54: Unpacking Cultural Appropriation with Susanna Barkataki

My spiritual practice is one that asks me to wake up to the world as it is. 

My spiritual practice asks me to be strong enough to see the truth about our society and understand my place in it. My spiritual practice values equity for all people and has a deep reverence for our inherent interdependence as a species. 

My spiritual practice has always understood that I am not free until all people are free.

The evolution of this path led me to anti-racism work. As I began to see how living in a White Supremacist culture has infected everything I understand about myself and our world I was led to the work of dismantling the White Supremacy that is inside me, as the very important first step in dismantling White Supremacy out in the world. 

As I continued to walk down this path I ran face first into a wall. As a white woman teaching yoga is there any way to do that without appropriating and stealing from a culture that is not my own?

I don’t have an answer for that question.  From my perspective, as a person committed to creating and supporting a better world for all people, it seems important that I get used to the discomfort that comes from living in the questions. 

Many of you are sitting with these questions as well, and I appreciate you reaching out to me to ask for support on this path. In my role as a mentor I am committed to holding space for difficult conversations and asking (hopefully) thoughtful questions. 

We are so so lucky to have Susanna Barkataki joining us on The Mentor Sessions today to bring her lived experience, wisdom and expertise to these questions. 

Susanna Barkataki helps yoga teachers, studios, nonprofits and businesses become leaders in equity, diversity and yogic values so they can embody thriving yoga leadership with integrity and she has worked in teaching and social justice for two decades. 

In this episode you’ll hear:

  • Why the yoga world so badly need to hear Susanna’s message of diversity and inclusion
  • A breakdown of the language often used in conversations like this. We’ll define:
    • Decolonization
    • Cultural appropriation 
    • Diversity
    • Inclusion
    • Dominant Culture
    • And accessibility specifically as it relates to yoga spaces
  • The main difference between honoring yoga and appropriating yoga 
  • A conversation about how to update the movement practice and include learnings from modern movement science while still honoring the original teachings
  • What members of the dominant culture can do to transform our society

Learn More From Susanna:

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2 Responses to “54: Unpacking Cultural Appropriation with Susanna Barkataki”

  1. Dr. Ariele Foster

    This episode is so good. I already shared this quote on Instagram, but it belongs here as well so more people can find it:

    from Susanna: “[Our intention is to] cause the least harm. And the acknowledgment is, we are all still going to cause harm.

    The whole system that we are in (environmental destruction, racism, colonialism), we got born into a broken system. We are trying to mitigate the impacts on ourselves and also heal in our own lives and in the lives of others. I just really want to acknowledge: none of us is going to be perfect. But it doesn’t let us off the hook to keep trying.

    A lot of the work around cultural appropriation, honoring yoga and decolonizing, really is about signing up for / internally saying “I sign up for a life of critical thinking. I sign up for a life of questioning and of self-awareness”, which really is svadyaya, a life of self-inquiry, lessening harm and speaking the truth.

    If we have signed up for that, we continually engage with “How can I learn more? How can I be more thoughtful or more of a critical thinker in this moment, or in this context?” There’s not a rule book…It’s an ongoing process of growing and improvement. ” – Susanna Barkataki.

    thanks for this epi, francesca!

    • Francesca Cervero

      Yes yes yes yes. Thank you so much for pulling this quote of Susanna’s out of the episode! It is all so important and beautifully said. I’m so very happy to be on this path with you Ariele. <3


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