I think the term ‘Yoga For All’ has become synonymous with yoga for bigger bodies—but it is so much more than that! This movement is about creating a safe space for everyone to come to this practice together: no matter who you are or what you look like.
‘Yoga For All’ means both Yoga For You and Yoga For Me.
Media and mainstream culture have pushed the diversity of yoga bodies to the absolutely margins. If we are really being honest, I think it is fair to say that the yoga community has been morphed in an attempt to align it with the values and ideals of our dominant culture.
Not all of this is entirely bad. In part, it has allowed a group of people to experience something spiritual and meaningful.
The danger, however, comes in the fact that the westernization of the practice has also stripped it of its cultural significance and spiritual origins, which ultimately keeps the very culture that created this practice at the margins.
The very word yoga means union and connection—and yet we have managed to create and perpetuate exclusion within the practice.
How do we lift the barriers that keep people of colour, people with bigger bodies, bodies that have physical challenges, and LGBT communities away from the practice? How do we make yoga truly available and accessible to every body? Here’s how.
We need to start a yoga revolution.
We, as yoga teachers, must meet people where they are. We must take yoga out of the expensive, exclusive clubs called ‘yoga studios,’ and we must meet people where they are within their communities.
We need to offer trainings that are affordable and accessible to people who share our passions and those who want to do this same work in their own communities. We must align ourselves with community allies that represent the broad dynamic of the yoga practitioner.
This includes thin, white, flexible white bodies and big diverse bodies of colour, different abilities, and genders working together change to the world.
We all benefit from equality and justice. These are universal freedoms.
If you want to be a yoga superstar, then learn to be a catalyst for change. If you love to post pictures and videos on your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages, that’s great…but you have an obligation to diversify your messages.
It’s our responsibility, as role models and leaders of this practice to make yoga a little less “aspirational” and a lot more conversational. 1 million Instagram followers is a massive opportunity to start making a change in the midst of the mass messages mainstream media bombards us with.
Think about it: you are the content creator and you have the power to either perpetuate exclusive or instigate a shift in the tides.
Look beyond the tired exclusive image of yoga and start a revolution. Use your social platform to create conversations by including diversity and expanding your messages. Once you’ve succeeded in starting the fire, take your actions offline and convert your words into meaningful actions.
As a thought leader, activist, and founder of the Yoga For All movement, I am asking you to put your money where your mouth is.
Learn to recognize the influence of what your images are saying to the world, and start to be the change you want to see in the world you live in. Accessibility is always the greatest barrier to yoga—we need to address this, too.
Communities like Bhavana Collective, Race and Yoga Conference, Off the Mat Into the World, Yoga and Body Image Coalition, and The Catalyst Collective all work tirelessly to open the doors to accessibility in yoga culture, offering education and training programs for people who desperately want to take action.
Scholarships and funding opportunities are available to create greater access to education, and online training help to broaden our reach. There are a number of ways to make the teaching of yoga more available and more accessible to those that want to make shifts happen.
Now it’s your turn to step up to the plate and become an active part of this global shift in consciousness.
Everyone is invited to be the change they want to see in the world. ~Dianne Bondy
Let’s create a world where diversity celebrated, so that everyone can feel as though they are a part of the messages we send about our humanity.
Celebrating diversity requires all of us to start speaking out against our tired old ways of creating and perpetuating the limitations and restrictions that threaten our basic human freedoms.