Confronting the Capitalist and Casteist Appropriations of Yoga with Neha Sharma

SA
One of the most visibly violent wellness spaces is the yoga industry. In the west, this is driven by white capitalists appropriating Indigenous practices for profit, fetishizing and erasing true custodians of the practice. The misinterpretation of yoga is actually a double edge sword. Historically, as a practice Indigenous to South Asia, it has been reinterpreted by upper caste Brahmins as a tool of exclusion towards the Dalit community. Accessibility to yoga is widely spoken about in a Western context in recognition of the lack of space made for Black, Indigenous and people of color in general, yet an unintended supremacy lingers in the ignorance many have towards it’s South Asian roots. From the invisibility and lack of centering South Asian practitioners to a masking of the casteist interpretations of the actual practice. What have your experiences as a South Asian yogi been like in the Western world, and what does it mean for you to engage respectfully with yoga as an Indigenous practice?

N
I could write an entire essay on this, but I’ll keep it as concise as possible. As an Indian-American yoga teacher based in NYC, I have witnessed, experienced, and encountered the blatant ongoing appropriation of yoga in every sense of the word. From studio spaces to merchandises to management, being a South Asian yogi in the western world can often feel like being a foreigner in your own home. I entered the industry three years ago and since then I’ve been taken far aback to find that I have visibly no fellow South Asian yoga teachers or students in the space. I’ve never seen a single South Asian yoga model on popular yoga apparel brand ads like Lululemon or Alo, which are typically completely washed with white women and a token Black or East Asian woman. Similarly, I’ve never seen any South Asian teachers hired to teach at those brands’ studio spaces here in NYC. I’ve been an anomaly in this industry, which I’ve always found odd as an educator of the sacred practice belonging to my own ancestors. I first started teaching in small boutique studios throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, owned and managed by white women who often knew nothing of the practice, let alone had any sense of respect for the Indigenous roots of it. One studio owner said to me once after I did a demo, “we don’t use Sanskrit here”. I thought to myself, “that is like going to church and saying, ‘we don’t say Jesus here’.” Needless to say I didn’t take the job, but somewhere between the insulting kitschy “beer yoga” and “hip hop yoga” trends, it quickly became evident how Western capitalism has violently stripped away the very essence of yoga and what it represents at its core. Western capitalism has robbed yoga of its Saucha (purity) by breaking a core philosophical principle of Asteya (non-stealing). Across the board, it’s clear that irresponsible brands getting a kick out of “Namaslay” and “Namastayinbed” have no intentions for truly embodying the cultural roots of yoga as an Indigenous practice of India. Images of the gods and goddesses I’ve grown up to praying to have become logos for their disgraceful marketing tactics. I’ve seen a Ganeshji tattooed on a non-South Asian girl’s foot — an utter sign of ignorance and disrespect. These realities have been unsettling me for years, and have filled me the same rage I feel when I think of how colonization has historically stripped Indigenous people of their identity, resources, and rich abundance for personal capital gain. I have now transmuted this rage into committing to the radical decolonization of yoga. I teach my classes with Sanskrit names for the asanas. I refuse to teach in a space that perpetuates watered down versions of the practice with trendy labels and unrelated pop fitness branding (what the hell does Cardi B have to do with yoga!?). I often take the time to illuminate the South Asian roots of yoga through my dharma talks while creating an inclusive space for all who are willing to learn with an open mind and ego-free heart. I’ve made a promise to never again work at a studio or with a company unwilling to acknowledge the Indigenous sanctity of yoga. As a South Asian teacher and practitioner, I believe it is my responsibility to engage respectfully with yoga as an Indigenous practice through action-oriented reclamation and raising my voice loudly against appropriation. *Tip* for my fellow SA teachers, an important but often overlooked place to start is to start correcting people on pronunciation. It’s not “Naaaaa-maaaa-stayyyyy”. It’s “Nam-uh-stey”. Don’t allow people to butcher our beautiful language while continuing to call themselves educators of this practice.

