Happy Pride Month! With Love Out Loud, Well + Good is celebrating all that love – and respect, representation and equality – for all. Look back every month for discussions among LGBTQ + community ideological leaders on how their identities affect their well-being.
In Sanskrit, the word “yoga” translates to “yoke” or “unity,” but in the United States, the yoga industry has historically not lived up to the inclusive definition of its name, and still does not. A 2013 study found that 85 percent of yoga practitioners in the United States are white, and while there are no statistics on the number of queer practitioners, career site Zippia estimates that only about 10 percent of all yoga instructors are known as LGBTQ +. In other words: you are less likely to walk in a yoga studio as a queer, black, aboriginal, person of color (BIPOC) and feel a sense of unity with your relatives.
Going forward, the two leaders of the yoga community, who are each part of the queer and BIPOC community, believe that yoga can grow into a practice of accepting and accommodating all people. Meet up Jasmine Stanley, yoga teacher, body-positivity advocate, and author Of Yoke: My sum of self-acceptance; And Nicole Cardoza, award winning social entrepreneur, public speaker, And Author of Mindful Tricks: Happy, Healthy Baby-Friendly Yoga and Peaceful Activities for You In this talk, Stanley and Cardoza discuss how the yoga industry has historically excluded people from marginalized communities, how it can evolve towards inclusion, and why home practice can give space to fully assert itself and accept who it is. .
Kells McPhillips: To begin with, I would like to share with you both how you found your way to yoga in the first place and how your practice developed in the midst of an epidemic.
Nicole Cardoza: I started doing yoga when I was in college. For many years of my life, it has really provided a refuge where I can find myself and manage some of the mental-health struggles that I was going through at the time. As my practice develops in my professional career, I think I have gained a level of patience with it that I did not have before.
I think the patience that came from being able to practice in Ecclesiastes during the last two years during the epidemic came, which consciously removed me from the yoga industry. I am in a very contemplative and intimate place with my practice, which I have not gone before.
Jasmine Stanley: I started practicing yoga when I was in graduate school, when I was experiencing mental-health struggles. I was at a non-profit art management undergraduate program, and I was like, “What do I want to do with my life? Do I even know anything about myself?” I was also going through a breakup at that time, which facilitates some kind of change in life.
A really good friend of mine was like, “You have to come to yoga class with me!” And I really thought yoga was only for thin blonde women. I didn’t know it had anything to do with me or anyone who looked like me, but I went to class. And what I admired most about it was that every part of it seemed impossible to me. It seemed like everyone was practicing together in the classroom already.
What I valued was the opportunity to look at my limitations, my limitations, and what I decided to do. And then I can say, “I’m going to try – even if I fell down, even though everyone in this room saw what I was doing, I would be ashamed of myself in the biggest way. I’m still going to try.” At the time, I didn’t know how revolutionary it was to try. I didn’t realize many parts of my life that I wasn’t trying.
Yoga pushed the boundaries of what I thought I could do. And that’s why I keep going back to my practice today: just because it always gives me the same medicine. Ultimately, yoga is based on how we connect with each other.
The epidemic made it so that you had to stay at home and live alone, period. So on top of that, you have to manage yourself through the worst thing that has ever happened in the collective history of life.
KM: Do you consider your yoga practice in conversations with Vichitra? If so, how?
JS: I definitely think they’re connected, but I don’t always think about it. Yoga, ultimately, is about acceptance, and the literal translation of the word “yoga” is often translated as “union.” It is as if the union is trying to bring together its own pieces which does not always make sense and does not always seem to go together, but it does go together. That is the process of union acceptance.
To accept oneself is to accept one’s own parts, which puritanical culture hopes to reproduce. We live in a very chaste society where divine sexuality and sexuality and sexuality are thrown out in a dangerous and bad and frightening and problematic way. So if you are in the process of self-acceptance through yoga, then acceptance of what is considered dangerous and bad is inevitable.
