Detachment

Detachment is not that you own nothing, but that nothing should own you. {Alī}

Fear, anxiety, sadness…these are all emotions I’ve felt so deeply. It’s often felt as if they’ve owned me, they were how I defined myself.

Practicing detachment and grounding myself to the present has helped me release the hold these feelings have had on me. This doesn’t mean I don’t feel them. I do. Often. But they no longer own me. They no longer permeate my being. I am able to let these feelings go, using my yoga. And my Sangha.

How can we continue to practice detachment throughout our lives?

Here are some tips on how to embrace detachment:

  1. First and foremost, understand and accept that you can not control everything. This will take some time, but continue to remind yourself of this. Daily if necessary.
  2. Try to stop making your happiness or gratitude conditional on something outside of yourself. Don’t just say you’re happy because you’ve hit a goal, got a promotion, or got the thing you’ve been after. Express gratitude for the daily things in your life. Express happiness and joy for moments you’re experiencing daily.
  3. Recognize the difference between a need and a want. You need water. You want a fancy car.
  4. Try to reframe your experiences, your work responsibilities, everything you do as blessings.
  5. Try to practice compassion and empathy. Try to see the world from another’s point of view. Observe your surroundings rather than trying to constantly experience or control them.
  6. Don’t focus on the outcome or goal of a situation, focus on the experience of getting there. Whether it’s a trip or a project. Try to embrace the experience of it rather than just getting to the end of it.
  7. Before doing anything, pause. Take a deep breath. Proceed with clarity of mind and thought as much as possible.

New Year, New You? Maybe not…

The new year is here. So many of us may feel such a sense of relief that 2020 is over. All the pain, all the frustration, all the wrong. It has to be over, right? A new year brings opportunity for growth, for change. As the old saying goes, new year, new me!

Maybe not…

2020 brought on a great deal of pain. COVID-19 came and spread with such voracity, no one saw it coming. So in this new year, do we think it will just go away? Does making our traditional resolutions make COVID gone? Does the existence of multiple vaccines make it possible to go back to the way things were?

I think not. Time, like many things, is a man-made construct. This idea that a new year will bring immense change is a large burden to place on ourselves. Yes, 2021 is going to provide changes and opportunities. We’ll have a new president. We will hopefully have greater access to the COVID vaccine making herd immunity a real possibility. We may have some realistic resolutions in place.

But let’s look back at 2020 and think of some of the good that may have come out of it. We saw social justice in action. Some of you may have joined your first protest. Some of you may have voted for the first time. We developed a vaccine in ground-breaking time. We used our voices to make changes that might ultimately improve our communities.

For me, here are a few intentions that I started in 2020 that I plan to carry into and throughout 2021:

1) continue taking care of myself through good foods, meditation, and yoga
2) spend more time with folks who empower, support, and unconditionally love me
3) take more screen breaks
4) spend more time outside
5) watch less tv

What are some intentions you want to carry through 2021?

Rest is Revolution

It has been 280 days since my community has been under COVID related orders. The orders have shifted, the regulations have changed. Somehow, the entire time, it has felt like some form of quarantine. Whether I’m able to only see my partner, the one who lives with me. Or maybe I can grow my germ pod to up to ten people. Either way, I am restricted. My movements feel watched. And yet, I am okay. I am safe. I am healthy.

Through the last 280 days, I have learned one thing, above all else. Rest is Revolution. In 2020, rest has become my priority. Separating work and life. Focusing less on the mediocre idea of progress and productivity and actually putting my efforts and passions into what I do. It feels right. It feels real. My work is something for me to be proud of. It isn’t just for a paycheck. It isn’t to show that I’m using my paid hours productively. It’s to show that I am worthy of this title that I hold. It is to show that the work I say I do, I actually do. The changes I wish to make, I am making.

As 2020 comes to an end, my work has slowed. Sending in my last timesheets for the year, my last reports. I find myself looking forward to actual time off, time where I don’t have to hear my phone pinging me with emails unread, needing to be answered. I’m looking forward to time where I don’t have to log into zoom for hours at a time. I’m looking forward to the quiet, small holidays that I will be spending at home. No flights, no guest rooms, no living out of suitcases. As much as I miss travel, I am looking forward to this rest. This real, rooted, rest.

I hope you find rest this holiday season. See you in 2021!

