A few days ago, The Atlantic published an article about the correlation between vaccination rates and illnesses in rich Los Angeles neighbourhoods. While the article has nothing to do with yoga , the accompanying image is a person doing yoga on a stand-up paddleboard. The caption reads, “If you can do yoga on a paddleboard, you can get an MMR vaccine.”
Actually, there is one mention of yoga in the article: “It’s tempting to suggest, as some of [reporter Gary] Baum’s L.A. sources do, that these are just concerned, well-meaning parents who, along with forbidding processed food and dragging their offspring to baby yoga, also avoid any medications that aren’t strictly ‘natural.'”
Of all the things that could represent privileged L.A. parents and their self-involved choices, a photo editor picked this image to go with the article. It speaks volumes about yoga and its lifestyle associations with affluence, privilege and magical thinking. Of course, this segment of the population is made up of rich celebrities in LA doesn’t necessarily represent everyone who practices yoga. Nevertheless, this perception of yoga persists in the mainstream media and culture.
North American yoga is on a path towards being a pursuit of the privileged, and it goes without saying that there is a lot of unexamined privilege among yoga practitioners. It’s time to talk about it.
Luckily, the conversation is starting! The latest edition in the Practice of Leadership series takes on Power, Privilege and Practice at the Yoga Journal LIVE event in Estes Park, Colorado. Presented by Yoga Journal, Off the Mat, Into the World and Lululemon, this series of “conversations about conscious and compassionate leadership in the modern world” has already tackled corporate accountability and body image.
This session will explore “issues of race, equality, and oppression with courage and mindfulness. An open and honest dialogue that gets at the heart of our practice, our role as conscious leaders and how to enable a community that is inclusive and accessible to all.”
The panel features a stellar line-up of movers and shakers from the yoga margins: Jacoby Ballard, of Third Root Community Health Center in Brooklyn; Tyrone Beverly, founder & executive director of Im’Unique; Lezlie Frye, yoga teacher and educator; Chelsea Jackson, of Chelsea Loves Yoga, a virtual yoga community that illuminates the diverse range of yoga practitioners; and Kerrie J. Kauer, scholar in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies. With moderation by OTM’s Hala Khouri and Nikki Myers, we can only expect that this conversation will dig into the meat of the issues of privilege and race that pervade the yoga community.
It’s one small but important step towards creating a yoga culture that is associated with justice and equality, rather than affluence and magical thinking.
Follow the hashtag #practiceofleadership on Twitter for all the action.
The Practice of Leadership: Power, Privilege and Practice
1:30pm, September 19, 2014
Yoga Journal LIVE, Estes Park, CO
Photo credit: Robert Sturman via mindbodygreen.com (not the original photo accompanying The Atlantic article)