I forget sometimes that my very presence can be a trigger for someone because of the dynamics of power and privilege.
I forget sometimes because my intentions to share the yoga practice are from a kind place. I assume I am always welcome. I assume my smile will soften the edges of what my white ancestors have done.
Maybe more often than I realize I get in the way by asserting myself in spaces where folks are marginalized—that is, under-resourced and not seen by systems of oppression—or where I wasn’t explicitly invited.
Lately I’ve been unpacking the reality that I’m not needed in every yoga space. As white yoga teachers, this is a hard fact to face. I know my passion can cloud prioritizing the already capable & powerful lived experience of others.
Stepping back does not equate to inaction (there are plenty of white spaces where I need to speak up). If I’m not inserting myself into every space I will still be working to heighten the redistribution of resources/knowledge of this yoga practice—so folks are empowered from their own experience and not an external (albeit benevolent) intention of “serving” or “helping”.
A principle of the yoga practice is satya—being truthful in thoughts, words, and actions.
Sometimes (more than you think) getting out of the way and listening truth.
Less helping (implying power over) and more being in relationship.
Relationship over outcome and ego.
A student & seeker on the path of breath and the collective.
Yesterday I received an email that really upset me. It was from a wellness clothing company & the language/message/images were, well, problematic.
I called them out....and they reached out.
They apologized and asked for feedback and clarity. This usually doesn’t happen and I appreciate it when it does (especially because it holds me accountable to dialogue over assuming/dismissing). For some transparency (not to pat myself on the back, but to remind privileged folks that we need to do this work), here’s what I wrote back (from the heart & not the most articulate):
Thank you for responding! There’s a lot to unpack here, but I’ll say this. Many folks (myself and maybe you too) have had or do have a negative body image & seeing images of a tan and skinny “summer body” can be triggering. Saying “look good naked!” sends a message that folks don’t already look good naked (which means they don’t feel good naked) & that’s harmful. It isn’t empowering and is rooted in systems of oppression. It’s a story that says only certain bodies are worthy and worth celebrating.
Healthy does not always mean skinny and getting a “summer body” sends a message that who you are now isn’t good enough and you need to: eat this, avoid this, buy this, judge that, & starve that to be happy.
That message isn’t what acceptance/yoga/healing is about.
We need to exist without being at war with ourselves. I don’t think your intention was to harm (& I understand that you’re a business and there are additional pressures there), but if we all want to honor and liberate each other we have to celebrate and love who we are—then we can raise consciousness/move from kindness, not perpetuate a cultural messaging of judgment.
Our bodies are worthy. Our existence—today & right now—is enough.
Question anything that doesn’t uphold that wholeness.