Anti-Oppression Yoga Pooja Virani230: Anti-Oppression Yoga with Pooja Virani

The term “anti-oppression” can make some of us feel uncomfortable, and we may want to shy away from talking about it, but that is exactly what makes this such an important conversation. This is part of the work of bringing our yoga into our lives and the world, and Pooja Virani has some insights about anti-oppression yoga.

Pooja Virani is a Pain-Free Movement Specialist and Social Justice Consultant on a mission to spread joy, foster equality, and help people reach their highest potential. Pooja is certified in Kripalu Yoga & Meditation, Kids’ Yoga, and Acroyoga, and specializes in Rehabilitative Yoga for Injury Prevention & Pain Relief, LGBTQ+ and BIPOC Yoga, and Social Justice Education for Yoga Teachers, Community Leaders, and Businesses. She believes in “yoga for everyone” and aims to make yoga accessible and inclusive to all people – regardless of their race, age, gender, sexuality, previous experience, or ability.

Pooja talks to us about what privilege is and the different kinds of privilege that exist, what oppression means in the context of yoga, and how it differs from cultural appropriation, and she has some great examples to really highlight these differences. Pooja also explains how we can move toward creating safer, more diverse and equitable yoga spaces.

This episode is a must-listen for anyone looking to learn more about creating safe, inclusive and accessible spaces for everyone.

Key Takeaways:

[10:32] Shannon introduces her guest for this episode – Pooja Virani.

[12:25] What is the work that Pooja does and who does she do it for?

[13:42] How did Pooja choose the name “Pain Free Movement Specialist” to describe what she does?

“Yoga has always seemed a way towards freedom.” ~ Pooja Virani

[16:30] Pooja used to hate yoga. She shares more about her experiences being teased and mocked for her culture, and how it influenced her.

[18:52] How did Pooja feel in her yoga classes in college?

[20:34] Now, as a yoga teacher who practices and shares yoga in North America, what are Pooja’s thoughts and feelings about it?

[22:25] How does Pooja define privilege?

“Just because you have privilege doesn’t mean that someone has never oppressed you.” ~ Pooja Virani

[24:33] How does Pooja define oppression?

“Why I say that we all have the ability to oppress others is because we all have agency in our lives.” ~ Pooja Virani

[25:48] How does oppression show up in yoga spaces?

“When it gets to this point where this thing came from India and I’m the only South Asian everywhere I look, that’s pointing to the fact that there’s been a systemic exploitation of that culture.” ~ Pooja Virani

[27:54] Shannon and Pooja discuss the idea that yoga is not religion.

[34:06] As a white person, should you still be teaching and practicing yoga?

“We have the responsibility to figure out ‘what are we teaching?’ and ‘why are we teaching it?’.” ~ Pooja Virani

[36:43] Shannon reflects on what it means to create safe, inclusive spaces.

[38:23] Is it appropriate to give and receive gifts of religious idols like Ganesh?

[43:18] Is it okay to say namaste in a yoga class?

[48:32] Pooja shares an example of how namaste has been taken out of context.

[51:40] Our usage of words evolves over time – it is important to keep this in mind.

“Our use of language is evolving out of respect. That’s the way it should evolve.” ~ Pooja Virani

[53:16] Pooja shares some final thoughts around cultural appropriation and further resources.

[55:52] Learn more about Pooja and her work via her website, and be sure to check out the free resource list she has compiled.

[58:10] What are your key takeaways from this interview?


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