SA
A critique of the commodification of wellness is absolutely needed in order to sustain a practice that is genuinely focused on a deepened awakening for the Self, the Community and the Earth. Without challenging the underlying power structures of white supremacy, casteism, capitalism, the patriarchy and colonialism that often leak into wellness platforms, we are reaffirming the status quo and recreating power imbalances. How does your practice approach this idea?

N
Living in a deeply capitalist city like NYC, the commodification of wellness is so insidiously ingrained, it’s nearly impossible to disintegrate from it. It’s a constant work in progress to dig deep into the systems in place and identify the power imbalances. You can drink all the green juice in the world and wear hundreds of dollars worth of yoga leggings, but that does not make you a real yogi. The more of a pull there is towards the material possessions in the wellness industry, the farther it pulls one away from core yogic ethics like Aparigraha (non-attachment). In my personal practice, I make sure to never stop questioning what is being presented to me and how it is being presented. For example, many wellness brands recently hopped on the black square trend on Instagram in support of the “amplify melanated voices” social media campaign. Many brands completely missed the mark, posting performative content which simply reaffirmed lack of authentic reflection on true representation of Black, Indigenous and people of color in their marketing and corporate management. At this point the ignorance or alleged confusion is disingenuous because Google exists. Educators exists. There are endless resources available for those who seek true reformation. Those who are ready to learn, will in fact take the first steps to doing so. When they do, that’s when I’ll make space for them on my radar. In the meantime I continue to navigate the wellness space with just the right amount of healthy, bold skepticism and I support those who are working to dismantle the colonial structures in place. My practice is about tapping into ancestral intuition and resilience to challenge the status quo. Do not believe everything you see or hear. Keep asking the hard questions. Discomfort is how change gains momentum.

SA
How has committing to a decolonized practice of wellness allowed for an enhanced sense of your own Self?

N
It has been liberating. Each day I learn more about myself, my practice, and my purpose. I am undeniably committed to decolonization of wellness and yoga. This commitment has brought more like-minded Black, Indigenous and people of color leaders and wellness educators into my sphere, and I am happy to say I have virtually met more South Asian healers in the industry since. I believe once you sharpen your focus and find what fuels your fire, the tools for stepping into your own power will come to you. There is so much more work to be done, but I’ve discovered a new spark of hope that the decolonization process is underway and here to stay. It truly is a reclamation of Self. I am excited to be an agent for change and a medium for sharing the message.

Combining her training in alternative eastern medicine and healing with a comphrehensive background in healthcare, Neha has come to understand how mental health stressors, diseases, and chronic body pains negatively impact our lives in an increasingly demanding world plagued by external pressures. Through her work, Neha observed many gaps in the system, noticing the lack of emphasis on preventative health care. Witnessing how human behavior and lifestyle choices inevitably impact health and wellbeing at large, Neha figured it’s time to take back control over our mental and physical health without relying solely on medication and doctor visits.

The Indigeneity of Trauma Focused Yoga with Lakshmi Nair

SA
Lakshmi, Thank you so much for making time and space this afternoon to speak with me. How are you feeling? Can you describe your energy today in 5 words?

L
That’s a tough question, but I’ll try.  Lazy but productive, nostalgic, and devotional.  That’s my day today.

SA
I hope that you’ve been able to feel rested despite being productive amidst the laziness. Where are you located right now?

L
I am in (Denver, Colorado) Cheyenne, Arapaho, Ute lands. 

SA
Amazing. I first read about you and your work as I became aware of the Satya Yoga Co-Op, the US’s first yoga co-op by and for people of color that is run out of Denver. What an amazing space you have fostered and nourished. What was your journey into yoga like and how did you become involved with Satya?

L
So my journey with yoga started from childhood in the sense I think of yoga first and foremost as a spiritual connection and I think as a child it was through stories and songs and visiting temples on our visits to India and such that I would feel that connection. When I was a teenager, my dad used to wake me up early to do asana practice and meditation. We had gotten initiated into transcendental meditation. I hated it. Because he would wake me up at 4:30 am.  And then when I went to college, my roommate my freshman year was a born-again Christian and complained to the RA about my altar…said that it made her uncomfortable.  So I stopped connecting in that way at that age.  Around the time of my Saturn return, I found myself in a really bad space.  I was in an abusive marriage.  Very disassociated.  And just in a really dark place. I didn’t really see any future for myself.  And then a friend of mine started taking me to a yoga class with her.  That was in San Francisco.  That class… just brought me back to what I was familiar with already from my childhood. It brought me back in touch with my body and I think just the reminder that it gave me brought me back to prayer and connecting to Spirit.  And that really saved me.  Everything changed after that.  I felt as though a hand reached out to lift me out of this deep dark hole that I was in. I left that relationship and it took me a couple of years to get through all the legalities of that but then I decided to go to India to study yoga.  

I was there for 3 years and then started teaching here in Denver when I came back.  I came back to Denver because I grew up here and my family was here. 

I actually spent about 10 years trying to teach yoga in the Denver yoga scene and never really felt like I fit in.  Also I was experiencing microaggressions, was weary of the cultural appropriation, and the whiteness, and I saw a lot of overt systemic racism in the yoga world also and so finally after a sort of last straw type incident, I decided to leave that world and for a while I really didn’t know what to do, but then eventually I decided to try and address the lack of diversity in the yoga world by starting a teacher training for people of color.  And that was when I felt like everything clicked for me.  I finally found a space where I felt I could teach in a way that felt authentic and purposeful for me and I have been doing that ever since.  I named my teacher training Satya after my maternal grandmother. I am named after my paternal grandmother.  And also because Satya means truth and that was really what I was looking for in yoga.  After 4 years, some of my students and I formed a co-op.  I wanted to be able to help my students with their careers after they finished my training, but I always felt like after I taught them what I know and feel about yoga, I was throwing them into a pool of sharks sort of… into a world that wasn’t anything like what I was teaching them about.  So we formed the co-op to be able to help each other and to try to create different kinds of opportunities for each other. 

SA
What a moving journey you’ve had, Lakshmi. I want to hold this space to really honor + uplift you for the work you are doing alongside the community to really transform and aid liberation through holistic connection. You speak so poignantly about the commodification and appropriation that happens in the yoga industry that as people of color, particularly South Asian practitioners, feel often sidelined by. It’s rife and it can be so overwhelming and off putting and really stunt one’s healing journey. Lately at Studio Ānanda, we’ve been thinking through not only the western appropriation of yoga but also how within the structures of yoga itself there lies inherent casteism and discrimination against South Asian communities labeled undignified for the practice. When I began reading more into this double edged sword, I myself had to pause and really contemplate who I was learning from, their intentions and agendas, how caste was being reenacted within the practice itself. But the one thing that keeps drawing me back to my practice, and you mention this briefly above, is how monumental a yoga practice can be in reconnecting those of us who are disassociated. Can you speak a little about what a trauma focused yoga practice is? Why is a practice of yoga so effective when healing from PTSD and other trauma conditions?

