|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.
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.
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