Anjali Rao 12:30:21
Namaskar Welcome to the accessible yoga podcast, where we explore the connections between the ancient teachings of yoga in the context of the times we live in.
This podcast is brought to you by the accessible yoga Association, a nonprofit organization focused on accessibility and equity in yoga.
Anjali Rao 12:30:40
I'm your co host, Anjali Rao, my pronouns are she and her. And I serve as president of the accessible yoga Association Board of Directors.
And I'm your co host, Jivana Heyman. My pronouns are he and him. And I serve as the director of the accessible yoga Association. I want to introduce myself, my name is Jivana. And my pronouns are he and him. And I'm joining you from Chumash land here, which is now known as Santa Barbara, California. And I'm grateful to all of you, I'm the director of accessible yoga. This is our live podcast recording. So welcome, everyone. And thank you for being here. Thanks for being part of the accessible yoga community. So today, we're celebrating a few things I wanted to tell you about. We're celebrating the opening of our accessible yoga community online, which is a space I'll share with you about in a moment. And we're also celebrating the launch of our new season of our accessible yoga podcast. And the fact that Anjali Rao is going to be taking over as president of accessible yoga and will join me as co host of the podcast with this season, which I'm so grateful for, for having her there for everything she does. But I also just want to spend a moment thanking all the other people involved with accessible yoga, all of you who are here today, all of our accessible yoga ambassadors who are members that support our organization, but also our staff, particularly when I mentioned tan who is here doing tech today, because tan built this new, accessible yoga community that we're all talking about today that this, it's like an online portal where you're gonna find all of our programs and information about accessible yoga, and can figure it all out themselves. It's kind of a miracle, and still teaching me and the rest of us how to use it. And then Tana will be managing the studio that'll be part of that community as well, which is very exciting. So thank you tan. Also, I think Brina Lord, who's our general manager, Robin Bell, our program manager, Deanna Nikolopoulos, communications director I see Deanna here. Thank you, Deanna. M Camellia our blog editor, Garrett gers, who's our ambassador coordinator, and sarin outreach, who runs our Facebook group, our accessible yoga community group over there. So accessible yoga Association is a nonprofit in the US. And what that means is that nobody owns it. I founded it many years ago. Actually, at this point, it's almost probably 15 years, actually. But we are nonprofit, which means that it's run by a board of directors, the Board of Directors actually responsible for the whole organization, and I'm the director. So I'm actually an employee of the organization now. The Board of Directors, controls everything and is ultimately responsible for everything we do. We have an amazing board and currently have 12 people and I just want to mention them. I'm gonna just say let's see, we have Ashley Williams, who is our secretary Colin Lieu is the treasurer. Mary Sims is chair of development committee. Just in cat's chair programming. Amina Naru is chair of nomination committee. We have Reggie Hubbard, Ryan McGraw, Priya Wagner, Sunny Barbee, sarni. Feldman and, of course, our current president Amber Karnes, who is stepping down in October, after finishing her two year term. And like I said, Anjali Rao will be stepping up as the president at that time, I also just want to take a moment to thank Amber for all of her service to accessible yoga. It's been incredible. I love her so much. I don't know if she's here today. But I just want to say thank you, Amber, for everything you've done, running the organization. And also, you know, helping me with the podcast being my co host. And having all these amazing conversations with me, we have two seasons of conversations together. And Amber has taught me so much, and I really wish her the best of luck. Hopefully, she'll be a guest on the podcast in the future. And I want to welcome Anjali again as our incoming president and co host of the podcast. And, you know, I'm excited to explore. I don't know what just the whole world of yoga with you. Anjali, I just know that already. You and I have so many conversations that are very exciting to me. And I'm excited to share them with the world through the podcast. So thanks for doing this. Today what I'd like to do on this podcast from you and I agreed to this right is to spend some time talking about you because I really want people to get to know you, as a co host, I think people have heard enough from me probably. And I and I thought it'd be fun to explore a little of your personal background and your story, you know, and your life experience.