L
Yes, I really feel what you said about casteism and needing to question and interrogate the tradition too when it is tied up with so many cultural oppressions like casteism and patriarchy. Brahminical patriarchy to be specific.  And (sorry…I know I’m veering off topic but I will come back to the trauma-informed bit).  It’s hard to separate what has been truly helpful and healing for me personally from all of these cultural oppressions that I absolutely don’t believe in or want to support.  A big part of my healing was also to understand how did I end up in a an abusive relationship and how did I accept so many unacceptable behaviors and treatment…and so I had to interrogate my upbringing and the patriarchy that conditioned me to accept all that and that created the conditions for that kind of abuse.  Even if yoga came from my culture and helped me to heal and gave me strength, it was still the patriarchy of my culture that stole my strength.  So both of those things exist in our culture.  There is tremendous oppression in South Asian cultures but I feel that spirituality…true Indigenous spirituality is always healing… it is what enables people to survive.  So I have come to believe that what is truly life affirming about yoga is indigenous wisdom that has been co-opted and twisted by Brahmanical patriarchy.  I believe Brahmanical patriarchy is a colonizing force within South Asian culture just like white supremacy is here.  So back to trauma-informed yoga….I think that “trauma informed” is just a new terminology, but that indigenous healing practices are inherently trauma informed.   It means meeting everyone where they are…being exceedingly gentle with ourselves, understanding that we have been through so much in this world that beats us down for all kinds of reasons…for being indigenous, for being women, for being queer, for being Black, for being poor, etc.  It’s about acknowledging and understanding those oppressions that harm our bodies, minds, and spirits.  I also think in terms of physical practice…it is about slowing down, connecting to our breath which is the bridge to Spirit, and slowing down our breath to be able to tap into the frequency of nature/God/Spirit…whatever you want to call it.  But that frequency is the indigenous frequency…that is the slow/relaxed pace of life that indigenous peoples have always been in tune with except when they aren’t allowed to be in that frequency because of colonization.  I feel like I’m blabbing! Hope I’m making sense.  Just kind of going with the stream of consciousness. 

SA
You’re making so much sense, and actually really helping me synthesize a lot of the things I have been thinking about but haven’t found the words for. Firstly, the naming of Brahminacal patriarchy is so crucial and I absolutely agree with you that where white supremacy is the pioneering oppression in the west, in South Asia – what we are dealing with is Brahmin fascism. 

Secondly – yes!!! By way of living in the imperialist, white supremacist, patriarchal + colonized ‘modern’ world, we are all living with varying levels of trauma. Non white people experience the brunt of this trauma in the way that we carry it in our bodies intergenerationally. When I first began attending yoga sessions in spaces that were white dominated, as someone who lived with childhood sexual abuse, I didn’t realize that I was being triggered when doing some poses and positions. The fast pace and focus on flexibility was something that I really struggled with as someone who was so dissociated from my own body. I actually had to stop attending in studio sessions altogether and began finding practitioners of color online who prioritized what I understood as a trauma sensitive approach to yoga, which – yes, you’re so right, is just an inherently Indigenous approach to healing. 

Do you think that the mainstream approach to yoga as one that overlooks the burdens each body carries is necessary for the replication of status quo to continue in the westernization of the practice? Why is it that a trauma sensitive approach to yoga is not as popular, is this just another symptom of the devaluing and disregard of Indigenous knowledge?

L
I think so, yes. I definitely feel like the overemphasis on yoga for fitness and getting a “yoga body” is colonized yoga.  The emphasis in yogasana should be self-awareness and opening up and clearing energy channels.  It’s not that physically demanding rigorous yoga is not authentic yoga.  Certainly there is that type of traditional practice.  I have heard some people say that they need movement and to work hard to be able to focus their minds and slow down their minds.  And I think that is probably true for some people.  I have actually had folks feel really uncomfortable sometimes with the really slow pace of the trauma sensitive classes that I teach.  It brings up a restlessness that they are not able to sit with.  And I don’t want to devalue anyone’s experience.  I am not sure if rigorous asana classes are a distraction or whether they could possibly be a way of providing focus and concentration for some people.   I think it could be both and it probably depends on how it is taught.  I think physically demanding classes, if taught with awareness and focus could still be therapeutic for some people.  But that said, that is the predominant style and I don’t think it suits everyone…maybe not even most people.  Especially people who have been traumatized in ways where they don’t feel in control of their own bodies, as you shared, and which is the case for most women, femmes, queer, and BIPOC peoples.  I think for a lot of us, we really need to feel like we can be in control and make choices about how long we want to stay in a pose.  And exercise-oriented yoga doesn’t offer a lot of space for individual agency within the class.  That is how formal Trauma-Sensitive Yoga is different from mainstream yoga classes.   I think about Ayurveda…how there are different constitutions and what suits one may not suit another…but that too is part of our indigenous wisdom is that we do have a variety of practices for all the different needs.  And that it is really about allowing people to tap into what their body needs.  I think what is colonizing about the way Western yoga is usually taught is that it treats all human bodies as if they were the same or based on some idealized human body.  Western medicine is like that too.  That is generally the colonized approach.  I think the indigenous approach respects the vast diversity of creation while maintaining a grounding in the underlying Unity.  The colonized viewpoint is kind of the opposite.  It doesn’t respect diversity and treats us all according to some “norm” and “others” us if we don’t fit that norm. 