Return of the Yogi

Six months and two days ago my city went into quarantine.

Six month and five days ago, cops killed Breonna Taylor.

These two events have triggered a great deal of emotion in me. As we shut our doors and windows, turning inside rather than outside for entertainment and hobbies to pass the time, my thoughts continually turn to Breonna and what her last night was like. It probably felt normal, like most other nights in her life. Maybe it didn’t. I guess we’ll never know.

Every night over the last six months, I have gone to bed with a sense of heaviness. No matter how much joy I’ve found throughout the day, no matter how much I’ve been able to distract myself from the realities of what is happening, I’ve constantly felt that heaviness at the end of the day. I find myself not wanting to go to bed because that means drifting into an unknown, an unknown I’m not sure I’ll wake up from.

The reality, however, is that I will most likely wake up. The reality is that I probably won’t have my house by police using a no-knock warrant. The reality is, I am probably safe.

Over the last six months I’ve really come to understand my advantage in society. While I have and still find myself facing discrimination to some level, I can’t say I know the constant fear that the Black community faces. I am working to unlearn all the prejudices I have been taught and try to use my advantage to life up these suppressed voices. I am working to do what I can to make this world a better place.

This has been my yoga for the past six months and two days. What has your yoga looked like?

Yoga & Social Media

It took me a great deal of time and thought to decide on what I wanted to write about for my first 2020 post. Usually I try to start the year off with intention setting or invite you all as readers to join in on a new year reset yoga challenge. While these things are still happening in the background of my own personal life (Adrienne came out with another 30 day yoga playlist, if you haven’t checked it out, here it is: Home) I thought I would start this year with a different intention. I want to write about more challenging topics. Similar to my recent post about cultural appropriation, I was to discuss issues that matter to me that readers might relate to. Of course, I will keep bringing in posts about specific poses or yoga props, but I also want to dig a little deeper.

So for my first post in 2020, I want to discuss yoga and social media…

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Many of you might scroll through your favorite social media feed and find someone doing a yoga pose. Maybe it’s a celebrity sponsor of a yoga clothing company, maybe it’s your favorite yoga celebrity, or maybe it’s simply a local yoga instructor. Maybe you yourself have posted photos of yourself in yoga poses.

That is great!

Let me state very clearly, I’m not here to judge anyone for anything you have or will do on social media. If you post pictures of yourself regularly in yoga poses…great. If you don’t, that’s great too. What I want to discuss is what the intention is behind these posts.

I have noticed a trend in yoga instructors and yoga celebrities posting photos of themselves in advanced poses. I find accounts online called “Yoga Inspiration” highlighting a very specific type of yoga student or teacher showing off their skills in handstands, scorpion pose, and other advanced poses. So again, I ask, what’s the intention behind these? Is it truly to send inspiration to students around the social media world that they too can get there? If so, that’s great! If it’s to show off a skill you’ve worked hard to achieve, that’s great too! More often than not, I get the sense that this type of imagery creates an unrealistic idea of what yoga is. I also think that these images might actually discourage students because they may not be able to achieve certain advanced poses yet or at the same time as their peers and they may give up. Unlike many other activities, yoga isn’t just about achievement in the physical sense, it’s more (to me) about achieving alignment with yourself, mind, body and spirit. So I think to myself, what is the point of posting these images to show others what poses you can get into when the practice itself is about getting more in tune with yourself? I worry about the long term impact on yoga students as well as the yoga practice itself. I believe that yoga in the western society has already become warped and appropriated in certain ways and I don’t think social media is really helping.

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Now, don’t get me wrong, I myself have posted many pictures in yoga poses. My true intention is not only to inspire students and friends, but also to educate on what yoga might be good for or help with. Part of my recent journey has been to create more awareness and intention around my words and actions. So I’ve toned down on my yoga pose photos and tried to highlight life, the reality of it. I don’t want to promote myself and only my achievements. I want to promote the world and it’s beauty. Especially in these times.

So, I challenge you…the next time you want to post a picture of yourself in a yoga pose, pause. Ask yourself why…then decide whether you want to or not. The choice is yours and yours alone. No judgement, no foul.

Be well!

