*This sequence is inspired by the June 20 International Yoga Day (IYD) 2019 video message tweet by Sri Lankan President Maitripala Sirisena to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In his message, President Sirisena compliments Prime Minister Modi for “bringing our common heritage of yoga to the international stage” through IYD.
The purpose of this sequence is to unlock the root chakra of global Hindu nationalism that IYD has enabled since its 2014 UN declaration and to explore its generative possibilities and illusory optics.
As always, if something does not feel right in your body throughout this practice, take your modifications, layers, and options — know that according to IYD’s international standards, yoga has one and only one religious, national, and historical origin. Challenge your mind and body to accept that common heritage. Yoga was not made for everyone, nor was it always practiced by every gender or caste.
I encourage you to open your heart to learn about the new and old experiences of that common heritage. The world offers us so many types of common heritages. Find the one that works best for you and make it your own. When you do this, you will achieve the ultimate state of accumulation by dispossession.
About Your Instructor
Today’s class will be taught by Vanessa. A mala-wearing, crystal-touting 23-year-old college graduate and American white woman, Vanessa fell in love with yoga two years ago and decided to become a full-time instructor. She always has a smile on her face but is not afraid to shame cue and adjust your brown, curvy body. She will also irreparably transform your life by convincing you that you cannot live without an eco-friendly mat made out of recyclable material and custom-made jade egg for your pelvic floor — all for the low cost of $206 plus three microbrew wellness shots of shame and validation. She is ride or die #YogaEveryDamnDay for her students … or else.
An easy sequence for nationalist apologists on the go
Good morning, yogis! Welcome to my class, and I’m so honored to guide you in your practice today. Let’s begin on our mats in a seated position.
Close your eyes and settle into your space, which has been cleansed by casteist demands of purity and taboo. Sit comfortably on your mat and empty your belly like you’re fasting to demand the removal of Muslim minorities from Parliament. Relax the space between your brow. Release any tension you’re feeling after witnessing your leaders break promises of long-lasting political reform, anti-casteism, and ends to torture and gender inequity. Be grateful you have the luxury to tune in and drop out. It’s the same luxury that inspired that Millennial Pink hue you see everywhere.
Now is the time in class that we’ll set an intention for our practice.
“Be mindful that there is nothing more international about International Yoga Day except the global market of Hindu nationalism … ”
Feel free to set your own intention but if nothing comes to mind, I offer you the intention of mindfulness. Be mindful that there is nothing more international about International Yoga Day except the global market of Hindu nationalism and its enablers and beneficiaries.
Be aware of the links between Hindu nationalism and other nationalisms, like Sinhala Buddhist nationalism in Sri Lanka and those nationalisms of rightwing populists like 45, Boris Johnson, Duterte, Bolsonaro and their allies.
Make your country great again. Support Tulsi Gabbard for 2020 and ignore her support for Assad despite his killing of innocent civilians. Remove any and all critical discussions of caste discrimination from your California textbooks.
Embark on a journey filled with strategic, regional patronage and neoliberal corporate partnerships. Be mindful of the indefensibility you can cultivate with your breath and powerful Desi presence in big pharma, Silicon Valley, and the current administration.
Take a deep breath and feel your ribcage expand like the commodity circuits and myths of the common heritage market that is yoga today. Consume and hold all that nationalist goodness at the top of your breath … and RELEASE!
Continue to breathe normally.
Off your mat, make it a point to have your diplomatic allies hold your umbrellas for you when it pours. Find reward in the power of political propaganda and historical amnesia come election time. And, most importantly, use national tragedies to get more votes.
If voices come out demanding justice for India’s Gujarat 2002, Rohith Vemula, and Payal Tadvi or Sri Lanka’s disappeared, Aluthgama, or Digana take a deep breath and remove them from your conscience. Twist and detox yourself of the evidence and release toxic fake narratives that work in your favor. Then call for large-scale national development to cover up your unconscionable actions.
Finally, trust the process. As long as the UN logo for “International” Yoga Day remains adorned in the colors of one national government, it is not a day of recognition of everyone around the world but only for certain stakeholders: Hindu nationalists and everyone and everything that enables and benefits from their brazen acts of exclusion.
Bring your hands to heart’s center and let’s inhale that intention together. Exhale, release. Inhale, economic power and unrelenting greed. Exhale, your sense of morality and shared humanity.
“Inhale, economic power and unrelenting greed. Exhale, your sense of morality and shared humanity.”
Notice how when you turn inward and practice mindfulness, you have the capacity to exempt yourself from challenging the structural inequalities and systems of domination and subordination that enable individuals with power to wield violence in the name of capital accumulation and at the expense of the marginalized.
Notice how mindfulness can empower you to forget, silence, and detain journalists, activists and legal advocates who have worked long and hard to document human rights abuses in the face of death, torture, and defamation.
Recognize that you have the power to turn down those minorities who begged you to intervene on their behalf when they felt unsafe.
Slowly release your hands to either side of your body and flutter your eyes open. Give yourself a smile and wink in the mirror. You’ve made it.
Have a wonderful practice, yogis!
Slowly come to all fours into a tabletop position. Keep your gaze on your mat, and stack your joints like the strong pillars holding up the legitimate edifices of a failed transitional justice process.
Exhale, cat pose, round your spine like an angry cat, and protect religious, racial, ethnic, and indigenous minorities long marginalized and brutalized.
Inhale, find a neutral spine and evade all responsibility to hold accountable those who enact violence. Exhale, downward facing dog.
“Relax your shoulders, take a load off, and breathe into your complicity.”