SA
The one size fits all model of healing truly needs to be eradicated. Thank you for sharing, Lakshmi. Before we end – what are a few things that are helping you feel grounded during this time? Whether it be a routine, a ritual, a meal or something you’re reading?

L
Just being at home more has actually been very grounding for me… I’m slowly getting to organizing my house, I’m cooking more, I’m getting more rest, and am able to take care of myself more… I am oiling my hair once a week, taking some classes that I’ve always wanted to take… am taking a kalaripayittu class from Australia through zoom and also am taking an astrology course.  And all this because the pace of life has slowed down so much…before I was so busy and always running around but never had time for myself. It’s that slow more indigenous pace of life that creates so much spaciousness.  I’m really trying to take advantage of it.  So that all the other hard things… the sad things don’t get me down.  

Lakshmi Nair is a proud member-owner and co-founder of Satya Yoga Co-op, the first BIPOC owned and operated yoga co-op in the country. She is a yoga educator of South Asian descent, engaged in reclaiming the resilience and resistance of her ancestral tradition of yoga and creating spaces for herself and others to authentically engage with the practices of yoga for self and collective healing and liberation.

Ayurveda and the Subversion of Brahmanism with Navi Gill

SA
I’m so glad our timelines could finally align for this, Navi. Where are you located right now and can you describe how your spirit is feeling in a few words?

N
Me too! I am speaking to you from Vancouver BC, specifically Surrey BC which is the unceded land of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil Waututh people. And my spirit has been feeling beautiful today, light, clear and connected to the source.

SA
Lovely. It’s a real joy knowing that you are feeling clarity, especially as we approach the end of the year. 

I discovered your practice earlier this month, when you were circulating your ‘No Farmers’ graphics around Instagram. What prompted the presentation of this information, and can you perhaps speak more to how the wellness industry is complicit in the oppression of farmers throughout India and the world?

N
I am so glad that so many people found that graphic resonant, whenever I create something it’s like a very strong message from spirit and there’s this need to speak it out in some way. I never had any idea it would blow up or that people would even care but I looked at the industry that I happen to work in which is growing so quickly, every single day, and everyone is coming in at different levels and sometimes I forget to simplify things. In this case I just thought about what it is that people will connect to to relay the greater message. The wellness industry is no different than any other industry where white supremacy exists and where capitalism and corporations exist. I had said that the wellness industry is not exempt from creating harm just because there is good intentions. There are many ways but starting with the extraction and appropriation of deeply spiritual practices from other cultures, people and traditions and the gatekeeping of them. White people being self-proclaimed experts and the rest of the world going along with it, allowing them to create the opportunities, profits, the industry standards, the rules, minimizing the value of many practices where people from those places were persecuted, killed, silenced and unable to practice these medicines, these practices. There was/is no acknowledgement of the colonization of wellness until now where BIPOC are finally just taking up space and reclaiming, we don’t need certifications and external validation (especially from White folks) to prove/tell us about the wisdom we carry in our bones, in our cells, in our breath, in our DNA that comes from our lineages and land. 

SA
I am nodding my head ecstatically in agreement – yes to all of this! I really admired the way you were able to articulate the above appropriation and responsibility folks have to the ancestral lands of their practices. It’s still really striking to me that the ongoing farming protests have received such minimal media coverage, and that wellness spaces are carrying on as usual – particularly white dominated yoga and ayurvedic spaces. There’s such a disconnection and dissociation that exists there which really emphasizes how individualistic and spiritually void some of these spaces can be – which is antithetical to the indigenous roots of the practice.