Bringing Yoga to Diverse Populations

A lot of folks hold strong stereotypes when they hear I’m a yoga instructor. They assume I work at a studio and teach asana based yoga classes. When I clarify, saying I’m a trauma-sensitive yoga instructor, many people are confused. The conversation usually goes one of two ways, I describe what trauma-sensitive yoga is in detail or I’m asked what the difference is between what I do and what “mainstream” yoga is. When I further describe sites I work at, such as addiction treatment programs and jail programs, it seems even more confusing for some. I get asked why these populations need yoga, why people who have “done something wrong” need it.

Instead of typing out a clarifying blog post, I’m going to let me own words speak for themselves. Here’s a recent interview I did for the Beyond Theory podcast, a podcast for The Meadows Behavioral Health.

Beyond Theory Podcast | S1 E12: Aditi Desai on Bringing Yoga to Diverse Populations

Check it out and let me know what you think! I hope this clarifies a lot of what I do and also what yoga can do for the world.

Giving Thanks

As Thanksgiving approaches. I can’t help but ride the wave of gratitude I see all over social media (hopefully this wave translates to real life). Usually, this time of year, I send out practices of gratitude or I feather asanas that will help with the post-feast fullness. This year, I thought I’d change it up a little. I want to express my gratitude to YOU!

First, I want to thank you for taking the time to read my posts. So much of my writing is based on my opinion and the reading I do on yoga. I appreciate your interest and you taking the time to read and share.

Second, I want to thank you for your interest in yoga. I truly believe yoga is a healing practice, a holistic practice, and it can save humanity. I appreciate your interest, at whatever level it is, in learning more about this practice.

Finally, I want to thank you for trying. Whether its only been once a year, once a month, or once in your lifetime, thank you for trying to do something that is positive and helpful for yourself.

So now, I open the door for you. Share with me or with whoever…what or who are you grateful for?

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Accessible Yoga – Yoga for EVERY BODY

When you think of yoga, what images come to mind? You might see a very specific type of person. You might see a specific race, size, shape, and ability of that person. Imagine you’re walking into a yoga studio, who do you see?

As I’ve started to discuss in my last post, the Westernization of yoga has created this image of yoga that strays very far from the roots of yoga. While there are stories of yoga being restricted to men in India, there are stories and there is a history of people of all shapes, sizes, and genders practicing yoga. Now, as yoga has become a financial commodity, it seems that the population practicing yoga has narrowed. This brings me to my topic today, accessible yoga.

We live in a world where there is potential for variety. Depending on where you live, there may be a variety of foods available, a variety of leisure activities, and a variety of people. So why has yoga in the west seemed to cater to one type of person? Accessibility is a huge issue…not just in yoga but in many realms of life. Access to healthy, fresh foods. Access to transportation. Access to healthcare. So why aren’t we talking about access to yoga? This is a multi-billion dollar company in the west and yet somehow we are limiting it to a very specific type of person for a very specific price point.

We all know the benefits of yoga. We all know that it can help with physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual healing. So why is this only available to certain people? Even studios and classes that are low-cost or promoted to “everyone” seem to only be taught or attended by specific people. Why? Simply put…accessibility. This doesn’t just mean being able to get to the yoga studio or being able to pay for the class. This means being able to do the poses comfortably, being able to do the breath and meditation practices comfortably. This lack of accessibility affects many populations, including but not limited to people of color (POC), larger bodies individuals, people who identify within the LGBTQIA community, people living with differently abled bodies, and people who may not speak or understand English well.

So what do we do? What do we, as yoga teachers and students do to make sure EVERYONE has access, in every way, to the wonderful practice of yoga? Well, I’m glad you asked.

Here are just a few of my tips to make your studios and classes more accessible (in no specific order):

  • Hire POC teachers
  • Hire larger bodies teachers
  • Hire teachers who identify as LGBTQIA
  • Provide classes in different languages
  • Promote chair yoga or accessible classes
  • Use props
  • Provide a variety of mat sizes and thicknesses
  • Do not use words like “full expression of pose” or “more difficult version”
  • Use words like “modification” or “adjustment”
  • Use invitational language
  • As a teacher, model these modifications and adjustments
  • Incorporate pauses
  • Allow students to decide what feels good for them
  • Use consent cards for hands on adjustments
  • Ask permission before using essential oils or scents
  • Attend/offer trainings for accessible yoga
  • Provide all-gender or gender neutral restrooms

This is not an exhaustive list. There are many more ways to make classes more accessible. Let’s start by being open and welcoming to EVERYONE.

