Yesterday in the car, Audrey and I were listening to Hamilton and this line jumped out at me and hit me in the face.
I will be honest with you (always) the last week I have been in a bit of a personal struggle. The only way I can describe it is a kind of identity crisis in my work and how I want to move forward.
Here are the facts:
* I love my practices of yoga, meditation and wellness and what they have done for me over the years. The tools that they have offered have been life changing in many ways.
* I love teaching and take my responsibility of people giving me their time, attention and money very seriously.
* Much of what I have learned, where I have learned it and who I have learned from has been problematic. Perhaps not in the microcosm of the space itself, but if we zoom out and really take a look at the bigger picture. There has been a great deal of perpetuating harmful ideology that is rooted in white supremacy, prosperity culture and inequality.
* Now that I’ve zoomed out, I can’t (and refuse) to zoom back in. Even though it would be the easier thing to do...for me. There is a lot of unpacking to do.
The main thing I am fighting with is the desire to be loud and vocal and decisive and the old narrative of middle ground neutrality. Neutrality has been so valued in wellness culture. It’s part of old ancient texts, to a degree, but it is also part of the capitalism of it all, making sure that no one is cut off from wanting to spend their money in the yoga studio or on certain products. We can say it’s for accessibility and the desire to create safe spaces for all, but in the current context of things, this has the exact opposite effect. To be blunt, I call bullshit.
The second part of this line is “drop the niceties”. Nice can be brutally toxic and dangerous, even when good intentioned. Nice is what upholds systems. Nice is not the same as kind. So when I heard this line, I knew it was exactly how I felt and exactly how I will move forward. If it creates divisiveness, I am ok with that. I know, I know, shouldn’t I as a yogi be looking to walk the middle path and seek out alignment, even with those I disagree with?
And my answer is: no. That isn’t actually my job in a world where the very foundation of the middle ground isn’t actually middle at all but much more skewed in the direction of those who benefit from it. The middle ground, in today’s context isn’t actually bringing anything together, but rather working to keep as little disruption to business as usual in place. If history teaches us anything it’s that revolutions and change doesn’t actually happen on the middle ground. It happens when disruptors walk a different ground all together. Or burn it all to the ground. And so no, my job is not to maintain stasis and status quo. I would rather be divisive than indecisive and being the nice white yoga teacher is no longer of interest to me and quite honestly, shouldn’t be an option anymore, for any of us.
If it means turning people off or away from me, so be it. I’m ok with that. But the reality is that for those who disagree, this is not a shutting of the door but rather an open invitation to engage. I’m very clear on where I stand and comfortable with disagreeing. I am less bothered by a person who staunchly disagrees with me than those who would continue to perpetuate harm through indecision and silence. And I can simultaneously know where I stand and know that I am not always going to be right. I’m not here to be right, I’m here to get it right as Brene Brown says. Mostly I am here to be an activist for things to actually change because that is actually what is at the heart of all of these practices that we cling to. It is incredibly hypocritical to look to these practices to constantly seek change within ourselves, yet not ever do any of the necessary work to change the landscape that causes immense harm.
And in case you need to know where I stand so you can decide whether you stay or go in my spaces, I want to create a clear manifesto so that there is absolutely no confusion. This is the perspective from which I view things and live my life. It will absolutely show up in my teaching, coaching and practices because I do not believe that we can or should separate our work from ourselves.
Here is what I believe:
Finally, I want to end this by turning the page away from my own personal beliefs, feelings and story and highlight some resources for you to connect with other than this space. All of the below are people or organizations who are making it their mission to also create change for social and racial justice, body and gender equality and emotional well-being that doesn’t depend on keeping harmful oppressive structures in place. They are also people who I personally support and patronize as well as learn from. I encourage you to follow them on social media, read their work and listen to their voices and if you have the means to support them through Patreon or otherwise, please do so.
Anti-Racism Daily - Daily newsletter that comes to your inbox to give you actionable practices to help dismantle racism and white supremacy
Susanna Barkataki - Yoga teacher and author whose work is about embracing the roots of yoga
Trans Yoga Project - amplifying the voices and teaching of Trans yoga teachers
Project HEAL - Organization helping to bring equity and equality to eating disorder recovery
Jeffrey Marsh - Transgender and nonbinary beautiful human, author and educator
Rebeckah Boruki - Meditation teacher and publisher
Courtney Napier - blogger who uses her voices to blur the line between personal and political
Sonya Renee Taylor - Award winning poet, author and activist - The Body is not an apology
Finally, how I am choosing to move forward is imperfectly, but loudly. I have been a yoga teacher for the last 13 years of my life and I have admittedly not always done my part. I have gotten caught up in the glamorization and colonization of yoga. I may have always been well intentioned but as I said earlier, that no longer flies. This is not a shame story. This is about how we move forward and do better so we can all be better. I used to think that yogi activism was obnoxious because I believed the line I was being fed that yoga is about calm and peace and neutrality. I call bullshit. If we aren’t doing this work within our practices, our practices themselves become obsolete. And yoga, meditation and wellness do not need to be quiet right now. They can’t be. I invite you to be decisive and see the opportunity that really exists within your own practices. Yes, let’s nurture ourselves with our own breath and let's also make sure that we are using that breath to speak out about what is incredibly harmful for others.
is a Mama, Wife, Yoga and Meditation Teacher, Coach, Writer and Activist. You can read more about her here.