Three SOUTH ASIAN Yoga Teachers You Should Follow
The whitewashing of the wellness industry and its cultural appropriation of ancient practices, perhaps none more so than yoga, has been an increasing source of contention in recent years – from controversy around the inaccurate and inappropriate overuse of the word namaste, to the alienation of black and brown people in yoga classes across the West. And with the UK’s legacy of colonialism, it is understandable that those of South Asian heritage, in particular, find it difficult to engage with studios that fail to consider the history of this ancient Indian practice and feel offended by the repackaging of such a deeply spiritual activity as an exercise class moulded to Western palates – thus omitting any meaningful connection to its true origins.
Furthermore, a critical barrier for the industry to contend with is maintaining appropriate representation within yoga. As we rarely see people of colour represented in these spaces, let alone those of the culture that the practice is originally from, yoga (and the wellness industry as a whole) is fast becoming an elitist and unwelcoming space to those who do not fit the West’s reimagining of it: tailored for able-bodied, thin, young, middle-class white women. As such, it is important that we make a conscious effort to engage with brands, studios and teachers who not only take a stand on inclusivity but understand the history of the ancient practices they are selling to their audience and pay homage to its heritage, both culturally and financially.
To push for better balance in the industry, we’ve spotlighted three of our favourite yoga teachers of South Asian heritage, those who are doing some important and truly amazing work in their field, building inclusive communities and spaces that educate all on the true significance of yoga.
Concerned that modern interpretations of yoga in the Western world have lost some of the principles of the original teachings of the practice, Ravi has made it his mission to re-establish the essence of yoga in his classes – delivering the values of traditional Hatha yoga in an easy-to-understand and approachable way for everyone, whether you might be new to yoga or consider yourself an expert.
Born in India to a family with backgrounds in astrology and spiritual teaching, yoga has always been a central part of Ravi’s daily life. Over the last 10 years, he has taught thousands of students in retreats across India, as well as workshops in the UK, Germany, France and The Netherlands. His classes focus on connecting breath with movement and can help with stress relief, anxiety, injury or illness recovery – bringing harmony to both body and mind.
Ravi runs daily online yoga classes via Zoom. You can also attend his (physically distanced) groups classes at the ETNA Centre in Richmond or book a private class at a location of your choice.
As a passionate advocate for diverse representation for all people of colour in the yoga industry, Tejal’s classes focus on Yoga and Social Justice. Quitting her finance job to pursue a career as a yoga teacher, Tejal has become a true powerhouse in the US yoga scene, working relentlessly to create spaces and initiatives which empower all individuals and communities involved with yoga. She regularly offers meditation sessions and community building events specifically for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour), co-hosts Yoga Is Dead, a podcast that addresses power, privilege, race, cultural appropriation and capitalism in the yoga and wellness worlds and is the creator of abcdyogi village, an international community where South Asian yoga and mindfulness teachers offer programmes and workshops to to all students from a place of authentic connection and cultural context.
Although based in New York, you can still attend some of her meditation and yoga classes via the link in her Instagram bio.
Nadia first discovered yoga after her mum dragged her to a Hatha class at their local YMCA in the 1990s. Something stuck and over the year’s yoga became a deeply personal practice that would take her from a career in news journalism and communications to teaching yoga today.
Presently, Nadia teaches one-to-one and private group classes and workshops both online and in select spaces across London. Her sessions generally include postural yoga, meditation and breathing techniques, as well as classes that are focused solely on meditation and usually end with a Yoga Nidra – a form of sleep meditation for deep relaxation.
She employs a teaching approach that is contemporary, non-dogmatic and explorative, while maintaining a deep respect for the ancient Indian practice. Her commitment to ensuring that her classes (and yoga more broadly) are inclusive and accessible for everyone – from beginners to the experts, teenagers to the over 70s, those who are able-bodied or have a disability – is plain to see across her social media accounts, where she regularly challenges the whitewashing, cultural appropriation and elitist marketing of yoga by the wellness industry. As a woman of South Asian heritage, she believes yoga is a political issue and is extremely passionate about altering the warped narrative of yoga in the West.
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