And just before we do that, though, I just want to ship back to one minute to the community. And I just want to say, this is supposed to be the grand opening of that community, and I just want people to explore it, I think tan probably already put the link in. Actually, anyone who's here at this call is already in the community. That means you found a way to sign up for this new portal we have. And I would just encourage all of you to to join us there, it's free to be part of it. If you want to become an ambassador, that's either a paid membership or by scholarship. So that's also available to anyone who wants to, ambassador's get access to monthly continuing education. We have themes that change each month. And we just have workshops and a community forum. Actually, the forum is free. Also, we have workshops and Asana classes on those themes that you can participate in as an ambassador. Anyway, so that's the little bit about the community. Again, thank you to everyone who helped build that especially you tan. Alright, so back to you. Anjali, are you ready? Was that enough of a break for you?
Anjali Rao 12:36:45
Yes, thank you, I collected myself.
Okay, so those are listening to the podcasts. I just want to say so Anjali just finished the first session of her Bhagavad Gita course, you're welcome to get free access to that course, through our community. And now you're back. And we're going to talk about you.
Anjali Rao 12:37:07
Joomla another, I don't want to talk about me, because, you know, it's, I prefer to always the role of a teacher or student, anything else rather than talk about me, but even I sort of said, I think it's an important one. So I said, Okay,
yes. Well, because you can teach through this as well by sharing your story with us. So I do want to start first with a short introduction, maybe and then I can ask you some personal questions.
Anjali Rao 12:37:43
Awesome, folks who want to know the deal?
Yeah. But you you start telling me a little bit, just your general information that you want to share? Is that okay?
Anjali Rao 12:37:57
Yes, absolutely. So hello, everyone. And for those of you who are joining us today, a very warm welcome. I am Anjali Rao. I go by she or she has my pronouns. I live right now in the land of the Aloni Bay Area Pleasanton and I consider myself Indian American, first generation immigrant, I am come from Bangalore, India, which is right now flooded and trying to figure out how to support many folks right now we're going to be at hardship right there. So I've lived in both the countries equal number of years. So actually a little bit more than that, then more here than there. And as you can see, I'm not very comfortable talking about myself. I give me Bhagavad Gita I can talk but talk about myself. It's really hard. So I came to this country as a student. And I worked in my my interest has always been culture and you know that the dynamics of culture I talked, I studied here in different masters here in human communication with a focus on adult education. And back in India, I was a microbiologist. So I have a very scientific sort of inclination. I'm very nerdy, and I like to study and research a lot.
Right. So wait, microbiologist, so and then you were doing education here is that what you said in the US,
Anjali Rao 12:39:39
I taught I taught at Portland State University, it was a part of a program and I taught intercultural communication and public speaking. And then I got sucked into this corporate world and I was terrible at it. I created a lot of trouble with with people then people were like, What are you doing here? So it was definitely not a good fit. But I tried it for a good amount of time and as it's not work for me, and meanwhile I had two children and then I got diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. And my teacher who is your Laurie and our I just want to give you a shout out she's my friend. And she's seen me through so many things. And thank you, Lauren for coming. So yeah, I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer at the age of 37. And I had to do to, you know, do a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction. And then I realized that I'm not really strong physically and that started my foray into Asana. I never studied asna. In India, my practice has always been through dance, physical practice of movement practices dance. But also, it's interesting that dance in India, the Indian classical dance tradition is more about physical movement, it is actually a connection with the divine, which is using the mechanism, the movements of the body, but it is also in connection transcending the human body and connection to the spiritual teachings of different eras, ages. So it was a lot of lot of the teachings were centered around Bhakti yoga. So back then, of course, I had no idea that the scald Bhakti yoga, I just was, I studied three different dance forms, but not to cut back and see. And that has inspired that continues to inspire my physical practice. And I see any part of my physical practices being also in conjunction with spirituality, quote, unquote, or, or even philosophy and, you know, all of that, and culture. So my first class or my Astra I got such a sense of connection to my physical body, which a lot of cancer survivors face sort of a disconnection with the with the human body. And I knew something actually, I hated asna, as a child, I thought was really boring. But something has shifted something magical and happened in in my first asthma pass. And I went to my teacher, and I said, I want to teach this, I want to share this for people who are going through cancer. And my teacher was like, Why didn't you come to your second class? So long story short, I finished my second 200 hours, in which Lorien was there who shared the magic of teaching, yoga with, with modify, you know, with offering different levels and layers of the teaching for people who are going through various health challenges, including cancer. So I kind of did an internship with her in Stanford, and I taught, once she left, she offered this thing to teach in Stanford, and that I think, has been one of my biggest teachings, I think we learned from different sources. But for me, teachings come from people who we share the practice with the most.
