Resources to Create a More Thoughtful and Inclusive Yoga Community

Like nearly everyone reading this, I’ve experienced the feeling of not belonging a million times in my life. When it comes to the world of mainstream yoga, however, I have the privilege of physically fitting in (whether I always feel that way or not). I’m cis-gendered, rather skinny, (relatively) young, female, white-skinned, educated, etc. My phenotype, body type, and general social experience is widely reflected in my yoga teaching peers, in yoga students generally, in magazines, and in advertisements for yoga clothing.

Thank goodness we all live in a much richer world than that. I’m rooted in a city where my neighbors speak multitudes of languages. My work in online spaces, with patients, in hospitals and urban studios, the long term travels I’ve done — often to much less “comfortable” places than I’ve lived — and the retreats I’ve led, connects me to humans having very different experiences than mine based on age, gender, color, and so much more. No matter, I’m not the one to speak about what it’s like to stand out in yoga classrooms. I do have a list (which will be growing) of resources that I strongly feel all yoga teachers and leaders in the yoga space would benefit from reading and exploring. To the extent that I have a platform (i.e. you are reading this), I’m excited to share these links that I believe will deepen the conversation on truly inclusive yoga. 

(FYI, my wheelhouse is primarily centered on teaching yoga anatomy and working with patients these days, and in doing so compassionately, I’ve had to completely release the idea that optimal yoga alignment exists. When we create truly inclusive yoga spaces, the concept of poses as blueprints that we follow with our bodies is revealed to be automatically exclusive and top-down. There’s no way around that, even though it’s deeply uncomfortable to say that as an asana teacher.) 

For the moment, I’m breaking this post into three segments: Inclusivity, Cultural Appropriation (specifically when yoga is appropriated for political or cultural gain), and Cult Dynamics. If you are wondering how cult dynamics fits into this conversation, consider the words “thoughtful” and “inclusive”. 

This page is about highlighting the writing and work of other people who have expertise in this area. Please write below in the comments any other resource suggestions you have and would recommend I check out and / or add to this list. This will not be a comprehensive list, just a little spark that I hope sheds some light. 

INCLUSIVITY

Is Your Spin Class Too Young Too Thin and Too White? A Washington Post article on the studio / boutique fitness trend and how it excludes people of color.

Podcast Episodes:

Yoga Talks Podcast with Amina Naru, board member of the Yoga Service Council https://www.jbrownyoga.com/yoga-talks-podcast/2018/1/amina-naru

Creating Truly Inclusive Yoga Spaces with Guest Teacher Amber Karnes

Organizations:

Yoga Service Council,

Yoga and Body Image Coalition,

Eat Breathe Thrive,   

Give Back Yoga Foundation (many various projects)

CULTURAL APPROPRIATION

Why Many Muslims in India Feel Yoga Has Been Weaponized https://www.npr.org/2017/09/18/551726470/rough-translation-why-many-muslims-in-india-feel-yoga-has-been-weaponized

https://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=551738065

This blog post that I wrote years ago “Why I don’t use Dreamcatchers to ‘Catch’ Your Attention”.

Blog post – How to DeColonize Your Yoga Practice

CULT DYNAMICS

Rajneesh / Osho (side note: yoga teachers, please stop quoting Osho)

https://www.thedailybeast.com/wild-wild-country-inside-netflixs-crazy-sex-cult-docuseries

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/cult-wild-wild-country-netflix_us_5ab2b37de4b054d118df49c1

Two books on the Rajneesh / Osho cult very much worth reading for their historical and contemporary relevance to yoga: My Life in Orange – http://amzn.to/2GhNZDc, The Promise of Paradise  – http://amzn.to/2G1Fbhy

Matthew Remski (really any of his writings) on Why Your Guru May Actually Hate You

A shout-out to the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, that collectively weathered the challenges of abuses of power, and survived. During my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training at Kripalu, original members of the ashram spoke frankly about the abuses, and how the community faced the challenges. This is yoga. This is en-lightening, shedding light on the dark places of humanity.

Your Resources for Truly Inclusive Yoga 

What is on your list? What resources, organizations, articles, thought-leaders do you know of that are contributing to a more inclusive yoga world? Comment below!