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Interview with Octavia Raheem: The Missing Dialogue in Yoga

Octavia approached me a month or so ago about wanting to share a part of her yoga life, but nervous about how it might be taken. Seeing AYS as an open forum, I invited her to share her story as best as she could. Thankfully, she let me!

Octavia Raheem1.What first drew you to yoga and what keeps you coming back to the mat?

Many things were coming to an end for me, all at one time. I found yoga at the end of a long dark tunnel in my life, in that sense then, I consider this practice my light. I have been practicing yoga eight years, and each year my understanding of yoga as a path expands.  Yoga is  practiced on a mat, yes, but is something very much to be experienced and lived, off the mat.

The feeling of spaciousness and release in my body brings me back to the asana or physical practice. The real beauty of the practice, for me though, is experiencing that openness as it translates into my mind, heart, and perception.

2. Describe what dharma and nia are, and share what these things mean in your life and yoga practice.

There are varying definitions and understandings of what Dharma is. When I refer to yoga as part of my Dharma, I am referring to the practice of teaching, and offering to communities as part of my calling. Yoga has become a personal obligation, something that I MUST do.  I feel as if yoga chose me just as much as I chose yoga.

Nia is the Kwanzaa principle purpose. Living by this principle compels one to make a commitment to not just developing self, but cultivating stronger communities. I feel honored to have yoga as an integral part of my life, to have discovered a practice that allows me to brighten my “little light” and expand. I feel a powerful sense of duty to share that Light with the world not just through teaching, but also through service and beyond.

3. What do you see as the missing dialogue in yoga, and what do you hope your practice can do to address this?

Through the asana practice, we start to feel, sense, notice, and question more about what we believe is true about self and others, while at the same time tapping into a profound sense of connectedness and oneness. What is that “oneness” in the room if we do not extend it beyond the mat and physical practice? How do we accept the truths that may reveal themselves in our practice and on our mats and then move past them?

How can our yoga practice space reflect the depth of diversity that is our city, state, nation, and world? In a world ripe with injustices and inequalities how can we use our practice as tools to eliminate these things?

My assertion is that yogi’s  can create peace and justice in our world by offering the fruits we cultivate  through our practice back to the world.

If we leave our “stuff”- prejudices, ego, “isms” in the lobby and then pick them up on the way out never to be examined, we are not being honest. These are all thoughts that I ponder and examine on a daily basis as I move through the world.  These questions seem to be part of the missing dialogue or the purple elephant in the room.

4. What can we collectively do in the yoga community to open up this dialogue?

Before there can be any depth of dialogue as a community, as individuals we have to examine self. I always say my mat is one giant sticky mirror. So much is reflected back to me from there: beliefs, ideas, bias, and judgments- it all shows up.

Yoga does not exist outside of our cultural and societal norms. However, from my experience, it does invite us to live an examined life, that includes looking closely at what we purport as true, right, and mainstream.

Studio owners and directors can examine their approach to marketing and outreach and determine if it may be perceived as unwelcoming, exclusionary, or standoffish.

I love what you are doing here, casting a wide net and gathering our Atlanta yoga community within it. We can continue to cast that net even wider to reach community, teen, and senior centers, schools, and other nontraditional spaces where yoga is happening. I am excited about what Chelsea Jackson is doing with and her weekly Yogi in the Community. She is consciously shedding light on an incredibly diverse group of individuals whose practices extend beyond the edges of their mats, whose face, voice, and experience may be missing from conventional yoga based media outlets.

5. Why does the Bliss Temple exist and how can others become a part of it?

Last fall I participated in the filming of a yoga video with Bliss Temple Productions. It was an empowering, inspiring, and liberating experience. The Bliss Temple Video project was born from a need to share yoga with an under-served community. It was conceived from the simple acknowledgement that people of color are often under or not represented in the yoga scene. The hope is that this video will introduce individuals to yoga and inspire others to continue exploring and deepening their practicing. On the most basic level, Bliss Temple is about inspiring ALL to live happy, well, and free.

Individuals who are interested in finding out more about Bliss Temple or would like to support the production of this project can contact me at writebfree {at} or Elika Aird at elika {at} for more information. For more information and updates they can “like” our facebook page.

4 Responses to “Interview with Octavia Raheem: The Missing Dialogue in Yoga”

  1. Octavia says:

    Thanks for the feedback and for reading. It’s interesting…I think so many of us are thinking these thoughts and almost perpetually having the conversation over and over in our own head…
    perhaps some day as a community, at a conference, workshop, or “night out” event we will come together and dialogue about how we take yoga off the mat and beyond the borderlines of our own bodies…
    Namaste ALL!

  2. SJ says:

    I really enjoyed this interview, it was like reading my own thoughts! I have often questioned and thought about these things many times. Thank you for sharing.

    Love and Light


  3. Love this! Love your observations on Dharma and Nia! You are an amazing Yogi and educator! Continue to shine your light sis!


  4. Emily says:

    “my mat is one giant sticky mirror”… love that!

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