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National Yoga Month – Honoring Yoga History and Culture

September is National Yoga Month. As yoga has become a multi-billion dollar industry, there are plenty of ways in which this month can be celebrated. Lately, however, it seems that a lot of yoga practice in the U.S. has been seen as potential cultural appropriation. This has become a hot topic recently between yogis all over the U.S. How are we appreciating yoga and its culture without appropriating it? How are you honoring yoga in all it’s forms? Is it possible that where you practice yoga is sterilizing the culture of yoga?

If you’re thinking it can be difficult to understand what is appreciation and what is appropriate, you’re not wrong and you are not alone. It’s difficult to understand where the line is.

Many yogis are discussing this exact topic. In order to stop cultural appropriation, we need to acknowledge the roots and origins in India. We need to acknowledge the cultural and religious ties yoga has to South Asian countries. Understanding these connections can help one appreciate and practice yoga more authentically. By incorporating cultural appreciation by opening up to understanding and learning, we can prevent the cycle of appropriation from continuing.

Here are a few questions to ask about your local yoga studio:

  1. Are people of Indian heritage represented?
  2. Are cultural or religious symbols displayed appropriately?
  3. Do teachers use Sanskrit as a way of growing the yoga practice or as a way to divide teachers from students?
  4. Are the lineages of the yoga teachers identified and honored?
  5. Do students and teachers wear clothing that display gods and goddesses in areas of the body that are considered disrespectful or harmful to the culture and religion?
  6. Is the yoga studio accessible to all levels and abilities?
  7. Does your studio work to create community and inclusivity?
  8. Do the yoga classes focus only on physical asana?
  9. Does the studio’s yoga teacher training go over cultural history?
  10. Is the studio purposely avoiding using Sanskrit or any South Asian representation?

These are very important topics to consider when practicing yoga, at home using YouTube or at a studio. While we can make yoga available and accessible to all, it’s important to honor the roots. While yoga itself is not a religion, it has many ties to Indian religions and culture. By honoring all that yoga has to offer, not just physical but full body, mind and spirit, we can truly appreciate yoga. By honoring the history of yoga, we can better understand where it came from and why it has been so popular for generations.

So next time you go to a yoga studio or click on your favorite YouTube yoga video, take a look around and observe what may or may not be appreciation and appropriation.

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Yoga Stereotypes

Stereotypes aren’t great. In all of life…whether it has to do with gender, culture or ethnicity. This applies to yoga as well.

I’ve recently been finding a resurgence of questions in my yoga classes that are based on stereotypes or assumptions of what the yoga class is going to entail. So many of my students ask me when they’ll be able to sit in full lotus pose. Others ask me when they’ll be able to do headstands and handstands. These questions are often on their first or second classes. These questions are also often asked in my meditation sessions. Students will ask when will I be able to sit straight without pain? When will I be able to clear my mind completely? I continue to reinforce the idea that asana isn’t about the pose, but about what the pose brings up for you. Meditation isn’t about clearing the mind, but calming it. The emotions, the sensations, the feelings, these are the things we want to focus on…but it seems like there’s so much focus on the physical look of what we are doing, whether it’s asana or meditation, that the deeper benefits get lost.

Other stereotypes I’m met with is about what it means to be a yogi. So many people think I have to be a healthy eater, that I don’t eat any sugar or carbs. Oh, if only I had that kind of self-control. Yes, I generally do eat healthy, AND I love my cakes, ice cream, candy, and donuts. Another stereotype related to what it means to be a yogi suggests that yogis can’t get mad, upset or frustrated. That we don’t have violent thoughts. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but am I not a human being? First and foremost. These thoughts, these feelings…they will always be there. Yogis aren’t all sunshine and rainbows…prayer beads and crystals. We are human beings and have the same range of emotion as anyone else. The trick is how we react to those emotions. The yogic part of me doesn’t react. I let the emotions run their course and when I’m calm and relaxed I make decisions related to the situations that previously frustrated me.

That’s what it means to be a yogi…making mindful decisions about life. Whether it’s what you eat, what pose you’re doing, or how you react to a situation.

So…if you ever notice your yoga teacher eating a candy bar while ranting, don’t say “oh wow, aren’t you a yogi?”. Just treat them like a human being who is having one of those days.

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