I help people use spiritual practices, like yoga, meditation, and sound healing, to activate a life purpose and ethics that advances social justice, sustains Mother Earth, and works toward collective liberation for all living species.
Greetings! I'm Sheena.
I reside on the unceded, occupied territory of the Lenni-Lenape people, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
I am a lover of sunshine, community, and people power. I am most at peace and invited to evolve to my highest self when I am in nature - on a hike, in a dense forest, under a waterfall, or dreaming at the ocean shore - and when I am in relationship with communities impacted by and struggling for justice, equality, and self-determination. As a sociologist, a healing and yoga practitioner, an educator, and an activist scholar, I use embodied healing practices, like yoga and mindfulness, in the classroom, community spaces, and in my research and writing. Spiritual traditions are most beneficial for our communities when they are anchored in collective healing, and challenge us to advance love, peace, and justice in our relationships and in the world.
I work with people, children, collectives, and organizations to help them incorporate spiritual traditions (like yoga and meditation), holistic health wisdom, and wellness practices into their lives. All people ought to feel empowered with the spiritual tools and technologies that help us access our inner selves and highest potential. I also want social movements that are grounded in a principled commitment to social justice, abolitionism, and socialism to flourish. In order for healing traditions to support people's capacity to evolve and support collective freedom struggles, they must be offered and embodied through a politicized lens, and that spiritual teachers and entrepreneurs must be critical of the ways these practices have been coopted and weaponized for oppressive agendas.
The first time I practiced yoga, I was 13 years old. It was summer vacation, and my parents sent me across the globe to visit my grandmother, Biji in India. Every morning, I'd wake up to have chai with Biji, she would insist I learn how to chant mantras. She said the affirmations would help me connect to a higher vibration. Though I rarely chant in Sanskrit these days, the mantras have had a profound impact on my life. For the next 12 years, though I occasionally chanted the mantras Biji taught me, I also struggled to commit myself to a regular yoga practice.
I struggled because I lacked the discipline to adhere to a morning routine, but also because I was learning about how Brahmins and Hindu nationalists were weaponizing yoga to advance divisive and oppressive agendas across the South Asian region and world. Uncertain if I could trust my yoga practice - and my spiritual and religious communities - to hold space for the social justice values I strived to embody, I took some space from my yoga practice - not knowing if I would return.
When I moved to Philly to begin a doctoral program at Temple University, I found myself yearning for a spiritual routine that anchored me in synchronized movement with my breath and connected me to my ancestors. I was in search of embodied balance and healing.
In between studying for exams and completing my thesis, I traveled to the Himalayas - and McLeodganj, India - on two occasions to became certified as an advanced yoga practitioner. Those summers of studying yoga, with Yogi Sivadas at the Kailash Tribal School, are two of the most transformative periods of my life -- largely because of how Guruji challenged me to purpose my yoga practice toward inner change and to see all life as interconnected. He would say,
"In yoga, life is not personal;
It is universal.
When the 'I' and 'me' are more important than the rest,
that’s not a yogic state of mind!"
I returned to graduate school and my life in Philly inspired to apply my yoga practice to a more universal and liberatory understanding of healing for myself and my community. I often hear from friends and clients that they struggle to make time for spiritual medicine and self care in their scholarly, professional, and personal lives. The academy has consistently discouraged me from dedicating time to my self-care routines, and to my community's spiritual well-being. But my friends, family, and beloved communities still show me how and why we must commit to a deeper way of being in the world. I am beyond thankful to have a yoga and meditation practice that has transformed my relationship to myself and my life's work.
While the painful contradictions of yoga’s weaponizing and oppressive realities are still dangerously alive in the world, I see it as my duty as an educator, embodied healer, yoga practitioner, and activist scholar to teach about these issues in nuanced ways; and to invite people to see how we can use our breath, our bodies, and spirit in the service of dismantling and transforming structures of violence.
This is why my research as a social scientist scrutinizes the oppressive arms of the yoga industry. Currently, I am exploring the application of yoga and mindfulness around the globe -- particularly by the governments of India, Israel (occupied Palestine), and the US. Read more about my Weaponizing Yoga project here!
As a complement to my research, my teachings and workshops are rooted in a commitment to ground yoga and spirituality in a more liberatory, anti-capitalist, and abolitionist framework and practice. I curate workshops to help others embody yoga through a decolonial and healing justice lens. I offer regular yoga classes, to adults, youth and kids.
The work of merging yoga with social justice, and cultivating spiritual practices through a decolonial lens is both a political, personal, and ancestral journey for me. As a student of nature, my breath, and my body, my spiritual practice offers me ample opportunities to embody the change I envision for my neighborhood and local and interconnected communities.
If you want to learn more about how spiritual traditions offer us healing medicine for personal evolution and practice with a teacher who invites you to match the embodied change you strive for within self with the revolutionary change needed in our societies, I invite you to join me in dreaming and purposing these practices toward an ethics of social and environmental justice, decolonization, and abolitionism.