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Filtering by Tag: privilege


Cindy Maddera

Someone recently posted this blog post by Rumya Putcha at Namaste Nation on a yoga teacher Facebook group I am part of. It is a very eye opening read and I have not been able to stop thinking about it. Rumya Putcha discussed the mis-appropriation of 'namaste' and cultural appropriation of upper class white women and yoga. Yoga is thought of and marketed as a white woman's domain. I have become hyper aware of the lack of diversity of people in yoga studio classes. I will be sitting on my mat, waiting for the class to begin and I'll look around the room. We all look alike and this makes me very uncomfortable. I don't tell you that to garnish some kind of sympathy or "Oh, no Cindy. You don't need to feel uncomfortable." I DO need to feel uncomfortable. This should make me feel out of place. 

“When you’re white in this country, you’re taught that everything belongs to you. You think you have a right to everything. … You’re conditioned this way. It’s not because your hair is a texture or your skin is light. It’s the fact that the laws and the culture tell you this. You have a right to go where you want to go, do what you want to do, be however—and people just got to accommodate themselves to you.” Ta-Nehisi Coates

My first exposure to yoga was in a gym setting. In fact, I did not attend yoga classes in yoga studios until yoga teacher training. Yoga was/is a workout option. There was no talk of the spiritual side of yoga or stories of the Gods who inspired these poses. The teacher said 'namaste' at the end of every class and we just nodded our heads in response. I didn't know the meaning of that word. I just assumed it was some sort of goodbye/thank you/blessing. Like ending a prayer with 'amen'. I have a giant Ganesh tattoo on my back, not because I am Hindu, but because I like elephants and was attracted to this Hindu God because of his elephant head. I did do my research before having him permanently placed on my body and I love this tattoo. But I do question what right I have to put Ganesh on my body in such a way. It is hard to admit because no one wants to admit to being part of the problem, but I am part of the problem. 

I see my mistakes and I'm working on being part of the solution. My roommate in college was full blood Cherokee. She used to invite me to her home in Stilwell Oklahoma mostly because she didn't have a car and missed her family so much. She would say "Drive me home this weekend and we'll have Mom make Indian tacos and we'll go to a stomp dance." I always agreed because her family was so nice and I loved going to the stomp dances. The dances would run late into the night and into early morning and I watched for hours as Cherokee men and women danced in a circle. I would help my college roommate tie on her tortoise shell shakers that fit the length of her shin and was always surprised by the weight of them. The dances were beautiful and mesmerizing but I never participated unless my roommate specifically dragged me into the circle. I was very aware that I was an outsider and that I had no claim to this culture.  This is how I should also approach yoga. I do not lay any cultural rights on yoga. It is a gift that has been brought to our Western society, a gift that should be treated with more respect. 

I chose to teach yoga at the Y because I thought it would be the best way to bring the benefits of yoga to a more diverse group of people. I teach my students how to move safely into yoga poses and to challenge themselves physically. I teach my students to focus on their breath and how linking your breath with your movement aids in calming the mind. I encourage my students to find joy in their practice. I do not teach the spiritual side of yoga. We do not chant or "om". I still say 'namaste' at the end of class. I don't know if it is the right thing to do any more. I say it, fully meaning the sentiment behind the word: that which is beautiful in me salutes that which is beautiful in you. But my students don't know that this is the meaning of namaste. This is another mistake on my part. When you know the meaning and reverence of something, you are more likely to be more reverent with that something. You are less likely to toss around a sacred word like namaste.

This is true for all languages and cultures. 







Cindy Maddera

There's a long list of chore related activities that I should have done over the holiday weekend, but instead I spent my time watching movies like Jurassic World and Mortdecai. I started a new book that was promised to be a "beach read" that is mindlessly entertaining. On the actual fourth, I went to a yoga in the park event at the Nelson that turned out to be the most patriotic yoga class I've ever attended. There was a lot of talk of how great it is to be an American (I do not disagree). Then Michael and I rode our scooters all over the place for the rest of the afternoon. 

First we rode over to a new place for lunch. Rye is now considered to be our new favorite, especially because our waiter went back to the kitchen to ask the chef how they make the meringue on their lemon meringue pie. I know how to make meringue, but this meringue was unlike any. It was almost like marshmallow fluff. I know now that it's a Swiss style of meringue and next weekend may just be a pie making weekend. After lunch, we rode over to REI just to look around (some things do not change). We ended up parking our scooters next to another scooter. The owner of that scooter was coming out just as we were taking our helmets off. We had a lovely time talking about scooters and engine sizes and the joys of riding. 

As we crossed the parking lot to head into the store, we noticed some people chatting around the cutest teardrop style camper. They had the back open so you could see the whole set up. We joined the conversation asking about things like space and air conditioning. I told the woman about this couple we ran into last year from Canada and how they were driving an un-air condition VW bus across the US. The woman said "Was it orange!?" I said "Yes!" Then she said "We know those people!!!" They had just spent a week camping with them. The world is so tiny. We talked with that couple for a while about Jeeps and trailers before we all finally made it into the store. 

Later on Michael found me looking at the dehydrated meals and I told him how every once in a while, Chris and I would each pick out a different packet and that's what we'd have for dinner one night. We picked out a meal to have for lunch some time and then I grabbed a bag of Moon Cheese off the shelf. I said "let's try this!" Any way, it turned out to be the best thing ever and possibly laced with heroin or crac or both. Michael can't stop talking about it and last night he looked up the patent on how it's made. He quickly determined that we most likely could not manufacture our own Moon Cheese and will be forced to purchase this deliciously weird snack. Michael said that we should never try heroin together.

As I'm typing all of this, my thoughts move back around to my very patriotic yoga class where there was an emphasis on being grateful to live in this wonderful, free country. The mix of it all though...the yoga in the park, the carefree scooter rides, fucking Moon Cheese....rings out as so grossly privileged particularly when you wake up the next day to news of yet another story about white police officers shooting a black man. I wonder if journalists just have a fill in the blank form letter written up by now for these things. They just erase the names and replace with new names. Alton Sterling was the 154th black man killed by police this year. He was pinned to the ground when he was shot. You're an idiot if you think the cop acted in self defense. You're blind and delusional if you do not see that this country has some seriously gaping wounds infected with gangrenous racism. 

If you say racist things, if you support candidates who incite racism, you are part of the infection. If you see racist behavior and do not step up and say something or at the very least make it known that you are watching, you are part of the infection.

Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others - Philippians 2:4 

The world is really so very tiny.