Yoga has been misunderstood and misrepresented. We can improve this while carrying compassion, love, and respect for everyone.
When we work toward justice, it’s best to do it with love. Otherwise, we create more pain instead of harmony in the world.
I don’t agree with current trends of shaming people in the effort to create positive change. We don’t need to shame anyone to empower ourselves.
When it comes to yoga and cultural appropriation, we can work together to create a better understanding and representation of yoga while maintaining respect and compassion for everyone involved. If we don’t, we’re further misrepresenting yoga.
Yoga centers on the mind. It’s a path through which we cultivate understanding, patience, compassion, and forgiveness. This is hard. It doesn’t come easily. It requires facing our own demons and fears—everything inside of us that’s a barrier to love.
It can take decades or lifetimes to cultivate the kind of love and compassion that’s the cornerstone of yoga.
When we work toward justice and representation while carrying affection and tenderness for everyone involved, we honor the wisdom and practices of yoga. We create positive change without creating more pain for anyone.
No matter how different our backgrounds and histories may be, yoga teaches us to maintain awareness of our common ground. We all want happiness, and we all want freedom from pain.
Years ago, I brought 23 Western yoga practitioners to my grandfather’s yoga retreat center in Khaknar, a tribal village in North India. My family and the villagers embraced everyone with open arms. They didn’t reprimand anyone for mispronouncing Sanskrit terms, or for focusing on asana, or for having yoga businesses.
They understood that each person was on their path and was blessed and divine. There was mutual respect, adoration, and eight days of sharing and joy. The Western yogis practiced asana with the villagers every day. They loved it.
Every morning, my grandfather shared yoga philosophy with our guests. My mom and I shared mantra. The villagers invited us to their farms for Ayurvedic food. It was wonderful.
This kind of exchange is possible. We can adore each other. With joy, we can learn all the things we have to learn from one another. We are gifts to each other. We are all divine—every single one of us.
In the moments when we can offer suggestions to improve something in another or in the world, we can make those suggestions with kindness, tenderness, and affection, knowing that everyone is fighting their own battles and knowing that the hardest and most important things we’ll ever change for the better are our own hearts and minds.