Plattsburgh State Gender and Women’s Studies Lecturer Patricia DeRocher recently travelled to the Govardhan Eco Village, a community that aims to help the environment by sustaining itself, in India, where she underwent a three-week, 200-hour yoga teaching course, which certifies her as a yoga instructor.
DeRocher immersed herself into another culture, changing her way of life, all documented in photographs taken during her trip.
She hosted a lecture in the Alumni Conference Room of the Angell College Center Tuesday, March 8, to discuss her adventure. The lecture and yoga session were open to all students, but the primary audience was Gender and Women’s Studies majors.
“I felt very strongly that she would bring something very interesting back for our students to hear, so it’s that story of why she would go so far to learn something,” PSUC Gender and Women’s Studies Chair Susan Mody said.
DeRocher began practicing yoga while attending Saint Michael’s College in Vermont. She said it helped her relieve stress she “didn’t even know she had.”
DeRocher said she began to ask herself about the yoga practices in the United States. She said she believed Western practices were capitalist money makers and began to question the “cultural appropriation of yoga in the West.”
She said in her lecture that yoga had become subjected to “commercialism” with the selling of $200 yoga mats and the “copyrighted yoga positions.”
“She was approaching this as a transnational feminist, so she had very definite ideas and thoughts about why she wanted to do it in this way, why she wanted to go to this particular place and why it was important to go to India in order to do this training,” Mody said.
DeRocher said she decided to embark on the teacher training course in India in order to immerse herself into yoga and the Indian culture.
During the forum, she discussed the differences between Indian culture and Western culture. She said traveling to the village answered questions she had about the cultural aspects of yoga and the cultural appropriation in the United States, but it also caused her to think of new questions regarding yoga practices as well.
DeRocher said there was a “social hierarchy” in Indian culture that she had noticed in her training. Men took charge of things like food and serving, while women were less physical and less interactive with “Westerners,” as they were often called, and usually worked in fields.
DeRocher lived in the village with several other participants, some of whom were trainees from Switzerland, Mexico and New Zealand. She said students ranged in ages from 20 to 50.
The group began each day at 6 a.m. with meditation and asana, which is a form of yoga that focuses on posture. Breakfast was served two hours later. The village cooked all of the meals, which were entirely vegetarian. The group then studied anatomy, receiving hands-on teaching, studying the muscle groups of the body to learn how yoga can affect each one.
The group ended each day with a reflective walk and dinner. Before ending each day around 9:30 p.m., they studied philosophy to encompass every influence of yoga on the body. This ensured the group learned not only the physical practice of yoga but also the emotional and spiritual aspects.
She said this training covered issues and principles of attitudes toward others, nonviolence and honesty.
“Many people have found yoga to be a helpful strategy in developing self-care skill sets,” Mody said.
Following the lecture, DeRocher offered a workshop for students to practice Bhakti yoga, also known as the “yoga of devotion.”
“(Yoga has) become something that people want to know more about,” Mody said. “More and more people are wanting to know more about it, so the idea that Dr. DeRocher would offer a yoga workshop in addition to her talk was very exciting for us,” Mody said.
PSUC expeditionary studies major Marie Rist attended both DeRocher’s lecture and yoga workshop because she also practices yoga.
She said she tries to participate in yoga least once a week, or whenever she has time to herself.
“It’s a beautiful practice,” Rist said.
Rist said DeRocher’s lecture was “well-presented,” as it gave insight to not only Westernized practices but how yoga influences other cultures.
DeRocher said she plans to use her certified teaching to help the community. She said she hopes to create LGBT yoga groups, as well as offer public yoga lessons. She also discussed the idea of bringing yoga to prisoners, all as a public service, free of charge.
“I want to bring yoga to people who could use more healing,” DeRocher said.
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