We’ll be in this posture for awhile, so get comfy. Relax your shoulders, take a load off, and breathe into your complicity. Let it fill the space that is the cavity of your heart.
If this is your first down dog of the day, pedal out your dog like you’re rolling back on constitutional reforms that you promised during your election campaign.
Melt your heels into the ground like two glaciers in global warming that climate science deniers refuse to see.
Lift your hips just high enough to touch that glass ceiling that keeps LGBTQ+ communities criminalized and silenced and working women immobile and in debt to predatory microfinance schemes.
Spread your fingers wide and flat against the ground — pretend they are like the edges of ten newly bought and sharpened pencils. These are the bouquets of pencils that white women yoga retreat-attending tourists buy for the throngs of brown children they snap photos of on their cellphones as fodder for their Instagram stories.
“The Global South is your farm-raised oyster. Eat, pray, and love it all.”
We’ve been here for awhile, so a gentle reminder that if you need a prop, feel free to take one for your comfort level. Props are everywhere if you’re a white woman on a yoga retreat in South Asia. Goats, snakes, drivers, bystanders — take your pick. The Global South is your farm-raised oyster. Eat, pray, and love it all.
As you lift your tailbone high in down dog, find an opposite energy pulling down the length of your spine as you further melt your heels into your recyclable mat. This energy taps into your root chakra, also known as the beautiful place where cultural appropriation, racism, and capital accumulation meet Hindu nationalism. This chakra will keep you grounded in consumptive desire. When unblocked, it allows tourist visas for white, bindi-wearing spiritual gangsters to flow across borders so that they can cherish their $50 “rollin with their omies” tanks while filling their backpacks with golden turmeric and pulverized moringa. This chakra also goes well with excessive coconut oil use. Apply it liberally and generously. Until Goop shames you otherwise.
“ … your root chakra, also known as the beautiful place where cultural appropriation, racism, and capital accumulation meet Hindu nationalism.”
Inhale gaze forward. If only our leaders could do this today and realize that when minorities are suffering, the majorities too will suffer. Exhale, step or hop to the front of your mat.
You can take baby steps too. You have options, yogis. Options like the many opportunities political patrons and their newly elected politician-clients have. Or like the options included in bilateral agreements and loans that nimbly step, hop and float across oceans and offshore bank accounts to hide and accumulate wealth and power.
Inhale halfway lift, breathe and hold. Draw up plans for human rights accountability when all you really want to do is build empty airports, civil defense farms and military-run hotels in your name. In this posture, we tend to dump too much weight on the shoulders of informal workers. For the fullest expression of this posture, bank on their invisibility and press them even more into the margins and off the grid to receive your maximum benefits.
Exhale, forward fold. Close your eyes and let your chest fall. Ladies, notice how you can create more and more gaps of wealth inequality between each of your vertebra with every breath of savarna, upper-class, and patriarchy-enabling feminisms.
Inhale, mountain pose. Breath and hold.
Lift your chest proudly and stand tall like a political leader in denial of his wrongdoings. Raise your strong arms to frame your face, tall like the shadows of camp enclosures for the internally displaced and sturdy like the detention centers walls for those charged with sedition.
“Lift your chest proudly and stand tall like a political leader in denial of his wrongdoings.”
Keep lengthening the crown of your head towards that nationalist ceiling. Imagine that I’m holding a piece of string and lifting you up like a political puppet that refuses to stand up for minority constituents. Gaze straight ahead because your leaders have no intention of looking back to right the wrongs of the past.
Come back to your intention if you’ve lost track of it. A common heritage is beautiful because it looks back to the past with rose-colored glasses and employs a fixed gaze, also known by its technical name in yoga, narrow-sighted bigotry. When you find your gaze, it will seem as if nothing is actually wrong and you can do no wrong. Keep calm and yoga on.
“A common heritage is beautiful because it looks back to the past with rose-colored glasses and employs a fixed gaze, also known by its technical name in yoga, narrow-sighted bigotry.”
Inhale here. Exhale, draw your hands to your heart’s center. Maybe you sway from right to left as you find a balance most lucrative for you and your friends. That’s ok and perfectly natural. It’s also called the politics of patronage and authoritarian majoritarianism at the expense of the marginalized.
Slowly open your eyes.
Return to your intention
You did such a wonderful job today, yogis. You were fully engaged and blissfully ignorant within all four corners of your now sweaty mat that needs a 2oz, $16 essential oil-based mat cleaner, which I can ring you up for after class.
You managed to not care at all about the well beings or futures of your neighbors, all the while remaining present in your mind and body. You managed to do this for yourself and should be proud of your accomplishments.
“In our short time together, you embodied an electrifying and all-encompassing energy. I like to call that energy capital accumulation … ”
In our short time together, you embodied an electrifying and all-encompassing energy. I like to call that energy capital accumulation in the name of exclusive religio-national interests. It is a powerful energy and once it begins flowing it is hard to stop its ripple effect and see it. It is everywhere and in everything we touch.
What you just did was not easy. It was an all-levels practice that impacts each and every one of you in your communities. Take that energy off your mat and into your life. Use it to continually transform your world — just like that seventh Starbucks in a ten-block radius you didn’t need or that never-ending Boomerang you could not help but post for self-aggrandizement.
A common heritage you have, a common heritage you must defend. Now and forever.
Happy International Yoga Day 2019. #IYD2019 #yogaforlife #thisiswhyiyoga
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Dissident Auntie is a South Asian American writer, researcher and body positive yoga instructor. She is committed to exposing her students to issues of human rights and accountability through teaching, movement and the written word.