Jivana Heyman 00:00:01
(INTRO) Hi, I'm Jivana Heyman, and my pronouns are he and him. Thank you for joining me for the Teacher's Guide To Accessible Yoga Podcast. This is a series of conversations that I had with an incredible group of Yoga teachers as I was researching my new book, A Teacher's Guide To Accessible Yoga, and I wanted to share these conversations with you in their fullness. Rather than just pulling quotes for the book, I wanted you to get a chance to hear everything these teachers had to say. So I hope you enjoy these conversations. Thanks for being here.
Jivana Heyman 00:00:40
All right. Hi, everyone. Welcome back. I'm so excited today to talk to one of my favorite people. Indu Arora. Hi, Indu.
Indu Arora 00:00:48
Jivana Heyman 00:00:49
Hi, thank you so much for being here with me and for everything you do and for talking to me about this topic. So my question that I wanted to come to you with, is basically, how do we kind of keep the yoga in yoga as we innovate and adapt and make it accessible? And especially, I'm talking to yoga teachers, that's the audience here, you know, so for yoga teachers, what can they be conscious of? Or, yeah, like, how do you what would you say to that?
Indu Arora 00:01:26
See, first of all, I don't see it as a question of tradition versus innovation. I see it more as tradition and innovation. I see them going very well together. I don't see it as either/or. But what is important is, that do we have in mind, or do we keep in mind, what is the purpose of innovation? Because sometimes innovation could be just for the sake of creativity, just for the sake of fun, or just for the sake of pleasing someone or ushering people into something. I feel that there, we lose purpose, we don't need to convince anyone of yoga. It has it has stood the test of time. What is important I feel for yoga practitioners, teachers, therapists, educators to keep in mind is that it is a philosophy first. When we think of it only as techniques, I think that we are kind of making it something mechanical. What is important is that we see it as philosophy in the form of, is it making me reflect? Is it making me curious? Is it making me inquire? Is it building self inquiry? Is it building critical thinking, which is really heavily emphasized upon in yoga, as discernment as Vivekakhyāti? Is it really adding this everyday pauses, reflection, contemplation, self inquiry, discernment? That is so important, because even if you reach the toes, you have not reached anywhere in yoga.
Jivana Heyman 00:03:21
That's a great one. I just want to, I just want to pause to say how important that is, I already need to change the title of my chapter, because you're right, it's not tradition versus innovation. It's always innovation, it's always happening, right? Over not centuries, 1000s of years, right, of constant innovation and learning. And, when you think of, when you talk about discernment, which I love, it reminds me my teacher used to talk about how, when he was growing up, they would have like, I don't know if he would call it debates, but it'd be like, you know, really heated conversation around yoga philosophy and disagreement, and, you know, but in a respectful manner. And that they would have like, the teacher would give a talk and then someone, the audience would just start kind of disagreeing and saying, well, wait, what about this and questioning and really challenging them. And that was okay. That was considered respectful. And there was, you know, not quite the same as innovation, but there's a challenge to the teachings and like, a debate that showed that you cared. I don't know, I feel like this piece has been lost a little bit this something around active engagement and the teachings. And like you said, then of course in our lives, you know, application. Yeah.
Indu Arora 00:04:43
Absolutely. I feel that when, innovation means accessibility. If innovation means making it approachable, digestible, then that innovation is not just purposeful, it is needed. It can act as a glue, it can act as a bridge. But when, again, as I mentioned, if innovation is just for the sake of you know, sometimes we just challenge things for the sake of challenging, and I feel that that's where we kind of lose some aspect of it. I feel that yoga does not need a reinvention, it needs innovations. It can absolutely benefit from innovations, but it does not need reinvention. And what needs is the same old, timeless realizations. And I totally agree with you when you talked about that healthy debate. How important that is because you can be you can convince yourself have so many things when you're by yourself, right? You can do pros and cons and there is no soundboard, there is no, there is no other lens, there is no other perspective. And you can win and lose and keep playing those games over and over. What is really important is a dialogue. And when we just do monologues with yoga, that is where I feel that we are getting lost. And you know, yes, of course there is there is no denying that yoga is not a selfish practice, it is not just so that I am in peace, that I reflect. That reflection is for the sake of realization. And that realization is for the sake of that nothing works without the other. And actually there is no other. Once we come to that realization, we think of in fact, the whole universe as a big body, a big cosmic body. If we can accept that my body is a composite of billions of cells, we can absolutely, from the same line of thought, accept that the whole universe is a billions of us all animate inanimate beings, and it is one body and if one part of the body is hurting, there is no way the other part will not realize it or feel it or will be impacted by it. So without doubt, yoga is that action which comes from a place of contemplation, inquiry, discernment. But, in order to reach that level of inquiry, to reach that level of discernment, it's also important what we do on the mat. If we call yoga as a practice on the mat, then that dialogue begins from there, those practices which have become, you know, pre orchestrated, like a sequence or a flow, I feel there is a lack of presence of mind. There is a lack of awareness. There is a there is a presence of just mimicking, following. But yoga, it's not about following, it's about realization, it's about awareness. And it starts with, am I doing a monologue in my body? Can I listen? Can I pause a little bit? How does it feel emotionally? How does it feel? You know, because that seer is one. And what that seer is seeing is the various sensations in the body that various waves in the breath, that various ebb and flow in the emotions. If we don't stop and pause and see what's happening, then very quickly, yoga becomes a monologue, not just on the mat, but in life also.
