Unearthing Ideas of Privilege in Yoga

DSC_3578Kristina recently graduated from our 2014 Yoga Teacher Training Program and will be sharing her laughter and love of yoga at Queen Street Yoga, alternating teaching the Friday 5:30pm Hour Flow with her fellow YTT graduate Marta! Kristina wrote this piece about privilege in the yoga community after our October 2014 Yoga Teacher Training Weekend, in which we looked at the various ways that folks with different kinds of privilege (because of their race, gender, body type, sexuality) might experience a yoga studio (and the world) differently. 

Cath in Dorset- Assistant Gardener

Assistant Gardener by Cath in Dorset

I’ve been practicing yoga for about five years now.  As with anything new, in the beginning, I felt a little bit out of place.  I was uneasy about getting dressed in the change room with everyone else, uncertain of where to place my mat in the class room, and sometimes embarrassed about my inability to move with strength or grace through many of the postures that everyone else seemed so comfortable with.  Those fears were quickly dissolved by realizing that I wasn’t alone – others around me seemed to face the same fears, and those who had been around the block a few times were generally friendly and welcoming.  All was good.  What I didn’t realize was that this quickly-found comfort was, in many ways, a product of my privilege.

Privilege can be a difficult thing to recognize.  I’m a woman, and I feel that I’ve worked hard for of what I’ve accomplished in my life so far.  It’s easy to get defensive when someone suggests otherwise. However, I was recently given that opportunity while attending a yoga teacher training weekend.  We were asked to fill out a privilege checklist.  There were many checklists I could have chosen from – I have white skin; I am able-bodied; I am a thin, cis-gendered, heterosexual person.  When I really stopped to think about it, when I went through the checklists, the systemic privileges working in my favour became much more clear.  The next step for us as yoga-teachers-in-training, was to consider how a lack of any of these privileges might discourage a person from attending yoga classes at a studio, as we all so love to do.

It is difficult for me to understand how another person, whose struggles I don’t share, may not feel as welcomed and happy as I do, in a yoga studio where I feel completely loved and safe and free to be myself.

“Peace is the hard-won occasional byproduct of the passion for justice” (Matthew Remski, threads of yoga 2012).

So, how do we create peace for people in our community, seeking yoga, regardless of their age, race, income, gender, or sexuality?  Do we need to develop specific classes catering to each particular group of people that exists?  Do we need a greater diversity of teachers to appeal to the diversity of potential students?  How can we make yoga financially accessible to all, while ensuring that yoga teachers are still able to pay their bills?

There are so many questions that haven’t been answered yet!  There are so many conversations about privilege and prejudice that need to be had.  I’m glad that Queen Street Yoga fosters the kind of community that is open to having these conversations, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.

References

Remski, M. 2012. threads of yoga: a remix of patanjali-s sutras with commentary and reverie. http://www.matthewremski.com.

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