What would be possible if women of colour were able to choose joy even in the face of oppression and systemic injustices? Yoga teacher Harmeet Kaur leads her sessions with this raw concept in order to provide a journey of self-discovery, with classes that tap into the meaning of liberation, community, lineage, and healing through intentional movement.

Kaur sat down with 5XPress to discuss her journey as well as her upcoming 8-week virtual series “Reclaiming Joy”, a deep-dive into chakra practices and creating safe  spaces for underrepresented women to unlock their minds and bodies to be at one with their powerful selves. 

What was your journey to starting the yoga series “Reclaiming Joy”?

Harmeet Kaur: Yoga has always played an integral part in my life and was first introduced to me at a very young age by my Pita Ji (father). My journey to sharing yoga with a trauma-informed, decolonized lens wasn’t until 2019, when I saw the need for community healing and representation. 

As a yoga therapist today I am also inspired by my three-year-old child; a self-proclaimed fire breathing dragon! She is the light of my life. Everything I do goes towards passing the torch to her and future generations for a more equitable, inclusive and loving world. 

I believe we can support ourselves through the ebb and flow of life by nourishing movement and breath, to continue the hard and necessary work we all must do. Yoga truly IS social justice and liberation for all. 

How did you come upon the title “Reclaiming Joy” for your classes?

Harmeet Kaur: “Reclaiming Joy” was actually born amidst chaos, upheaval, and despair. I was going through a really uncertain and challenging time in my life. I had experienced the passing of my father, the ending of my marriage, and housing uncertainty through the pandemic. I was laid off and had become a single mother. 

I guess you could say I was at my lowest point and did not know which way, or how, to move. But it was during this darkness that I was really reminded of my courage, bravery and the people who stuck by me. 

I decided to make a conscious choice to start saying “yes” to all that brought me joy, and began organizing community protests that helped create community-healing circles. I was reminded again that we have the autonomy to not necessarily change our circumstances, but to change the way we move, breathe and exist in them. 

That’s so beautiful! And as a brown woman in the yoga space, do you have any thoughts as to why we don’t see enough at the “height of success” in comparison to white women instructors?

Harmeet Kaur: I feel that the colonization of yoga, as well as the role that privilege plays in who gets a seat at the table has a lot to do with why we don’t see more women of culture in what are deemed to be “successful” yoga teaching spaces.

It’s been repackaged and sold to us in the West as a diluted, physical movement practice with emphasis on inaccessible forms, expensive yoga attire, and of course centering the experience around middle-aged, fit, white women.

As a Punjabi woman, when I go into corporate yoga spaces I cannot help but feel that they are not made with me in mind. This is what initially brought me to a place of wanting my offerings to support BIPOC folks in particular. When the spaces aren’t made for us, the most powerful thing we can do is to co-create spaces together where we are free to take up space and just be.

What does it mean to you, to teach yoga from the deeply rooted ancestral experience?

Harmeet Kaur: This is such a beautiful question. For me, reclaiming my roots to yoga has been deeply personal and powerful. As I deepen my own yoga practices, especially within yogic philosophy and principles off the mat, I can clearly see where my work and growth lie. 

I come from a lineage of warriors whose practices were forbidden under colonization, erasure was prevalent, and sacred texts seized. When I teach, I close my eyes and tap into the energy of restoration, power and bliss that they too, must have felt when they practised and shared their teachings. 

I will continue to learn, advocate for, and offer from a place of knowing that I am not an expert in yoga, and that I, like you, am on this 8-limbed yogic path of meeting my true self.

What can BIWOC expect from your classes?

Harmeet Kaur: I share yoga to honour the lineage and the roots of my ancestral wisdom, by exploring the sacred knowledge with all people that have the curiosity to establish a deeper connection to their body and breath. I hold the trauma-informed, brave spaces for BIPOC to show up exactly as they are, and to cultivate self acceptance and empowerment. My focus is on nourishing those who join from the inside out, so that they can embrace themselves and intentionally move into life’s rhythms with more inspired awareness.

This brave space is inclusive of all BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, bodies of all shapes, sizes, ages, and abilities regardless of limitations. 

Come and join Harmeet’s virtual evening yoga classes, “Reclaiming Joy” an 8-week series from May 17- June 28 2022, every Tuesday at 7-8:30 PM. Price is tiered starting from $14 per session, reserve your spot via DM to Do Yoga With Harmeet.  

She will also be teaching at Women’s Temple May 12-15, the 3rd annual Nourished Woman Goddess Retreat, happening at the stunning luxe boutique retreat house of “The Ark” on Bowen Island. Limited spaces are available, grab a ticket here.

About the author

Avneet Takhar

Avneet Takhar is a freelance writer, Co-Founder of BIPOC Foods Van, Master of None enthusiast and major book nerd; Fariha Róisín and Jhumpa Lahiri are her favourite authors. Follow her via @_younghoney

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5X Press is a forum for opinions, conversations, & experiences, powered by South Asian youth. The views expressed here are not representative of those of 5X Festival.