Upcoming Conversations

Understanding the Roots of Yoga: Impacts of Colonization & Appropriation

Monday, February 1 2021, 6 pm to 7:30 pm, By Donation

Live via Zoom

We’ve invited yoga teacher Emmy Chahal and mantra instructor Rishima Bahadoorsingh (bios below) to share their reflections and lived experience in an online gathering. Both women grew up in families that have practised this ancient spiritual system for countless generations. And both have stories of North American practitioners reacting with confusion, curiosity, and skepticism when they’ve tried to share their traditional knowledge. 

Colonization and Cultural Appropriation

In the context of yoga, colonization refers to the British occupation and suppression of traditional cultural practices in South Asia. For a time, people were forbidden to practice yoga at all. Cultural appropriation is when a dominant group, usually white, adopts and adapts parts of another culture for their own enjoyment or material gain. One modern example is when people of South Asian descent in North America are ridiculed or harassed for wearing traditional dress, while white people who wear saris or bindis are seen as celebrating multiculturalism.   

Join us as moderator Vandana Sood (bio below) asks the questions you may have wondered about, or need to answer yourself. 

  • What is yoga? Is it religious?
  • What does cultural appropriation mean to you?
  • What is the opposite of cultural appropriation? What does this look like in a North American yoga class?
  • What does decolonization look like in a yoga class?
  • What defines a yoga teacher/who gets to teach yoga?
  • What makes someone a yogi? 

Come prepared to shake up your perspective. 

There will be time for respectful audience questions. Viewpoints and questions from South Asian and other BIPOC attendees will be given priority.

Panelist Rishima Bahadoorsingh

Headshot of Rishima Bahadoorsingh


Drawing upon her Indo-Trinidadian roots, Rishima sings and teaches songs rooted in the Indian spiritual traditions of bhajans, kirtan, raga, and other devotional music. Rishima is a strong believer in the positive impact of music. From a young age, she studied and performed formal music in piano and violin, voice, harmonium, and some Indian percussion with local and international teachers.

Rishima has worked under the guidance of Elena Steele, Neeraja Aptikar, the Pandit Jasraj Institute in Vancouver, and the Shankar Mahadevan Academy in India. She continues to learn Dhrupad (Naad yoga – yoga of sound) an ancient meditative style of singing that originated from the Sama Veda with Manish Kumar, part of the Dagarvani lineage. Rishima has also completed a Raga Therapy certification with NADA Centre for Music Therapy, India (2019). She has sung locally and internationally at cultural and charity events, TV shows, festivals, spiritual centres, studios, temples and workshops. Rishima also teaches online in Spanish and English.

Rishima is presently an elementary school teacher in Vancouver and holds a Masters of Education in Curriculum and Development in Inclusion and Diversity as well as a Bachelor of Education in Elementary Education and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. In her off time, she volunteers as a coordinator for the Canadian Institute of Sathya Sai Education in Human Values and is the founder of Sol Community Education Society, a society that supports rural education in Northern Peru. She is also the proud mother of 2!

Panelist Emmy Chahal

Emmy Chahal


Emmy was introduced to yoga as a child through her grandmother and mother, and was lucky to grow up practicing kundalini and restorative yoga. Her ancestors are from the north of India and the practice of yoga connects her deeply to her heritage. She has been teaching yoga since 2012 in a variety of settings (universities, schools, studios, corporate and private) and is particularly interested in: the healing potential of yoga, incorporating trauma-informed approaches, decolonization, and embodied pedagogy. Emmy holds a a BA in Cultural Studies, minor in Gender and Women’s Studies; and has previously worked in schools as a violence prevention workshop facilitator. She currently teaches yoga and meditation for tech companies, works with clients as an energy healer/bodyworker and facilitates community workshops.

Moderator Vandana Sood


Vandana is a lawyer who works at a local community legal centre that provides services primarily in family law to self-identified women. Vandana has practised yoga for a long time and cannot imagine life without yoga. To her, it is much more than physical asana, it is a lifelong practice which can provide solace and an anchor, and which includes ahimsa (non-harming and compassion) and karma yoga (service to others). Vandana is a strong believer in the power of community and is very excited about how Yoga Outreach brings the social justice and yoga communities together.

Our Vision for Yoga Outreach Out Loud: Curated Conversations

We love hearing about yoga transforming lives, but we’re also curious about what happens next.
How have people extended the principles of yoga in unique ways to make active, community-changing choices?
Four times a year, Yoga Outreach will invite a carer, teacher, or activist from our community to share how yoga shows up in their life and work in conversation with a YO host. Audience members will have a chance to ask questions, share stories, and meet other people interested in the same topic. 
Yoga Outreach believes the diversity of experiences, ideas, individuals, and organizations in our community makes us stronger. To create a more just and engaged world, we must
  • embrace and celebrate diversity,
  • practice inclusion, and
  • exercise leadership as a champion of equity.

We recognize that we cannot do this work alone. Instead, we commit to uplifting the voices and work of people already devoted to sharing their lived experience of intersecting systems of oppression. By championing these voices, we support others to resist oppressive patterns in their own practice and lives.

With this as our guiding principle we are working to cultivate conversations that are diverse both in topics and in presenters’ lived experiences.

Do you have a story you’d like to share? We are accepting applications from folks with diverse lived experiences to apply to be part of this speakers series. Please complete the application form below.

YO Speaker Application

Application to speak at a YO event.
    In general you will receive 1 email from us /month.
  • What's your story and why would you like to share it.
  • If yes, please tell us about it. If no, please tell us why you'd like to start with us.
  • If you have a website please share it with us.