February 6, 2014

FAQ about why I started teaching LGBTQ classes

I recently received a request from a fellow yogi who is studying to become a yoga teacher and is hoping to teach LGBTQ yoga classes upon graduation. They were working on a project as part of their teacher training, about yoga in the community, and sent me some interview questions.  I thought I would share them with you, as they are questions that I'm frequently asked.

What motivated you to start the program? 
Yoga was supporting me to manage life challenges that I was facing, such as cancer and anxiety.  When I would talk to friends about the benefits that practicing yoga was offering me, some of them expressed that they too would like to give yoga a try.  However, they felt unsafe accessing the pre-existing yoga spaces and classes, either due to a homophobic or transphobic experience, fear of such, or a lack of reflection of themselves in the spaces, languaging, etc.  So I made it my goal to graduate from teacher training and start to offer a class to LGBTQ folks.  I started teaching 7 years ago.

What are your goals for the program?
To provide a safer and more accessible place to practice yoga for LGBTQ folks; either as a seed to start their own practice, a springboard into the broader yoga community, or as a place to keep coming back to.

What obstacles did you have to over come if any?
Ignorance.  And not many studios are keen on offering a space to offer yoga to an "exclusive" group, unless seen as profitable.  Several negative experiences with studio owners, who either wanted to co-opt the group for their own profit, or made the students feel unwelcome.  I now hold my class in a rented community space, we can use the washrooms/change rooms as we wish, and I am welcoming folks into the space rather than receptionist, studio owner, etc.

Why do you think it's important to offer programs like these to members in the LGBTQ community?
It's important to offer practices like yoga to all folks who are interested, or could benefit from it.  In other words, yoga should be accessible to all, whether or not they can physically make it to a studio, have the $ to pay for classes, etc.  We can all work within the communities we are part of, as well as form collectives with others to learn from each other, peer review, share resources. Teacher trainings would do well to include trainings about diversity and accessibility, rather than focusing on serving the young, healthy and wealthy. We need to reflect on the lack of diversity and accessibility that exists in our current spaces, do our best to educate ourselves and each other, and offer the best that we can, even when it's challenging.

Are there any postures you avoid? If so, why?
No, but I do encourage folks to avoid postures or practices that don't work for them on a given day, without judgement, as part of learning to listen to one's body and honouring it.  And to know that they will not be judged but supported to do so.  Yoga is an individual practice, even though we are often practicing in groups.