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Yoga and Racism Part II

October 3, 2013

I am a huge fan of Decolonizing Yoga on FB, so I shared this link: http://www.decolonizingyoga.com/yoga-studios-everyones-welcome/

….. the studio owner of the studio I practice at commented on the link and we had the following discussion:

Yoga studio Owner: Actually the yoga studio is a very accessible studio. We offer many different types/flavors of classes to appeal to all people’s tastes and needs. We offer free classes many times throughout the year, we are wheelchair accessible, and give discounts. We offer $5 yoga for kids and teens! What can kids do these days for $5! And Bri if you would like to offer a free community class let me know I’m all for it
Me:  i would like to offer a donation class on wednesdays. The studio has been accommodating for me and my financial capacity; which i am grateful for. im still making more than a lot of other people tho.  i encourage you to follow the decolonizing yoga page. it is a space to discuss race, privilege, sexuality, and mental health in the yoga community. the things that act as barriers to yoga. i am also street yoga certified, will be working with homeless youth in the city, would you be willing to let me borrow or donate props to use in these classes?
Yoga studio Owner:  As I emailed you before Wednesday evenings have permanent standing classes taught by long standing teachers. I can offer you space on weekends when we do not have TT and hypnobirthing. As far as props go I lend out mats to be returned. You may call me and we can go over the specifics
Yoga studio Owner: And everyone is welcomed at EYS. We are accessible to the community we provide service to, as a matter of fact we are offering free monthly breastfeeding support on Sunday afternoons with Elise Fulara.
Me: what i am finding in my research, is that the intention of “everyone is welcome” is always there….but the intention doesn’t make the yoga more accessible. The studio’s town is bordered by hillside (http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/17/1735086.html), berkely (http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/17/1705404.html), and northlake (http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/17/1753871.html); how many african american or hispanic people use this studio or know that this studio is accessible to them? How many of those people of color even have the time to do yoga? Why do people of color have less time to do yoga? What is the average income of the people who use this studio? I am NOT pointing fingers and I am NOT calling you a racist or saying that you are doing anything that is “wrong,” in a sense. I am just saying there is a clear issue with the yoga community at large, as far as who can afford it or access it. And I am saying that I am interested in learning techniques aside from discounts that make yoga more accessible to people of color and lower income brackets.
Me: (I tagged a few friends to the discussion)….thought you ladies might enjoy this thought provoking discussion.
Yoga studio Owner:  I’m well aware of the demographics and I offer first class free, free is free. It may be that yoga is offered in all communities and most people prefer to practice where it is most convenient to them. And you are aware of the demographics of Elmhurst.
Yoga studio Owner:  Btw one of the largest demographics in Elmhurst is runners, I would love it if more runners practiced yoga. Any suggestions in how we can attract more runners.
Me:  lol. no, i do not have any suggestions for you. i have no experience in studying or researching runners; the mental health and wellness needs of that community.
So I was left thinking….
Should I be offended that she might not be taking me serious? I gave her two opportunities to directly bridge the gap and she denied both opportunities.  Why is she asking me for suggestions on the running community rather than the communities we were discussing? I thought we were discussing diverse groups of race, sexuality and groups of people with mental health needs?  Do hobbies and interests count as a demographic? But this is EXACTLY WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT. It’s not just one thing or one concrete way to change this issue. there are a million opportunities to change.

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This studio owner is not a bad person. She has her own issues, I am sure. And I am also sure that she is racist in some way, just like I am, and everyone is. We don;t choose how we are conditioned; many people are taught to fear or hate things that are different…it’s an ego thing no one is immune to. We have to work to be open to things that are different. It is work.
There is physical, financial, and psychological accessibility to yoga studios; if you own one, you should evaluate who you serve and explore your desire to include more diverse groups. Like purposely go out there and grab them. We have to reach out in every way that presents itself.  Choose to serve and understand and accept people who are different form you, it is work.
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