Exclusivity in Yoga is a Problem

May 2, 2019 Opinion, Yoga Tips

When you think about yoga, who do you imagine going to or teaching a yoga class?

I started my yoga journey in Shanghai, China, which I am grateful for. Now, I’m living in Colorado, and feel a bit frustrated at what I see here and what I’ve experienced.

There doesn’t seem to be much diversity when it comes to the yoga industry, especially in the United States. When you go to a yoga studio, for the most part, both the teacher and students are homogeneous. This creates a barrier to entry for a lot of other talented teachers and curious students.

Accesibility

I believe that yoga should be accessible for everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, age, income, or ability. There have been so many times when I have heard people tell me, “I can’t do yoga because…” or “I’m afraid to go to a yoga class because…”, etc. This is simply misinformation.

I always say that the door is wide open, if you want to do yoga, just do it. But, human nature always gets in the way, and people are gullible to their own self-defeating beliefs. And unfortunately, the way that yoga is marketed perpetuates and strengthens these beliefs.

Marketing

I spend a lot of time on Instagram and the majority of the most well-known yoga instructors/practitioners are thin, able-bodied, white women. Yes, there a lot of amazing yoga instructors/practitioners who do not fit this stereotype, but you will rarely see them in the top posts. Although, I’d like to believe that this trend is changing.

Also, if you do a search for ‘Yoga Journal Covers’, you will see a very small amount of diversity. Most of the covers fit the stereotype.


My point is, just because this is all you see, and seeing people of color, different bodies, or genders used as a novelty, doesn’t mean it has to be this way. If you really want to practice yoga, there are all forms of yoga available to you. You do not have to be a certain race, size, or be able to do gymnastics.

At the end of the day, marketing is about making money, and the current stereotype is what makes companies money, it is not indicative of what yoga is – it is not the reality.

Income

Yoga has become an industry that makes billions of dollars. The truth is that we live in a capitalistic society and everyone has to eat. A lot of yoga studios are quite expensive, which can make it a barrier to entry for a lot of people but, there are options available depending on your area.

Option 1: Yoga Studios

If you want to go to a yoga studio, it can be quite expensive depending on the studio. Some studios offer donation-based classes or a work-trade. This can make it much more affordable.

Option 2: Online Lessons

There are two types of online lessons, paid packages (ex. 30 day challenges), and free YouTube lessons. Both are good choices if you can find a good teacher. Obviously, the quality of the lessons may be higher with a paid package, but there are some high quality teachers on YouTube offering free classes online.

Option 3: Free Yoga Classes

Yes, this exists. Companies like Lululemon and Athleta sometimes host free yoga classes available to the public. Check if you have one in your area. Also, sometimes there are events like free yoga in the park, and a lot of studios offer one week free trial memberships.

Expensive Yoga Clothes and Equipment

Yoga clothes and equipment can become extremely expensive if you are only interested in higher-end luxury goods. In most top-rated Instagram posts or magazine covers, they are wearing designer labels and using designer goods. These are just pictures. Unfortunately, it is these types of pictures and marketing which make people feel as if they are not good enough and do not fit into the mold.

You have to remember that you don’t need the most expensive brand to practice yoga. That is not what yoga is about. As long as you are wearing comfortable, breathable clothes, that’s all you need.

As for mats, this becomes a bit more important because if you are doing yoga postures, you want to be able to maintain your form. There are various types of mats available at different price points and you don’t need to buy the most expensive one. If you are interested in which mat would be suitable for you, check out The Yoga Mat Maven. It’s a side project of mine where I compare all the yoga mats, towels, and blocks I’ve ever had a chance to try.

Lastly, it’s not just yoga clothes and yoga mats. Yoga equipment has become a whole industry with blocks, straps, wheels, socks, special acupuncture mats, sprays, towels, pillows, bolsters, and so on. Some things will make it easier for you to practice yoga (such as blocks), and some things are unnecessary. And, other things, if you practice at home, you can find substitutes.

Don’t let anything stop you from practicing.

Yes, exclusivity and the way yoga is marketed in the United States is a problem, but that doesn’t mean you should give up before you even try. There are plenty of other options and alternatives, but you have to do your research, and not let the current attitude keep you away from something that could be fulfilling to your life.

Anyhow, this is just my opinion, and I’m open to hearing your opinions, as well! Do you think there is exclusivity in yoga? What’s your experience?

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