I received an email from a student recently asking for help looking for yoga classes for her parents who live out of state. She was looking for someone who would be good with aging folks and basic instruction. She was hoping to gift her parents with some yoga that would be a good fit – her parents had limited mobility – her mom has had 2 knee replacements and is not currently active.
I offered to help with the search and started looking online for yoga studios or classes in the town where her parents lived. As the search results popped up, I started to get a sinking feeling. Here were the words that I saw: Hot, Power, Vinyasa, Fitness, Tone, Core. These were not classes for my student’s aging mother with limited mobility and two bionic knees.
I have to say, the websites I came across made me unreasonably angry. It honestly doesn’t matter what city her parents live in – this is the story if you search yoga in almost any city across the US. Not to say that there aren’t teachers or studios that focus on yoga that is accessible for a variety of bodies, it’s just that it seems to be the exception, not the rule. Instead, the yoga industry as a whole leans toward marketing that is geared toward young, fit, flexible, thin and let’s face it, white.
Where are the classes for normal people? People with a new knee or a stiff shoulder, or over 60, or a rounder body or a chronic illness? You know, your average human being dealing with the normal things that happen to a body over time?
That is who we aim to serve at Source Yoga. We have a variety of classes with different paces and focuses, but we really do consciously strive to make the yoga we are offering accessible to everyday people. I have my student that limps in every Friday morning with a cane because of nerve issues related to Lyme disease. She comes in with a smile beaming from her face, greeting the community of friends she has made at her weekly yoga classes. The student who while waiting for a knee replacement, came to class anyway and modified what she couldn’t do, sometimes sitting in a chair or holding onto the wall. Her friends in yoga class save her spot for her, help her put away her props at the end of class. There was the long-time student I worked privately with as she was dying of cancer, and we would get on the floor and move gently and breathe and meditate. She said she felt like yoga is magic. Any of these students might look at your everyday yoga studio website and say to themselves, “I don’t belong there.”
As an aside, let me be clear that I think Tacoma is ahead of the game. There are so many studios that are working to be consciously inclusive of any type of body. You have a lot of choice here in this little pocket that is the Tacoma yoga world, with high quality teachers and thoughtful studio owners doing their best to make conscious and inclusive choices. Each studio offers something a little different, their unique voice, and you get to choose what community speaks to you. I am always grateful and don’t take for granted when you choose to make Source your yoga home.
I was thinking about what got me so fired up about the search I did for my student’s parents, and I think it’s this: they are the perfect people to benefit from yoga. And if they were looking on their own, without my trained eye to look for the best fit, they either might never show up to a yoga studio because they are intimidated, or they might show up, be overwhelmed by a class that is too fast, too hot, too vigorous, and make the decision that yoga is not for them.
Their story has a happy ending though – after some digging (not on the first page of search results!) I came across a teacher in their town that works with a variety of students with different bodies, ages, and conditions. My student reached out to this teacher and was pleased to find she was a perfect fit for her parents – she is experienced and comfortable teaching older students with a variety of physical limitations. Her oldest student is 96. It reminded me that yoga really can be a lifetime practice.
As we move into the New Year and a new decade, and the 15th year of Source Yoga’s existence, you can count on us to continue to offer yoga for regular people and to expand our offerings to include yoga for those with a variety of mobility issues. I am continuing to work on how to better reflect the accessibility of our yoga – so anyone could look at our website, our flyers, walk in to our classes, and say “I see myself here. This is a place where I could belong.”
I hope you feel that way when you walk in the door at Source Yoga. Because no matter who you are, with the body that you have, the mind and heart that you have, you belong.
Erin Joosse, Studio Director
PS: Join us in slowing down and taking time for yourself this month with a few offerings to counter the rush of the holidays.
- Winter Solstice Yoga and Meditation with Live Music: with Melissa Paz and Lance Israel
- Family Solstice Event and Sound Bath with Julia Nathe and Jeserun Stockhill
- Christmas Evening Restorative Yoga and Reiki to Nourish Within with Shari Larson and Lori Ferry
- Press Reset: A New Year’s Eve Chakra Balancing Workshop with Kelly Valenzuela