The Connected Yoga Teacher Podcast
269: Yoga Philosophy & Colonialism with Shyam Ranganathan
As yoga teachers, we learn a little bit about yoga philosophy in our YTTs, but yoga philosophy is much more than just the 8 limbs, or the brief summary we may have come across in our studies. Dr. Shyam Ranganathan (he/him) is an expert in yoga philosophy and in this episode, he shares more about this topic, as well as how colonialism has influenced what we understand as yoga philosophy.
Dr. Shyam Ranganathan is the founder of Yoga Philosophy, and a field-changing researcher on the study and translation of philosophy, especially South Asian philosophy and Yoga. He holds an MA in South Asian Studies, and an MA and PhD in philosophy, and is a member of the Department of Philosophy, and York Center for Asian Research, York University, Toronto. Shyam is a translator of the Yoga Sūtra, and founded his organization, Yoga Philosophy, to provide support for those interested in answering the question - What makes something yoga?
Shyam explains how learning about philosophy helps us to get along and why not all opinions are equally good or right. He also shares more about how Europeans misunderstood things when they studied the communities they colonized and how that showed up in the yoga sutras and how they are translated. This continues to influence how yoga is taught and practiced in the world, today, especially in the West. He also gives us insight about the yamas and social justice, choices and responsibility, ahimsa, dharma, self-governing and Ishvara Pranidhana. This is a really rich conversation that all of us can learn from.
[3:48] Shannon introduces her guest for this episode - Shyam Ranganathan.
[6:45] Shyam shares his pronouns and explains how to pronounce his name.
[7:36] What does Shyam do and who does he do it for?
[8:46] What got Shyam interested in the work of studying philosophy?
[10:48] Shyam was born in Toronto, yet felt that he didn't fit in. He talks a bit about that experience.
[13:00] Shyam believes that philosophy enabled him to get along with people without having to agree with them.
[15:06] There are several polarizing issues in the world right now. Shyam highlights the fact that just because we are okay with disagreement doesn't mean there are no right answers.
[16:07] Where did Shyam's journey with yoga philosophy start?
[22:14] Shyam clarifies the role and impact of colonization in the interpretation of yoga sutras.
[31:49] Shyam shares an example of the two different ways of relating to what you contemplate.
[37:00] Shannon and Shyam discuss the linguistic model of thought and how that has influenced different situations and scenarios in history and in the present day.
[40:26] Why is it not yoga when we go in and try to make other people conform to our systems?
[44:08] How does the idea of choice and responsibility connect to the eight limbs?
[49:18] Shannon gives a shout out to OfferingTree.
[51:04] One of the three kriyas is ishvara pranidhana. Shyam unpacks what this really refers to.
[56:10] What are the other two kriyas?
[58:43] How is yoga connected to social justice? What do the niyamas have to do with social justice?
[64:48Shyam explains that fear is trauma and it's the result of a bad decision based on people's experiences.
[67:41] Where do the eight limbs of yoga fit in?
[72:21] What does Shyam mean when he talks about sovereignty?
[76:51] Find out more about Shyam and his work around yoga philosophy on his website.
[77:29] What is something in terms of yoga and philosophy that really has Shyam's interest right now?
[80:00] Shannon shares her key takeaways from this interview with Shyam. What were yours?
Quotes from this episode:
"What I loved about philosophy immediately was that it was a way to get along with people without having to agree."
"Just because we're okay with disagreement doesn't mean that there are no right answers. Disagreement doesn't mean that everybody's opinion is equally good."
"The actual practice of yoga is something more basic and the eight limbs are there to help you practice. "
"After that colonial moment, people have to identify with imposed religious identities in order to find a place in a colonized world and that's where we are today."
"Whereas the external world (nature) can be explained in terms of causality, persons have to understand themselves in terms of choice and responsibility."
"When you meet up with people who advocate violence, you have to appreciate that that's a result of trauma."
"There's no yoga practice that isn't informed by trauma."