You Are Here: Exploring Yoga and the Impacts of Cultural Appropriation

by nisha ahuja (contributions by meLisa moore)


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You Are Here: Exploring Yoga and the Impacts of Cultural Appropriation has grown out of many channels.

Most importantly through a channel of love.

This is an act and process of love.

This is an offering and gift to ask us to love deeper and grow our hearts and minds so that our individual practices encompass our collective well-being.

When we ask ourselves to love more expansively, we can examine how we have been conditioned with habitual patterns and habits of mind, and and for some, these are patterns of entitlement and white privilege.

These are just some of the structures that harm others and ultimately also harm those who benefit from privilege.

Through love we can move our thoughts and actions to reduce harm on others and one’s self.

This not only applies to a Yogic practice but also how we move through a world that has a 500-year legacy of colonization that is perpetuated on Turtle Island/North America everyday.

One of our main missions for SOMA is dedication to making healing, health + wellness, and spiritual health and development more accessible to more people. Part of this is to also support practitioners who are often most excluded and pushed to the margins.

We have both been on the receiving end of deep harm and the traumatic impacts of racism, exclusion, and invisibility in wellness and “spiritual” communities (and many other kinds of spaces) over the many years we have connected. Our motivation for creating SOMA was so that the legacies of white privilege, privilege, racism, appropriation, white superiority, and other violent systemic and relational structures could be transformed through the very act of business existence, our practice and offerings, and through who we uplift in our business.

We also know and have faith that our communities and world can evolve, heal, and transform these harmful patterns, habits of mind, and blockages with supports like the You Are Here video and the other modalities, frameworks, and processes we have designed and developed at SOMA.

Several years ago I was asked to create a workshop, and this video specifically about Yoga and Cultural Appropriation after a decade of work about this. It has since gotten out into the world and I’m happy to see and hear that it has helped support the activation, expansion, and movement of people starting to care more about and starting to want to do their own individual work around transforming Appropriation in Yoga (and other cultural contexts) and reducing harm in their own practice and yoga businesses.

The work and my own practice has since evolved. Six years ago, I met MeLisa Moore, SOMA’s Co-founder. She and I connected and learned that we both shared the experience of being long-time spiritual practitioners and having similar harmful and violent experiences (and also very very different) in spiritual + wellness communities (and lack of wellness spaces at the time we were looking for them).

We united on many levels but one beautiful way was to expand on the Yoga and Cultural Appropriation work and bridge the really important and innovative Racial Equity + Racial Healing work that she had been developing for some years. It was an amazing opportunity to join our individual experiences, practices, and visions.

We’re both so honoured to share this free video resource and our in-depth holistic health framework and process, Radical Deep Love. Our individual modalities, Education, and Racial Equity + Racial Healing support can be accessed through One-to-One sessions, Online Programs , Courses, Video Memberships, and E-Workbooks.

** An Additional note to our viewers of this video*** In the video nisha makes reference to Tannis Neilsons’ sharing about the stages of Colonization. These teachings come from POKA LAENUI who expounded on the teachings of VIRGILIO ENRIQUES. nisha acknowledges and apologizes for her error in misunderstanding the roots of these teachings and the erasure of these individuals and their collective knowledge from Turtle Island (aka North America) and the Philippines.

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nisha would also like to acknowledge the oversight and complexities of not discussing the essential conversations needed about caste and casteism within South Asia and South Asian diasporas, including when addressing the Appropriation of Yoga. Castism has led to violence and the exclusion of people being denied access to spiritual teachings and spaces, while also denying the spiritual practices, rituals, and traditions that come from Dalit and Advasi peoples. Their practices have been historically co-opted into mainstream Hindu practices, including some yogic practices and philosophies. I also want to continue to acknowledge the incredible tradition of Kemetic Yoga rooted in East Africa and now practiced (and likely continued to be) by many people of African descent.