Well, so let's, let's go back from it. And I just want to understand, when you're a child, you say that you didn't like Asana. Were you? Were you was that shared with you? Or you offered Asana practices, or just through mostly dance? Like, I know that Bharatanatyam is very spiritual practice, like I know, it's like, storytelling, right?
Anjali Rao 12:43:26
Yes. So a lot of the Yes, I was offered. Awesome, was a part of our school system. Actually, back then this was in the 90s. I think, I don't know whether things have changed in many of the schools right now. But there's a sort of a revival of, of, quote unquote, yoga in school spaces. But that's a whole another conversation. But, yes, I was offered asna, we were all offered Asana as a part of our school program. And I did not like the teacher, I did not like that. So I thought it was very important, like, what is this setting and holding it for, like, you know, for a long time, so you didn't actually, you know, connect with me, my practice was very dynamic, moving. So I find stillness in movement, I find I find my mind completely is anchored in movement. And I've come to realize many things about that particular inclination as I've gotten older and a study more in depth about you know, the doshas and swamp Baba, you know, character and all of that. So, yeah.
And then let's go back to being a troublemaker also, because I think that's an important part of your journey. At least, I can feel there is a thread of that through your life, it seems. What did you mean by that? Like, you tried to be in the corporate world, and they just didn't fit in? Or what was it?
Anjali Rao 12:44:47
I was a troublemaker. In the sense, I was always a questioner, I always did not take any authorities word for, you know, for it to be the ultimate truth. I always question and I think I have to attribute this particular quality which troubled my parents later, but it was because of my parents. My dad was an atheist, and my mom is a believer. So you know, in her own rituals and tradition kind of thing, but we were very well we were very have, you know, because they open in our home to have these discussions and arguments and back and forth about everything back then. So we grew up with that. And we were always encouraged to read beyond what is in our syllabus, we always read, I read my first discovery of Vivekānanda was as a 14 year old, and I loved Vivekānanda stitchings. Because Vivekānanda was a rebel himself. And I connected to Vivekānanda stitchings. So even then, I did not really connect it to yoga, you know, I connected it to yoga much later in my, in my life. And Bhakti yoga was a big part of our growing up, because I saw it all around me. And in in my own rebellious way, I connected to yoga, the practice of devotion, and karma yoga, the practice of, you know, engagement and action. We were always encouraged to be in the community and, you know, to offer Stiva in other ways we could. So all of that I realized later is also yoga, because, you know, we always think you guys will be asked now, but yoga was since then, I mean, I now know that it's always been a part of my life.
It just wasn't called yoga, then, like, there wasn't like, there was a Judas doing these actions.
Anjali Rao 12:46:38
We were doing these actions we were studying from different teachers. So that's why whenever anyone asks me, What is your yoga lineage? I have no clear answer. I have no clear yoga lineage. I have lived multiple lineages I've learned from so many people. And I continue to learn it. So I, I understand the importance of lineage and traditions. And I get all of that too. But there are I'm sure there are many people like me who have learned from multiple teachers with different influences. And my teachings. If I if I were to pinpoint a particular lineage, I would say it's my dance tradition, because that's just the most unbroken tradition of teachings that I've been a part of.
Yes. And so So going back to being a troublemaker, you said that your it's your parents, right,
Anjali Rao 12:47:23
you have to ask about my trouble making?
Because well, because I think that we're gonna get into some trouble together. And I'm I, I think, you know, I mean, you have to segue. I mean, I'd love to hear more actually, about your story. But I also know what we want to talk today about some of the themes that we're gonna address in the podcast this season. I think that's the kind of theme that I see. Coming through a little bit, you know, speaking up questioning, so I just wanted to like, I don't know, if you're willing to share a story about what happened when you're in the corporate world? Thanks. Is there anything? Oh,
Anjali Rao 12:47:59
gosh, I don't know whether there's this particular story. But I would always kind of question about, you know, why? People say that in the in the corporate culture here in the United States, and it's open door, and anybody can talk to anybody, and everybody can question it. But it's really not that it's really not that simple. That is the power dynamic. And there is a strong patriarchal leaning, even though they say that it's all okay, and blah, blah, blah. So it isn't really that there is a patriarchal way of saying that this is the right way to do it. One has to be very intellect in to be intellectual or to be analytical. And one can't be emotional. I am very emotional person, I can cry at the drop of a hat, you know, which I do. So, I questioned a lot of that. I said, Why is it that, you know, why are we not hiring this person? I wasn't HR. So I'm like, why are we not hiring this person? This person has all the qualifications. Oh, it's because of XYZ. That is not enough. So that's, you know, sort of clashing about all that.
