We are 2 sessions into our Race, Justice, and Yoga Sharing Circle and WOW!  With their permission, I want to share some of the rich, beautiful conversations we had.

The structure of the sharing circle is simple: each week we pose a different question.  All the participants get an opportunity to answer the question (if they want to).

July 21, 2020:

Before trying yoga at a studio (or if you haven’t tried it), what apprehensions did/do you have about it? What was your negative self-talk?  If you did not have any apprehensions or negative self-talk, how does your self-image contribute to the inaccessibility of others?

As a social worker in another life, I heard about yoga and guided meditation in graduate school.  I kept telling myself that ‘someday’ I would try it, but I never did.  To be honest, I was scared to go into a mostly white space filled with women in yoga pants.  It seemed like I was violating some unwritten rule of white safe spaces or something.

Talking through my apprehensions and listening to other stories in the sharing circle was therapeutic.  So many of us have self-talk that limits us and hearing stories from others made me feel like I wasn’t the only one who has had issues with accessibility.  I listened to others talk about how images of “ideal” yoga practitioners that are supported by brands and the workout culture turned them off from group classes.  And we found commonality in the mental wellness aspect and how we all want to see yoga be more accessible to all.

I eventually built up the courage to go to a yoga class.  My first one being a silver sneakers class at my gym and later conscripting a friend to join me at hot yoga class.  I still fall back on not making eye contact with others or sticking close to the front of the room so the only person I need to look at for direction is the instructor, but I am glad that I finally decided to go!

August 4, 2020:

After having such a great time at the first sharing circle, I was super excited to host the next one.  I was even more excited when everyone who attended the first sharing circle showed up to the next one!  When I thought of this idea, my goal was to build a community.  We all jelled so well at the first meeting that I was nervous that it was just me thinking it was a success.  So, when I saw familiar faces and voices, I was over the moon.

How am I contributing to the whiteness of yoga? How do I contribute to the white appropriation of wellness?

As a novice (at best) yoga practitioner, I am still learning the differences in styles.  Working at YBB, I have had the opportunity to do yoga with some pretty rad teachers.  Before the pandemic, I had settled on hot yoga because it was the closest place to my house and they give out eucalyptus towels at the end, which is like mint gum for your soul.  Even though my teachers there are bi-racial like me, the influence of white culture is unmistakable.  It is rigidly scripted and there are so many rules.  My least favorite is not being able to return to your mat if you need to leave for a quick respite from the heat.

When I posed to this question to others, I was so surprised at just how many ways western culture has appropriated yoga.  Everything from the different styles, to the music and quotes teachers choose, to more traditional yoga studios being forced to close because they can’t compete, was referred to.  But one that has me now down a rabbit hole of learning is the use of ‘Namaste’.  I have heard it chanted at the end of class, but to discuss its usage and meaning was eye-opening.  I look forward to learning more about this and having more discussions about the appropriate use of Sanskrit words in yoga.

I have always believed that, even as a bi-racial person of color, I have a lot of room to grow to be more inclusive and more accepting of others.   During those 2 hours that I was with the group, I felt like I did not just learn, I grew as a person.  And I would like the think that as a group of people from different states, different races, different nations, we took one step closer to becoming a community and I can’t wait for our next meeting!

If you are interested in joining the Race, Justice, and Yoga sharing circle, you can contact anthony@yogabehindbars.org for the Zoom link.  We meet every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month at 5:30 pm PST.  Next time, we will dive deeper into language, microaggressions, and intention vs. impact.

Quote of the Night “Our intention ends where another person’s being begins” – YBB Volunteer

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