When I went looking for an image to go along with this article, I put “gate” into my favorite photo site. In my mind, I always think of a farm gate, or perhaps a white painted one around a garden. But this one, of a black fancy wrought-iron gate that is probably solar powered to open (because those are the nice ones) and an intercom button on a post set up for someone coming up to the gate on foot, is the epitome of the gates that some people want to build around the yoga community.
Expensive. Ableist. Difficult to approach.
There’s one yoga teacher I follow because of her emphasis on yoga to soothe the nervous system, a topic in which I am personally interested and want to share with my community. But as I read her posting this morning about being interviewed by a major publication (with a paywall, of course) to give her counter opinion about a certain type of yoga, and how “real enlightenment” doesn’t require the use of any other substances, it struck me just how gatekeeping that was. For someone whose entire business is built around those with mental and physical illness that requires a slower form of yoga, she sure keeps her ableist and elitist attitudes on display front and center. Now I’m not here to talk about whether you should smoke pot and do yoga. There are many reasons why I don’t, including interactions with my medicine and financial concerns, but if those weren’t in the picture, I’d much rather munch an edible than take pills three times a day for my anxiety. (Of course, if those financial concerns weren’t an issue, I’d also probably be fully self-employed, which means I wouldn’t be working at the day job that necessitates anti-anxiety medicine three times a day, but that’s another blog topic.)
As a disabled, fat, rural yoga teacher I’ve run into more gate keeping than I could shake a stick at. And I know I’m not alone. Whether it’s the Yoga Alliance’s mental health program, which only works if you live close enough to a major metropolitan center to find a practitioner, lest you’re relegated to an app which clearly isn’t equipped to deal with complex PTSD, long experienced trauma, and severe anxiety.
I am LOVING the yoga instructors on Instagram and TikTok with larger bodies showing how to move into and through poses. I am loving the BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ yogis who are showing the full expression of what it really means to do yoga. I am loving the Asian yoga teachers who speak out about colonization and everyone who talks about just how harmful the white, rich, supermodel thin yoga pretzel stereotype is for everyone.
And I am here to have the gates torn down even more. We need to hold our teachers and our governing bodies accountable, not just for the communities which are seen in yoga, but also for the communities which aren’t. Let’s see more disabled yogis. Let’s encourage Yoga Alliance to keep their online certification and CEUs always, not just through 2023. Disabled people aren’t going to be leaving yoga after next year, and we need accessibility in our training and teachings, too. I’m proud to be offering online yoga instruction. It’s accessible. Less intimidating. While I’d encourage you to turn on your camera so I can watch your position and provide gentle adjustments as necessary, I wouldn’t even think twice if your comfort level meant your camera was off.
What gates are you seeing in yoga? Which ones would you like to tear down? I’d love to hear from you.