Music: 00:05
[Intro Music]

Sarah Dittmore:00:05
Hi friends. My name is Sarah, and you’re listening to the beginner’s mind, a podcast about all things yoga ish. So I just finished relistening to the episode for today and I am so excited about it. It was really such an engaging and interesting conversation and I learned so much about this topic of yoga and we’ll dive into what that means throughout the episode. But it’s something that I went into with a very particular opinion. You know, I always thought these yoga and classes, yoga and goats, yoga and drinking, yoga and weed whatever, we’re fine. You know, I didn’t really have anything against them. I thought they were a fun way to play with the practice. And, and before leading up to this conversation, I was doing some reflecting and researching and started to kind of shift my perspective. And this conversation that you’re about to listen to really was kind of the turning point for me of, of recognizing that perhaps, uh, they’re not as fine as I once believed. So we’re going to dive into that today with the hosts of yoga is dead. A podcast that most of you have probably heard of. Um, the hosts, Tejal and Jesal were awesome and brought so much to the table. So a little bit about them if you don’t already know both, uh, both women yoga teachers here in New York city and Jesal is a yoga teacher who combines ancient wisdom and cutting edge research in a way that makes sense for modern life. And she teaches a yoga and mindful practice unlike any other. As for Tejal, she specializes in private prenatal and semi-private yoga sessions designed to meet the physical and emotional and wellness needs of each of her students and to gather they host yoga is dead, which is a revolutionary podcast that explores power, privilege, fair pay, harassment, race, cultural appropriation and capitalism in the yoga and wellness worlds. At the end of the episode, they’ll talk a little bit about how can you can connect with them, but all the links are in the show notes below and I’m really excited for you to hear their perspective on this conversation. So let’s dive in and let’s get curious.

Music: 02:30
[Transition Music]

Sarah Dittmore: 02:38
I am here today with Tejal and Jesal. And we’re going to talk a little bit about the yoga and culture. So to start, I want you guys to just maybe introduce yourselves and tell me a little bit about who you are.

Jesal Parikh: 02:51
Sure. I’m Jesal and I, you know, just in terms of the yoga world, I started practicing yoga, you know, like after I graduated college, before that, my only exposure to yoga was like a Hindu camp. And when I started practicing, I found all these benefits of yoga. And so I decided to become a teacher and I started teaching in 2010. And currently I focus on teaching one-on-ones though I’ve taught a lot of group classes in the past. And, um, you know, I’ve done like lots of trainings, like a lot of teachers I think, who’ve been in the game for awhile. Um, I’ve done, you know, a month long program in India where I stayed at an ashram. I did a 300 hour Vinyasa training in New York. I’ve done two anatomy trainings. I’ve done other movement… yoga movement trainings, um, including FRC. Um, I’ve done, you know, meditation courses and mentorships with in meditation and a prenatal training. So lots of different trainings. And then I also, um, have taught in several teacher trainings and I’m currently upcoming, I’m teaching in a prenatal training and I’m teaching, um, for a therapeutics training. So yoga therapeutics, um, Maha mama is the prenatal training and Pramod therapeutics is the therapeutic training. And then I’ve done various other things in the yoga world. I’ve, uh, I teamed up with Sophie Griffiths in 2019 to create the “19 Women of Color to Watch in the Yoga World.” Um, I am part of a yoga nonprofit at this moment and um, I, you know, I do this podcast and I’m working on creating more digital content in terms of like the business of marketing or the business of yoga and the marketing of yoga and also more digital content for movement resources and education.

Sarah Dittmore: 04:34
Well, that’s really, I didn’t know you were into the whole business and marketing side of it too. I’m interested to talk about that at another time. It’s another topic I want to address. It’s what I did my undergraduate and I did marketing in my undergraduate and I worked in market research for several years and then I decided it wasn’t for me. And now sort of come back around to marketing. Yeah. I mean it’s a necessary part of the industry, but, but that’s for another day. I won’t go down that rabbit hole. Yeah. And so, uh, and then Tejal and you want to tell us a bit about you?

Tejal Patel: 05:08
Sure. My introduction to yoga was actually when I was growing up and it was first through spirituality and scripture. I had only practiced Asana like a few times before my first teacher training. And that teacher training happened in 2012 while I was living in New York. And I’m originally, I’m from the Metro Detroit area, but through work and through school, I just made my way over to New York and that led me on my journey to teaching. So eventually after that first teacher training, I then got more teacher trainings under my belt. Um, and then more of my personal stories are in the podcast. But today I teach group Vinyasa classes in Manhattan. I have several private clients and I offer, uh, retreats in a variety of workshops and special programs. So some of my trainings are from Vinyasa restorative prenatal trainings to an advanced Hatha training where I did in India. And then a few other specialty topics. So outside of teaching in the studio and privately each summer I offer free yoga classes in partnership with the battery Conservancy, like one of the largest parks in Manhattan. Um, I offer prenatal yoga and I’m a peer mentor for my teacher, Juliana Mitchell’s prenatal trainings. Um, my retreats and workshops have focused on female pelvic floor health, race-based traumatic stress injury and um, POC and allies, community based mindfulness practices. And on top of this podcast, um, I organize a community called the ABCD Yogi, which stands for any born conscientious. They see Yogi and those are a lot of words to describe. Um, they see person who is someone with roots from the South Asian diaspora and someone who has ties to yoga and mindfulness. So this community is like, it’s an international hub where folks can learn from they see practitioners and where they see folks can organize and connect. So that’s kind of what’s going on.

