The traditions and practices of Yoga have their origins in the people and lands of modern day India through the Śramaṇa and Vedic traditions. Of particular relevance are the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The values (yamas and niyamas) expressed through the Yoga traditions include non-violence (ahimsa), truthfulness (satya) and non-stealing (asteya). The following quote from India’s contribution to the Paris Agreement is apt;
“India has a long history and tradition of harmonious co-existence between man and nature. Human beings here have regarded fauna and flora as part of their family. This is part of our heritage and manifest in our lifestyle and traditional practices. We represent a culture that calls our planet Mother Earth. As our ancient text says; “Keep pure! For the Earth is our mother! And we are her children!” The ancient Indian practice of Yoga, for example, is a system that is aimed at balancing contentment and worldly desires, that helps pursue a path of moderation and a sustainable lifestyle. Environmental sustainability, which involves both intra-generational and inter-generational equity, has been the approach of Indians for very long. Much before the climate change debate began, Mahatma Gandhi, regarded as the father of our nation had said that we should act as ‘trustees’ and use natural resources wisely as it is our moral responsibility to ensure that we bequeath to the future generations a healthy planet.”
Various traditions of Yoga are now widely practised in many countries, including Australia. Prior to being colonised by the British in the late 1700s, Aboriginal people lived in ‘Australia’ for over 65,000 years and have never ceded sovereignty. However, many people remain ignorant of this history and go to yoga classes every week throughout Australia without acknowledging the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which they meet and practise.
As an expression of yogic values and as an offering of respect (adriyate and satkaroti) on behalf of the yoga community to the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islands communities, elders past, present and future and the land on which we live and practise, we encourage yoga associations and businesses to incorporate a formal ‘acknowledgement of country’ on their promotional material e.g. websites and flyers (an example can be found at the bottom of this page), and for teachers and students to make an acknowledgement at the beginning of yoga classes and practise.
The Acknowledgement in Class
How to include an ‘acknowledgement of country’ will depend on the structure of your yoga class. One suggestion is to find a space soon after your welcome to the class where you lead the acknowledgement. If you intend to chant the sanskrit version, perhaps in call and response, you could introduce it using the first part of the English version below. This provides you the opportunity to identify the particular owners and custodians of the land on which you are practicing e.g. Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation.
To find the indigenous peoples and nations for your area, please see:
Indigenous Peoples of Australia (Wikipedia)
To further clarify the owners of the land on which you practise and acceptable forms of wording for acknowledgements, please contact your local Council or local Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islands people or groups.
Australian Aboriginal Flag
Torres Strait Islands Flag
“We begin by acknowledging the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we meet and practise, the _________________________ [ e.g. the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation ]. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.”
Sanskrit (Translation & transliteration by Dr Andrew Kelly)
bhuvāḥ paraṃparān maulān • abhijñāyādhikārinaḥ |
pālakāṃś cābhivādyaiva • deśasyāsya cirantanān ||
apetān anapetāṃśca • teṣām gurūn mahāmahai |
teṣām bhuvāṃ samāgatya • yogābhyāsaḥ pravartatām. ||
English Transliteration of Sanskrit
“Acknowledging the successive and original owners of the land
and saluting the long-term protectors of this country,
let us extol their elders past and not past.
Gathered here on their land, let our yoga practise proceed.”
“Om dyauh śāntir antariksam śāntih prithvi śāntih āpah śāntih osadhayah śāntih” — Yajur Veda 36.17
Unto Heaven be Peace, Unto the Sky and the Earth be Peace, Peace be unto the Water, Unto the Herbs and Trees be Peace
Coming soon …