Is yoga accessible?

For the most part, no. For a liberation practice that claims to be kind, loving and for all people, it is not accessible at all yoga studios. For so many reasons. A few years ago, I was asked — ‘What do you think about yoga and marketing at this studio?’

I responded, ‘Yoga mass marketing does not show people like me. With brown skin and grey hair. Late 30’s…close to 40s’.

‘There is diversity in yoga marketing.’ was the response.

Interesting response from a flexible and strong white woman that I didn’t agree with based on my lived experience as a brown woman from the islands and out of my 20s who struggled to see me in yoga marketing…

My question were/are:

  • Where are brown, and people of colour in yoga advertising?
  • Where are people who don’t fit into the ‘yoga look’ that have people telling me ‘I’m not flexible so I’m not going to try yoga’
  • What about people who are size 6 and over
  • What about our senior community
  • New mums post birth, women and men with stretch marks, stressed out execs looking for time out, LGBTIQ people and people with disabilities?
  • Don’t we all deserve to have yoga too? To be represented in marketing and to be safe and supported in class, or nah – only if you already have some movement in your life, then you can connect with mainstream yoga messages and then join yoga? Cos that’s what the advertising is saying and discouraging people for even entering a class. If/when they enter, the classes can be intimidating at times.
  • What about accessible pricing strategies for people who want the benefits of yoga but cannot afford it – is there a pricing scale based on income, or possibly some kind of energy exchange or community classes?

If yoga is as kind as it says it is, why does the advertising and marketing not show all people. As a marketer, I understand you need to find a ‘niche’ and target people you want to share yoga with. However, the focus on the asana only or physical practice does not do yoga or anyone any favours.

As a spiritual seeker and avid learner, I get you need to make time to invest in yourself and this practice.

However, there is so much more the yoga community can do in order to make this practice accessible and meaningful.

Imagery in yoga advertising and pricing. Plus, language and music in yoga advertising and classes is huge. Sure, we can say it is welcoming and not provide any options for the newbie in yoga class or person practicing for 5 years. How does that work?

Sure, we can slap on some hip hop music and then chant namaste at the beginning and end of class. However, do you/we know the history and depth and journey of hip hop music and challenges indigenous cultures face.

As teachers, do we care and should we care?

Do we know the meaning of the mantras we are leading and chanting?

Do we care about India and the roots of yoga, the nuances, the depth and breadth of yoga, the beauty of yoga beyond the physical practice?

Should we care? Or is this outside of our ‘frame of reference’ or work space..

Do we care about leading ‘gurus’ and senior teachers who have misused their position, power and privilege or are we OK to keep practicing a style of yoga that honours forefathers in yogic tradition who abused people in the name of spirituality? When I really take a long hard look at yoga, the tradition, the message we are sending, I struggle personally.

Do we know what namaste means? Or just say it cos…who cares. What message are we sending? What are we teaching? What are we practicing?

As teachers and studios, we need to go in with eyes wide open and genuinely walk towards creating a yoga space that is as kind as caring that we say it is. I get it, yoga can’t be everything to everyone. However, mainstream yoga advertising plus yoga teachers can take one step and/or many steps forward to understand yoga beyond the physical practice and to make it truly accessible to support students in a world hungry for support, connection and strength.

My sisters think I am on another planet when I say – take time out.

My sister in law said – yoga, that’s what they do in the West. Not in Papua New Guinea. You are wasting your degrees.

Sounds a bit la-di-dah — but OK. I will give it a go.

I’m not flexible.

It’s expensive to go to yoga classes.

You’re fit and you can do the splits.

What are they basing their comments on? Mainstream yoga marketing and messaging.

Something I think about as I continue on this journey of yoga teaching…and endeavor to meet my students where they are, as they are with genuine respect and care. I am here to teach yoga and also here to learn how to do better as a teacher, as a student and as a person in this journey of life.

Namaste – the divine in me honours and bow to the divine in your..

Roxy xo

2 thoughts on “Is yoga accessible?”

  1. I cannot but totally agree with you. Being “unfit” myself for mainstream Yoga, I start teaching a special series of courses for overweight people, seniors, new moms, busy people …

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