How did you get into ayurveda and being a practitioner?

N
Ahh it’s kind of a long-ish story but I will give you a summary. TBH it was a remembering for me of something I have known my whole life or looked for my whole life but I didn’t have the language for. Most of my life something felt missing, like everyone had a purpose except me and I was constantly trying to find an example of someone doing what I wanted to do and didn’t have that. When I was 23, my Nana Ji suddenly passed away and that was when everything broke open for me and I think I saw the fragility or… impermanence of life so clearly and nothing I was trying to fit into or follow from the outside world mattered. In my grief I had permission to say fuck it, and I went deep into that grief and like all the grief and anger I held my whole life, but didn’t feel, I had permission to feel or express: it came out in a big way. I went to India at the end of that year for my Nanas last rites and I was in Kerala on a very impromptu trip with some of my family and I saw people practicing Ayurveda, I saw, felt, smelled, touched, tasted the plants and herbs and I remember the exact moment where my spirit just felt electrified and this… whoosh when I realized this was it, what I was looking for. Since then I have been studying Ayurveda, I became a practitioner of Ayurveda bodywork, Yoga, i even threw “life coaching” in there because at the time there was no space or place to practice or learn Ayurveda that was accessible and people didn’t really know wtf it was so I was like maybe coaching will be a way to have a practice that would serve as an umbrella (but again that was me trying to fit into a mould of playing small created by whiteness).

The last three years have been pivotal in just claiming that space and acknowledging that the knowledge and wisdom I carry is a blessing from my ancestors and I can choose how I want to heal, how I want to work, how I want this work to look and it’s very clear that it’s for my people, it’s for BIPOC and it is ever evolving but without being apologetic or feeling like I don’t know enough or what I do know isnt of value. Rediscovering Ayurveda and this ancestral work is a blessing from my Nana, a gift he gave me from the ancestral plane. 

SA
Mm what a beautiful journey – not one that’s been easy with the passing of your Nana, yet one that is inherently yours and transcendentally passed onto you. 

I only recently found my way to Ayurveda. While bits and pieces of the system have been scattered throughout my upbringing, as Tamil Christians, my family always strayed away from getting too heavily involved in anything considered too ‘traditional’ as it was also considered sacrilegious. Since being on my own healing journey though, Ayurveda has proved to be the most holistic, most sense making therapy for me. Although, I have been a little bit conflicted about practicing lately since learning about caste based violence that is inherent in systems of Ayurveda and Yoga. Mainly thinking about how purity laws have been used by upper caste Brahmins to further marginalize lower caste communities, how dharma and karma teachings have become misinterpreted to label Dalit communities as ritualistic impure based off past lives etc. And then looking at how the BJP and fascism in general in the subcontinent is on the rise – it makes practicing these traditions a little bit sticky and uncomfortable for me. 

How do you, if at all, think about moving around and through these violences? How do we reclaim our indigenous practices in ways that aren’t erasing lower caste histories? 

N
Well, I think what makes it easier for me is being a Panjabi Sikh womxn in this space, I already know that the purist think I shouldn’t be practicing this and that used to play a big part in me feeling insecure about putting my work out there. I didn’t grow up with any inkling of this knowledge being practiced around me and I didn’t discover a lot of yoga, pranayam, sadhana practices until I came into the Art of Living. I needed that community to learn and experience those things because I had no other way of accessing the knowledge. Eventually my relationship changed because I started to become acutely aware that in those spaces, I stood out. I was not represented. I was not seen in many ways because my identity was different from most others who happened to be hindu or from backgrounds where they were ok adopting those traditions and practices. I feel there’s so many layers to this question so I’m going to do my best to articulate. 

