Many in the yoga community have been responding on social media, posting news stories and sharing educational resources in support of the #Blacklivesmatter movement.
As I thought about how to support the movement, I realised that I am entirely unqualified to know what action to take. I recognised that my opinions on this subject are less important than those of people with lived experience of racial discrimination. So I decided to listen. I followed the news, social media and the discussions my friends and colleagues of colour were having. I asked for resources that would help me understand how to be an ally.
What I’ve learned is this.
From understanding to action
First up, I haven’t understood the issues at all. I never will, because I have never been treated unfairly because of the colour of my skin. But the understanding I have so far has moved me to take action to make myself and Adore Yoga a better ally to people of colour in Australia and beyond. Here’s what we’re doing:
Redeveloping our Diversity module
Adore Yoga teaches a module in diversity as part of the Graduate Certificate in Yoga Therapy. There are few mentions of Aboriginal Australians in this module. There is no discussion of the injustices and trauma experienced by many people of colour in this country. I will be guided by experts in diversity (ie. not other white yoga teachers) to redevelop this module to amplify the voices and experiences of Aboriginal Australian and other Australians of colour. I will support the education of the next generation of yoga therapists on the diversity issues that will help them become better allies of people of colour.
Unconscious bias training
By and large, yoga teachers are kind, caring people. I don’t know any who would consider themselves racist. But unconscious bias is real and none of us are immune to the social stereotypes we are exposed to every day. I am committed to extending the unconscious bias training module we deliver as part of the Graduate Certificate in Yoga Therapy to all our yoga and meditation training programs. In doing so, I intend to encourage ‘swadhyaya’, asking our students to study their own unconscious beliefs and consider the implications they have for people of colour. Furthermore, all Adore Yoga teachers and faculty will be asked to undertake this training.
Acknowledgment of Country
At Adore Yoga, we don’t acknowledge the traditional owners of the land we live and work on enough. I commit to acknowledging traditional owners at the start of all our trainings and programs, honouring Indigenous people and recognising the dispossession they have experienced.
Considering health equity
Adore Yoga undertakes pro-bono work and fundraising for non-profit projects every year. What we haven’t done is pay attention to issues of race and health equity. The health outcomes of Indigenous Australians, refugees and other people of colour in this country are consistently lower than those of other Australians. I commit to actively sourcing opportunities to contribute the time, skills and resources at Adore Yoga to supporting those communities who are most disadvantaged in terms of health and well-being.
I will actively seek to represent the diversity of Australian culture by creating a welcoming environment for students of colour, building a teaching faculty that offers diverse perspectives and representing yogis of all races in the imagery we use in our communications. I will use our communications channels to amplify the voices and experiences of yogis of colour.
Acknowledging my black and brown teachers
My yoga teachers have, for the most part, been teachers of colour. And yet I have been ‘colour blind’ in as much as I’ve failed to recognise and acknowledge that any competence I have in yoga is due to the wisdom and patience of those teachers. In an industry that is overwhelmingly represented by white people in the 21st century, that’s a big oversight. I’m sorry. I acknowledge and thank the teachers of colour at whose feet I have sat and learned - TKV and Menaka Desikachar, AG and Ganesh Mohan, Saraswathi Vasudevan, Nikki Myers, Dr Abilash, Dr NC. I have been schooled by many others online and through their publications - thanks to you all.
Understand white privilege, and how you benefit from it if you’re white.
Donate to the legal costs of the families and supporters of Aboriginal people who have died in police custody:
Find out what traditional country you’re on: https://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/article/2017/01/26/do-you-know-what-aboriginal-land-youre-today-1?fbclid=IwAR3e-nYc4ouRRVK0KBDw13Jt_l0motejjRdHmmYJYOZJnNfyde3ofQSuDU4
Learn how to write a meaningful Acknowledgment of Country: https://www.abc.net.au/life/why-acknowledgement-of-country-is-important-and-how-to-give-one/11881902
Donate to First Peoples Disability Network https://fpdn.org.au/donate/
10 documentaries about race: https://www.docplay.com/articles/10-documentaries-to-watch-about-race-instead-of-asking-a-person-of-colour-to-explain-things-for-you/?fbclid=IwAR10quNf-S3jCp8CEWrzh46IqPyaKXYVt5apcg_FTjqPPctuefDLBDSkW7s
Anti racism resources - follow, support, donate: https://www.vwt.org.au/anti-racism-resources-from-australia-and-beyond/?fbclid=IwAR0i-bRGsIaPVAMddVTtUC2iN6flv9PULLC3SbI-CGlyjNUP8AlfqDGHuHM
Nikola Ellis is the founder of Adore Yoga, yoga therapist, counsellor and teacher trainer. She conducts regular trainings that help people of all ages, shapes and abilities enjoy the benefits of yoga and meditation, including Meditation Facilitator Certificate Trainings; Level 1 200hr Teacher Training and Post Graduate Yoga Teacher Training in Mental Health, Adaptive Asana and the Foundations of Yoga Therapy and a highly regarded professional 650hr Graduate Certificate of Yoga Therapy.