Yeah. No, that's helpful. I think it's the inquisitiveness, that's important. And I think something that you and I spoken about before is that there's a history of that, within yoga, this this history of debate and questioning. I mean, really, that's what yoga is all about, right? Like questioning reality, like, what are we doing here? Why are we here? You know, who am I? These are like the essential questions of spiritual pursuit. And I would, I would love to hear your talk about this idea of questioning and debate and argument within yoga history.
Anjali Rao 12:49:37
Absolutely. And a big part of my research is to look at how I mean yoga and the definitions of it are so fast, so obviously, we can't go into that, but it what we can say is that it is it is an amalgamation of psychology and spirituality and tradition and religion. And also it is always embedded within a socio political landscape. Right, it is also shaping what is happening around it and what is happening around to shaping yoga. So yoga and social change has always been very intertwined. And yoga and quote unquote, politics, or whatever we call it, political change has always been intertwined. So my god jet has been to really unravel this mystery of how it has been intertwined. We always say it, some of us have been seeing it, but really bring bring in examples and stories of how it has been
intertwined with each other. Yeah, I mean, I just love that about you. I think I meant to book I reached out to you because I loved an article that I saw that you wrote about the history of like, as women and ancient yoga. I mean, it was like this amazing journey back, I had not seen anyone talking about that. And I had a sense of that already, that you were kind of challenging some of the assumptions that are made in the contemporary yoga world, about that about what yoga is, and also what the history of yoga is.
Anjali Rao 12:50:59
Yes. And actually, there's a story to that, because it is this person who wrote on social media, very powerful yoga teacher who wrote that it was the West to liberate the women to practice yoga. And I was like, Really, and at that time, I even I didn't know and I was like, wait a minute, is this true? So that got me thinking, and because I'm such a nerd, and I'm so like, annoyingly, you know? What do you say, precocious or whatever that word is, I started digging through. And then as I started digging through, I realized that first of all, the concept of what yoga is itself is very narrow to this person, because obviously, ancient Indians or ancient in the Indus Valley, people did not practice Asana. And that's why it was not there in a public way, in any literature, or whatever. So it was not, it was a very narrow definition of what yoga was. And also this person had no concept of history, or what has happened to India before, since then, because of colonization, and etc, etc. So I can write, I mean, I can write a whole book about it. And also that my own bias, like I started, right, I started looking at women first because that's where my identity is. And then I realized that there is a bigger thing that I'm not seeing, which is the non binary folks, which are the transport people. And I needed to kind of delve deeper into that. So where all these stories, so anything, which is busting the systemic, patriarchal leanings, and the narratives within yoga is what I would look at.
You have some fans here, I think. Yeah. I mean, I appreciate that, too. I appreciate that as a Queer person, because I always am wondering about those things myself, I don't know if I have the I don't think nerdiness is the word that you're naming yourself. It's more like intellectual capacity and research that goes into that kind of, you know, project that really examining the history, but I always have a sense that there's more to the story, right, there's more to the story. yoga is such a huge, all encompassing topic, and to narrow it down to these kind of very thin narratives that, you know, people try to sell, it just has always gotten on my nerves. Which is why I love that piece that you wrote. And I remember reaching out to you just like wondering, like, what are you doing? Like, who are you? Where are you? I mean, it was a few years ago, and I was just like, amazed already by that. So I'm grateful to have connected with you about that.
Anjali Rao 12:53:38
to I think the pandemic happened, and all of us were seeking connection to yoga community. And I knew I was and I wanted to seek and seek people and connections who are doing the work not only in terms of us now, but more because by then an auditor started making these discoveries for myself. And I want to, I want you to also George Floyd happened around that time, and I wanted to start looking into how we can practice yoga, in terms of in the context of the times that we live in. Right. So I think you were doing that work. And I saw a few more of those Yan who are doing this work, so I want you to connect with them. And that's why I was so happy that you reach out.