From there you see that the thing that is really scared of sexuality and sexuality and sexuality is creation. What is feared is the generation that invites something else. It is our ability to reveal all the new life that sexuality really holds. And if you are resting in the place of self-acceptance, then you are resting in the place of generation and creation.
NC: She is really powerful. This is not something I think often because I think my relationship with eccentricity is like practicing yoga. My practice only expands the space and expands the possibilities of who I am and how I can show. If you can accept discourse on your mat, you create that space for yourself. Be aware of how you want to get to the places you want to occupy as a person out of the mat.
My practice has helped me to understand how to get rid of some of the chatter coming from the wider society about which places to take and which places to occupy. This is an exercise. My identity is definitely not on the rocks. As I continue to explore it, it continues to evolve and become more subtle, beautiful and complete. I think that’s why I keep going back to it, because it provides the tools and grace needed for self-reflection and the development of my identity.
KM: You both talked a lot about your home practice. Why does this setting help you feel free on your mat?
JS: Studio classes are great – but to get your practice fully rooted in the studio is to rely on that studio. The epidemic was a test of what happens when you can’t get out of the studio. But if you have your home practice, you always have to return to a safe place. Reminds you that the real home you are looking for is not a physical place. It is living within you. It’s also normal to be completely distracted from the people sitting next to you in the studio class, trying to do something good for them and not having to think about practicing for yourself or just experiencing for yourself.
Now, I don’t mean that you should not have teachers. If you have access to an Internet connection, you do not need to subscribe to a particular platform. You can literally go to YouTube, and there are thousands of videos that are taught by different types of instructors. Not every teacher resonates with everyone – but if you find a resonant teacher for yourself, you need to be able to guide your practice.
One of the biggest influencers in my personal practice is Catherine Budig, and she teaches on a variety of platforms – especially at Gloma and now on her own platform, the House of Phoenix. Catherine led me to the teacher inside me. The best teachers hold your hand, and then, finally, you can leave.
NC: I also like that home practices have provided a platform for many teachers who may not have historically been given the opportunity to reach out to the community they want to work with through the traditional studio model. She is really beautiful because there are many people who have started practicing yoga in the last few years. And they started because they saw those people, because they were able to take an Instagram live class, or because that person started their own platform. They may have never seen him walking down the street in the studio. So it’s really interesting to represent, and I like that it has taken some of the power that these brands often used to get people out.
KM: As you both have expressed, there is comfort and self-acceptance that can be found in home practice, but how can we work towards a yoga industry that is more diverse, equitable and inclusive in the LGBTQ + community and otherwise in the future. ? What are your hopes for yoga in America?
JS: My hope is that yoga will be used as I believe it to be used: as a way for us to be present in this world and to listen to each other in the difficult times ahead. I think that’s why yoga has always existed. I hope everyone who wants to teach will see some kind of practice on the platform they want, even if they want to.
Yoga has been around for thousands of years, and there will be ups and downs. When things get popular, there’s going to be discrimination – and there’s a lot of discrimination in the yoga world right now. There is a tendency to talk about it now, but it is less common to talk about it. So we need our practices to work internally, yes, but we really need to use the practices to evaluate the ways we are homophobic, transphobic, racist, aged, competent – the list goes on. We really need to evaluate it on an individual level and then look at the collective impact individually. I think, in this way, yoga can be used to heal our world in a big way.
NC: My first stomach reaction was, “I don’t care about the future of yoga.” I have lost a lot of faith in what happened to the yoga industry. We have a lot of conversations where we say we need to colonize the yoga industry, and make it more inclusive. I’m just, quite frankly, really tired of that conversation. Sometimes, I think we talk about industries that can be resolved rather than broken down naturally. I am deeply concerned about this practice, but I do not think that the yoga industry itself can be solved by representation and inclusion because it is swimming in the world of white supremacy where we live.
My real hope for yoga is that, instead of trying to use it as a tool to address the inequalities we see, we ask how can we break this model? How can we use yoga as an example of how we want to live? What would it look like if, instead of trying to dismantle these systems, we actually tried to re-imagine them?
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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