Asana is a series of self-portraits created from actual photos of myself in various yoga poses. Asana is the Sanskrit word that refers to posture. Western yoga practices, exemplified by fitness influencer culture, focuses more on the picture-perfect strength and gymnastics aspect of yoga instead of the corresponding meditative and spiritual practice. As an Asian-American in an Western country, I’m constantly struggling with cultural purity and authenticity, as I have the unearned privilege to explore these questions in both my art and body.
I received my yoga teacher training from someone in the dominant culture, in English. Throughout the training, I saw parallels to my own Eastern beliefs, some which I never identified were truly “Eastern” beliefs having grown up isolated from Hindu and Buddhist-aligned schools of thought. At the same time, I also found myself picking and choosing which beliefs I align myself with, as with any yogic student. I also realize the industry of certifying yoga teachers through a heavy-rotation of cohorts is a million-dollar industry in the West, propped up by neocolorblindness and cultural appropriation. I’m a part of that industry, though like many others, I am seeking cultural purity and a sense of what is authentic and real to me. Philosophy is almost like the final frontier in settler colonialism. Perhaps my exploration is an exploitative act. Indeed, the entire experience is a self-serving act.
Many people turn to Eastern philosophies to find themselves, and as an Asian-presenting practitioner of these ideas, I find my experience even more textured, as it coexists with contemporary ideas of “self love”. My upbringing in the magical realistic landscape that is the Southwestern desert, my appreciation for my own physical body, and my experience in both teaching and practicing yoga all contribute to ongoing dialogue about how students can come to Eastern philosophies in genuine ways.