According to the ancient language of Sanskrit, “yoga” means “to yoke” or “union.” But if you look in yoga studios throughout the Western world, you might come to conclusion that yoga means “exclusive” or “separation.” For example, in the cosmopolitan city of Atlanta there are more than fifty yoga studios, but there is not one owned or operated by a black American, and yet some of the most recognizable teachers and practitioners are black.
In a recent article published in Forbes, registered yoga teacher Chelsea Jackson, Ph.d explained that while there has been an effort to increase diversity in yoga American communities, black people, in particular, are still very much on margins of yoga.
“I have seen the evolution – I was definitely the only black person in class when I began practicing in studios in 2001; however, I’ve experienced more diversity over the last 10 years … A lot of times, though, people aren’t even aware of black people doing yoga – community-based organizations or ones that offer yoga in the park. Just because we don’t see it… or, just because these communities are not recognized in mainstream yoga publications and advertisements doesn’t mean that we are not practicing yoga.”
As we continue to engage yoga communities with these onerous conversations, the hope has to be that we’ll embrace the experience of practicing yoga with all people.
Do you think yoga is segregated? What has been your experience?