [3].

[1] Bowers, H., & Cheer, J. M. (2017). Yoga tourism: Commodification and western embracement of eastern spiritual practice. Tourism Management Perspectives, 24, 208–216. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tmp.2017.07.013

[2] Vats, A. (2016). (Dis)owning Bikram: Decolonizing vernacular and dewesternizing restructuring in the yoga wars. Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, 13(4), 325–345. https://doi.org/10.1080/14791420.2016.1151536

[3] Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Herder and Herder, 1972. Print.

[4] Collins, P. H. (2015). Black feminist thought. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-203-90005-7

[5]https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/e7da/e879f3b3eddbe6232ae596cf2df4489ea3d9.pdf

Yoga for Mindfulness

We are a part of an ecosystem. More minutely, our bodies are ecosystems. There are resources that we must feed to our body to maintain the chain of energy. Yoga is a practice of mindfulness. It’s a practice to supply the resources we need to fuel ourselves. We must understand the resources to preserve our well-being. Thus, mindfulness is a product of yoga. Mindfulness roots from an ancient Buddhist philosophy, where one comes from a place of awareness, feelings and sensations devoid of judgement. The aim is to create a state of a freeing form of awareness, as written in Buddhist philosophy – “bare awareness” [1].

As I sifted through several research papers on mindfulness, I found so many papers defining and explaining the concept of mindfulness. I do not believe that mindfulness needs to be defined, but rather respected for the religious underpinnings. Mindfulness is a psychological model to describe specific mechanisms through which attention regulation practices may result in reducing symptoms and improving well-being [2]. Mindfulness is an individualized process of learning. It is about achieving self-awareness and accepting the involvement of several factors influencing our body. In a society with constant movement and instant gratification, we are complacent with the bombardment of resources without the thought behind what each resource means to us. We keep moving without intention or conscious understanding behind what we are doing. Instead of disrupting the constant regard of doing something productive, we let ourselves succumb to the convention of productivity. We are defined by the work that we do, not by conscious understanding of each action we take to do it. Yoga, in this sense, allows us to broaden our perspective. It helps us collect and regain the depletion of resources in our ecosystems. Educators have found that the intervention of yoga is feasible and beneficial as a method for managing stress and promoting well-being [3]. Furthermore, current findings increasingly support yoga and mindfulness as promising complementary therapies for treating and preventing addictive behaviors [5]. It helps maintain and achieve behaviors that balance our ecosystem.

Yoga and mindfulness is a form of alternative medicine therapy [4]. Yoga is an ancient tradition coming from the Sanskrit word “yoga” meaning union or one-pointed awareness [4]. Yoga practices nurture positive qualities within us, which are willpower, discipline, and self-control and force the mind and body to work synergistically. Yoga exercises may have beneficial effects as a stand-alone treatment on stress reduction and overall well-being [4]. Yoga cultivates mindfulness, a self-help practice that concentrates on training attention and awareness in order to exhibit a mental process that supports mental health well-being and mental stability.

Yoga is inspiring. It gives us oneness, completion, awareness. It gifts us with the ability to practice self-care. It gives us the energy to rectify and maintain ourselves in this constantly challenging world. It is a practice to share kindness to our own ecosystem and to fill a landscape of goodness around us. It is a form of resistance.

[1] Harvey, P. (2012). The Selfless Mind. Routeledge.

[2] Lazaridou, A., Philbrook, P., & Tzika, A. A. (2013). Yoga and Mindfulness as Therapeutic Interventions for Stroke Rehabilitation: A Systematic Review. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2013, 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/357108

[3] Harris, A. R., Jennings, P. A., Katz, D. A., Abenavoli, R. M., & Greenberg, M. T. (2016). Promoting Stress Management and Wellbeing in Educators: Feasibility and Efficacy of a School-Based Yoga and Mindfulness Intervention. Mindfulness, 7(1), 143–154. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-015-0451-2

[4] Büssing, A., Michalsen, A., Khalsa, S. B. S., Telles, S., & Sherman, K. J. (2012). Effects of Yoga on Mental and Physical Health: A Short Summary of Reviews. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012, 1–7. https://doi.org/10.1155/2012/165410

[5] Khanna, S., & Greeson, J. M. (2013). A narrative review of yoga and mindfulness as complementary therapies for addiction. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 21(3), 244–252. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2013.01.008