Lineage Acknowledgement

This lineage acknowledgement is one small step towards recognizing the impacts and working towards reparations for the harm caused to the people and wisdom traditions of India by the violent and exploitative means of colonization, capitalism and white supremacy. It is an attempt to provide some context for the Yoga that I practice and share, and the ways I am working to relearn and more deeply understand my relationship to Yoga. Any attempts to summarize history will always leave out large swaths of context and information, and any unintentional omissions or errors are solely my own. 

Yogic practices began to emerge on the subcontinent of India from 800 BCE – 200 CE, as part of a cultural shift towards an individual exploration of spirituality and self-realization. Texts from that time period include Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita, which share different approaches to Yoga (big Y). These texts do not detail physical postures; the texts primarily outline ethics, meditative and/or devotional practices. Some of the physical postures of Yoga that we might see in contemporary yoga classes today began to emerge after 1100 CE, when systemization of a number of yogic practices (including fasting, cleansing, mudras, chanting, meditation on the subtle body, and physical poses) began to be recorded and codified. Many of these practices were actively suppressed during the violent and destructive British colonization of India, in an attempt to destroy Indigenous wisdom and culture. 

A number of yogic practices were revived by Indian Independence activists in the 1930s, who were hoping to reconnect Indians with their cultural heritage. The physical poses, often known as hatha yoga, began to be taught more widely across India and around the world, in some places fusing with other physical fitness trends. Hatha yoga (with a focus on asana, or physical postures) has since developed into a multi-billion dollar aspect of the fitness industry, however most of the industry is in large part extracted from its original cultural context(s) and wisdom traditions. 

The North American yoga industry primarily focuses on one aspect of Yoga — asana — a Sanskrit word which can be translated as “seat.” Asanas were originally the seated poses for meditation, but later evolved to include more complex physical shapes. Asana is one of eight limbs of Yoga as outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the other 7 limbs spanning ethics, breath practices, and deepening levels of concentration and meditative contemplation. It should be noted that there are many texts and traditions that outline other limbs or systems of yoga, but Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is the most widely known text in North American contexts. 

What I Study, Practice and Share

 

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