February 27, 2023
Access And Inclusion
Black History Month serves as a reminder of those who dared. They dared to be seen. They dared to be heard. They dared to and in some cases gave up their lives in the fight for equality for all.
I always felt different growing up black/mixed race (a term that didn’t really exist when I was a kid). I yearned to just blend in. I never felt accepted. As I stepped on the mat for the first time, I wanted to be invisible. I didn’t want people to look at me and say or think, “he doesn’t belong here.”
So I want to honor those who fought for inclusion. Inclusion started with access for all, for we can’t feel included if we are not allowed in the front door. But just access is not a definitive sign of equality or inclusion. Over my journey as a student and teacher, I’ve often felt on the outside looking in at what “yoga” and “yoga teachers” were supposed to look like and sound like.
While I was lucky enough to be determined enough to stay on the mat to practice, my journey as a teacher has almost ended a few times. Whether it was early on in my teaching journey when all the doors seemed to be closed in Bali all while not seeing one person that looked like me on the mat at the front of the room. Heck, I didn’t even see some like me practicing in Bali. I’m grateful to my ex-partner @sabi.Kerr for her support and encouragement. She said, “the yoga world needs more different; they need more you,” when I would be on the verge of tears thinking I would have to move home and restart my corporate career.
Even still, seeing studios I taught at never post photos of me on their Instagram made me wonder if I was really included. After telling one studio owner that I didn’t feel included, I was gaslit then let go as the owner told me I was wrong and that they welcome everyone.
So I return to where I began…
To welcome everyone is not the same as everyone feeling welcomed. While we cannot please everyone, we can take one big step and that is to have an intention of creating inclusion. To see everyone and hope that they feel seen. I hope that every student feels seen for the unique individual that they are. From this place of feeling seen, I hope they feel included in the beautiful practice of this thing we all call yoga.
Access does not equal inclusion. In honor of Black History Month, I will continue to show up and create inclusive connected containers where ever in the world will open their doors to me and my love of sharing the practice of yoga.