I’ve been having some interesting conversations lately about making yoga more inclusive and accessible – about community yoga …
I know what I mean by community yoga. It’s yoga in the community. It’s local, accessible, affordable. Inclusive rather than exclusive. Bottom-up rather than top-down. Mindful movement for ordinary people. It’s me teaching in hospitals and community hubs and groups like neurodiverse people.
What is community yoga?
But it seems community yoga has a lot of different meanings for other people too. For Danny Lidyard in Manchester it’s running yoga classes in the less well-off side of town so that local people can get there. For Rachel Wilkinson’s Community Yoga Collective in Dorset it’s about funding and enabling people to do yoga from communities of people such as trauma survivors. For a bunch of people in Colorado it’s apparently about building a network of yoga teachers with similar values. For a new UK body it’s bringing community-based yoga studios and teachers together. For Ama Su Evans in London it’s about opening up yoga to Black British and other underrepresented communities.
But, no matter how approaches and definitions differ, the people I’ve spoken to all agreed on one thing. Community yoga is very different to the way yoga is mainly taught and accessed at the moment. For many people the current standard studio model isn’t working as well as it could in many ways. Lovely though the typical yoga studios are, they might be off-putting or inaccessible for some potential students. (Studios also throw up challenges for teachers and owners as well. But that’s a different blog post!)
Yoga needs to be more accessible
It seems there might be a bit of a growing feeling that yoga needs to be more accessible and inclusive. I attended the US Accessible Yoga Conference in September and with the advent of #BlackLivesMatter #MeToo and Sir David Marmot’s concerns over how Covid affects the less advantaged of our society it’s a timely issue.
I’m proud to be playing my own little part in growing community yoga. For me, it’s trying to bring yoga to people and places it currently wouldn’t normally be. I’m pleased my Bikebuddha Yoga free class for East Leeds residents Compton Centre Yoga has funding to go online from January and I’m talking about doing yoga with homeless people in the north east (social distancing allowing).
Look to the future
It’s true, no one knows what the future yoga world will look like after months of closed doors, struggling incomes and smaller, distanced classes. But I’m hopeful there will still be opportunities to spread the community yoga message – in all it’s different meanings.