Sarah Dittmore: 07:09
Yeah. And it was actually through that, um, community that I came up with this topic. You guys posted a post on there about yoga and, and I was reading all the comments and I had a very strong opinion that was very pro. The yoga and culture. And reading those comments really made me realize there was something I needed to learn in a conversation that needed to happen. So that’s why I invited you both on today. But before we get there, can you tell me a little bit about how the two of you got involved working together and about this podcast that you do?

Jesal Parikh: 07:40
Absolutely. Um, the podcast and us working together exist because we were both having these like bizarre, traumatic on professional and like really unbelievable experiences. Like we would come back and tell our friends and our partners the stories that happened. They’re like, why is going on in this industry? Um, and so Tejal sort of thought it would be really interesting and eye opening and, and entertaining for people to hear about it. Then we came up with this idea of doing a podcast and then, and working on this project, we realized that we actually wanted to make the industry a better place and that we wanted to make it a more inclusive place to be a student and a teacher. And so it sort of changed our mission around why and how we do the podcast.

Tejal Patel: 08:27
Yeah. And then our, our mission as it changed became, um, a way to jumpstart these critical conversations, which, um, you can find them on Instagram or Facebook where people are engaging with what we’re talking about, a way to elevate people who feel oppressed and really what we like to say is expose the yoga monsters lurking under the mat. Um, so what that all really boils down to is that we want to see improvements on so many friends in the yoga community, in the studio space and the culture around the way we yoga in the Western world. Um, the way the students approach yoga and are offered yoga and the way the teachers really approach yoga and offer their yoga, and then what we find so valuable through our work and then offering in our podcast is how to offer resources to do so. Um, so we try to be as thorough as possible with a resource list and a tip sheet on how to take action.

Sarah Dittmore: 09:20
That’s awesome. And that’s really why I wanted to talk to the two of you is I felt that with that mission and with that perspective, you’d be able to bring a different view to this, um, this conversation than the one that I already know and have. So I’m excited to dive into that. And I think I’ve said yoga and about 20 times. So what does that mean? What does yoga and even mean? What am I talking about when I say yoga and culture?

Jesal Parikh: 09:44
Essentially the yoga and culture is about gimmicks the gimmicks. It’s about the gimmicks that yoga businesses use to market themselves to create a differentiating experience and to drive their sales.

Sarah Dittmore: 09:55
Okay. So what would some examples be of that?

Jesal Parikh: 09:58
So it’d be yoga and paddle boarding, yoga and goats, yoga and beer, yoga and being naked, yoga and weed, yoga and there’s like an endless, endless list…

Tejal Patel: 10:13
Yoga and lemurs.

Jesal Parikh: 10:15
Yes, yoga and lemurs

Tejal Patel: 10:17
Here on our, our uh, next episode, the opener is us just listing off yoga and things or like these gimmicky types of yoga. So it’ll be, it’ll be fun for you Sarah to hear that.

Sarah Dittmore: 10:29
It will be, it will be because it’s a long list there. There are a lot out there. Um, and so what I guess would you guys say if you had to lump it together, is, is yoga and culture a net positive or a net negative?

Jesal Parikh: 10:46
That’s an interesting question. I think there is always going to be the yoga and culture and so like taking the Yogi’s kind of point of view, I don’t think it’s totally positive or totally negative. Right. And I don’t know if it nets out, but in the way that we’ve seen it play out in some instances, some instances are really negative and so those tend to stand out. Whereas I don’t know if the positive ones stand out as much.

Sarah Dittmore: 11:12
Yeah, that makes sense. Like if it’s done in a positive, thoughtful way, it probably doesn’t make the news or get everyone’s attention or like we’re not thinking about it as much because it’s being done in a way that’s positive.

Jesal Parikh: 11:23
Exactly. Or it just like becomes the next evolution of yoga.

Sarah Dittmore: 11:26
So what is, what is so problematic about, you know, this, this yoga and culture, these gimmicks? Like what is the negative side of it or…?

Jesal Parikh: 11:34
Okay. I think what, when we’re talking about yoga and the first thing we want to be really clear about is like, is this anything happening during the practice of yoga? If it’s happening during the practice of yoga as opposed to before or after. It’s kind of a different thing. Like if it’s, you know, you do yoga and then afterwards you have a drink together that’s very different than like drinking during the practice. Right. Um, so we just want to be clear that when we talk about yoga and we’re talking about things that are happening during the practice, and then I think the, the problems arise sort of on three friends. And the very first level of, of problems that we see is on the level of safety. And so when we, again, when we are talking about something like drunk yoga, is it safe to be drinking during a movement practice? Is it safe to have a glass bottle balancing in your hand while you’re trying to balance? Like probably not, right? Um, is it safe even on an emotional level to be associating yoga with alcohol? Like I’m not so sure. So there’s that. And then like when it comes to goat yoga, right? We’re talking about potentially adding something like 40 pounds of load to oppose… Like, if you’re in plank, you have 40 extra pounds in plank and maybe you’re trying to lower down to chaturanga. Like that’s supposed people struggle with any way with their own body weight, let alone adding, uh, now on farm animal to their, to the load. So on that level of safety, um, it’s very problematic. And if we look at other places in the fitness world, like we can see like it’s not an… we don’t include these things because it’s not good for the practice, right? We’re not seeing goat plots or go bootcamp or, or draw or drunk, you know, Zumba it’s just not happening.

