Hosted by Yoga Behind Bars at Youngstown Cultural Center, February 15th, 2017

Caucus Facilitators: Teresa Wang, Nari Baker, RW Alves, Ellie Lipton, Ann Luetzow

Thank you to all who attended the Cultural Appropriation Conversation, the first event of its kind that YBB had the privilege and joy to host. With 28 people at the event, we were excited to see a range of both old and new YBB friends. Our goals for the evening were as follows:

  • To begin and deepen the conversation around understanding cultural appropriation in the yoga community.
  • To co-create actions individuals can take in their lives to reduce harm and promote awareness on the individual, institutional, and structural level.

Outline of the Evening

We began the event with welcomes and introductions. YBBs Executive Director, Rosa Vissers, led the group with a breathing exercise then facilitators followed by framing the goals of the event to the group.  Prior to breaking into People of Color (POC) and White people caucus, we discussed the purpose, intentions and importance behind why we caucus for conversations such as cultural appropriation. For more information about why people caucus by race, go here:

The White caucus established working definitions for yoga, cultural appropriation, and culture. After that, 6 small groups discussed and brainstormed how cultural appropriation shows up in the yoga world on three levels, individuals, institutional (yoga studio) and systemic (community). This is where individual commitments were made; groups focused on ways in which they can reduce the harm of cultural appropriation and ultimately dismantle the dynamics that allow cultural appropriation to take place in the yoga community. Some ideas that were shared:

  • Support the training of teachers of color through scholarships
  • Awareness and humility about use of sacred objects and texts
  • Doing more to clarify that yoga asana is only one aspect of a rich and complex practice
  • Continue to learn and engage in conversations about yoga, its history, racism, and cultural appropriation

The POC caucus spent connecting with other yoga practitioners and teachers while reflecting on the complexities of cultural appropriation within yoga while their own cultures have been appropriated.

At the end of the evening the POC and White caucus groups came back together to share about their conversations. Lindsay, a YBB intern, offered attendees the opportunity to learn about legislative bills in our community that impact incarcerated people, and take action.

Final Thoughts

Yoga Behind Bars looks forward to continue these conversations and make yoga a practice that is truly for every body.

Thank you wonderful attendees for your participation, vulnerability and presence in the room. A big special thank you to the facilitators, Nari, Teresa, Ann, RW and Ellie.

With love,

Rosa Vissers, Executive Director

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