Jivana Heyman 00:08:34
I love that, "monologue." I think that's why I'm talking to you right now. Because I, you know, writing a book is a little bit like a monologue, as you know, you've written so many, right? I mean, it's just like, you know, it's all in your mind, and you're just putting it out. But I like to change that a little for myself, and include other voices, like yours. And to really, platform you and other other contributors I have in this book who are just incredible. Because of that I just, I don't want to get stuck in that kind of ego centered way of practicing, or teaching. And I love what you said about being a cell in the universal body. Same thing is like I don't think of my enlightenment as a separate thing. I don't think. It's a service to the world. I mean, otherwise, how would I get anywhere, I mean, it's just build my ego more. It was funny, I don't know if you know, there was research done recently about it was around mindfulness, but it's, you know, connected, right. And that was around mindfulness and self centeredness. And they showed this research studied people who did mindfulness, and they found that they became more self centered. But what actually what they found really, when they examined it was that people that were kind of already self centered, which was the majority of people became more so. People that were not, that were not self centered, became less so and so it just like showed how these practices can also maybe enhance our natural qualities, maybe. Our tendencies, gives more energy more prana or whatever is already happening in the mind, you know? Kind of makes me think about ethics. But yeah.
Indu Arora 00:10:21
And that's where the role of tradition comes in. Because in tradition, a very important piece is that we do understanding and realization that we do have these latent tendencies, right? That yoga simply brings light to them. And if we don't have guidance, in tradition, there is so much emphasis on mentoring, whether it is through a teacher, or you can call it a guide, or you can call it a guru. Of course, these three are totally different roles. But what I'm saying is, that is where the role, someone who has realized a little bit more than you (or we can call it a realized person, different stages), about the technique about the method about the philosophy can bring a different perspective and challenge that which we have become comfortable with. And I would say that, you know, I would disagree with you a little bit, that I don't think writing a book is a monologue, because our in our lives, we learn from so many people. And then when we are putting it down on a piece of paper, it is not just us writing, it's all those voices that has impacted that has shaped us, working through us. And I consider it, for me, it is a debt, a debt of wisdom that I hope to repay in this lifetime and as many births as it takes. And I'm nowhere in it. Yes, of course it says book by Indu Arora but in part of my heart, in all truth, I know it is not mine. It is these timeless voices, that are just finding different mediums and speaking through them. But absolutely, on the other hand, I also see that, providing what what your thought process is, that you want other voices to contribute, right here, right now, I see a value in that. I see your kindness in that. I see your openness in that.
Jivana Heyman 00:12:32
Thank you. And I love what you said about the role of the teacher, the guru. And I agree, because I do come from a traditional lineage, but I see that it can be difficult today. And I think the community can take some of that role. Like somehow if you really focus on community and stay connected with a group of people, they can also call you out, you know what I mean? They can name the things that you're doing, they can challenge you when they see you going off. And I noticed that like in ashram life, in my family, I see that. And then the close community, I see that with Accessible Yoga, to some extent. I mean, that's what we're here for, right, to learn about ourselves. And about others too, like to help others. It's like my teacher used to say is like, we're river rocks, rubbing and rubbing against each other, you know, to get smooth. So it's like, there's that tension there. Right? We're learning from each other. And you teach me so much. So you're my rock. But I want to go back to this thing, I want to go back to this main topic, because I could talk to you about all of those things you mentioned are like, very exciting to me. But I want to talk about some basic advice for yoga teachers. Because one thing you didn't mention that I think is important here is this idea of cultural appropriation and also profiting off of something. And sometimes I think that some kinds of innovation are done for profit, you know, when you have to like brand something as your own, or come up with something kind of just a little bit different, just so you can sell it. I think this is where we get lost sometimes. And yet we live in this culture, this capitalist culture. So I just wondered how you could balance that or any advice you have for yoga teachers who, who you know, want to make money and need money and love yoga, and they want to share, but want to do it in a respectful way. I'm just curious what you think.
Indu Arora 00:14:49
Yes, I totally agree with you that in the name of innovation, there is a lot of commodification. There is a lot of capitalist approach. And that's what gives birth to naming yoga after someone's name or a particular style, which originally yoga is a paths. and all the four paths of Bhakti, Karma, Jnana, Hatha - they merge. They all merge at one point like a four lane highway becoming single lane highway. It becomes that I feel that one of the main yes greed, ignorance, insecurity, these are at the top At the heart of it, right, you know, we taste something good. And then we want more and then we want all of it. And we don't realize that there is a price and that price that we have to pay is that we have to keep learning. And when we become compliant you know, okay, if there is a particular thing Oh, I learned about Malas. So I have now started making Mala. And we I started calling it mala beads. And then I forgot the whole purpose, why a mala was utilized, that it was a tool for the mind to remember something, it was a tool for the mind to calm so that we can think clearly, we can function effectively in society and community. But then mala became jewelry. And everyone started making malas forgetting how a mala is made, what is the thought behind it, and how to wear it, and then it became just a commodity. And then it became cultural appropriation. You know what I wish that those who are in this field, whether at the periphery, or somewhere in between, or right at the heart of it, doesn't matter, that we keep in mind that the loss is only ours. It's no one's loss, you can use yoga as a tool to scratch your head. It will scratch your head, no problem. But it is a tool for realisation for a greater good. And this philosophy is also rooted in karma. It's not me holding someone against something or policing something, or telling this is right, or this is wrong. I'm still, I'm a student on this path. And I know for sure in this lifetime, my role is of a student, maybe externally, I will have temporarily a different role. But internally, in my mind, and in my heart, the role is absolutely clear. Just study, just dedicate your lifetime to studying this. And if I don't do it sincerely, in all honesty, then the loss is mine, because yoga has so much to offer. We are just walking out with flexibility and strength. We are just walking out with maybe some money. It has a promise that is bigger than life, it has a promise that's called absolute freedom. And if we keep that in mind, neither will we worry what will happen to yoga. And hopefully it will, from time to time, remind us to not appropriate it. And to not just comply with the little bit that we know. I think this is important to know that it's not yoga's loss, it's our loss. Yoga is not a person who is going to be mad at you. Yoga is not a person who is going to hold something against you. It's a timeless body of wisdom. It is our loss that we are not understanding the depth, the capacity, the breadth of it, we are making a bad deal. You know, we are making a bad deal with yoga.
Jivana Heyman 00:19:04
I say the same thing, I say yoga is unaffected by what we do. And what we don't understand and what we miss out, exactly, it's the same thing. Yoga is unaffected. This is timeless teachings, right? It's unaffected by that, but I think in a role of a teacher, you know, I'm thinking in particular, though, let me just give you an example. Say you have a yoga teacher who goes to adapt class, and they have students who are disabled, and maybe, you know, maybe they're trying to come up with something that doesn't look like a classical yoga class. So they end up teaching something that looks just so different. Maybe they're not using Sanskrit, they're not using Asana names, they're not doing anything that would look externally like the yoga. I mean, that's how I often teach. And I feel like I just want people to know, I guess I'm trying to get you to agree with me, which isn't really fair, but what I want to share is like, if the heart is there, it's still yoga. That the external doesn't even have to be there. Right? It's the subtle spiritual teaching that is the key and the external part, I mean, it can change, I guess, is what I'm trying to say. Right? I don't know if you agree with me.
Indu Arora 00:19:04
I do agree with you. All yoga is subtle yoga. Irrespective of the language that you use, and the props that may look like from outside. If, as I mentioned, yoga is philosophy first. Technique later. Whatever technique you are using, that is an external shell. What is important is, are your words and your silence, communicating the heart of yoga, bringing a person back to themselves. Bringing a person back to this realization that, we may be going through grief, something may be broken in our life. But we are still whole, that there is nothing that is needed from outside to make us whole that only if I do that headstand, or only if I do these many rounds of pranayama, or these many rounds of mantra repetition, or if I'm able to read this text in Sanskrit, that's not going to be life transforming. Maybe that is I'm not denying it. But what is really important is that realization of wholeness inside that something from outside is not going to do it. It's something inside that has to happen, that's going to bring that change. So having learned a little bit of Sanskrit, having learned in a traditional manner, I see the value of certain pranayama done in a certain way, pressing certain regions. I see the value of certain asanas done in a certain way. I see the value of proper pronunciation of mantras. I see its value because I understand that that pronunciation has everything to do with measured breath and prana. And prana has everything to do with mind. I see that connection. But at the same time, I'm not completely blind to not see that if someone doesn't know Sanskrit does not mean that realization is not for them. I also have the eyes to see that the realized beings were not just born in the land of Bharat Mata, or India. People without knowing the techniques of yoga were realized too and are realized too and shall be realized too. The important thing is the philosophy. That is subtle. That is subtle, that requires chewing, that requires reflection, that requires waking up.
