“You’re Not Indian Enough” - Embodied in Story in Practice

Updated: Sep 14


I’d love to share with you a bit of my history, and why I devote my life so relentlessly to yoga as unity.


Sometimes folks try to say to me “yoga is unity - who are you to talk about race.” or “You’re only half, you are not that Indian.”


Which is already an oppressive and inaccurate framing of race. I'm not half of anything. I'm fully Indian.


I'm an immigrant to the U.S. because of violence targeting my Indian brown body, culture and family.


I’m culturally mixed Indian and British. My father is Assamese and my Mother British/French.

Here’s some things you may not know about me, a bit of my story.


I was Indian enough...

When bombs started exploding in living rooms in the UK down the street from me killing and wounding mixed race families in the 80s.


I was Indian enough…

when the violence was closing in and we had no choice but to get out.


I was Indian enough...

To face housing and school discrimination when we came to the “land of the free.”


I was Indian enough...

To be beaten and abused physically for my skin and color and culture, to be called “you dirty Indian” while being spit on or punched or kicked many days for about a decade during my childhood.


I was Indian enough…

To be harassed by the school security and police and called “a Paki terrorist” even as I worked as a professional teacher in a public school in the US.


I was Indian enough...

To be fired from my private school education job when I brought up racial discrimination.


I was Indian enough...

To be searched and detained at the airport more times than I can count, and once, come close to having my 1 year old child almost separated from me when returning from a flight home to the US because we have different last names.


I was Indian enough...

To never be the default, always be defined by my identity and not be given any platform or placement in the Western yoga and mindfulness industry for the better part of two decades I’ve been around it.


Now, certainly, I have light skinned advantage, privilege based on being mixed and lighter skinned and from a higher caste family. These are aspects of my positionality that I work on and address through various forms of learning, collaboration and solidarity.


I’ve never been not Indian though.


I’ve always been Indian. I love and celebrate my own identity and culture. My love is an act of reclaiming and self love in the face of a lifetime of erasure and white supremacy.


I am Indian enough…

To, at 15 years old, write a poem inspired by my English and Indian heritage called Dark Light Child of Precious Fruit that begins “I've been conceived of colonization. . .” that is tender and beautiful and that I’ll share another day!


I am Indian enough...

To love my family, learn enough Assamese and Hindi to speak to them a bit, and read Sanskrit to understand my root teacher. (my languages are still quite rusty and a work in progress!)


I am Indian enough...

To meet hundreds of cousins and extended family in Assam and Bengal and spend time living with my people on the edges of the Brahmaputra and in the heart of the land of the Goddess Kamakhya.


I am Indian enough...

To have been taught yoga and Ayurveda from my family from the time I was a child and to continue learning to reclaim my roots both in India and in diaspora.


I am Indian enough...

To understand the historical oppressions of racial designations, and to know that Indian history is vast and broad, that there has never been one form of yoga, or one scriptural authority, or one interpretation of texts. That our Vedic cultures and traditions are beautifully diverse, varied and syncretic.


I am Indian enough...

to not allow erasure or white supremacy define who I am or if I am Indian enough. Understand that if someone is questioning that - its white supremacy.


I am Indian enough to know I’m Indian.


Here is some of my story and what it means to me to speak about race, and to live and work at the borderlands of unity and reclamation. To dance with the intersections of personal and cultural healing.


To write a book that will soon (finally!) be out that teaches us how to do all of this.


As someone who is born of, and works on decolonization, my lived experiences have taught me deep lessons to move from division to unity.


This is not the kind of “Yoga is About Unity” to gaslight and stop us from talking about yoga and social justice.


It is from this place of understanding separation within and around me that I invite inquiry, question, write, explore, experiment, share, teach and reclaim yoga as unity with love.


In devotion to growth, movement and liberation. In honor of your evolution.


With honor, care and fire,

Susanna


P.S. I love how our stories are our liberation. Our stories are our practice embodied.


Inviting inquiry - Take some time to practice svadhyaya - self inquiry. What stories are emerging in you - that are asking to be embodied in form, word or movement?


I’d love to know. To witness. To connect.


Here’s what I’m up to.


Creating a collaborative offering particularly for South Asian folks called Belonging. South Asians/Desis learn more here. Those who benefit from yoga who are not Desi/South Asian please share and consider offering support here.


If you want to be the FIRST to get news about the new 200/300 hour online Embody Yoga’s Roots Yoga Teacher Training sign up here to get all the details when the news drops.


Upcoming: When life mirrors art . . . soon I'll share some news on the Book!


603 views

"Let's work together to realize yoga as unity and make yoga fully inclusive and diverse."
- Susanna Barkataki

Brush 'Download'.png
  • Social Icon - FB
  • Social Icon - IG
  • Social Icon - Twitter