What fuels me to learn, practice and share is that my identity allows me to bring this knowledge to the people who its been kept away from. I believe it is our birthright to be well and my ancestors and Gurus put me here to be that bridge because I am so deeply connected to my own heritage, my own spiritual path that I can’t simply just fall into this structure created by Brahminism. My wellness and purpose expands and lives for my people. I think also because it is something that has always been innate, to want equity for all people it’s hard for me to explain, my brain and spirit says why the fuck not? Why would all people not be able to have this, to experience wellness, to be liberated, to have sovereignty. I think that probably pisses a lot of people off who have put themselves on these pillars and here’s the thing about decolonizing this work- first we deal with the white supremacy and get into our own people, and there we have the other beast which is Brahmin patriarchy. That second part is where we are collectively at now and working on dismantling. I truly feel like it’s the perfect time and I have been preparing for it for the last decade because now there’s space to speak about these things, everyone else who doesn’t fall into that group is done with being oppressed and we are coming together, finally.  Oh and to answer the last part, I ensure I am informed, I am advocating for marginalized communities and people and through my privilege I create connections, resources, give this knowledge to communities that need it and will always prioritize that and no one can tell me shit really.

SA
This makes so much sense. I think it’s such a fugitive, subversive act to be a South Asian who has historically been excluded to then come and take up a space that primarily focuses on transformative action. It’s so powerful, Navi, and I can really feel your passion and your fire as we have this conversation. 

N
Haha well I am literally burning up as I write this so I’m glad it’s coming through.

SA
What advice might you have for South Asians who are similarly unsure about their place when it comes to our Indigenous practices. Do you have any tips for folks like me, who understand the profoundly healing tenets of Yoga and Ayurveda, but are hesitant to engage in order to avoid complicity?

N
Forge your own path, I am a believer that a lineage is important to have and trusted teachers but don’t let anyone keep you in the box or dependant on them. A true teacher leads you to where you step into your own unique purpose and create what you came here to create. The old paradigm of groupthink and someone else deciding what is right for the collective is gone. I have never fit into most groups and even in my spiritual community I always shook shit up because I asked questions, I used critical thinking and also listened to my spirit to know what was right for me and what was fed to me. It takes time, everything comes at its own time but as long as we remember that we are sovereign, we are worthy of being well and having access to tools to bring us greater health, wealth and wellbeing then we will get there. And be authentic, don’t try to do things that are not you especially if you want to teach or be a wisdom carrier, and that requires a lot of self work, a lot of healing, a lot of discernment, just work period. I find because spirituality is suddenly cool, everyone wants to bypass the work and be a healer but it doesn’t work that way. Embodiment is key and the blessings of your ancestors.

SA
Thank you, Navi. It’s so important to remember that we all have nuanced needs and desires that can really only be actualized through contemplation and interrogation. It’s exciting to think about the future of what our practices might look like, and so comforting knowing that folks like you are leading this new wave. 

As we come to the end of this discussion, and to the end of the year (!!) what are a few things that you’ve come back to this year to help you stay grounded? 

N
This question always makes me emotional because I can think of all the moments where I experienced being more grounded and nourished and for me it’s a few things- ritual, my sadhana- breathwork/pranayam, some form of movement and meditation, praying- prayed my ass off this year, writing, physical acts of self care like abhyanga, oiling my hair, massaging my face every night, sleeping more,music, crying, tea and a good pastry or cookie always helps, going into the forest or getting sun whenever I could but I would love to do more, and listening to my inner voice, and giving myself permission to honour its needs. 

Navdeep (Navi) Gill is an Ayurvedic practitioner, therapist  and educator specializing in lifestyle consulting, Marma Chikitsa therapy, foundational Panchakarma bodywork. 

She helps clients and community experience holistic wellness and gain autonomy over their well being through her ancestral medicine practices.  She has been learning and practicing Ayurveda and yoga since 2011, her work focuses on decolonizing, reclaiming and connecting BIPOC to ancestral wisdom and ritual as a form of self care.