There are days when I think I should change the name of this website. The name fell into place as I was redesigning my former website. It wasn’t entirely intentional to name it “powerful woman yoga”. It felt catchy at the time, it resonated with feminine empowerment, and it was an english variation of my previous Sanskrit name “Shakti Yoga”- the divine feminine in yoga. Honestly, some days it feels pretentious. Who am I to claim this name? There are far more powerful and courageous women out there. Some days it just feels fake. I am a mere white woman- many would consider the classic modern day yogi- a nearing middle- or perhaps fully middle age- white woman who can touch her toes and show off some fancy poses, who sometimes wears flashy looking yoga pants. So for that reason the very existence of it all feels wrong and insulting.
There are more powerful women out there. There are women who are bold activists in equality, in racial harmony, and in fighting for our earth’s health. There are women who have stood up in abusive relationships and faced deep addictions, women who balance work and family as a single mother, women who fight institutionalized racism, and women who fight for Indigenous rights. I am none of those women.
Some people are disturbed with what I do, teaching yoga and leading Kirtan as a caucasian non-Indian, trained by another middle aged caucasian woman. I have had others tell me it isn’t right, that perhaps I have no place. Maybe my pronunciation isn’t quite right, or I take too many creative liberties to the traditions. Perhaps they are right. In fact, they are right. If I offend, I apologize. That is never my intention. I will try harder to be kinder and to understand.
I have considered changing paths entirely, finding a new destiny. Maybe yoga isn’t for me. Maybe Kirtan isn’t for me. Perhaps there are too many rules to break, too many people to upset and offend by doing what I do, and maybe getting a “real job” with a steady paycheck would be a better path. Maybe it is wrong to consider teaching yoga my “job” anyway. Maybe folks are right, that this isn’t what I should be doing. The name is wrong and there isn’t anything powerful in what I do or who I am.
I recently read an article on race and hate and the opening lines discussed how the author felt her approach to the topic wasn’t the most perfect way to approach an issue, that the author was likely to be making all sorts of mistakes, and she might even change her mind later. But she still felt compelled to move forward with it. Starting the conversation seemed important, even if it wasn’t completely correct and others needed to help her see more clearly. Something clicked in my mind as I read those words. Yes, there are doubts along the path. Yes there are naysayers, and yes they may very well be correct. But somehow here I am, and I am treading a path. I feel better taking some sort of step, some sort of direction than to fear doing it wrong and to never take a step at all.
So here are my true confessions: I am fully flawed. As much as I try not to offend other cultures and races, I acknowledge that I do with frequency. Even simply running this site and teaching yoga and chanting as I do offends others, specifically Indians and Hindus. I am aware of this. It hurts. Sometimes those conversations make me quite upset. I loose my temper. I sometimes react unreasonably. I get jealous. I try to justify my actions. Some days, I don’t feel powerful at all and am not interested in taking a stand. But somehow, I move forward with all of my flaws and the hope to do better and to make amends.
So for now the name will stay, if not for the mere logistics in the difficulty of changing the name at this point. But also because it causes conflict. It makes me consider what it really means, because it isn’t perfect, and it very well may not be “right”. I take another step and try to do better, knowing more errors are likely to be made, but not being afraid of the errors. I realize they are the doorways and the opportunities to grow and improve. They are the opportunities to make amends. The errors are the work that is needed to be done, to open the door to those difficult conversations and sensations. We shall see where it takes us.