Tejal Patel: 13:23
I personally wouldn’t want to be in a yoga class worried about kicking a goat, like or knocking over a pint glass and shards of glass hitting someone because that’s something that could very easily happen in a, in a gimmicky type of yoga class. Um, and then we talked about there being three issues. So the first one we just talked a little bit about the safety issues around it. Um, the second big problem is that we want yoga to be a mindful practice. I think the original intention is majorly about mindfulness within and cultivating it around you in the spaces that you live and exist in. So if yoga is about being mindful, how can we justify that this type of class is adding more mindfulness. And that’s really the second kind of test you could ask yourself, is this gonna increase my level of mindfulness? Is this going to, um, offer me a space in which to dive deeper into my personal practice rather than this extraneous distraction type of practice. So it’s pretty clear that a lot of these gimmicky types of yoga classes don’t consider that to be an important aspect of the practice. Yeah. So we just need to kind of rein it in.

Jesal Parikh: 14:37
Like truthfully, we’re distracted all the time. And so for learning how to cultivate mindfulness is like trying to learn in a distracted environment really the right way to learn.

Sarah Dittmore: 14:49
Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s interesting because that’s something that, you know, my mom and I, I’ve been doing some research about these different fads and going to different of these classes to kind of see what it’s all about and get my own kind of perspective on it. And we went to a goat yoga class to see what that was like is definitely the one I was most attracted to. Because I’m such like an animal person. And I was like, Oh, I can totally see why this is a thing. And what came up for us was sort of this feeling of like we hardly did any yoga. We mostly played with goats and, and so it was, it was interesting though talking, cause what I’m, what I’m curious about with this mindfulness aspect is like when I was talking to the person who was teaching it, her argument was that on the flip side you are very much practicing like being in the moment because it is so like with the goats for example, it is so unpredictable and it is so kind of, you know, there’s so much happening around you that’s beyond just um, your practice that you’re used to doing. And so there’s sort of this mindfulness of being like everyone’s very engaged in what’s happening with the room and with the animals. And I don’t know, I don’t know if that’s a valid argument or not, but it was an interesting perspective.

Jesal Parikh: 16:05
I would just say to that like, did you walk away with, um, a method, a technique, right? Any, any sort of tool that helped you to then reapply that mindfulness in another part of your life?

Sarah Dittmore: 16:21
No, that’s a really good point. And that’s something my mom and I both talked about and something the, um, person talked about is you don’t get a lot of like, repeat attendees. It’s more of like a fun one time thing to do and experience, but you don’t like, you’re not going to become a hardcore goat Yogi.

Jesal Parikh: 16:36
Right. And like, I think that there’s, there’s like sort of a difference between like practicing yoga all the time in life and then like going to a class to learn the technique and method on how you can be a more focused individual. Right. And so a yoga class is a place, hopefully where you should learn the tools and techniques and if you’re not learning those tools and techniques, like what’s the point of going to a class? You could just like hang out in life and try to be more present.

Tejal Patel: 17:04
Yeah. We don’t actually think there’s any harm in going to a go heading movement class. But if you’re adding the word yoga to it and you’re, you’re personally walking with feeling like, Oh, I don’t think I did yoga, I did the goat thing. But, uh, I think it begs the question like, why are you calling it one thing but doing another,

Sarah Dittmore: 17:22
Which sort of brings us to our third problem, which is the problem of appropriation. And that’s, are you practicing this thing in a way that respects the cultural context in which it was developed and codified? And so if we look to spiritual practices, yoga seems to be somehow like holding an exception in people’s places in terms of, in terms of white washing, right? Like we don’t tend to treat other spiritual practices the same way that treat yoga. We don’t, you know, you don’t see go Christianity, go Buddhism, go Islam. Like why is that? Right? And, and certainly even if some gimmicks apply, it certainly not with the extent and Liberty that we seem to take with yoga. Um, so somehow people feel like yoga is this thing that they can just do whatever they want with. And it doesn’t really matter where it came from or, or the people who like grew up with these beliefs.

Tejal Patel: 18:12
I think about that. I think about that because of, um, yoga and the West came up very much with hippy culture and in hippie culture it’s like a free spirited, don’t question, do whatever you want, but they’re not the same. It’s a structured spiritual discipline to practice yoga. So I think we need to separate out what it is we’re doing and what it is we tied it to in the West.

Sarah Dittmore: 18:37
Something I think about a lot because in my life, you know, I personally think of yoga as a very, you know, individual personal practice. And so I think the argument you hear a lot is, you know, if it’s my personal yoga, like what if I want to bring these different elements of my life or my community into it? And so I’m wondering where yogis need to kind of recognize that line of doing that in a way that is culturally aware and not appropriating.

Jesal Parikh: 19:08
Well, I think it goes back like what you just said, cultural awareness is like the key phrase because there is no cultural awareness, right? If you’re, if you’re cultivating cultural awareness then you don’t, you find that balance of like I want to adapt it to my lifestyle but still be respectful and much more easily. But the problem is, in modern yoga we don’t have any cultural awareness. There’s no, none whatsoever. Right. And so I think it becomes more clear if we do the research and we do the study and we spend time understanding the culture like, Oh, maybe this doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Tejal Patel: 19:45
Yeah. And then people will start to consider I think a little further. What is their business justification for exhibiting the cultural aspects that they care about the yoga practice and not all, not all of it, or not providing a full picture of the context and history of their practice. Is it just to sell something that they think is cool that they think is going to be accepted? Or is it really to promote the practice in a way that feels authentic to what they spend time learning and getting certified to do? I always wonder about that too.

