Editor's note: The following story was produced for Youth Takeover week at KQED.
Sun salutations, yes. Mediation, yes. Hula-hoop yoga? Spin yoga? Vaidehi Dandekar isn’t so sure.
Yoga as an industry is worth an estimated $16 billion in the U.S. alone. More than 36 million Americans practice yoga, and Bay Area residents are no strangers to the dizzying variety of yoga options from classes in big gym chains to boutique studios featuring specialized methods.
But for Dandekar, 14, yoga is more than a workout. It’s an ancient practice grounded in science, and a pathway to self-awareness and connection. Dandekar is the fourth generation of her family to practice yoga. Her great-grandfather practiced daily, and her grandparents are yoga instructors. For the older generation of her family, yoga is seen as a scientific path to physical and mental health rather than purely a fitness regimen.
“On a personal level, when I practice yoga, I feel relieved and relaxed with a great deal of self-awareness,” Dandekar, a freshman at El Cerrito High School says. “Like my great-grandfather likely experienced, yoga can offer a profound method of purification and control of one’s life force.”
In her audio story for the Youth Takeover of KQED News, Dandekar explores her family’s relationship to the science of yoga across multiple generations. She started questioning how yoga methods are marketed in the U.S as distinct brands. This makes little sense in a tradition rooted in connection to self and others. In fact, yoga means “to join together” in Sanskrit. Her grandmother, Smita Dandekar, a yoga teacher in Southern California, shares these concerns in what she calls “the day and age of marketing.”
From Dandekar’s perspective, it’s easy to see how some current interpretations of yoga stray from traditional roots. But all is not lost, Dandekar says. If yoga is about joining together, then a deeper understanding is available to any practitioner from any background.