Yoga teachers, meditation teachers and ayurveda practitioners have a duty to support India in this time of COVID-19 because we are practicing practices that come from India. For many of us living abroad (and in-country in India), yoga has supported us to heal, refresh and renew and inspired us to share this practice with our local communities, teach workshops, run retreats, teach face-to-face and online PLUS earn regular income. The yoga industry has exploded and is globally worth $88 billion worldwide, as reported by Wellness Creative Co. In Australia, yoga has become mainstream and now regularly offered in gym chains. Market Watch shows that Lululemon has made $4.4B this year and we have not even hit end of financial year. What does this mean? It means, globally we are profiting from yoga and yoga has collectively supported us in some way, shape or form and why yoga has been exponentially growing.
For many people in India, the growth of yoga is painful because of generational trauma and incredible violence experienced in colonisation when people from India were told not to practice yoga by white people because of white supremacy and this idea that ‘My culture is better than yours. Don’t practice yoga.’ …and yet now it is a billion dollar industry in the west. If you are teaching yoga and don’t know about the history of yoga or colonisation of India and the trauma experienced by many yoga practitioners, you need to do more research and be informed. The history of yoga has not always been about love and light.
I speak to friends in India who are really proud that yoga is global and others feel so angry because of the generational trauma and hypocrisy of the yoga ‘industry’ and history and others who don’t know about the benefits of yoga. I am Melanesian and Indigenous from PNG with my great grandfather who was Malayan Indian. I get it. To feel conflicted – both proud and angry. And part of why I feel called to talk about this.
Part of the teachings and practice of yoga include this ability to look beyond our own yoga mat and our own personal peace.
When does yoga start?
To me, it is when we leave the mat and how we interact and engage with the world. It would be convenient to ignore the tragedy of COVID-19 in India which is happening right now, after all, India is a world away and does not affect us immediately. However, this has been weighing on me because it is a form of cultural appropriation which means to take from one culture, without any thought to the history and the lineage of yoga, or the local culture. To gloss over COVID-19 in India is a form of abuse and what I believe to be away from yogic living and what it is to lead in the yoga, meditation or ayurveda space.
I would love to see the big yoga chains and studios, like Lululemon, genuinely get behind supporting India. Donate some of the billions of revenue dollars. The silence from leaders and teachers in the ‘wellness’ space is deafening, frustrating and shows privilege and disregard for this practice and the history of yoga. In my mind, yoga is not about fancy clothes, how flexible you are, beautiful locations, how physically strong you are or how great you look in the yoga studio doing the splits. A key part of this practice is this ability to receive the gifts of yoga, healing internal wounds, cultivate peace … and also the ability to soften the heart to be able to love and open the eyes to see what is happening.
Can the yoga community give back to this country and practice which has gifted the world with so much?
If you would like to support India, you can. There are ways to do this. One way is through donating to Unicef India. Another way is to host donation classes. There are many initiatives out there. You can also lead meditation classes with your community for India.
I appreciate people may not want to give money because you never know where or how the funds will be allocated. However, I encourage you to reach out to your friends, family and local community members who are from India and perhaps can recommend credible organisations to donate to.