Anjali Rao 12:35:49
Hello, and welcome to the Love of Yoga podcast presented by the Accessible Yoga Association. I'm your host, Anjali Rao. The Love of Yoga podcast connects to the expansiveness of the teachings of yoga, through provocative conversations with yoga scholars, changemakers and thought leaders, our intention is to provide avenues of access for yoga practitioners who are seeking to embody these teachings for personal and social transformation.
This is a preview of a conversation with the brilliant Thenmozhi Soundararajan, the author of The Trauma of Caste, A Dalit Feminist Meditation on Survivorship, Healing, and Abolition. So one more question to Marie is how do you think caste has been operating in yoga spaces the inmate in so many ways it has. So do you have any examples that you want to share?
Thenmozhi Soundararajan 12:36:58
Sure, so I think there is this really, very intense dynamic, particularly, I think, in teachers that are not South Asian, about people being concerned around appropriation and yoga. And so what this means is, is that they not only become hyper aware about appropriation, where they might be Miss stepping, they then lean into very conservative models of South Asian culture as the way to do things, right, when in fact, they're actually lifting up very bigoted frameworks, and also frameworks that make no sense in terms of their application here. And so they actually cause double harm, as a result of wanting to not be appropriate, you know, be people were waiting. And that's why I always say that in order to decolonize yoga, you have to first de brahmanas, it actually many aspects of caste that you come across. And, you know, one very simple thing is a lot of yoga studios I've been to, they may start you off with like a mantra, like, you know, you know, whether it's the, you know, the removal of obstacles, Mantra, or, you know, there's all different kinds of do, right. And that was a place of deep conflict for me as a Dalit. Because of the way that Sanskrit was weaponized by the Brahmin class to, and that many early Hindu scriptures, we were not allowed to speak it, we weren't even allowed to listen to it. Otherwise, we'd have our tongues cut off and led poured in our ears. So it was very troubling to be in a class and have a teacher say to me, you can't really get the benefits of this practice if you don't do the mantra. And and you have to do it. And if I didn't, then I was going to be asked to leave the class. What? Yeah, this is like in the early 90s. So it was like really kind of wild. You know, dogmatism going on there. And it was very, it was so hard for me, because I was thinking about the fact that my ancestors couldn't say, these mantras, and yet, how can I use it for my own freedom when it was something that enslaved them? Oh, gosh, yeah. So you know, to me, I feel like it, I think there's a lot of experimentation that could be done about either leaving those monitors out, especially because yoga classes in the United States are secular. And so either leaving them out or having a replacement or having something that's verbal, because the whole point of why we're doing mantra is to integrate, you know, yeah, and you know, and I remember people saying these, like, absurd things like Sanskrit is such a deeply holy language, no other language has the level of spiritual vibration that it has. And it's these specific letters in Sanskrit that free your body and integrate your chakras. And in actuality, you know, it just so happens that those, you know, syllables, activate our vagus nerve, you know, and so we can achieve them without those syllables, just by knowing that logic and that way that our, you know, sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system works together. Right, right. So all of that kind of weird, esoteric, you know, around this, people lean into because they think that they're surrendering to the lineage or the power of that, when in fact, these are things that have filters of the ego on them, and we have to still bring our critical thinking to it, you know, and that doesn't. So and there's even things about I've always been struck about how gendered and misogynist, some of the divisions of the body and energy are, as you know, written in certain yoga texts are where, you know, the idea of our senses being Shakti is feminine. And the discipline is Shiva or male. And I remember this one teacher gave me this example of being in Varanasi, and he saw this one Baba, you know, essentially hitting himself with the whip to control his senses. And he would say, You whore Shakti you core Shakti. And then he would talk about the incredible discipline of yoga and you know, Shiva being yoga discipline, to be able to bring the energy up into the Kundalini. And you can actually do all of those things without having such a huge gendered language rapes.
Anjali Rao 12:41:31
Absolutely. And I think the gender bias and the brahminical bias came in because of rabbinical patriarchy. And, you know, the coding of all these issues after Manu smithy came into came into vogue during the times, and then it was propagated through centuries. So 100%, there is absolutely no need for anyone to chant, if there is a, if there is a resistance for whatever reason. And if you don't feel good about it, that's always it should always be an option, everything should always be an option. I think in an yoga class, you know, you can come to a yoga class and take a nap. And if that's what you really want to do, that's what you really want to do. That's how it should be. And I think you know, the Shiva Shakti dichotomy of, or binary thinking of gender is itself an example of the bias that exists and who wrote these things who taught these things? They were men, there were sis men, there was this Brahmin men who taught these things centuries ago, and then everybody thinks that that is the only truth. So thank you for bringing that up. And, and whoever said that in your LA studio is absolutely wrong. You know, you should nobody should, should have to say or do anything. Consent is the most important thing.
Unknown Speaker 12:42:56
It is. And you know, what, we're coming to yoga practice. And what we're hoping to get from the mat is integration. Yeah, no, we don't need to have the human filter that shapes it in the context of one gender being stronger than the other. The senses being pure impure, you know, using gendered language. All of that are ways that we fail, the ultimate endless possibility that comes from integration. You know, when I think I had to again, I had to embody myself to recognize I had a right to these practices and as a Dalit women think about how revolutionary it is to have a Dalit woman talk about somatic practice. In our tradition, when we are the ones who are experimented on, we are the ones that are rate, we are not the ones that create the possibility for divinity. That's exactly what I want us to be able to do because everything changes when we start to center consent and center the oppressed
Anjali Rao 12:43:56
100% Thank you so much for bringing that up. Please listen to the entire interview in the Love of Yoga podcast.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai