Yoga, Cultural Appropriation, Privilege and Underlying Trauma.

Yoga teacher Savitri Palkhivala of the Alive and Shine Center in Seattle, WA

Yoga teacher Savitri Palkhivala of the Alive and Shine Center in Seattle, WA

Privilege can act as a drug, when it serves to cover over unresolved trauma. Children are the most vulnerable group in all of society and the sense of powerlessness they are made to experience by insensitive, controlling, stressed out or abusive adults is the great unifying force of mankind, because no child fully escapes trauma.

Fast forward to adulthood and any privilege becomes a potential mask, because it will ensure that a person is never brought down completely, never forced to accept that they need to look at themselves and turn inward to look for solutions. Privilege will help you glide right over repressed pain. Any situation attempting to confront you with the trauma you carry around will result in you feeling victimized, and in playing the victim card you will only set yourself up again to be unkind. Victim identification is the first prerequisite for committing harm to others, because it justifies the deed. And this is what feeds a system of aggression and why unresolved childhood trauma is the great secret fuel of our Western world.

Anyone who has been faced with their pain and has felt it, is incapable of harming others, because when you are in the midst of grief, you begin to understand how important kindness is, which brings sweet comfort in hard times, while judgment adds another stab wound to your grief.

It is no different in the yoga world. This past winter at the NorthWest Yoga Conference, the organizer rudely interrupted a beautiful opening speech by the Indian woman in the above photo, pictured with her now adult child Zenia, who posted the video. Not only did the organizer not let the speaker finish, she pulled the microphone out of her hand and then told her and her entire family to leave. This kind of controlling behavior encapsulates the problem with privilege in Western yoga.

My particular take has to do with the unresolved trauma hiding behind the rude, controlling and aggressive behavior of the organizer hidden by her privilege, as opposed to the brown-skinned woman's kindness and grace as she stands her ground. The latter reveals some of her profound personal trauma in the opening speech, indicating she has been working with her pain, while the former is acting from a place of compulsion and denial of her own pain.

The Western hierarchic model is trauma-based, and climbing to the top requires aggressiveness. The incident is by all appearances about staying on schedule - the greatest pressure trap of the Western Industrial complex. There are many ways of dealing with time. There are kind ways that fit the Unconditional way of yoga and there are ways that mimic the aggressive power structure. Note that no one in the audience has the courage to speak out. Everyone remains passive. Lack of courage and fear of going against the authorities once again speaks to repressed personal trauma covered by privilege.

Yoga is the greatest force to counter the destruction of the Western paradigm of greed. Nothing but internalization through stillness and acceptance of the light of man and heart-centered practice can bring peace. For yoga to be effective, it needs to be taken out of the Western capitalist mindset that bypasses truth for the sake of conveniences relating to comfort - whether it is the comfort of staying loyal to an abusive teacher or the comfort offered by white privilege.

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