Dismantling race, gender, caste inequity

& cultural appropriation in yoga

Online 4 week course

Yoga is a powerful psycho -spiritual tool.
How we use it, for what purpose and for whose benefit will depend on our intentions but also our unexamined biases, limiting beliefs and privileges.

Without critical awareness or self reflection, harmful power dynamics related to control, hoarding and exclusion get perpetuated.
Cultural appropriation is not to be confused with the natural evolution of ideas and cultural exchange in society. Appropriation connects to colonial wounds of race, caste and gender injustice.  Tackling these issues should not create division or induce shame. Facing up to them in our power, presence & compassion will generate change. 

 I do not promote essentialism or identity politics.  My wish is to deepen our critical consciousness, to open our eyes and see what we were not socialised to see. 

What happens in each session?
The value of this course lies in the space made for self inquiry and sharing/dialoguing between participants.
I facilitate in an embodied, relational way supporting an integrative learning of head, heart and belly- feeling, thinking and knowing.

 Weekly themes:
1. Embrace liberation ethics. Aligning yoga to a decolonial praxis to open ourselves in radical compassion to confront race, gender, caste and appropriation issues.
2.  Understand how the colonial - orientalist legacy, exotification and erasure continues to influence our understanding of what yoga is, how it is taught and its selective representation by ethno-nationalist, patriarchal and case supremacist ‘authorities’.  
3. Critically reflect on the prevalence of white saviourism, white privilege, white guilt and anti-blackness as

socio-cultural dynamics that reinforce exclusion, perfectionism and hoarding in yoga.

4. Recognise colonial wounds- how violent histories attach to bodies. Acknowledge how the yoga industrial complex exacerbates painful realities related to belonging, shame and trauma.

Who is this for?
This course is open to everyone including yoga teachers/ therapists. It is for those:
*Who have the emotional bandwidth to engage with the nuances and critical components of this issue.
* Who have an ongoing commitment to anti- racism, gender justice and collective liberation.
*Who are ready to deep dive in a non -defensive and honest way.
* Who wish to get to grips with the legacy of colonialism and how privilege binds us.
*Who are invested into social responsibility and reducing harm.
*Who wish to exit the yoga industrial complex and/or use yoga therapeutically.

What next?

If you are interested here is the info:

Dates & timings:

Sunday 5 p.m -7. 15 p.m GMT.
7th March 2021 -28th March 2021

Small group size of 6-9 people.

Solidarity sliding scale: £80-£180 – which works out as £20-£45 a session.

Recommended course price : £140

Register at sofya@sofya.co.uk. I will send out a registration form and further info.

Previous feedback

"What struck me most was the way you shared your knowledge, experience and insight in such a heartfelt and caring way. While some of the material was familiar to me, the way you presented it and encouraged us to engage with it was a whole new approach - and a very welcome one at that. All too often I've found at least, academically, experientially, the history and philosophy of the practice is approached in a heavily cerebral way but you helped me to dive into the core of what and how we are human, how we can be with ourselves and for each other. It felt like a process of recovery, remembering and reverence, for the practice of yoga as much as for me. “ Aliya Mughal, Freelance Writer, Communications Specialist, Yoga Facilitator in Bristol.

"Sophia is an authentic facilitator who really shows her own vulnerability allowing everyone to go just as deep into their own journeys and emotions. She approached such complex questions with a personal approach that really touched our experience. I feel more human and more hopeful." Natalie, Care Giver

"Thanks very much for the course which I found very enjoyable and interesting. I liked the way you facilitated it and made us all feel we could talk openly and with respect and consideration."- feedback from Amanda Stone Nash, psychotherapist based in Wales.

"I dipped my feet in the waters of a subject that I have never been taught before or had very little knowledge about. I now feel that I can start to take my new awareness into my current work as a full time yoga teacher and I have a clearer understanding of my own vulnerabilities and power. The online space was both safe and welcoming and I looked forward to the group every week. I really felt like I learnt something valuable." - from Jo, Yoga teacher based in Wales.

This online series will be facilitated by Sophia (She/her) who is mixed race, second generation Indian diaspora, French- Spanish heritage. Brought up in Wales in a home filled with Indian Sufi Vedic traditions. Sophia make no claims to absolutism, speaking for or over others, she will be facilitating from the position of 'lived and professional experience. She is a UKCP accredited psychotherapeutic counsellor, Yoga teacher-therapist (BWY dip, Ayurveda therapy dip) and founder of Sattva Gaia a trust working towards decolonising Yoga and mental health by offering liberation education to professionals and community based yoga therapy projects to marginalised client groups.
Sophia has been teaching yoga for 25 years , she runs a clinical and community practice in Cardiff. She has professional training in mindfulness, authentic movement, poly-vagal-informed movement psychotherapy for trauma and liberation psychology as well as a Masters in Colonial History from SOAS (School of Oriental & African Studies).

Decolonising Yoga

 Yoga is a truth that is beyond this world, yet prepares us to be in this world. Yoga traditions do not directly describe social justice harms or processes. For that we owe a gratitude to Black feminism, liberation psychologists and our radical thinkers and activists. Yet Yoga traditions have illuminated spiritual ethics, ethics that have moved communities and rebel saints to mobilise in social action. 

So do we decolonise yoga per se? No, rather we decolonise ourselves so that we can critically understand and be conscious of our relationship with yoga.  What do we understand yoga to be? How do we use yoga and who do we share it with?

Yoga has traditionally been found and known in radical spaces away from the ordinary yet touching into the everyday. The indescribable described through story, song, poetry, sacred text,  intimate dialogue, felt in moments of awe, breath, humility and devotion.

There is no standard way to decolonise yoga, it depends on you. 

Do you understand how historically produced inequalities continue to shape our society? How it impacts us personally and in our professional lives? 

We face fierce commodification, white washing and ethno-nationalist erasure in Yoga.

The way that we approach justice issues and respond to them depends on what we know about the violence and harm of the past. We can account for the appropriation, loot , plunder, epistemicide, dispossession and gender violence in our lifetimes. We are not talking about the Roman empire or the Persian empire,  this trauma impacted our grandparents and parents, it is recent and inter-generational. 


Past workshops

The Heart of Resilience

Sunday 25th of November 2018

Three pools permaculture farm, Abergavenny, Wales.

Privilege: How much space do I take?

February 2019 at 10:00–17:00, Cardiff

'Race, Inclusion and Embodied Reflexivity'

A workshop at the 2018 congress of The European Association for Body Psychotherapy,  Berlin,  8th of September 2018

'Deep Listening: Hearing the Body's Voice'

 Me too Silence no more: a day long series of workshops for BAME Women in London 29th April 2018

“Everybody tells a story”
A somatic, trauma informed approach to storytelling for therapeutic work. Workshop at George Ewart Evans centre for storytelling’s symposium. 7th April 2018.
“Traumatic stress and the embodiment of micro-aggressions”
Requested workshop for a group of counsellors in Cardiff November, 2017.
“Menstrual inclusivity”
Requested workshop for a group of psychotherapists, yoga teachers and psychologists, East London, September 2015.


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