Dear Yoga District,
My relationship to yoga is constantly evolving. It shifts and offers me different things in different times of my life, as I’m sure it does for all of you, too. Recently my practice has been deeply empowering and clarifying and strengthened some of my beliefs, and I’d like to share some of my observations and thoughts.
Yoga teaches us to not get caught up in our mind, to try and let moments of frustration and anger go and to rise above in pursuit of our highest-self. That said, I don’t believe that these teachings tell us to remain quiet or to let go at the expense of losing our voice, our courage, our strength, our individuality. In this regard, Audre Lorde is my guru: “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”
Yoga gives us the tools to access and to nourish our big, bright, shining light. And as I interpret these teachings in my own life, I realize that using my voice is one way to nourish that light.
So I write to you all today because I want to talk about being a woman and being a yogi – my observations and my experiences. I’m so glad that we set-out to create a warm, inviting and accessible environment for our students, but even in a yoga studio, there are still deep-rooted ideas about women + gender that play out in ways that we may not even be aware of. The majority of our students are women and I think it’s important to have awareness around what that means for us as teachers and community members.
There have been times in my life when I have felt strong, and times where I’ve been lost. Yoga has been a place for me to navigate the whole spectrum of experience and emotion, and accessing the yoga within has brought me grounding, love, connection, positive vulnerability, openness, courage, and clarity. The practice is magic! It’s absolutely, positively the best thing that has ever happened for me. But, yoga studios and communities are made up of humans on different paths, with different beliefs and different challenges and I would be lying if I said that I had never been disrespected as a woman in yoga community. And it doesn’t feel nice to be disrespected- plain and simple. I’ve also had experiences where, as a woman, I felt scared to use my voice and to speak the truth within a yoga community out of fear of creating tension, though I see now that tension actually builds when you don’t speak the truth. The commercialization of yoga hasn’t helped – open the pages of any yoga magazine and you will most likely find a half-naked model in a sexualized asana. The photography always highlights her body, not her voice or her spirit.
As teachers and community members, we simply point to yoga’s magic and create space for students to access all of the things they already have: strength, beauty, clarity, courage and love. We aren’t the magic, we just point to it and it’s harder to point to the magic if we are holding on to deep-rooted and limiting beliefs (about women, sexuality, gender, race- or anything!). We have to confront those deep-rooted beliefs so that we don’t make others feel disrespected in a place where they have come to feel strong, beautiful, courageous and calm. We all have them. It’s hard to admit and it’s hard to confront them- but doing so is another way to nourish our light.
The same goes for our interactions with one another. Be respectful. Be kind. Empower each other. Encourage. Love. Complement strength, not the color or fit of yoga pants. And most importantly, speak the truth and don’t shy away from using your voice in the service of your vision.
Rock on yogis,