Yeah, I don't even know when that was. But I wonder if we could talk more about that, like some of the themes that we were going to cover this season? Do you want to I mean, I wrote down a few that we spoke about, I remember already talking about them, this relationship between yoga and politics. Do you want to talk about that a little bit? Like how we're going to address that? Sure, I
Anjali Rao 12:54:43
think we're gonna delve into some of some history of it maybe, and talk about the impact of colonization a little bit. And even before that, and yoga as a vehicle of social change has been has has always been there. So we're not kind of creating something new because there's a lot of criticism of my work and your work and many people here like Tejal and, you know, who, who's whose work has been criticized. So I want to say that this work has always been there. And so yeah, that will be one and then to talk about, you know, the binaries, the of binaries in yoga binaries and the polarization that exists in the world and in society in the culture around us and how it reflects in, in, in yoga spaces, right? So always been bringing these threads of what happens in the world outside to the yoga speech, because it's really not, it's really not separate it is it is the people who are doing all of it.
Yeah, I like to bring in binary because I was just thinking about Patanjali sutras on Asana, I think it's the third one he talks about by practicing Asana, you go beyond duality. And I think that's the duality that we're so stuck in. And binary is just an example of how we live in that world, of like, good and bad and right and wrong, and male and female even. And it's just such a limitation. And that yoga is really about transcending that, that, like prison, actually, that we've created for the mind, you know, there causes a lot of suffering, and actually a lot of harm, not only to people, but to the whole planet. And I just feel like, this conversation is not just important in terms of addressing misunderstandings in the yoga world. But also, I think, the ways that yoga can actually lead towards not only healing, but healing in a more global way, like how we can actually use spiritual practices like yoga, and other indigenous practices. I shouldn't say use them, but engage in them in a way that's respectful and also productive for our societies and our communities and our and, and the planet. That's my rant.
Anjali Rao 12:56:53
Yeah, absolutely. Well, I think we should I think we can leave this conversation with that note, Ben.
Okay. Anything else you want to share about the next season?
Anjali Rao 12:57:06
Um, I think that's about it. I themes that we will explore. Yeah. All right. Good. Conversation.
Me too. I'm excited to talk to you more. All right. So the last thing I'd like to share is just some of the upcoming events, we have the accessible yoga association. So I mentioned the new community space, you can find it through our website, accessible yoga.org. And you can join Anjali for the next three parts of her kita course. Or if you've missed it, if this comes out later, you can come back and find the recordings there as well. We have monthly continuing education programs, the month of September, it's yoga for cancers, the theme. And so we have some amazing programming there. And also in October, we have our annual accessible yoga conference online, which is our big event of the year. The theme is moving from me to we and it takes place October 14 through 16th. I think the registration will be open soon. And the next few days, there is a list and details of it, whatever I think in the chat, you can find out we'll also add that to the podcast notes. Thank you tan. And in fact, we're also beginning the conference with what we're calling a pre conference intensive that's a free event on October 14, which is a Friday, called Beyond inclusivity, making yoga truly accessible with for yoga teachers with disabilities, Matthew Sanford, Donna Noble, Ryan McGraw, and Natalia to Bo. And I'll be hosting that as well. And they're going to give, there'll be panel discussions and workshops with those amazing teachers. And that's a free event on Friday, October 14th. I hope you'll join us for that. So thanks, everyone for being here. Thank you Anjali for all of this.
Anjali Rao 12:59:00
Thank you all so much for being here.
And thanks for listening to the podcast if you're listening, and I hope you'll join us for our future episodes. Take care everybody. Okay, bye. Thanks for joining us for the accessible yoga podcast. We're so grateful to be in community with you.
Anjali Rao 12:59:21
Please check out our website accessible yoga.org. To find out more about our upcoming programs, including our annual accessible yoga conference. At our website, you can also learn more about how to become an ambassador and support the work that you're doing in the world.
Please subscribe to the podcast and leave us a review wherever you listen. We'd love to hear your thoughts.
Anjali Rao 12:59:44
You can also submit a question or suggest a topic or potential guests you would like us to interview at accessible yoga.org See you next time.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai