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May 3, 2021

What are you Waiting for, Yogis? India Needs Us.

Yogis, as COVID-19 cases erupt throughout India, are we just going to sit by and let the Motherland suffocate?

Keep doing our Downward Dogs and posting pretzel-like asana on Instagram, because what happens in India stays in India?

As a student and teacher of yoga, the ancient traditions of India have come to my rescue time and time again. When I’m grieving, when I’m injured, when I’m angry. When I’m not well, yoga is there. Every. Single. Time.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, India is not well. Many people in India are not well, as there aren’t enough beds, drugs, PPE, or even enough thoughts and prayers to see the country humanly through the latest wave of the pandemic. The death, trauma, and the collapse of an overwhelmed health system are on a different level than what we’ve seen in the United States or elsewhere.

Now, if not before, India needs us. Us, being the yogis who have benefitted from its teachings. Benefitted from the eight limbs, from meditation, ayurveda, dharma, ahimsa, moksha, prana, and so much more. We’ve benefited from the sutras, the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, the Vedas. We’ve found solace, peace, and examples of a well-lived life in Ghandi, Swami Kriplau, B.K.S. Iyengar, Swami Satchidananda, Eknath Easwaran, and too many others to name.

With yoga’s rich cultural traditions running deep through the veins of India, we owe the country that has given so much and asked for so little. India has shared its teachers, and with them their insight, wisdom, and love. It’s our turn to help where we can.

Yogis, are you getting this? We would not be here without India. Without the land, the people, the traditions. Without the music, the writings, the oral traditions. You wouldn’t have the om symbol (on your T-shirt), the Shiva statue (next to your mat), and maybe not even yoga pants (can you imagine!), because why have yoga pants (or Tree pose) if there’s no yoga.

The first of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, atha yoga anushasanam, translates as “now, the practice of yoga begins.” I first discovered this sutra in yoga teacher training like many others before and after me. Up until this morning, I thought of this sutra as a somewhat vague call to action, or maybe a statement on the fact that everything and anything is yoga when done with intention and purpose.

As of 12 hours ago, as I brushed up on news around the world, Sutra 1.1 drummed in my skull as a specific call to action. “Now, the practice of yoga begins.” Now, India, the native land of our dear yoga, needs us, and the practice begins.

Maybe you’re like me, a yoga teacher with a healthy fear of committing cultural appropriation. At the same time, feeling so connected to and distant from yoga and aspects of Indian culture, a dichotomy I’m certain many yogis possess. We take what we understand, what’s easy and digestible, and often abandon the rest.

If we love this tradition, if we love and benefit from this magical practice, let’s stop abandoning India.

We are indebted to the cultures and traditions of India and owe them the world for what they’ve given many of us. Since we can’t give them the world, I’ll give them my attention, my donations, my time, and my respect.

I’ll chant healing mantra, write, donate a portion of profits from my yoga classes over the next week to relief efforts, and remind the other yogis who have been inspired, transformed, healed through yoga, that India deserves their attention and assistance. I’ll encourage others who are able to do the same.

If you have money to spare, there are many reputable organizations mobilizing efforts to help.

Here are a few:

Give India: help provide reusable sanitary napkins to women and girls in need in addition to other covid missions.

Mazdoor Kitchen: providing meals and sustenance to daily wage workers.

UNICEF: Delivering supplies.

If it’s time you can spare, post, write, or create art that helps spread the news that the county is in need. Inform the masses about this frightening situation.

You can spread the need for help by hearting and sharing this article. You can express your concern and reach out to Indian friends and neighbors showing support and asking them for additional ways you can help.

You can keep yourself well informed on the situation through bipartisan, reputable news sources. You’ve got your phone, your media source in your hand already anyway, right?

Each and every one of us can help by reminding ourselves and others that, despite being halfway across the world, the people of India experience pain, suffering, fear, and hope just like we do. They are humans who deserve our attention, respect, and aid.

Please share in the comments more thoughts on how we can help our sisters and brothers in India.

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