Updated: Sep 15, 2021
Maybe some of you have been around long enough to remember these first old iterations of The Bhaktishop from back in 2007? Time and education and evolution definitely change all things!
We have come a long way to get to love, shared evolution and accountability in yoga. You may have started to notice some changes around the Yoga Center, in our fliers or online presence, perhaps right here in this newsletter/blog. We are changing the name of The Bhaktishop Yoga Center to The Bhakti Yoga Movement Center. Why?
Where did the former name “The Bhaktishop” come from, and why are we changing it?
Back in 2007, when we were first constellating around the idea of having a yoga center, I met the person that would eventually become my guru, Swami B.V. Tripurari. In a conversation about what I did with my life and how I was serving the community and beyond, I mentioned wanting to open a yoga center based on yogic principles rather than on making money, and it was suggested that I create a place where students that were interested in yoga and its various practices could come to learn about bhakti and the source traditions of bhakti from lineaged practitioners in an intimate setting. He spoke of this bhakti in a workshop-like way, in the sense that it be a space where fine offerings of high spiritual value are lovingly created by hand by skilled practitioners, and offered to others with gratitude and love. From this conversation came the name “Bhaktishop;” a small, intimate craftsperson’s space for creating and sharing bhakti in the context of yoga. This named served the center and the center served the community for years and years, although for most of those years, we were unaware that for some folks of South Asian origin, the name was a strange juxtaposition, and for others it was downright offensive. Because reflection, renewal and resilience have become a deeper project and commitment around here, and letting go of unconscious behavior or bias is ongoing work, we recognize that the word “shop” holds a rather different meaning in common parlance, and means generally “to buy” or “to sell” and we also now understand the complexities and potentially harmful implications of this being connected to a spiritual practice for many South Asian people. In the spirit of ahimsā, or non-harming, the first yogic principle, we can do the most baseline thing possible and stop at least some of the harm that this possibly causes folks. This is the driving force in our decision to change the name of the space. What we hope to do, first and foremost, is to do less harm. As a community, we also wish to be more transparent and honest and to reflect more of what actually happens here in this center: the underpinnings of the philosophy spoken about here is steeped in bhakti teachings, even as we share many different practices of yoga from several different origins, including Āsana, Prānāyāma and the philosophical teachings of the 8 limbs as well as meditation. And many of us also share a variety of Movement practices that are not yoga at all, like strength-based training, functional movement and Somatics. These things do not need to be exclusive! The just need to be differentiated. The practices of yoga exist within a complete culture designed for the re-spiritualization of human life. All of yoga symbols, practices and yes, even language, are all oriented toward this work. Sanskrit, when used properly, shows clear understanding and respect for its original purpose as the language of spiritual culture. The culture of yoga is available to all conscious beings because we are all spiritual beings. As we all honor and participate in that culture, we can all get clear and compassionate together about how we are participating. Thus with great joy and compassion and love in action, we offer the community our new name: The Bhakti Yoga Movement Center. The only things changing are on the inside, wherein we will have more clarity and transparency about ourselves and our classes. Let us know if you have more questions about this as we are in transition (always, haha!) and deeply open to conversation (and criticism, and accountability) around how we are showing up. We have always been a space that centers people over profit (which turns out to be a sort of lousy business model, but it matters) and this is just one more step toward that goal of moving toward integrity over money. With gratitude to my guru for his wisdom and blessing in this new name and to my wise council of friends and mentors, including Shivani Hawkins and several others, for endless dialogue and accountability checks, questions and interrogation.
In an ever-increasing effort to understand the effects of the damage done to yoga and to South Asian people by cultural appropriation and the western colonization of yoga, we are working to be engaged in skillful education and appropriate action about these topics in an ongoing way. "Ask the tough questions. Pick up that really heavy book on the origins of your tradition and read it. If you can, look for the marginalized voices that the tradition itself chose to ignore or suppress (and that creates so much growth). Make sure the source actually has the credentials to know what they claim to know. Remember your roots, and remember the traditions you engage in. It takes work to do so, but its work that is well worth doing. It shows respect and honors the lifeblood of the civilization that created it. And if that is not worth doing - one really has to ask what kind of “spirituality” is being practiced here.” ~Bairavee Balasubramaniam Astrologer and Ph.D, Political Science If you are interested, you can read many other pieces of writing and critical theory on this and other topics related to colonialism, supremacy and the theft of knowledge by clicking here. Another way that we have attempted to stay engaged in study, reciprocity and repair with the roots of yoga is by being in contact with and more accountable to the South Asian community, listening to and seeking to employ South Asian teachers to speak on the wealth of their culture and on yoga, and by donating profits and income to ashrams, indigenous teachers and organizations in India and beyond since 2008, including the Sri Rama Ashram, Sri Caitanya Sangha, and Sri Caitanya Saraswat Math. These organizations, teachers and ashrams represent and educate about the true culture from which yoga emerged, and they also participate in its continuation/dissemination for both local Indigenous people and others that have learned directly from them. We are actively engaged in our own connections to our source lineages and study (those of us who have them, and the teachers here that do not have that connection stay in relationship to those that do, for accountability, as best as we all can) and are all working towards cultural honoring and appreciation rather than appropriation as much as possible in relation to the teachings of yoga. We are stumbling through the learning together and also failing at this every day, but we commit to continue to do the work as we aim to be faithful stewards of these teachings.
Join us this month in honoring and serving the Sri Rama Ashram in Haridwar, India, home of Baba Hari Dass, Danielle’s teachers and the lineage for which she comes by coming to class on Fridays at 4pm and/or donating in the jar at the desk, and thank you! You can also click here to read our prior blog post about our ongoing understanding of the use of Namaste and other terminology that has been appropriated by the western yoga culture, and our attempts to do less harm as part of our participation in yogic ethics. I learned the following practice of visioning and meditating on the “Six D’s” from anti-racism mentor Desiree Lynn Adaway, which helped me shape this decision as well. They are Defy, Defend, Demand, Declare, Divest, and Dream. We attempt to defy the lies that our socialization in culture tell us are true about ourselves, which say that we cannot have radical, transformative inclusion. We also try to defend the truth according to yoga, that everyone deserves to be liberated from suffering. As a community we work together to demand the transformation of our community care systems and work toward a future without inequity. In doing this, we declare some non-negotiables for our freedom, including inter-connectedness, relationship-building, collective values and working from and with love. To do this, we must divest from systems that harm us and harm others on the margins, destroying barriers to freedom. And perhaps most importantly, we dream. We dream of a world where all beings are free, where those we need beside us to be our best in the work of this life are standing close, a community of like-minded changemakers alongside a leadership that supports their visions. Thank you for being here, thank you for showing up, thank you for being willing to roll with us as we grow and change and learn how to be kinder, more equitable and more loving humans toward one another on this path. In service of liberation for all, Lisa Mae and The Bhakti Yoga Movement Center Family