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Yoga decolonization is a current hot topic, but what does that even entail?
Two things make up the decolonizing yoga movement. First, to encourage more diverse representation, we elevate Black and Brown yoga instructors. Second, to respect yoga’s historical roots, we teach all eight limbs of the practice, not simply the physical aspect.
The development of yoga
The origins of the indigenous practice of yoga can be found in the almost 5,000-year-old civilizations of Egypt and the Indus Valley. As a yoga teacher and activist who is desi (an Indian woman living in the diaspora), I inform people about how Indian yoga traditions have been appropriated and what I hope to see for a decolonized future of yoga.
The Yamas are the ethical guidelines that show us how to interact with others and the environment. These consist of:
Ahimsa (non-harming) (non-harming)
This idea entails acting in a way that promotes the development and adds to the life energy all around us. In this way, yoga and activism are linked in terms of mentality. To uplift and free everyone from harm, social justice works to uphold ahimsa within the group.
The idea behind this precept is to view and care for others as an extension of ourselves.
On a related point, some Western yogis advocate that one must be vegan to practice yoga. However, dairy products, which are valued for their health advantages, are a nearly constant part of the Indian diet.
Satya (truthfulness) (truthfulness)
Depending on who we’re engaging with, we all put on masks or distinct personalities. To practice yoga, we must take off our masks, discover our genuine selves, and act from these selves.
We live more closely with reality and not within Maya when we’re able to reveal our authentic selves to the world (illusion). The noble course is not always one of speaking the truth.
We are practicing Satya when we speak out against injustice in a system that wants to silence us.
Asteya (non-stealing) (non-stealing)
This rule is not as straightforward as saying, “Do not take anything of value from others.” Respecting the time, energy, and resources of others is important.
We need to establish and uphold boundaries to practice asteya in our interpersonal interactions.
The Earth is another example of this. Yoga asks us to pursue the middle road of balance, but imbalance results when we take from the land without giving back.
Additionally, it is against the very nature of yoga to appropriate it—to pull it out of its historical context and apply it to oneself rather than to its foundations.
Brahmacharya (abstinence) (abstinence)
This can be done by practicing complete celibacy or just treating our natural life energy as sacrosanct. Yoga proposes that instead of distributing our sexual energy mindlessly in numerous areas, we use it deliberately in ways that are consistent with the rest of the yoga concept.
(I should point out that some people may be offended by the word “Brahma. In the Vedic scriptures that uphold the caste system, this word is frequently mentioned. Every one of yoga’s tenets—which calls for treating one another with kindness and mindfulness—is at odds with this system. To apply yoga principles to society as a whole, the caste system must be abolished.
Aparigraha (non-hoarding) (non-hoarding)
It has been stated that the source of all evil is greed. An attitude of scarcity is the root of greed. As a result, people tend to cling too tightly to money, possessions, and other people, which causes harm to continue.
We must believe that we always have enough and let money, things, and other gifts flow easily into and out of our life to live in a spiritually aligned way. We must keep pushing for our social systems to function from an Aparigraha-based perspective.
Hoarding and greed are the root causes of resource inequality and poverty. Building systems with a foundation of cooperation and sustainability can aid in this.
The Niyamas serve as the guidelines for good self-discipline.
Saucha (cleanliness) (cleanliness)
Although gurus and yoga scripture certainly advise taking regular baths, eating healthily, and maintaining a clean environment, this principle also relates to thinking honestly and positively about both oneself and other people. We become open channels for the divine to penetrate us when our minds are clear.
Santosha (contentment) is a skill that we need to develop to feel entirely satisfied with the way things are right now. Because we operate in a capitalist system where we are constantly encouraged to pursue our goals and desire more, we never feel content with what we currently have.
When we can simply observe how things are right now and feel satisfied,
The practice of yoga postures is known as asana.
Yoga’s physical asanas, as taught by Pantajali, are designed to be performed with ease and delight. He stressed the value of taking your time with each pose and shifting your attention to your breathing as you transition from one to the next. Due to its tendency to push students past their comfort zones and frequent instances of injury, yoga as a workout can be dangerous. According to the sutras, yoga should be practiced in a relaxed state to establish a connection with the body and overcome mental dualism. Daily asana leads to improved physical and mental wellness.
Breath management is pranayama.
According to yoga theory, our ability to breathe allows us to engage with the subtle life force energy that is all around us. We can energize our bodies with this life energy and alter how our central nervous system responds to stress when we can make breathing a deliberate discipline.
A 1:4:2 ratio was the original breath-control formula. Purak, or one second of inhalation, followed by Kumbhak, or four seconds of holding the air in the body, and Purak, or two seconds of exhalation (Rechak, in Sanksrit).
Different bandhas (binds) in the body are also incorporated into advanced breath work. If you want to understand more about these binds, work with a qualified yoga instructor.
Pratyahara is the retreat of the senses. This method shows us how to go within and achieve the highest level of tranquility.
According to the ancient Hindu text known as the Bhagavad Gita, our senses are like a boat on the water. The boat is rocked by the turbulent waves of sense perception each time one of the five senses becomes enthralled with an external item. We can explore the huge universe that exists within us when we shut off our senses to the outside world.
This technique strikes me as another revolutionary move in the modern world. We fight the negative effects of frequent externalization of the mind through social media, the news, and consumerism each time we take a moment to sit with ourselves and curiously explore within.
Dharana translates to focus. Deep meditation benefits from the mind’s single-pointed attention. During meditation, you can train the mind in this way by gazing at a candle, a statue of a deity, or another immobile object. We may apply this kind of concentration to our regular lives after the mind learns to focus during meditation. We can complete a task well and carefully when we can give it our whole attention. The mind is conditioned in today’s media to only pay attention for brief periods and to multitask continually. To live a mindful life, Dharana practice is crucial.
Dhyana or Meditation
Many people are hesitant to start meditating. They think that one can be either good or awful at it. But rather than something we do, meditation is more of a condition that comes over us.
You’ve probably experienced moments of extreme calmness, clarity, and silence when reading or riding a bike. You were meditating, after all. You were immersed in the present. Simply setting aside time each day to welcome meditation into our minds and hearts is all that Dhyana demands of us. By employing pranayama, pratyahara, and Dharana simultaneously while seated in a calm area, we can increase our chances of experiencing meditation.
Samadhi is enlightenment, to sum up.
Yoga’s eight limbs are designed to help us transition from doing to being. We can achieve the most significant life goal that advances our spiritual development once we have mastered all the earlier sutras steps: the capacity to remain in the present moment for an extended period.
This does not imply that yogis should remain motionless. But yogis who have attained samadhi are not concerned with the past or the future. They don’t think about the result when they are acting. Everything is done with love and complete presence.