If yoga is truly for everyone why does it lack so much in diversity? Yoga is booming in America, which means more and more people are getting on their mats to practice – that’s great! – but there’s something missing. You don’t have to look far – the nearest yoga class, yoga magazine, yoga festival – to see that the typical student is a fit white female. Why is that? Is yoga not accessible enough? Are there not enough yoga teachers of color? How can we open the practice to more people?
All of these questions and more will be addressed at the next Deeper Learning panel discussion facilitated by YogaCity NYC. Panelists Dana Flynn (yoga teacher, co-founder Laughing Lotus), Jyll Hubbard-Salk (founder of Urban Asanas), Will Duprey (yoga teacher, founder Hathavidya), Megan Garcia (author of “MegaYoga”) and Leslie Booker (Lineage Project, Urban Sangha Project) will gather together in NYC Friday, September 19, 2014 for a discussion on How to Open the Practice to More People.
According to research, about 20% of all Americans practiced yoga in the past 12 months. But look around any yoga studio and most of the students are fit white females. While the yoga media reinforces this reality, teachers and studios need to diversify in order to include the rest of the country in this valuable practice.
How do we, as leaders in the NYC yoga community, do this in ways that are inviting and successful? We live in a city, known as the “melting pot” where over 800 languages are spoken and that multi culturalism is just not represented in our studios.
This discussion is FREE, open to all and intended to explore issues of race, age, size and gender. Panelists will talk about their personal experience of overcoming prejudice as well as discuss ways to bring yoga to a broader range of students in the community.
WHAT: How to Open the Practice to More People – Panel Discussion
WHEN: Friday September 19, 2014 from 4:00 PM to 5:30 PM
WHERE: Laughing Lotus 636 6th Avenue, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10011
To learn more about the panelists and to register Click HERE . Space will fill up so register asap!
The talk will be followed by an open discussion so attendees are encouraged to show up with questions!
September is a bit of a ways away but we want to help get the ball rolling. Please share in the comments below any questions or thoughts you have around the subject of diversity in yoga. Let’s keep the conversation going!
I find this discussion ironic as yoga originated in India and was practiced exclusively by Indian people for thousands of years. Perhaps the “yoga” being discussed here isn’t yoga at all, but Lululemonized, Corepowerized, 200RYTized, Elephant/yogajournalized, Wanderlustiated group exercise with a savasana at the end. Oh wait, some teachers don’t even do savasana anymore (or some students walk out because they have to #instagramselfieposes). Perhaps people of color don’t want any part of it because they have seen it all before: an indigenous practice being highjacked by The Man, reconstituted and drained of nutrients, and churned out for profit.
Yogis have to infiltrate pilates studios that feature mat pilates. That is where they will find their diverse clients, including some South Asian Indians. Guaranteed diverse people want a practice that meets them in a physically accessible way, where they could start out slowly and have room to grow with it. Not too many intimidating #matpilateseverydamnday selfies … lol
@S: I would agree with you that yoga (as we know it) has been westernized and commercialized, distorting the true practices originating in India. Of course, this is America – land of ‘opportunity’ and so if one can weed out the good parts from these forms of yoga being offered, they can gain some good things from the practice on a physical and hopefully a spiritual level. It isn’t just yoga that has been imported from other cultures and bastardized.
I hope that this discussion on diversity in yoga will be enlightening and I wish that it could be offered as a webcast. Unfortuntely (heh) I live in California and can’t make it out to NY to attend the discussions. As a minority male living in a relatively white community, the yoga studio demographic bears out this obvious fact – white, fit females making up the majority of all who attend classes. How yoga can be offered to other communities gender, minority and economic-wise is quite the topic for discussion. I look forward to hearing more about it.
I’m a black woman in my late 30s. My mom introduced me to yoga as a child. I’ve been practicing yoga for 14 years. I have been teaching yoga for five years. Thankfully, my teachers teach Pantanjali’s limbs of yoga and respect the lineage as do I. I prefer to teach yoga outside the studio setting, at least now I feel my path is leading me to reach more people which wouldn’t normally walk into a studio. I teach at popular gym chain in Atlanta. Most of my classes are fairly diverse and I teach a lot of first time students. I volunteer at a Latino substance abuse teen center doing trauma based and restorative yoga. I would like to teach at a studio again but I encourage people to start exposing yoga to spaces and groups who the studios aren’t reaching which is the majority of the population. Teaching people how to breathe is an easy entry point for yoga. I’m glad to be part of this conversation as a teacher, ongoing student and lifgtworker. I know the power of the practice and want as many people exposed to it. Thank you! Namaste!
The real prejudice is the assumption that, because the fusion of Indian and “Western” practices we now call yoga originated in India, there is something inherently superior about Indians teaching and practicing yoga and inferior about “Westerners” doing it. This is naked racism and it’s rampant in yoga circles.
The irony of the discussion is that accessibility is such a middle class concern. It’s a good thing that yoga has moved on from being the domain of older, higher caste and proud of it, BJP supporting, men who accepted western men, and even, with reservations in too many cases, western women as students as long as they paid enough, had enough genetic ability, and were properly deferential. The middle class “western” women who now make up the overwhelming majority of yoga practitioners wish there were more pakistani muslim teachers rather than viewing the idea of a pakistani or a muslim doing yoga as tantamount to blasphemy, for example. That’s a good thing.
To answer the question how to make yoga more accessible… it’s simple. Make classes free but at the same time make being a successful teacher as profitable as being a successful boxer, basketball, or american football player. Simple but not easy.
I attend yoga at my local council-run London gym when I can get a space (spaces are always booked up within hours of becoming available) – and yoga at the commercial studio near my workplace when I can afford it. The demographic between the two is noticeably different. No prizes for guessing which one is more diverse. It seems like commercial studios try to do community outreach – (free classes, special ‘service sector rates etc.) but they’re still a bit intimidating for novices sometimes. Dunno how you get past the yoga bunny/yummy mummy/rich housewife stereotype – but tbh – they are the majority in my local commercial studio -more outreach I guess?
Why are there no panelists of South East Asian origin on the panel?
What is the minimum wage in America?
What is the cost of ONE yoga class?
And for that you can get:
someone sitting in the front of the room spouting bullshit nonsense;
who then proceeds to do their own practice;
who does not walk around to observe their students;
who does not make adjustments;
who steps on your mat and any one else’s;
who sequences dangerously;
who leads students into poses they have not mastered;
who encourages students to perform rather than practice;
who shames students;
I could go on and on. Basically $22 per class is a complete rip off. What is minimum wage in tho country? You would have to work for FOUR hours to afford a class. But does anyone take this into consideration. No.
As long as lulu lemon tries to convince people they will feel differently by the trademark icon on their clothing, yoga will only truly resonate with very few. Lucky for me I have gone to enough yoga studio, gyms, private houses, parks, rec centers; beaches and the like to find authentic teachers.