The Importance of Inclusivity
Updated: Apr 27
If you already read this reflection on the TKY FB page, you can skip it. :) So while in a coffee shop yesterday, I couldn't help but overhear a group of women, all over 60, talking about how they tried yoga but "it hurt my wrists" and "the teacher didn't pay attention to me" and "I couldn't keep up" and they didn't want to do it anymore.
I approached them a little later and talked with them about their experiences and encouraged them to continue. I explained some props and modifications for the wrist issue, and shared some tips for easing into poses and staying for a breath or two until they get used to pace and choreography.
I also told them to hold their teachers accountable. Too often, teachers go into a class with agendas, such as:
*Doing advanced poses because THEY want to do them, even though the majority of class members can't yet. *Pushing a pace or an intention of class performance instead of paying attention to the overall energy of participants. *Not recognizing when someone needs assistance and breaking away from the pack to help.
And so on.
As students, we need to make ourselves known to our teachers and ask for tips on how our particular needs can be met. No, a teacher can't design a group class strictly for one person. But a teacher should certainly understand and assist all individuals in ways that best serve them.
As students, we should embrace that certain levels of development take time. A teacher should help shine a light on stages of progress and encourage individuals to respect where they are now and how that attitude will get them to where they need to go eventually.
As students, it's always "our" practice. No, that doesn't mean we go completely against the instruction of a guided class. But good communication between students and teachers allows the person leading the class to be responsive, intuitive, and helpful. A teacher can be a great resource if, as students, we simply ask.
Too often in the Western yoga industry, there's a tendency to make aspects exclusive. I understand the stylistic and monetary reasons for this, but it doesn't make it right.
As yoga teachers, personal trainers, and coaches, we have a responsibility to make wellness inclusive. The inherent philosophy is to seek to better everyone's health--not just people who fit into a particular profile. Yes, this can pose a challenge sometimes when leading a group class, but as facilitators, there's an ethical code to follow to make sure everyone finds their way. Especially beginners or people with special needs.
And the women? Surprisingly, they didn't think I was intrusive, and said they appreciated my suggestions and will give yoga another try.
photo courtesy of contemplativestudies.org