Exclusive vs. Inclusive
When I began practicing yoga in 2000, yoga seemed exclusive. Certain styles of yoga offered “their” way as being the only way. Some studios catered to a certain audience that didn’t necessarily include me. Athletic, thin, affluent, mostly white and female. I hadn’t participated in anything athletically physical in all my adult life. On that note, very little in my childhood as well. I was working an 8-5 to make ends meet. I did fit into the white and female categories. Things like yoga tribe and good vibes only are things I would hear and see, still do, associated with the practice. I don’t subscribe to those channels.
I went to studios near and far to learn the physical practice. I thought that was practice. When I attended studios that were inclusive. Studios that served old, young, all genders, races and physical levels and that weren’t teaching “advanced postures”. I thought it wasn’t yoga. To say the least, I was in yoga preschool. Oohhhh, how I longed to do a handstand in the middle of the room.
I met a teacher in 2012 that ROCKED MY WORLD! I left her class crying. Something I’m not accustomed to doing. She didn’t teach advanced postures. Her class included an African American man in his 90’s, people with physical limitations and an array of health issues.
She was teaching Ayurveda this particular weekend that I was there and I began to learn some of the fundamentals of yoga. Some of the things I had been teaching weren’t accessible to my audience.
This was an eye opener! I began to let the “advanced postures” go. They aren’t necessary. This allows more people to participate. I strive to make my classes inclusive so that all bodies can participate. It can be a challenge as some students have been practicing for years, some are there for physicality, all of our bodies are put together differently, so we can’t all make the same shapes. However, we can all breathe and as long as we’re doing that together, mindfully, we’re practicing yoga.
February 8, 2023 By Jody Reece
Jody: Nice article on your past yoga experience. I was lucky when I first attended a yoga class at a YMCA in New York. The teacher refused to teach us head stands because she thought it was too dangerous. This was quite revolutionary at the time because, of course, yoga was associated with flamboyant poses such as that. The more we learn about our bodies the more we learn what works and what doesn’t. It’s an ongoing process.