Facing Adversity at the Intersection of Yoga and Social Justice in My Yoga Teacher TrainingJune 9, 2021
Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person who disliked my yoga teacher training. Other yoga teachers I know gush about how inspirational and life changing their training was, but I wasn’t having any life changing breakthroughs.
I came to yoga teacher training eager to learn more about accessibility, yogic philosophy and the intersection of yoga and social justice. Unfortunately, many of these ideas weren’t welcomed in the space, and I was treated with contempt any time I tried to broach the topic of yoga and social justice.
During our third weekend together, I shared an article discussing the cultural appropriation of yoga in our cohort’s private Facebook group. I hoped it would allow for some dialogue on the topic, but instead I received a lecture from one of our lead teachers on the reasons why I shouldn’t post something like that on social media. A day or two later the other lead teacher told our class that we were culturally appropriating hispanic culture if we eat tacos.
There were many days throughout my YTT that I wished I could have cut my losses, withdrawn, and requested a refund. Looking back now, I’m glad I didn’t.
My experience in YTT forced me to take a long, hard look at myself and the type of yoga teacher I wanted to be. I wanted everyone to feel welcome. I wanted to teach the people who were showing up to class, not just parroting some cues I learned in YTT that were designed for one type of body. I wanted to make wellness more inclusive and accessible for folks. I wanted to honor yoga’s roots and challenge white supremacy.
To me, yoga isn’t an exercise regimen. It’s a practice of liberation, of connecting to our innate wholeness, and dispelling the myth that we are broken beings in need of fixing.
I didn’t know it at the time, but my YTT was Tapas in action. The more adversity I faced in the training, the more passionate I became about deepening my learning and exploring beyond asana. I became committed to disrupting the myth that you need to be flexible, strong, skinny, and non-disabled to practice yoga. You just need to show up and breathe.
As a college educated, white, cisgender male in the middle class, a consistent practice of Svadhyaya helps me to see where I am still causing harm and work to reduce that harm. It helps me reflect and hold myself accountable as I strive to create and cultivate more equitable and inclusive spaces that value and celebrate the uniqueness of everyone.
Perhaps my YTT wasn’t life changing in the way I originally anticipated it would be. But, in hindsight it was exactly what I needed. It taught me the power of being a lifelong learner. Just because I have a certificate that says I can teach yoga now doesn’t mean that my learning is complete. I believe there is still so much to learn and unlearn as we work towards our collective liberation.