When we selected the name Ganesha Yoga, we were sure it was the perfect name for our studio. We loved many aspects of Ganesha: his physical roundness, his role as a remover of obstacles (and placer of others) and his challenge to learn and grow. These traits resonated with us. We felt like he was an ideal symbol for what we wanted to achieve with the studio. It seemed perfect.
Once we made that decision in 2012, we moved on to the work of building the studio. But over time, as we progressed as teachers and students of yoga, we started feeling uneasy with the name. Why? Because although we are both fans of Ganesha and each love him in our own way, neither of us worship him as a god. And that’s what he is—a deity in a religion that neither of us practice. By naming our studio Ganesha we appropriated Hinduism as well as Indian culture. That is wrong, and we are both very sorry for the harm we caused. Although our intentions were respectful (which might matter to some of you and not to others), we believe that impact eclipses intent. We are both white American yoga teachers who will never have the lived experience of those we harmed. Today, we are recognizing the consequences of our choices and changing our name.
Navigating yoga as white people in the West is complicated. This isn’t a complaint—just a statement of fact. We are grateful to have learned from teachers, colleagues, and students whose paths respect the history and teachings of yoga. Our vision that yoga could be a place of inclusivity, play, and community was shaped by those experiences. We think this is a good time to share the tenets that have guided our work, our teaching and the ethos of our studio. These principles, which we have followed but not formalized, led us to this change, and we believe can also lead to a vibrant future.
As a very small business, we have often operated in ways that are “understood” to us but not formalized—this is both the benefit and the downside to being small. We feel like this is a good time to bring together the principles upon which we operate the studio and to share them with you.
1. Center the fullness of the teachings of yoga, as we understand them, including the political and cultural history of the practices. This includes learning from a diverse group of teachers with varied experiences, identities, backgrounds and perspectives. This is an ongoing process for us and for every teacher in our community. It’s critical for us to remain students so that we can more fully and truthfully serve you.
2. Practice the teachings as individuals. This often gets lost in discussions about cultural appropriation, but it’s where the rubber meets the road. Both of us must continually walk the path of yoga, in the way we interact with people and in our pursuit of spiritual growth. We work on key concepts from yoga philosophy, like seeing ourselves clearly, and encourage our teachers and trainees to do so, as well.
3. Teach yoga as a multifaceted practice. This includes teaching more than just shapes and postures, and respecting the original languages that yoga was formed in. It doesn’t mean that we can’t be playful or have fun. But it does mean that the fun is had without disrespecting the practice.
4. Use our privilege to affect positive change. This includes using our platform, energy, time, buying power and voices in ways that serve marginalized communities, especially fat, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people.
5. Make our classes accessible to more people. Western yoga’s access problem flies in the face of its fundamental teachings. Yoga isn’t just for the wealthy, the time-advantaged or the young/fit/flexible. It is for everyone. We will continue to bring yoga to marginalized people, to teach classes that people with a variety of abilities can do, and to have options that are low- or no-cost. It’s been part of our mission since day one, and we will continue to evolve our work in this area.
6. Employ teachers to work with us who share these values and who are committed to living them. We also think it’s important that our teachers and students reflect the diversity of our Chicago community and we recognize that it takes effort on our part to make the space feel welcoming for all.
Yoga is often described as a path. It is a process of learning and unlearning, of doing the hard work of seeing where ego, aversion, desire and fear are responsible for the decisions we make day to day. We will continue on this path, asking questions, facing discomfort, and changing for the better.
Curious about how we chose Marigold Yoga? Click on the next entry...