Jivana Heyman 00:22:48
Yeah. I agree. I appreciate you saying that. I think sometimes people come at this question of appropriation. And it's more than that it's they come to it, they want to respect tradition. And sometimes they get stuck, I think, in that rather than focusing on philosophy and the teachings. I can give you an example, I had a student once. She was she had an advanced form of multiple sclerosis, MS, so she's basically paralyzed her entire body, she could not move. She can move her hand a tiny bit and can move her head a little and could breathe. I mean, she could obviously breathe, she could speak slowly, only on the pause, like she had to pause and take a breath and say a few words. And it was amazing to work with her because she was actually a very, I would say like, enlightened person. I've worked with many people with disabilities. And she, she was special. She had this special air about her and the sense of calm. And I worked with her for a long time. I was lucky to have her come to my classes. I can tell you many stories about her. But one was one day, she came to me after class and she said, (I've been teaching them meditation on the mantra of ohm Shanthi), and she came to me and she was like, I'm, I'm so bad at meditation. I can't. My mind just doesn't stay on this mantra, you know, it just wanders. And I was thinking immediately, well, you know, that's normal. everyone's mind wanders, and I started to think of like, the kind of answers that I give all the time. But then she said something. She said, the problem is that I'm constantly repeating the Lord's Prayer in my mind. So I was trying to say ohm Shanthi, but my mind would just go back to that. And I was like, oh, wow. So you're basically already in meditation. That's her mantra, right? She's constantly repeating the Lord's Prayer in her mind, it was so powerful, and I could feel that I could feel her peace. And it just it struck me you know, that I was disrupting her, I was disturbing her mind. You know, that by trying to give her this teaching that I thought I had to share. She was already way advanced way ahead of me in her practice, actually. So it was just a real eye opening moment for me around that this question of the technique versus the philosophy, right, the larger goal of the practice.
Indu Arora 00:25:20
Yes, I, totally agree on this, that we get so fixated on technique that we have to constantly remind ourselves and we must constantly remind ourselves that yoga is a philosophy. It is a darshan. It is not a technique and not just that, I feel in some time sometimes I feel that question of cultural appropriation, in some areas have blown out of proportion. There are people who are genuine, doesn't matter they are Indian, not Indian, they are human being first. People who are genuine people who are dedicated people who are sincere to the subject matter of yoga are questioning themselves with, with the feeling of imposter syndrome, with the feeling that should I even be teaching yoga? I feel it's important that it is not used as a tool to punish. The focus of yoga, if at all, is educating. Education. And education leads to inspiration and empowerment, not to someone feeling debilitated, left out, shamed and embarrassed and in guilt and feeling that I cannot do anything, I did something wrong. I think if my teacher were to present herself today, Jivana, in this room, while I'm sharing something, I'm 100% Sure, with her eyes with their eyes teacher, (are no he and her teacher, our teachers are beyond that). My teacher would for sure feel that I'm appropriating something. Because I'm not there yet. I'm not there yet. So whatever I'm sharing with my limited realisation with my limited knowledge, I'm sure at some, in some level, I'm appropriating it, where I may not even know what we don't know yet. We cannot do anything about it. But when we know it, we can hopefully do better, we can hopefully be inspired to do better. So my lens has always been education, it has always been empowerment, it has always been, I hope the person who came to the class leaves a little bit inspired, a little bit empowered. Not dependent, definitely not dependent. So I think that it's important to know that difference.
Jivana Heyman 00:27:56
Great, thank you. Anything else you want to share? I don't want to take up too much more of your time. I could talk to you forever. And I do often talk to you forever.
Indu Arora 00:28:10
I think the only thing I would like to say is that it's important to know why we are doing yoga. It is a purposeful act. That's why we call it skillful action that ripples back to the family, to the community, to the society to the world. It is a tool to come closer to all of that. Let the practice be of purpose, whether by tradition or by innovation. Let it serve a purpose, not just for the sake of a tick mark.
Jivana Heyman 00:28:52
Okay, well, thank you let it serve a purpose. Thank you so much, Indu. Thanks for being here.
Indu Arora 00:29:00
Thank you so much, Jivana, and my good wishes for your book.
Jivana Heyman 00:29:04
Jivana Heyman 00:29:05
(OUTRO) Thanks, again for being here. I really appreciate your support. And I hope you'll consider getting my book, The Teacher's Guide To Accessible Yoga. It's available wherever you buy books. My hope is that the book will provide additional support for you in your teaching journey. For me, I always need to have a community of teachers around me to learn from to inspire me to keep me in check. And I hope we can do that for each other. So thanks again for being here. All right, take care. Bye.