Is Yoga Dead?
I’m excited to share my latest discovery with you; the Yoga is Dead podcast creators; Jasal Parikh and Tejal Patel as they “expose the dirty underbelly of the yoga industry” –
As a naturally thin white blonde female (who also happens to be a yoga teacher) I could conceivably be closed minded to the idea that I am “part of the problem” just from the title of their fist podcast: “White Women Killed Yoga” before listening to what these two trailblazers are trying to educate me on, but I encourage all of us to be open to listening to, and deeply understanding, all the complexities of the ongoing global conversation around how yoga is growing and changing – for ALL of us.
I caught up with these two brave people who are hoping that each episode will “make you think very hard and reconsider opinions and positions” as I am celebrating practicing yoga for forty years on my around the world YogaRoadTrip2.0 promoting my award-winning yoga book. The reason for the shameless plug for my book is because of my ongoing commitment in my book, and mission to spread inspiration for people to practice yoga, that inclusivity is important to me and my readers.
I applaud the mission of this podcast
and hope you will
and listen for yourself.
Following is my Q&A with Jesal and Tejal:
1. There's a ton of yoga podcasts out there. What's Your Podcast All About? Why do you think yours is unique?
Jesal: Yoga is Dead is a revolutionary podcast that explores power, privilege, fair pay, harassment, race, cultural appropriation and capitalism in the yoga and wellness worlds. We wanted to expose what we call “the monsters lurking under the yoga mat” - the issues that as an industry, we ignore because they don’t fall into the happy, glossy, peaceful image that the industry wants to project.
Our podcast is different in a number of ways. Most other yoga or wellness podcasts tend to focus more on superficial industry events, try to promote a wellness lifestyle to its listeners or are conducted in interview format. We don’t do any of those things. Instead, we like to think of ourselves as similar to “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” in that we present a cohesive narrative on an issue we think deserves addressing and we use research, history, and humor to help us tell that story. With each episode, we try to go the extra mile by providing actionable solutions and tips for our audience from the lens of yoga practitioners, yoga teachers and studios/business owners.
Tejal: We believe as Indian American women we offer a valuable perspective about yoga that is missing from most mainstream media. And we both had parents that migrated from India, we were raised in Hindu households, and studied yoga in India and America. It’s already so rare to see people of color, let alone Indian people be at the front of conversations around wellness and yoga so we’ve tried not to dilute our message by bringing other voices into the picture.
We research our subject matter, a lot, which gives our podcast an investigative journalist vibe I find is different than many interview style podcasts. Beyond what you can hear, we offer tons of resources for the listener to continue learning. We have a website that houses extensive episode resources that we frequently update. We include our source articles and deep dives into topics we’ve introduced in the episode. Another part of our strategy is to utilize social media to post images that range from thought-provoking questions, to edgy statements, to tips for the community. These images feature large, legible text in bold colors, and are easily shareable by the reader. All of this, has created a very engaged community!
2. Where do you see yoga in 5 years in the United States?
Jesal: I think for the past 70 or so years, yoga has spread so rapidly in the U.S. that there’s hardly been a moment to pause and really take stock of how it was growing, who was being included, who was being excluded, and how the growth of yoga in the U.S. differed dramatically from how yoga has historically spread throughout the South Asian subcontinent. But I think we’ve reached a sort of pivotal movement where people are starting to take stock and, because of tools like the internet and social media, a more diverse group of people is able to be seen and heard in this industry.
So I think the next 5 years is going to be a continuation of what has just begun. More awareness around the issues we are bringing up in our podcast. Diverse folks being given or making their own opportunities to be platformed. More inclusiveness within existing yoga spaces and platforms. And with that, what I hope to see is greater equity in the distribution of power, wealth, social status, prestige, etc.
Tejal: I agree with Jesal! I see a continuation of the spread of yoga. Now that so many people have studied yoga in America, we just might have enough people to skillfully teach people with therapeutic, mobility, and accessibility needs that could really benefit from yoga. That’s the beauty of yoga having increased in popularity. But just like any growing industry, yoga is experiencing a shift with some of the larger yoga institutes closing their doors in NYC because people aren’t all that interested in practicing within monoliths in rigid routines. There’s a shift towards community again, which we lost when the venture capitalists decided yoga was easy money. And there’s an awareness being brought back into the conversation of who gets to access yoga? People are noticing more and more where their studio management and roster lacks diversity. More people of color are speaking up about power dynamics and prejudice and building their own brands. And the field of experts is becoming more inclusive and diverse.
I think the conversation around cultural appropriation and yoga is gaining traction and visibility. I’m eager to bring more people into that conversation myself! I believe the increased awareness and accountability people gain from being educated around the origin, history and authenticity of yoga uplevels the yoga experience for everyone involved. I personally am so eager to see where the yoga in the US is headed!
3. What has yoga taught you about yourself?
Jesal: Yoga has taught be so much, but I’ll give you my top five. Mind you, these are all works in progress. I don’t claim to have mastered any of it. But I’ll just say that without yoga I’d be much worse off.
Understanding how getting me getting “worked up” doesn’t necessarily change a situation. I’m learning to either be more solution-oriented or to just accept unchangeable situations much more quickly than I’d otherwise be inclined to.
To not avoid conflict thinking it’s somehow going to go away. Being passive aggressive or trying to skirt around big issues to “keep the peace” just never works because it usually ends up in me feeling resentful and bottling up my emotions and then having a blow-up of those emotions later. This happens a lot more infrequently as I am learning to address things as they come up (though I fully admit sometimes I still struggle with what’s ‘worth it’ to bring up).
Yoga has taught be compassion in a way that I don’t think I’d have come to on my own. To really try to understand someone else’s perspective, life experience, needs, struggles, and emotional reality.
To take action against injustice. I think it’s easy to react, numb out or get caught up in emotion. But more often than not these days, I find myself asking, “how can I turn this negative feeling into positive change?”
Gratitude. I know this is cliché. But I think it’s very easy to get wrapped up in excessive materialism. Especially in a place like New York City. I have seen in myself and in friends the feeling of material “inadequacy” having a really strong, negative, emotional impact. A gratitude practice helps me remember that I have enough and that I have everything that I need. And that the rest is just a bonus.
Tejal: Yoga for me is the practical application of the phrase “do what you love”. When I decided to study yoga, I felt a connection to all the unknown pieces of my lineage, parts of my heritage that I thought were lost to me forever because I wasn’t able to communicate with my family about my questions. So the practice continues to teach me more about myself in profound and deep ways.
Yoga teaches me to celebrate life and community because yoga has taught me the meaning of connection. Through yoga I have learned sincerity, radical honesty, and deep listening. I’ll admit in the hustle of being a yoga teacher, sometimes these massive yet profound lessons get lost. But the beauty of my yoga practice is that I am constantly remembering what I’ve forgotten.
4. What has yoga taught you about life?
Jesal: Mainly that life has its ups and downs. It’s taught me to savor the highs and be prepared for and less surprised by the lows. And to try to create a life that can sustain itself between these two poles.
Tejal: That life will not go according to my plan and that’s ok! That in order to thrive, I need to be flexible, introspective, and non-reactive. And that working on these things will be my life’s work.