Monday, August 26, 2019

Speak Up and Yoga: Two Indian Americans Find Their Voices to Change the Yoga Industry

Jesal Parikh (left) and Tejal Patel (right)

By Jesal Parikh and Tejal Patel

Jesal and Tejal will be presenting a workshop at the Accessible Yoga Conference in New York, Oct. 11-13, 2019.

People assume we’ve named our podcast “Yoga is Dead” and our first episode “White Women Killed Yoga” because we are hasty and reactive. That we created our work out of a need to blast anger and frustration without a second thought.

It’s easy to make this assumption since we live in the age of reactivity. Where instant communication allows us to lay our emotions onto each other without hesitation.

Our truth is very different. One where we sat silently in pause for most of our lives. Like that time a boy “jokingly” asked Jesal while riding the school bus: “What did God say when he created a brown person?...Whoops! I burnt another one!” and she sat silently, only crying after making it home. Or that time Tejal’s friend told her “Your God isn’t real because he’s blue!” and she sat dumbfounded in the lunchroom feeling othered and exposed.

A lifetime of not being “Indian enough” or “American enough” instilled in us that sitting silently and keeping our head down was the path to success. It taught us how to live in constant inquiry about our own identity. Perhaps that’s why we both quit corporate jobs to pursue yoga as a career.

When we met in 2015, we sat in a training where the white woman studio owner inflicted this same trauma on us that we experienced in our childhoods. We’ve been asked why we didn’t simply get up and leave after feeling so affronted. To understand our choice to stay and be silent is to understand our life experiences and those of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents who learned that success was built on silence around white people. We left that first week of training silent but internally reeling, and hoping the next week of training would be better.

Our connection with each other was a turning point for us both. Our relationship gave us space to breathe and question why we were still staying silent when we knew we had the education (we both did yoga trainings in India), the life experience, and the heritage to afford us authority and credibility.

We went on our own teaching journeys after that training and continued to run into conflict with folks in the yoga industry. We leaned on each other for support in unpacking those experiences. When Tejal proposed starting a podcast, we spent nearly a year pausing and considering our stories. Reflection for us also meant doing a boatload of research. We processed, unpacked, recontextualized, and ultimately, we started over. It took us months of thoughtful debate to decide on a name. From there we worked out our point of view. We edit each episode in an attempt to be as mindful as we can.

Nearly four years since we met, we’ve come to some very serious conclusions about the yoga industry and we’re now able to provide helpful actions, steps to improve conditions for everyone. We’ve learned that taking time to reflect, research, unpack, and process are essential components for spiritual growth. And while silence isn’t always the pathway to success, there is no way forward without learning how to listen.

Tejal Patel, E-RYT 500, has been teaching yoga since 2013. She is trained in trauma-informed mindfulness-based practices through the Lineage Project, studies Prenatal techniques and pelvic floor with​ Living Now Yoga​, and traveled from NY to Kerala, India for several yoga teacher trainings focused on vinyasa, hatha, and restorative yoga. She started POC + Allies Collective Yoga to honor inclusivity and diversity and leads free​ Yoga for All in The Battery​ in New York's landmark 25-acre public park, now in its sixth year. She leads retreats with topics covering asana workshops, trauma informed practices, and pelvic floor anatomy. She is the creator of​ abcdyogi​ village, an international community for any born conscientious desi yogi of South Asian descent to reclaim the yoga and mindfulness space by sharing their personal stories and practices with the world. She was featured as​ 19 Women of Color to Watch in the Yoga World in 2019​. Tejal also offers group vinyasa and restorative yoga classes at​ Humming Puppy NYC​ and private yoga and reiki sessions.

Jesal Parikh has been teaching since 2010. She is certified in prenatal yoga, Functional Range Conditioning Mobility, and has completed over 200 hours of yoga anatomy and biomechanics training. The focus of her teaching is, in her words, “Stress-free living for non-yogis. No acrobatics. No mystical bs. Just useful, practical stuff.” She aims to offer a practice that supports her students in finding practical, functional movement and lasting change in their day-to-day lives, and in her teaching with private clients focuses on addressing pain, injury, posture, and mobility. She also teaches on staff at​ Maha Mama,​ frequently offering free prenatal classes through the alumni program, as well as volunteering with​ World Spine Care Yoga Project.​ She co-created the list of​ 19 Women of Color to Watch in the Yoga World in 2019 and she is a proud member of the​ abcdyogi​ community.

This post was edited by Patrice Priya Wagner, co-editor of Accessible Yoga blog and member of the Board of Directors.

° FOLLOW Accessible Yoga on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and YouTube

° REGISTER here for our next conference. 

° DONATE here to help us bring yoga to people who don't have access or have been underserved, such as people with disabilities, chronic illnesses, children with special needs, and anyone who doesn't feel comfortable in a regular yoga class.

To preorder Jivana Heyman's forthcoming book Accessible Yoga, go to AmazonBarnes and NobleIndie Bound (for independent bookstores), or your local bookstore.

1 comment:

  1. For me reading this...I feel a kinship to these women. I understand their frozen stillness, their non-emoted way of being to survive to not cause shame to self, to culture, to the world we carry. I am so honored the light is finally able to fill the room again.