Grounding In Identity And Reclaiming Wellness Spaces with Tejal Patel aka @TejalYoga, Host of "Yoga Is Dead" Podcast: Lesson 54

Bringing the lens of social justice to the wellness space and creating a more resilient and inclusive space in the yoga world. 

Tejal shared with us that she tries to  teach yoga in a way that is not of the mainstream. There are so many people that are craving spaces that do more than just teach movement, and there’s people trying to understand yoga more in terms of getting to know it’s philosophy and learning about the eight limbs of yoga. 

When it comes to social justice, Tejal bridges the gap between social justice and yoga by talking about the four relationships that we cultivate within yoga both on the mat, and out of the mat: 

What are the four relationships that we cultivate within yoga?

  1. Your relationship with yourself: “There is you and you. That’s a relationship, and it’s the most important relationship. It’s home. “One of the most important relationships that I like to talk about in yoga is the relationship that you have to yourself and to your own mind, body and spirit and how that can be like a pretty transcendent relationship when you start to tap into it” - Tejal Patel 
  2. Your relationship to your loved ones: how is that a reciprocal relationship?
  3. Your relationship to your community, centred in social justice: How are you further empowering your community?
  4. Your relationship to the environment:  The way you can nurture the land and your relationship to everything outside of you. Understanding you’re not alone, and that you rely on the systems around you to be.

“I teach yoga in a way that is not of the mainstream. There’s so many people that are craving spaces that do more than just teach movement, and there’s people trying to understand yoga in terms of philosophy and a way of living.” - Tejal Yoga

Reconciling truth speaking in a space that isn’t necessarily ready to hear it yet, and finding strength to speak your truth. 

Tejal shares with us that she finds that a lot of South Asian people and South Asian communities talk about yoga in a way that is quite different from what we see in studio culture and mainstream culture. Tejal has made it her work to bridge the gap between those conversations in all of the spaces that she works in. She points out that a huge differentiator in the way that South Asian people talk about yoga is the multiple relationships we cultivate within yoga as well as it’s philosophy, and she tries to bring more of this education to her work.

Tejal is the host of the Yoga Is Dead podcast, a podcast in which topics such as the appropriation of yoga and spiritual bypassing are spoken about often. I asked Tejal what it felt like to reconcile this kind of truth speaking in a space that might not be necessarily ready to hear it yet. Tejal shares that she sees her work and this kind of truth speaking as necessary:

“The rigidity makes the situation so fragile, it could topple at any moment. We talk about spiritual bypassing all the time, and being toxic about spirituality. Saying, “you can feel better, if you just try, change your situation, and ignore all the other social factors that make up your experience as individuals, and as individuals with different racial ethnic identities, that’s toxic.” - Tejal Patel 

A couple of years back, I actually did a 200 hour yoga teacher training, and I felt quite othered and couldn’t root into the space. I ask Tejal what it has been like for her to reclaim space through her practice. And what has been the response from those in her community who feel held through it. 

“In 2015 there was a chain of events that allowed me to get my grounding and footing in terms of who, and where, and how I wanted to teach. But what I found is that the thing that I loved and kind of gave up this lucrative career for I was feeling disenfranchised from. So I started to really consider what would make the yoga space in general more comfortable for me.” - Tejal Patel

Tejal shares that she realized that she needed to connect more with the South Asian community that was also navigating yoga and wellness, and she needed to be in community with people who supported that mission. She also wanted to talk about what was wrong, and what was going on in her mind. She pitched a podcast to a friend, and a year later came out Yoga is Dead. 

The importance of your relationship with yourself: Advice to shut off the external world, reconnect with yourself and root back into your truth. 

I ask Tejal how she is connecting to herself and grounding in her truth these days:

“I’m leaning in a lot more to what is, and opportunities coming up as pathways to doing the work. I am in a constant state of discomfort, because I’m in the growth zone. As I look forward, I allow myself to be bigger, not making myself smaller with unnecessary concern. 

I asked Tejal if she had any advice for anyone listening that wants to connect to themselves more and speak their truth:  “Open your mouth and take up space. “We need you right now.” 

In terms of advice for reconnecting with yourself, Tejal advises you to take a moment to think about when in your life, and where in your life you felt truly happy, and think about the act that you were doing and what the process was. Tejal says to look back and find those processes that you found a lot of joy in, and ask yourself how you can implement those back into your life. Tejal shares that one common theme that she sees that prevents people from taking moments with themselves is not knowing the right approach, or not knowing how to do it or feeling like they're failing.

“So if I were to say to someone, why don't you meditate a couple of minutes every day, they might say, well, there is no way I can clear my mind or I have a lot of anxiety or I don't sit still or I have no quiet spaces, like there's a list of things. So, of course, the next approach will start small, whatever it is you want to start. And then remember that, like you said, perfection and achievement isn't really the goal. It's essentially coming back to yourself, coming back to trying, encouraging yourself to return to whatever it is you want to be doing.”

- Tejal Patel

Tejal shares one of her favourite quotes with us to remember from Bhagavad Gita: “On this path, no gain is ever reversed and no effort is ever wasted. Only a little of this work can undo great suffering and harm.”

Finally, Tejal shares that a constant reminder that she has is that the yoga practice and the yoga teachings tell us that it's OK, it's OK to fall off and it's OK to just come back. It's OK to fall off and remember that you want to come back. Even a little of this work can undo great suffering and harm.

Thank you for tuning in this week! I hope that you loved this conversation as much as I did. 

Until Next Time!

Love, Komal