Why We Care So Much About Respect
We wanted to address a question we’ve been receiving: “Why are we making such a big deal?” about the rude treatment of our teacher, Savitri, by Melissa at the NWYC.
- LEADERSHIP MATTERS. To excuse these actions or brush them off would be to infantilize an adult woman in a position of important power in the Northwest Yoga world. As founder and organizer of the conference, Melissa decides who is invited, who is promoted, and (literally and figuratively) who gets the mic. This puts her in a position of leadership, one that comes with a deep responsibility to uphold the vibration and authenticity of Yoga.
- RESPECT MATTERS. This incident happened at a ceremony that was meant to honor “Luminaries” – those yoga teachers who had helped bring Yoga to the northwest. These are our elders, and Melissa was entrusted with our votes to honor them. Each luminary was given 10 minutes to share their words; for some unknown reason, this honor was not being extended to Savitri, there to speak, at Aadil’s request, on his behalf. There was a clear lack of respect extended to this elder in our community, the only woman of color being honored. An apology still has not been extended.
- TRANSPARENCY MATTERS. There was a clear desire on the part of NWYC to completely silence this incident and pretend it never happened. After the incident, we were shut out of the conference; our teachers, students, and booth were all kicked out. Any phone calls were being ignored. And all comments and inquiries about this incident on the NWYC were being censored and deleted. Again, this is very disturbing qualities in a leadership team.
- CULTURE & RACE MATTER. Whether we like it or not, Yoga has become an American institution and commodity. And like most American institutions and commodities, it is primarily in the control of white people and has been mined for marketable and profitable purposes. Whether consciously racist or not, the impact of this incident furthered the institutional racism of the western yoga world. Two teachers from India were kicked out without cause and replaced, across the board, with white teachers. That is not our yoga.
Alive & Shine Center has been an Indian-family owned business since 1992, when yoga was still under the pop cultural radar. Our diverse community shares a deep respect for Aadil & Savitri, who are master teachers, and for the rich lineage that they bring with them. Respect and humility are what separate cultural exchange from cultural appropriation.
- TRUE YOGA REQUIRES ACTION. There is an unfortunate tendency to assume that “being spiritual” means avoiding conflict, floating in a metaphorical cloud above the riff-raff of life, and always feeling and being peaceful. This divorce of the spiritual with the material has led to a dying planet, a war-torn world, a depressed populace, and a government and corporate structure that supports this life-destroying course. That is not our yoga.
- IT IS TIME that we all stand up and support teachers, studios, conferences, politicians, businesses, nonprofits, etc. that align with our values. Passively sitting things out will not move the dial on our planet from war to peace, or separation to union. To LIVE Yoga, not just “do” yoga requires uncomfortable conversations, acknowledging wrongdoing, and deep respect for every living being.
Our students, many of them the same ones who had been kicked out of the opening ceremony, stood in the cold for three days to stand up physically and spiritually, for YOGA to return to the deep respect that is a bedrock of true Yoga.