Cheri Clampett will be teaching a Therapeutic Yoga workshop and lecturing on "Yoga, Compassion & The Dying Process" at the Accessible Yoga Conference in New York, Oct. 11-13, 2019.
Accessible Yoga is one of the cultural movements bringing awareness to the beauty of our diversity. It asks each of us as yoga teachers to answer the question: how can we do better at recognizing and celebrating diversity in our yoga, and creating an active environment of inclusion?
Our ways of teaching are usually a blend of the lineages and traditions we’ve studied under combined with our own personal experience. It can ironically be all too easy to be focused on embracing inclusivity within our students and honoring their needs, while at the same time becoming quite rigid ourselves about other styles and traditions of yoga––whether that be focusing on only one right way to teach within our preferred style or lineage, to seeing all other ways of teaching yoga as wrong.
We see this mirrored in cultural struggles and politics worldwide. On the one hand we see a progressive opening towards non-binary, non-exclusive ways of addressing and embracing all people. It is a recognition that life is nuanced and most aspects of ourselves land along a spectrum.
And yet, on the other hand, we see the contracting exclusionary energies and ideologies insisting that people and life should look and act exactly one way, their way. We must cultivate the self-awareness to recognize when this thinking is invading our yoga mat.
As leaders in accessible yoga, we must ask ourselves: where do we leap to judgement?
Like so many aspects of inclusion, one of the keys is in the language. Do you find yourself saying “You should never” or “You should always"? There are so many variations in students and environments that the most effective and appropriate next step or action for a yoga teacher is most often totally specific to the moment, especially for any sort of inclusive practice that is meant to be adapted to the needs of the individual.
So we must also ask: what is our true emotional driver when we resort to hard-line binary statements? Using politics as a touchstone, where we see fear, the desire to be right, and the desire to be the authority figure at the front of our consciousness (at least in the US), our self-awareness must be our guard against letting those qualities slip into our yoga teaching.
Even better, we can recognize that those fears and desires spring from a reactive place, and that the best way to avoid them is to shift the center of our practice to the heart. To keep returning to yoga as union. To accept the joy of not knowing, while opening to all that is possible in any given moment.
When we transmit that to our students, they know and feel that they too are included in the possibility of the moment. When we embrace yoga as an evolving practice, with a great many unique expressions, our students implicitly get the message that yoga can evolve with them and nurture their own unique personal expression.
It’s more important than ever to keep an open mind and an open heart, especially in our yoga, for ourselves, our students, and the world.
Cheri Clampett, C-IAYT, ERYT-500, is co-author of the Therapeutic Yoga Kit and Founder and Director of the Therapeutic Yoga Training Program. She is a certified yoga therapist with over 25 years of teaching experience and has presented Therapeutic Yoga at Beth Israel Medical Center and the Langone Medical Center at NYU. Cheri started the yoga program at the Ridley-Tree Cancer Center, Santa Barbara, California, in 1999, where she continues to teach weekly classes for patients and staff. She is passionate about bringing the benefits of yoga to those recovering from or living with injury or illness. For more information www.therapeuticyoga.com. www.therapeuticyogatraining.com
This post was edited by Patrice Priya Wagner, co-editor of Accessible Yoga blog and member of the Board of Directors.
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