A 5-Step Guide to a More Inclusive Yoga Practice

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The Two Biggest Barriers to an Inclusive Yoga Practice

Yoga studios are uniquely situated to create communities that spread love, joy, and peace. However, in the United States, the practice of yoga has struggled with diversity in terms of race, body type, age, gender orientation, and even financial status.

This article will serve as a simple guide for you and your studio as you work to create a more inclusive practice.

Lack of Representation

According to one Forbes article, the stereotypical archetype of the modern yoga practitioner is “the affluent skinny white women.”

This perception dissuades potential practitioners from starting and embracing yoga, especially people of color and those with different body types. It is often reinforced by pop culture and marketing materials in a way that inadvertently makes people who don’t fit that mold feel less welcome.

Cost

Another significant barrier to practicing yoga is the price. Yoga studios are usually found in upscale neighborhoods and business areas.

Yoga, first and foremost, is a lifestyle — a culture — before it’s a business. However, a single yoga class in the US can cost $15 to $25 per hour. Obviously, this cost can be higher for private sessions.

The time to change is now.

What can you do to create a more inclusive yoga practice?

1. Take Yoga Beyond the Studio

To go beyond the exclusivity of yoga studios, how do we bring the practice to a wider, more diverse audience by making it accessible, affordable, and convenient?

Nowadays, yoga is being practiced in households, in churches, in community centers, and even in corporate offices and schools — a testament to the practice’s ever-increasing popularity.

This is a welcome move towards more accessibility, but there are a number of steps the establishment can do to push the intention further:

2. Train Your Staff

To go beyond the exclusivity of yoga studios, how do we bring the practice to a wider, more diverse audience by making it accessible, affordable, and convenient?

Nowadays, yoga is being practiced in households, in churches, in community centers, and even in corporate offices and schools — a testament to the practice’s ever-increasing popularity.

This is a welcome move towards more accessibility, but there are a number of steps the establishment can do to push the intention further:

All these efforts towards reaching more communities and towards equality will lack effectiveness if the industry fails to take that one crucial step — to have the often difficult conversations around race, diversity, and the creation of an inclusive yoga practice.

Failure to do this can have profound consequences not only in the workplace but in any classroom too, such as in a yoga class, and can lead to unaddressed issues with morale and group cohesion.

The American Negotiation Institute’s training called How to Have Difficult Conversations About Race is a relevant and essential resource as everyone tries to navigate the world at this time. Led by author, speaker, and professor host Kwame Christian, Esq., M.A., ANI’s team of thought leaders and subject matter experts blend conflict resolution and civil rights for a powerful training that can help you to create the inviting atmosphere you want.

It’s not just enough to know about issues like diversity and bias, you need to learn to talk about it in a way that leads to the creation of an inclusive environment.

The training initiative was sparked by the most recent social unrest following the death of George Floyd and other black Americans and was featured in Forbes, CNBC, and USA Today.

3. Improve Representation Through Language and Marketing Imagery

One of the most powerful actions towards inclusion and diversity is sensitivity towards a practitioner’s identity. It means conducting classes that speak not only to the identities of a chosen few but of everyone. Make sure that the language used and how you deal with each student (potential or existing) is inclusive, encouraging, and respectful of their background or cultural tradition.

It is also high time for the industry’s marketing and promotion efforts to feature a diverse group of people in their imagery. Relatability is a powerful factor in getting all kinds of people to attend yoga and to improve representation in the practice.

4. Hire and Train a More Diverse Teaching Workforce

The success of the first three suggested solutions may as well open new teaching opportunities for people of diverse backgrounds or color — that is, if the industry as a whole will support and truly embrace the idea.

Yoga establishments need to make a more conscious effort to hire and train instructors from diverse backgrounds rather than limit their opportunities as workshop and retreat trainees.

The idea of supporting a diverse teaching workforce may give the studios and organizations the effective option to reach more communities where practitioners can establish more meaningful connections with their teachers.

5. Promote a Classroom-Wide Inclusive Culture

The efforts to diversify the yoga practice and to eradicate any kind of prejudice don’t stop with the organizers and teachers. A more inclusive yoga culture needs to be promoted among the students as well, hence it needs to be integrated in the instruction.

The most powerful yoga instruction is one where its students are not only able to transcend beyond the union of mind and body but are also able to unite with others within their class or community across differences — offering genuine love, respect and acceptance for who they truly are.

Free Resources

Free Guide: How to Have Difficult Conversations About Race