Cultural Appropriation: Let's Learn a New Way Together

This post has been long-gestating within me, as I’ve grappled with my own deeply seated belief systems about “who I am,” and what rights I have to teach mantra and nāda yoga as a non-Indian white woman. My own story of horrifying mistakes and the long road I’m walking on towards integrity aside (I’ll tell it later), I’d like to offer this list of resources right away. (Scroll down to straight to it.) It’s a work in progress, coming home to truth… and the first step is educating ourselves so we can begin to have the difficult conversations within ourselves.

Many of the resources below put words to discomforts I have faced within myself, such as why I rarely post photos from my actual life in India or talk about the projects I’m involved in that are turnkey transformation in the post-colonial devastation of India’s culture and self-esteem. I have hesitated to use my voice about these issues, because I could be seen as centralizing myself in the issue or positioning myself to gain from being hip to cultural appropriation.

What to do? The layers are thick, and I don’t have the answers as I wade through them deeper and deeper. I continue the massive digestion process of sorting what's universal about in the teachings yoga, nāda, Tantra, and mantra, and what has been stained by centuries colonization (both within what's currently taught in India, and how the ideas and practices have been exported to the West).

The one thing I know for sure is that I can't un-know what I know now, and for that I'm grateful. As a Tantrika, I savor the aliveness of the discomfort, knowing that it's essential for transformation.

NOTE: Some of the words in resources below are balanced and illuminating. Others are condemning, shame-inducing, sharp words.

As a practice, I want to listen to them all and face what needs to be faced so that it can change. (A nāda and mantra yoginī who doesn’t listen would be like a chef who doesn’t taste!) I have not edited the list. I’m sharing it as is.

Of everything below, it was binge-listening to the life-changing Seeing White podcast series that really brought the seriousness of it for me. (I've since listened to Seeing White 3 times, along with their excellent series MEN, and now Democracy: The Land that Never Has Been Yet) In the concluding episode, the white host asked the person of color co-host what the ideal outcome would be for a white person learning all of this history for the first time. He said that it would be revolutionary if the white person would…

… accept the feedback graciously
… and be willing to change the behavior.

I hope we’re able and willing to do both.

My recommendations on the best place to start are in RED below.

Even though I have the wholehearted blessing of my Indian gurus to do what I do, have dedicated decades to practice and refinement, and I’m often praised for representing an authentic, skilled, devotional teaching, I feel I’m just beginning to really do both the music and the mantra justice. When it comes to cultural appropriation, if we can’t see it, we can’t change it, right? Unravelling this sticky, violent, depressing mess is one of the most important duties of an awakened soul in this day and age, I feel. Thank you for being willing to go deep together. May we bow in humility to the vast treasures which lay deep within these Indian mystical practices.

With love,

Cultural Appropriation, Race, White Fragility, Decolonizing and Spiritual Bypass Links

This list was compiled by a community of friends in the yoga & bhakti communities in the USA, including my dear friend Jennifer Mazzucco, devotional artist and her sister in self-discovery, Prajna Briana Viera.

Cultural appropriation/Decolonizing links:

If you teach yoga, lead kīrtan, wear yoga clothing, or love chanting, Prajna Briana Viera’s talk from Bhakti Fest is a good place to start diving into this topic:

*Note that as of 2018, an inclusive festival alternative to Bhakti Fest is being hosted:

How to Decolonize Your Yoga Practice  

Why White Lady Sisterhood Needs to Evolve

Yoga as the Colonized Subject 

Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex 

Decolonization is not a metaphor 

Decolonizing Our Minds and Actions 

Yoga and the Roots of Cultural Appropriation

Here´s a couple of useful articles that - at least on the topic of yoga and Hinduism - provide a decent general introduction. - a beautiful piece by Sri Louise.…/

Also look at South Asian American Perspectives on Yoga in America - Saapya

Follow Dr. Bairavee Balasubramaniam PhD, The Sky Priestess

Spiritual Bypass links:


Race and Whiteness links:

A Conversation With Native Americans on Race

White Supremacy Runs on Denying the Existence of White Privilege
So you think you know a thing: Feministing 201


“Tears We Cannot Stop” by Michael Eric Dyson

“The Fire Next Time” by James Baldwin

“The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson

“Waking Up White” by Debbie Irving

“What Does it Mean to Be White? Developing White Racial Literacy” by Robin DiAngelo

“The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander

Authentic Allyship Coaching Group with Tada Hozumi



Are you there privilege? It's me, Cheslea (on Neflix)
I recommend this as very accessible first dip into what white privilege looks like.

Australia-Specific Resources:

We Don’t Need a Map movie:

Dark Emu book by Bruce Pascoe

This list was compiled by a community of friends in the yoga & bhakti communities in the USA, including my dear friend Jennifer Mazzucco, devotional artist and her sister in self-discovery, Prajna Briana Viera.

If you’d like to recommend further resources, especially those that are not America-centric, please comment or contact us at info at heart of sound dot in.


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