276: Caring for Yoga's South Asian Roots with Susanna Barkataki276: Caring for Yoga’s South Asian Roots with Susanna Barkataki

A topic the yoga community has been quite hesitant to approach is that of caring for yoga’s south Asian roots and re-centering South Asian yoga teachers and practitioners. In this episode, Susanna Barkataki shares her insights on why this is important and how to do it well.

Susanna Barkataki is an Indian yoga practitioner in the Shankaracharya tradition. Her work is dedicated to supporting practitioners to lead with equity, diversity and yogic values while growing thriving practices and businesses with confidence. As the founder of Ignite Yoga and Wellness Institute, Susanna runs Yoga Teacher Training programs and offers other trainings and courses designed to create a fully inclusive and diverse yoga community. Susanna is also the author of Embrace Yoga’s Roots: Courageous Ways to Deepen Your Yoga Practice, and a renowned speaker and trainer on topics like diversity, accessibility, inclusivity, and equity (DAIE).

Susanna shares more about yoga’s roots and how it has changed and evolved over time, the two criteria for cultural appropriation, and the current practice of yoga in white communities around the world. She explains why it is important to re-center South Asian yoga teachers (and teachings), and guides us to finding our own answers about whether white yoga teachers should be teaching yoga and how to do so in a way that uplifts the yoga community.

Key Takeaways:

[2:21] Shannon introduces her guest for this episode – Susanna Barkataki.

[6:16] Susanna shares a little about her background and how she came to do the work that she does.

[9:37] Shannon and Susanna discuss what her parents went through as a mixed race couple in the 70s and how those experiences shaped Susanna.

[14:27] What does Susanna have to say to yoga teachers who are just starting to learn about cultural appropriation?

“There’s so much to this practice and being a humble student is a great place to start, even if you’re already a teacher.” Susanna Barkataki

[19:01] Susanna outlines the two criteria for cultural appropriation to be present.

[23:00] Susanna explains a little about using the term South Asian yoga teachers or practitioners to refer to the people from the lands where yoga originated.

[27:54] Why is it important to center South Asian yoga teachers if yoga doesn’t belong to anyone and has moved around and spread to different parts of the world?

“There is a diversity in this tradition [yoga] and an openness and kind of an agreement to disagree civilly and to have a different perspective from one another but to be on this path together.” Susanna Barkataki

[34:22] Shannon gives a shout out to the sponsor, OfferingTree.

[36:21] Susanna shares a story from Indian mythology about why only understanding or focusing on one part of yoga is insufficient.

[39:47] Shannon speaks to the fear that white yoga teachers may have around re-centering South Asian yoga teachers. What actually happens when we re-center South Asian yoga teachers? Why and how should we do that?

[50:09] What are the benefits of collaborating with others and lifting others up, even if they do similar work to you?

[53:43] Shannon and Susanna discuss how being in a position of privilege is not actually beneficial to the people at the top of the hierarchy either.

“Should you be profiting from this practice that comes from a people who have been held down oppressed, marginalized and not centered?” Susanna Barkataki

[58:09] Should white yoga teachers even be teaching yoga?

“When we look at power and balance, we can utilize our power when and where we have it to continue to empower ourselves, but also to lift up others.” Susanna Barkataki

[62:31] Susanna shares her final thoughts around caring for yoga’s roots.

[65:08] Find out more about Susanna and her work via her website and on Instagram.

[67:06] Shannon reflects on her conversation with Susanna and shares her key takeaways.


Gratitude to our Sponsor, OfferingTree.

OfferingTree all-in-one software