Jesal Parikh: 20:19
Like in this industry, it’s very, it’s very confused because like we insist that yoga is a spiritual practice. It is, but like as a group collectively, we’re like, no, it’s a spiritual practice. So it doesn’t, we shouldn’t have to have the same education as like other fitness or movement practices. And then on the other hand, it’s operated primarily through for profit businesses. Right? We’re not, we’re not like opening up nonprofit religious centers for people to come and learn yoga. It’s like for profit businesses. And so the justification becomes, well, if you know, this is just marketing, I just need to market my business. Yeah.

Sarah Dittmore: 20:56
Yeah. And it feels almost like in, you know, modern Western and particularly American yoga, it is that spiritual side. It’s almost used as like a, something to set you apart from your competition, right? To say like, Oh, we’re more than just a movement class. We’re also like exotic and spiritual and from India…

Jesal Parikh: 21:18
Exactly. It’s commodified, right? And it’s modified and that’s where we get into the issues more deeply that connected to cultural appropriation.

Sarah Dittmore: 21:28
And so something I think of like, in this whole like yoga and thing why, you know, for someone who wouldn’t understand why goat yoga is culturally insensitive or why drinking and yoga is appropriation. Like why are those things not recognizing the practice and where it comes from.

Jesal Parikh: 21:50
Okay. So again, I think it needs to go back to those three questions. Is it safe, is it, does it, is it conducive to mindfulness and is it keeping with the cultural context? Right. And in the case of alcohol, we’re gonna say that it’s probably not safe. It’s probably not going to be adding to mindfulness, probably going to be a distraction or causing you to not be able to focus. And when it comes to the cultural context, like India or South, the South Asian continent, a sub continent rather is a pretty conservative place when it comes to alcohol. Maybe it’s not as conservative as some places in the world, but it’s certainly not as liberal as we see in the West. And so there is this, there is this cultural idea of like alcohol and moderation. We don’t mix religion and alcohol. If there’s an unspoken rule, like if I was to celebrate a holiday with alcohol in the religious setting, like that would be frowned upon. And then on top of that, like in the yogic tax, right, we see, um, prescriptions for like diet and not that any of us really follow them, but they, they are laid out, right? They say like, you should have a soft fake diet. You should eat pure nourishing, sweet foods. Right? And so like mixing that into the actual classroom of teaching yoga, it seems very disrespectful to the cultural context from where it came. Um, and then in the case of goat yoga, it’s also like, it’s not necessarily safe and it’s not necessarily mindful. Like is there a cultural context of goats? Not really. Could you add it and be respectful? I don’t, I don’t think so. Maybe others could argue yes. But on the first two points, definitely. It’s a no.

Sarah Dittmore: 23:27
Yeah. And so then that does bring me to kind of trying to understand where, where one kind of draws the line here of what is, you know, acceptable and what is not in the yoga and culture. So you know, you have these safety, mindfulness and appropriation. And so I, I challenge like with myself, I get challenged with something like I’m like ganja yoga for example, or would yoga and weed like, I could definitely, I’ve done, I have practiced it and definitely see it as for myself a safe and mindful practice that doesn’t in my view appropriate, but maybe I’m wrong. And so I’m interested in exploring something like that a little more on the line.

Tejal Patel: 24:08
In ganja yoga. Again, how is it being offered? Are you asked to like take a hit before class or are you asked to stop your practice and then smoke up and then go back to your practice? So where, where are you drawing the line as the practice is being offered? So does it feel safe? Is it mindful to the practice? And is there any cultural or historical context to what the offering is? We talked a little bit about ganja yoga because we thought it would come up, but um, that’s like an interesting one really because there are very, um, like exotifying sex of, of yogis that practice with hashish, with ganja and they keep the practices pretty secretive. Um, it’s not something that’s really well documented for us to kind of co-opt and take over or even start to emulate. Um, and I don’t know that it is safe or mindful as you’re practicing it. And I don’t know that when people practice Ganja yoga here, they’re hearkening back to times of those yogis in those specific groups that practice that way. So the context might not even exist.

Jesal Parikh: 25:25
Just to add to that also, like those yogis also practice it in meditation, right? It’s a different thing to do it in asana too than it is to do it in meditation. So it’s like sit comfortably in a safe way or move kind of recklessly, sort of your options. And again, with like something like ganja yoga, there’s a distinction like you sort of asked like where’s the boundary and how I practice it. Well, I think the thing is like if you’re doing it individually in your apartment or whatever your home, like we’re not the police, we can’t come and stop you. Right. We’re not like the yoga police. But if it’s being offered as a class, as a group offering, as a, as a teaching like that then becomes more problematic. Right.

Sarah Dittmore: 26:12
Yeah. And that was one of my questions of like, you know, why does it matter how individuals practice? And maybe the answer is that it doesn’t if it’s in an individual setting, but when you’re teaching that’s a different level.

Jesal Parikh: 26:26
Absolutely. Right. Like, I can’t stop you from drinking and doing yoga at your house and I can’t even stop classes. But I can point out that it’s reckless to teach that way in a group setting and to introduce people to their practice and, and telling them like, this is yoga cause it’s not.

