September 8, 2014

Yoga, Racism and Creating a Future of Equality

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“Check out these photos of me volunteering at an orphanage in Europe, those little white boys and girls…they were so inspiring!”

Recently Buzzfeed put out a video called “If Black People Said the Stuff White People Say”.

It uses a lighthearted way of showing how the things we say can make us look stupid. Or at the very least insensitive.

We need to have an honest conversation on how we interact with others—especially those who are different from us.

As a yoga teacher, I believe it’s our duty to shape consciousness and awareness through our practices, our language and our actions.  I notice a disconnect between being socially conscious and aware, and when we interact with people who are different from ourselves.

It has happened to all of us, myself included, and I cringe when I think about some of the things I have said, the assumptions I have made or some of the stereotypes I have perpetuated.

It time to evolve and hold ourselves to a higher standard.

One of the most important lessons that yoga has taught me is that we are all part of the same divine source.

When we truly study yoga, we learn that the connection between us and our physical bodies are not as important as our connection to our spirit, soul and our collective consciousness.  We are all one.  We are part of the same energy as the entire universe. That’s what makes us all connected and equal.

Addressing Stereotypes

Somehow, in our collective community we have created stereotypes about people who are different then the dominate culture. It is these unfair portrayals of people that lead us to make comment like: “Oh, he is blacker then you are, I don’t really see you as black, you are___ for a person of colour”.

What people say can be incredibly hurtful. They make it evident that they are unaware of how their words and actions can be culturally insensitive and continue to perpetuate exclusion. These comments, even if they are well meant, only serve to point out differences.

When we focus on differences, we deny the chance to honor our deeper connection to each other and humanity in general. We all want the same things: to have a happy life, filled with friends, loved ones and meaningful work.

We all have so much in common. Why do we have to keep commenting on skin tone or hair texture? Wouldn’t it be really fulfilling to talk about something we have in common?

The question for me is how can we become more aware that our language, actions and words could be doing more harm than good?

I am working towards the yoga of diversity and equality.

I want to raise awareness around how we exclude people from the mat. We cannot continue to perpetuate the same actions and stereotypes we have seen in the past.  Straight, privileged Caucasian people do not get to determine what black is, or how black someone is, or what characteristics and behaviors make people black, gay or transgendered.

It is time to become more culturally and socially aware. I wish for every white person to have a close friend of colour, who is gay, who is transgendered, who is physically or emotionally challenged so they can witness, first-hand, the struggles of this world for people who are different from the dominate culture.

Racism is perpetuated through seemingly innocent actions and the socially and culturally unaware. It’s because we are unaware of the power of language and perceived familiarity that we continue hurting people and we keep racism alive.

Become the change you want to see in the world.

Ask yourself about your social, yoga and business interactions with people of colour, or anyone different from you. Are they inspiring and helpful, or are they hurtful? Why do you feel entitled to treat people a certain way? What if this person were like you?  Would that change the way you treat them? Would you use the same language and make the same assumptions? What can you learn about yourself by being aware and conscious of all your actions?

Take a course in social justice. Read books, choose good new sources and examine the world around you. Seek the truth and tell it.

Use your yoga to change the world.



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Editor:  Emma Ruffin

Photo: YouTube


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