“Study thy Self, discover the Divine.” – Yoga Sutra II.44
As you know, in our group classes we’ve begun to introduce the ethical limbs of Yoga, called the Yamas (outer restraints) & Niyamas (inner observances). The Yamas include Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya & Aparigraha … ways we interact with others in order to cultivate a peaceful, equitable, enlightened society. The Niyamas include Saucha, Santosha, Tapas, Svadyaya, and Ishvara Pranidhana … inner observances we take on to get more familiar with & embody the Divine within us all.
Did you know, according to some Yoga traditions, that a student would not be allowed to practice Asana (postures) unless & until they had mastered the Yamas & Niyamas? (It begs the question for me: Would I even be practicing Asana right now? Haha!)
These past few months, & I believe for many months & years to come, have once again opened deep wounds, intense emotions, past traumas, generational traumas — both on an individual level & global level. Father Gregory Boyle of Homeboy Industries states that our systems – political, healthcare, economic, criminal justice & more — have been predicated on the idea that “some lives matter less than others.” My white skin has offered me unearned advantages, my body with relatively few aches & pains has been given unearned advantages, & more … what am I to do with this knowledge that my white, able, cis-gender body is advantaged by these systems?
Hari Kirtana das has offered a quote in relation to the Bhagavad Gita, a primary text of Yoga: “The one thing a yogi cannot tolerate is injustice.” We who are students of Yoga have a duty, according to the Bhagavad Gita, to discern when to fight for what is right both within ourselves & out in the world. We begin with ourselves.Susanna Barkataki of “Honor Don’t Appropriate Yoga” says we can reunite with the true aim & purpose of Yoga through Svadyaya, orself-rule and inquiry, and “truly learn the full, honest integrity of an authentic yoga practice.” Our authentic Yoga practice propels us into the world with clarity, a sense of purpose, & an ethic to work for a better world.
Currently, I’m wrapping up an Ayurveda Immersion course with Luvena Rangel this weekend, & am in the middle of a 30-day meditation teacher training in the Himalayan Tradition with Tracee Stanley. I’ve been accepted into an Accessible Yoga Teacher Training intensive, which begins June 15th. (If you’re into Ayurveda at all, this drive to learn is my Pitta coming out, haha!)
I share my recent Svadyaya practices with one priority: to highlight just a few of the BIPOC teachers & organizations doing the work of sharing the full scope of Yoga. I hope you’ll check out each of these teachers / organizations as soon as possible. Too often, Yoga has become diluted in the West, i.e. equating this holistic system with “making shapes with our bodies,” mostly white bodies, mostly bodies with certain abilities (I am guilty of perpetuating these stereotypes).
That said, I want you / I to go deeper, to unlearn, to re-learn, & to honor the depth & breadth of Yoga — to learn from these qualified, lineage-based teachers/organizations that provide traditional wisdom in a modern context. We study ourselves in order to discover the Divine in ourselves & every other human, creature, & aspect of our environment. I am making mistakes on this journey daily … & yet am committed to self-study, reflection, & deep listening. I hope we are in this together.
I look forward to hearing from you, & connecting with you soon. What does Svadyaya look like for you these days? Not out of a “look at me” standpoint, but from a “this is what really moves me,” “this is what I notice in myself,” “this is where I want to dive deeper” reflective stance.
THANK YOU for sharing your Yoga practice together in community with me. I look forward to practicing with you online & in-person (outdoors!) soon.
Deep bows to you, Erica
*Listen to an interview with Tracee Stanley on the Commune Podcast HERE.