Sarah Dittmore: 26:41
Hmm. Yeah. And is, um, that’s an argument that comes up a lot is in the yoga and culture. And it’s one that I’ve made myself is like, well, if this is a way that people who otherwise wouldn’t feel comfortable going to a yoga class, you know, I’ve talked to, I look at my sister, my sister is someone who has always felt very uncomfortable or used to feel very uncomfortable in a yoga studio setting. Um, and we used to practice and the only way she would practice with me, it was when we were drinking wine and then she’d get drunk and she’d be like, let’s do yoga. And I’d be like, okay, the teacher yoga. And now I’m like, slowly over time she got so used to it with me that she started doing it on her own and then started going to classes. And now it’s becoming more and more a part of her life. And so I see someone like that and I’m like, well, if the context in which she’s, uh, introduced to it is, is not a traditional studio, but it gets her there. Does it? Is that, does that make it okay?

Tejal Patel: 27:40
So I think again in the privacy of your own home, no one’s going to come and police you on how you’re finding the practice. Um, but in that story, your sister’s story is not unique. It is not unique to go to a studio class and feel like it’s not for you and walk out and not know what to do with yourself. Um, when we talk about that in our next episode too, like why aren’t there more ways to vary up the practice to make it accessible? 98% of people say they feel beginner or intermediate and I don’t really think 98% of um, Vinyasa classes you walk into are at a beginner or beginner plus to intermediate level. So we definitely dive into that a lot. But that’s kind of an interesting, I would say net positive story for you and your sister because she didn’t get injured like every single time she could have gotten injured. Right.

Music: 28:33
[Transition Music]

Sarah Dittmore: 28:42
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Music: 32:09
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Sarah Dittmore: 32:16
I just want to ask you a question. Like, would you think that Christians would be offended if, uh, every new Christian didn’t know about Jesus, didn’t know about the Bible, but really only knew Santa Claus and presents and Easter icons, and then they thought that’s what Christianity was. Like, I don’t think that that would go over very well, but like, why is it with yoga it’s okay to like teach somebody that, you know, yoga, yoga and alcohol is perfectly fine, like right from the onset, you know what I mean? And like, and then justify, well, whatever gets people to the practice. So I don’t think we say that about other spiritual practices.

Jesal Parikh: 32:56
Yeah. And if we do, we, we kind of, it’s kind of frowned upon if people are so, you know, um, what’s the word I’m thinking of? Like I’m proselytizing that they’re just like come to our practice no matter what. You know, it’s like the goal should be that it actually is the spiritual side of it that you’re looking for and that you’re interested in and that’s what drives you to seek out, you know, spirits will move you…

Sarah Dittmore: 33:18
Just like contextualize that even further. Like, what if I created a for profit Christianity center that focused on drinking wine, wrapping presents and Santa Claus while wearing our bikinis. And I never once mentioned God or the Bible or Jesus because it’ll make people uncomfortable. And then what if I justified it by saying whatever gets people to Christianity, right? I mean it’s, I was recently reading an article and I don’t remember who wrote it. I was reading a lot of articles. I’ll find it and I’ll put it in the show notes below. But it was an Indian-American who was invited into this university like discussion about bringing yoga to the university and she and one other person were the only non white people in the room. Uh, you know, it was all going really well. They were talking about how to do it and like a really good sensitive way. And then at the end, one of the, like other people, one of the white people in the room goes, “Well, but we can’t have any like, you know, chanting or a symbology or like bells or Namastes or anything that might make it seem spiritual. Because that might make some of our like white Christian students uncomfortable.” And I think that’s a lot of what you see in yoga today is like, well we want it to be accessible but accessible to who like…

Tejal Patel: 34:35
And they, and they talk about like, well, then on the teacher’s side of it, you have people who say, well I don’t want to mess it up so I’m not going to address any language that is in English. I’m not going to talk about things. Um, in a way that’s spiritual because I don’t wanna mess it up. Um, but essentially if you’re teaching tons of classes, if you’re doing it for lots of years, like you’re a teacher, that then isn’t able to honor some of the context of the practice because why you haven’t sought out a teacher, you haven’t looked for the free online learnings around it. Like what are the reasons behind eliminating that’s so critical aspect of the practice. So you have to, it’s, we try and come at it from all angles when we talk about it in the podcast. But you do get that, you do get the question of like, let’s not alienate people by bringing them these foreign ideas. And then you get the people that actually have the power to kind of control the narrative. Say I don’t address those foreign ideas because I don’t know how to do it well, but we’re saying like the education’s out there and if you do your to honor the practice, if you address what you don’t know while you’re doing it, like that’s much more helpful than the harm it’s causing to eliminate.

Sarah Dittmore: 35:45
And like at the end of the day, I’m going to say this, like I welcome Christians to practice yoga. I welcome anybody of any faith to practice yoga. But at a certain point in the practice like beyond asana and really understanding like the depth of this practice, there is going to come a point where maybe the ideology clashes with your own ideology and that’s okay, but we should recognize that there is an ideology, right? It does come from somewhere. It didn’t, it doesn’t just magically disappear because it’s not convenient.

Jesal Parikh: 36:18
Yeah. It’s almost like this yoga and culture is, you know, an offshoot of this bigger issue of kind of trying to make yoga. I mean, you’re saying whitewashed and it’s a good word for it. But another way of phrasing it is um, to just sort of strip the spiritual and cultural aspects of it and turn it into two separate things. It’s, and it almost is two separate things like you in America you can find the yoga for those who just want to do the physical side of it or the mindful side of it or you know the, the stress relieving side of it. And then there’s the yoga for those who want to take it to a spiritual level. And it sounds like what you’re telling me is that doing that stripping in itself is an act of sort of violence and appropriation towards the culture.

Sarah Dittmore: 37:05
It’s colonialism in another form. And on top of that, like you can be inspired by yoga. If all you want to do is a physical practice. You can be inspired by yoga but like you don’t need to call it yoga, right? Yoga is a spiritual practice if you don’t want to do the spirituality part of it do pilates, Joseph Pilates studied yoga amongst other physical modalities and then he created pilate, the pilates method inspired in part by yoga, right? Or, um, we see Mike Fitch with animal flow. Like there’s definite overlap in terms of yoga poses and he’s does not call it yoga, he calls it animal flow. And so he is free to do whatever he wants with the physicality of it and not include any of the spiritual aspects. So if you wanna do that, go ahead. Just don’t call it yoga.

Tejal Patel: 37:54
Yeah, Sarah, your word, when you say stripping, like that feels very visceral to me. If you feel like you’re stripping any part of yoga in order to offer yoga, then you’re removing a critical element. Like if that’s what a person’s, um, feels when they’re offering yoga, well let’s just strip this out of it. Or let’s just strip this away and not give this to people. Like that’s actually changing what you’re offering. And we really say like what we’re saying is if there’s a lack of safety, a lack of mindfulness and a lack of historical and spiritual context to the practice, it’s not necessarily yoga. You can look back to any of the major teachers that offered this practice. And those are three things that they, that is always present in what yoga is.

Sarah Dittmore: 38:40
And so, so what is the difference then between like that stripping and that actually like removing aspects of the practice and just the evolution of the practice? Like I think if we’ve been using Christianity as an example and I think of, you know, all the different movements that have happened and how now you have like Catholicism and Lutheranism and Protestantism and I don’t know enough about Christianity to go on, but you have a lot of different types of Christianity. And so what, how, how is that different, you know, where is the line…?

Jesal Parikh: 39:10
I think in all of the things you just mentioned, there are still some central commonalities, right? That harken back to the origins of Christianity, which is like the belief in Christ, the belief that um, in the Holy Trinity, right, or, and the belief in the Bible as the word of God. And I think when it comes to yoga, there are some central tenants laid out, right? Like the fact that yoga means union. And in order to achieve union, you have to believe that you’re unionizing with the divine. So belief in the divine, a universal divine, and we believe like, you know, it comes with this idea that like each of us has a piece of divinity within us that then joins with that greater divine. So that has to be there, like you can’t remove it just because you don’t like it. Um, and then in keeping with that union, like it goes back to this mindfulness, right? Like through mindfulness, through concentration, through, through all of these practices we can achieve this samadhi. That’s like written like even in all the different experiences of yoga, like at the end of the day it’s like if you can practice something enough, you will achieve this like concentration and then you will achieve samadhi. That’s always like the trajectory. And so with these like group classes, if you’re not even including like concentration as an element, like it’s not really yoga.

Sarah Dittmore: 40:33
Yeah. And I guess that, I mean I think that kind of answers my question, but I want to spell it out anyway of where, how things like, you know, we talked a lot about like goat yoga, drunk yoga, ganja yoga, naked yoga, um, how are things like, there are other types of yoga, you know, restore, like I think of restorative yoga or these other versions of integrating yoga with other things or doing yoga in a new way. Why are those different? Why is something like restorative yoga different than a drunk yoga?

Tejal Patel: 41:10
Well, restorative yoga is such a beautiful practice and one, it definitely keeps you safe. It creates a more, more of a mindfulness because one, there’s less movement. So you’re really just left with the piece of focus, concentration, um, single pointed focus. And then potentially just rest and ease for your nervous system. So you definitely opened up yourself to more mindfulness. And it does keep in the context from what yoga was developed because it kind of meets all those needs for the body and it adapts to the individual. So restorative yoga already.

Sarah Dittmore: 41:43
It’s like Shavasana but in different forms, right?

Tejal Patel: 41:48
So you’re just extending that beautiful piece of the practice that ropes everybody in and then it keeps you there. So it’s great. Um, I think you were trying to talk about like other types of yoga. You know, we’ve talked about ganja dope a lot, but like other types of yoga, um, how do they stay consistent with the practice or do they stay consistent with what are yoga practices? Um, and really like we want to go through those questions each time you go to address a new type of yoga, like in the case of hot yoga, you see different types of hot yoga. You see warm Vinyasa, you see, um, hot Bikram or whatever, 26 posture yoga that can start to get more questionable in terms of safety and mindfulness. But if the person’s mindfulness is to a certain level where they can read their own body and their own wellness in the moment, they can keep themselves safe, I believe. Right? Plus hot yoga is not that different from practicing in hot part of India,

Sarah Dittmore: 42:48
Which is where I did my training. I didn’t have air conditioning at this ashram and it was like a hundred plus degrees outside. That’s like, I think where Bikram got his idea for doing hot yoga was bringing the temperature of India into the studio.

Jesal Parikh: 43:03
It’s the hottest joke I’ve ever done was in Kerala. So it’s like definitely.

Tejal Patel: 43:08
Exactly.

Jesal Parikh: 43:10
It’s not necessarily that far off, but, but yeah. And that, that kind of integrates those other, you know, there are so many types, it’s almost like brands of yoga now with like Astanga yoga or, um, you know, Kundalini yoga or, um, Forrest yoga or all these different, you know, paths…

Sarah Dittmore: 43:28
Some of these are problematic. So, you know, if we’re not saying that they all get a pass, but they’ve been around so long since before, like, I think Indians or Indian Americans really had a voice in the West that like, you know, they’re, they’re embedded before we could even say anything about it. So it’s not really up to, you know, we can try and educate people now and help them to maybe question some of the practices, but, you know, it’s, I can’t reverse the fact that they’ve become mainstream.

Jesal Parikh: 44:00
Yeah.

Sarah Dittmore: 44:01
Yeah. And see, I mean like that’s the same with a lot of, like you mentioned paddle board yoga. Um, that’s hugely mainstream and that’s probably not going anywhere, but it is a matter of, I guess just educating students on why they choose different practices and how they choose different practices.

Jesal Parikh: 44:16
Yeah, exactly.

Sarah Dittmore: 44:17
Ultimately it’s down to choice, right? Like we can educate you, but if you’re privileged enough to do whatever you want to do, you’re going to do it regardless. So hopefully our educating you changes your mind or makes you at least pause and think.

Jesal Parikh: 44:32
Mm-hmm.

Sarah Dittmore: 44:32
And so you, you know, we’ve said we’ve gone back to these themes of safety, mindfulness and appropriation. So when people are approaching the use practices, whether it’s more on the side of the clearly yoga and culture or just a new type of yoga or a new school of yoga, uh, what are some like specific questions I can ask myself to identify if a practice is safe, if a practice is mindful or if a practice is a…

Jesal Parikh: 44:59
I think with the appropriation, first we need to really understand appropriation. Right? That’s the essential part of it. And so doing that deep exploration into like what is appropriation? And without that understanding, I don’t think you can really move further. And for you, Sarah, you mentioned like you went to the ABCD Yogi community and you started reading the comments and I’m sure that gave you some insight into what appropriation is and how it makes people feel.

Sarah Dittmore: 45:27
Right. Right. And I think kind of, you know, I’ve seen just in the couple of months that have been doing this podcast and having more and more conversations with yogis of different backgrounds, um, recognizing that it’s okay to be wrong. Like it’s okay to say like, I have practiced so much yoga that I am now reconsidering and saying like maybe that wasn’t yoga and maybe it’s okay to admit that, you know?

Tejal Patel: 45:55
Yeah. I applaud that. I definitely applaud that attitude because once you start doing this work and just the fact that you’re researching for your own show like has brought in your scope of what information you’re able to access, what information you’re actually counting on as a resource like that. The beneficial, because we continued to talk in the same circles, say if we had a teacher training group and we just hung out with those teacher trainings for the next five years and worked with them and practiced with them and went to the same studios together. Everything you guys are going to talk about is from the same knowledge base and then everything you guys tend to think about and agree on or create programming out of is from one singular knowledge based and that tends to create this false consensus where your opinion is elevated and and right because everyone around you is agreeing as well. And like you take that into a cultural appropriation, um, mindset and it’s like cultural appropriation exists when you have multiple cultures and where one becomes the dominant culture over others. And then you have a practice that’s from one of the cultures that isn’t the dominant culture but tends to get, um, co-opted or looks like it’s being owned or used without any ties to that originating culture by the dominant culture. So we talk about it in our podcasts. Um, we talk about white dominant culture and the wellness world as white women because that’s the dominant culture in our Western wellness world. Um, when you talk about it globally, you look at who’s the global dominant group and how was their dominance achieved, was it achieved through oppressing and suppressing and subjugating non dominant cultures? And then you get into histories of violence and oppression and silencing. Um, so you definitely want to ask yourself about the representation in the room, about the way the information is being offered. Is it done in a diverse way? Are there ties back to the cultural context of the practice? Um, and then did it feel safe and mindful for you as a person practicing…

Jesal Parikh: 48:02
And then coming back, I just wanted to say one thing, like Sarah, you, you just said, you just said like, Oh, you know, I changed my opinion and realize maybe I didn’t have all the information. I’m going to say that is true of myself as well. Like, even though I’m Indian American, like I grew up in this country and I wasn’t, I didn’t think I have strong opinions, let’s say rather about cultural appropriation. And then when I really started like digging into this work, my opinions became stronger or like my thought changed too just because I realized like, Oh like the disparity in power and privilege really is a big factor and not just in the world but specifically in this industry. And so for me like understanding, well, how have I been embodying, you know, these white supremacist cultural traits, I had to do that work for myself too. Yeah. And which brings an important aspect too of like, I think there’s such a tendency for white people to pick one resource as their sort of like cultural resource and, and so I think that’s a good point that like one perspective is never enough either. Like you need to really look at a lot of different voices because one perspective might reaffirm exactly what you already think and then you’re like, Oh, okay, like Indians think it’s fine that I’m doing this and then you just lump the whole culture and country into one answer. And so I think it’s really important to, when you’re investigating these things, to investigate it and not just read one article and say you have the answer.

Tejal Patel: 49:37
Yeah. I would say to that like you can go right now, you can say Deepak Chopra is gonna tell me everything I’m doing is okay. Yeah. And Susanna Barkataki is going to ask me to question everything very thoroughly. Yoga is dead, is going to have a very strong opinion, yes or no on what to do. And, and it’s like take all of that into consideration and then realize there’s so much to unpack through this work and that it just becomes work. It just becomes part of the practice. Right? It’s never, we’re never at the destination when we do this work, when we practice yoga, like it’s always about um, feeling your breath and the posture in a new way. Even if you found the posture, even if you found your yoga home, like how can you explore more of the community around it? More of what makes yoga, yoga like that. That’s an ever present journey I think…

Jesal Parikh: 50:30
And I will say even though our podcasts like expresses like a point of view strongly like based on, I don’t agree behind the scenes on everything. We’re always trying to work out what our narrative is going to be between the two of us because we see things differently. We come at things with different life experiences. And so for us, like we have to kind of like the research is sort of also a tool for us to narrow down like, Oh well what do we want to focus on? What are the problems, why am I feeling this way? And then over the time like we come to more of a consensus based on like just starting to do the work.

Tejal Patel: 51:07
Yeah. And, and part of putting part of our, part of putting our opinions and perspectives and research into podcast form, like there was a little bit of um, damn we’re going to do this, we’re going to put this in a podcast that never goes away. But then once we started realizing like we’re still allowed to grow and change, it gave me personally a lot more freedom to say like at this point in time, all these hours of research put into this. Like this episode is where we were at. And if we, if we feel like changing our minds for whatever reason, individually together revising, like we are free to do that and we’re free to make the necessary adjustments to everyone around us to, to make sure that that’s like taken into consideration. Like just be human about it.

Sarah Dittmore: 51:53
Yeah. I feel like it’s, it’s almost a matter of taking the practices and ideas around yoga and applying it to your yoga. You know, I’m saying like self inquiry and you know, self study and growth and discernment and actually applying that to the way you practice yoga and not just everything else in your world.

Tejal Patel: 52:14
Yeah. I think it’s most problematic if you start these conversations and, and you’re with someone whose knee jerk reaction is like absolutely not or that’s not the case and I don’t want to hear anything more about it. Well we would never do that. And it’s like actually let’s have a conversation to dissect this.

Sarah Dittmore: 52:31
Yeah. Just asking the questions and having the conversations. It’s, it’s the way we learn and it’s the way we grow as both individuals and the yoga community.

Jesal Parikh: 52:37
And then like going back to our mission, right, one of our statements that we said is we want to jumpstart critical conversations. And in part it’s because the conversations weren’t happening as far as we were concerned. Right? Like nobody was talking about this stuff. It’s all behind closed doors if at all. And, or it just wasn’t happening period. So we’re like, all right, let’s just talk about it and see what happens. And hopefully other people start talking about it.

Sarah Dittmore: 53:02
I know I was actually laughing cause your guys’ podcast came out right about the same time as mine. And I think it’s just so interesting how there’s clearly a desire for that because a lot of the context of my podcast is the same thing is like, but I’m coming from a very different perspective of I don’t, I don’t know much and I’m asking people to teach me more about different topics in yoga. But it’s the same thing of we both feel like there is, there needs to be more questioning and more conversation and we’re just like, I feel like yogis all around are just looking for more thought being absolutely. And we thought instead of doing it in a silo ourselves, why not try to bring people together to have these conversations.

Tejal Patel: 53:43
Yeah.

Sarah Dittmore: 53:44
Yeah. Right. Snaps to that. Um, well and so speaking of that, to kind of wrap it up, how can people, obviously they can listen to yoga is dead, but how else can they get involved with what you’re doing or contact you or be a part of the conversation?

Jesal Parikh: 53:57
So they can reach us on our Instagram, right, at yogaisdeadpodcast. Um, they can support us financially through Venmo. Um, and through our website, the Venmo name is also @yogaisdeadpodcast. They can also subscribe to support us through our Patreon page, which is patreon.com/yogaisdeadpodcast. Um, they can buy a T-shirt or a toe or stickers on our website as well. If they want to support us, you can, they can also get involved through our Facebook community that we’re building up to have more of these conversations.

Sarah Dittmore: 54:34
Great. And I will include all those links in the show notes below so people can find it.

Tejal Patel: 54:39
Yeah. And we love to do interviews and collaborations and those are always best. Um, best, um, sent through our email at yogaisdeadpodcast@gmail.com.

Sarah Dittmore: 54:48
Awesome. Thanks again and thank you for joining me and bringing this perspective. I know I’ve definitely in the past month changed my mind a lot about this topic and I hope to start some conversations with this, so thanks for this and have a great day.

Tejal Patel: 55:03
Thank you. We really appreciate it.

Music: 55:05
[Transition Music]

Sarah Dittmore: 55:15
Thank you guys for joining me on this episode. It was such an interesting conversation to dive into, an inquiry to, to explore and I’m really grateful to Tejal and Jesal for the perspective they brought to the conversation. I know a lot of my listeners are based here in New York city with me, so if you’re one of those, I definitely recommend checking out their links in the show notes below and finding out how you can go to one of their classes or work with them individually and get to know them a little bit better. And if you haven’t already a definitely give yoga is dead a listen. It’s a great podcast exploring really interesting topics and and kind of engaging in this new community of yogis that is growing and becoming louder of these yogis who are questioning the practice and questioning the way we as a, as a community in the United States approach the practice. And I’m so grateful that I have gotten to know this community and become more and more integrated in it. And it’s through these kinds of conversations that we continue to build connections and, and be more mindful in the way we approach yoga. If you missed my important update that I released on the 9th, then this may be the first time you’re hearing this, but I’ve decided to go back to every other week episodes. I have had an incredible opportunity to start working for a new client. That’s an amazing opportunity for me, but it’s also going to be a lot, a lot of work, which means I needed a little bit more time in my week, so every other week we will have a full length episode and then on off weeks I’ll be releasing the teatime talks, which are shorter, more casual conversations about different random yoga topics. As always, if you have a story or conversation that you think would be interesting for tea time talks, shoot me an email at sarahdittmore@gmail.com. You can also get in touch with me on Instagram at @TBMpodcast or on Facebook @The Beginner’s Mind Podcast. I always look forward to hearing from you guys. Be it, um, feedback from the episodes, stories you want to tell, or just to say hello. So please do connect and until then, stay curious.

Music: 57:32
[Closing Music]

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