let’s create a community – not a clique

A reminder: I’ve already written a post on the things we can do to be more welcoming to visitors and new practitioners.

I invite you to read it, here.

But.

It’s important to take a big step back and look at the cliqueish nature of yoga as yoga often presents today.

First: no need to feel that “Westernized” yoga is responsible for the snobbery and exclusivism of some yoga spaces.

Elitism has existed in yoga for thousands of years. (Anjali Rao writes on this quite a bit in her excellent canon of work).

I am no yoga historian or expert – yet. (I am working on it!)

But you don’t need to be a yoga expert or scholar to be able to to see elitism in present-day American yoga spaces, publications, and practices.

A cursory scan of Instagram’s top “yoga” content reveals an overwhelming majority of images that are young, slim, able-bodied, athletic, often white – and wealth-aspirational (that is to say: practice settings that are clean, “minimalist”, and/or associated with leisure and luxury).

Rarely do you see “yoga” represented by influencers who are old, fat, disabled, subtle (as opposed to physically vigorous) BIPOC (although this is shifting, thankfully), and/or messy in any way.

In America at least, our visible “yoga” resources quickly inform you who belongs – and who doesn’t.

In America – this includes many so-called wellness spaces besides yoga – we are taught to believe in “self-improvement”; that is, we are told to bootstrap ourselves into a state of social belonging.

This is Capitalism stuff, white supremacy stuff.

Yoga, colonized by the aspirational American dream.

***

But here’s the thing:

Ask yourself – who does it really serve, when the marginalized believe they are not “allowed” nor welcomed in constructive community action?

Shouldn’t practitioners who are most marginalized, most excluded – shouldn’t THEY be the people for whom we make room?

Who should have access to a space that provides resources to feel better, alleviate pain – and gain clarity of mind?

The answer to this last question is – EVERYONE.

Yoga is the birthright of all who want to learn and practice.

Yoga isn’t a club we belong to by virtue of our youth, strength, serenity, strength or flexibility, our cute leggings or our “good vibes” ethos.

Yoga is for ALL.

Therefore those of us who’ve found our way here, owe it to others to help make more space.

Now – we all have barriers to get to a class, or even to practice at home.

But remember – those who have more resources, who enjoy financial stability and/or wealth, who have transportation, discretionary funds, who are well (or at least mobile and resourced enough to be available) –

these individuals have a responsibility to help the others: the oppressed, the marginalized, the (seemingly) unwelcome.

I encourage us to keep ALL in mind, as we build this community.

No one yoga space, yoga class, yoga instructor, yoga location, yoga set of props, yoga class curriculum can satisfy all people at once in every moment.

That’s not possible – nor reasonable to ask.

However – 

We need to look around the room and – with patience, gentleness, compassion and good humor – 

make room for those who have not yet found their way into our rooms.

In making this room, we’ll deepen our yoga practice much more than a sweaty asana class, a “spiritual gangster” tee shirt, or an expensive yoga mat.

I’m ready for this work.

And I know you are too!