As a child I always felt that I didn’t fit in. This feeling continued throughout my adolescence and well into adulthood. Being a part of the yoga community was no different. I can say with confidence that 99% of the yoga classes I have attended, I was the only Indian person in the class. The irony is not lost on me. My first few years of yoga practice was limited to gyms and fitness studios, I knew there was more to yoga than just the physical practice and I wanted to learned more. It seemed very logical for me to go to India to study yoga. My family, both in the U.S. and India were very puzzled by my desire to do such a thing. I arrived to Rishikesh, bright eyed, looking forward to immersing myself in a traditional yoga experience, only to be completely turned off by the guru culture and Western whore-shipping of all things Indian. As luck would have it, the one week I came to Rishikesh for a yoga intensive was the same week as “International Yoga Festival” — imagine every corner of the small city overrun by white people decked out in harem pants, freshly painted henna and sparkly bindis. They traveled from every part of the world overzealous with spiritual ambitions, in eager search of their beloved gurus while young men from Dehli reveled in their annual Spring Break holiday. While taking in this experience, I tried really hard not to judge and to be a “good yogi”, but it was really fucking hard.  If anything, this experience made it clear to me if that I wanted to take this whole spirituality thing seriously, I was going to have to stop my eye rolling, commit to doing the work and go it alone. For me, yoga will always be a solo journey. I don’t follow a lineage, and I don’t believe in gurus. I’ve learned by self study and the guidance of teachers. I ask questions, I read books and I continue to expand my understanding but cautious to never following anything blindly. The worshipping of a man, no matter how “enlightened” he may be, is counterproductive to a path of self liberation. I believe that yoga is an individual journey that forces you to work through the challenges of your own mind, body, karma to gain an understanding of yourself and the world around you. Your first level of awareness hopefully informs you to never wear harem pants again.

 

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