We practice yoga to heal. We practice yoga to make ourselves stronger - physically, mentally, and spiritually. I know that I first came to the yoga mat in search of something that would make me a better person. So it can be very hard for a yoga student to process the all-too-true reality that yoga is not the perfect path we intend it to be.
We practice yoga to be resilient, to be enlightened, and to be kinder to ourselves and to others - yet we don’t always see those same practices in the larger yoga community.
The lack of diversity that I am seeing in the Ashtanga yoga community is a blatant example of the cognitive dissonance each yoga student experiences between their practice and the world we live in off of the mat. Yoga guru Wambui Njuguna-Räisänenin joins me on this episode of The Yoga Inspiration Podcast to explain more of what this cognitive dissonance looks and feels like.
Wambui found Ashtanga yoga at a low point in her life, and the practice turned out to be exactly what she needed to heal herself and her past. But there are still parts of her that she had to keep hidden. Key experiences that are unique to black women and other POC yoga students that they cannot share with the yoga community as a whole.
We discuss the issues of abuse and discrimination we are seeing in the Ashtanga community and why it’s causing many yoga students to question the yoga practice. Unfortunately, when you don’t see people that look like you in your yoga classes, it’s hard to find the kind of support you need. It can be even harder to approach a yoga teacher or come back to a second class when you don’t see yourself in the community.
When did Ashtanga yoga, a practice that is so beneficial, become so oppressive in the same breath?
These are the types of questions we need to be asking ourselves and one another. Wambui is fearless in the way she speaks and the questions she asks, and I’m excited to bring that energy to my podcast.
Wambui wants each yoga student to ask themselves - who am I learning from? What is the social location of this person? What is the socio-cultural location of the community that these people belong to? Simply being aware of your space in the yoga community can help you start the conversation and keep the conversation going for as long as we need to make a significant change. Right now, there is no space for POC in the yoga community, and it’s our job as yoga students and yoga teachers to engage with this fact and be critical about it.
“If we talked about it enough, it wouldn’t keep coming up,” Wambui says, so start talking about it. Pay attention and take what you learn on your yoga mat into the real world. Because it’s time to start fixing the structural level of this system that allows the yoga community to exist within this cognitive dissonance.
What are some of the lessons you’ve learned on your spiritual path? Please share some of what you’ve learned with me and my listeners. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org tell me - what does yoga mean to you? You could be invited to guest spot on The Yoga Inspiration Podcast with Kino MacGregor!
Connect with Wambui: wambunjuguna.com @wellnesswithwambui
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