Thursday, March 26, 2020

Corona Coping: Collective Care to Help Unemployed Yoga Teachers

Kerri Kelly and Jivana Heyman

by Patrice Priya Wagner

Last week in an online interview, I listened to Jivana Heyman, Accessible Yoga's Executive Director, speak with Kerri Kelly, yoga teacher and "organizer and advocate for what yoga should look like" (her words). Kelly is the founder of CTZNWELL, an emerging movement to mobilize people into a powerful force for wellbeing for all. She spent seven years as Executive Director of the non-profit Off the Mat, Into the World and is currently on faculty. In response to Jivana's varied questions, Kelly replied with some answers that I had expected and others that caught me by surprise. I found the part of the discussion on political organizing in the yoga community very informative and decided to briefly summarize it for you today.

Kelly spoke about the importance of community care, especially within marginalized groups, and the act of showing up for the needs of others. She described ways to organize a neighborhood block, so everyone has necessities, such as groceries, during a challenging time like the one we're experiencing. Jivana followed with the question, "What would that look like in the yoga community?"

Kelly replied, "What does it look like to look beyond our individual circumstances to fight for policies that look out for others?" My ears perked up, knowing that most yoga teachers don't have an institutional safety net but work as contractors—and are likely not working at all right now due to studios closing to avoid spreading the novel coronavirus.

I'm aware that Reclamation Ventures has a grant program that Nicole Cardoza put in place that provides funds to assist instructors in need of support. But there aren't many organizations doing this important work.

Kelly continued, "There is an opportunity for us to aggregate the very abundant resource that is this community. We have very wealthy wellness brands worth $4.7 trillion globally." Jivana added "most of which is made off the backs of yoga teachers."

According to Kelly, we need to ask the corporations to contribute to a fund that fills the gap for contract yoga employees who are suffering now because there is no safety net. "That would be very effective and powerful thing for us to do as a yoga community."

She asked, "How are these corporations taking care of their people? Is there paid leave? What are their policies?"

I wondered if the yoga community would be able to ask corporations to step in and supplement the income for unemployed yoga teachers. We aren't politically organized in a way that would make this easy to do, but perhaps we can get organized—and make for one very positive outcome of the COVID-19 world experience.

If you're interested in finding out more on how to organize politically, you can hear Kelly's ideas in depth on the full interview.

Patrice Priya Wagner, RYT 500, C-IAYT, teaches yoga to people with disabilities and offers meditation workshops in Oakland, California, and has been published in New Mobility Magazine, Works and Conversations, Artweek, and Kitchen Sink. She is Managing Editor of the Accessible Yoga Blog and a founding member of the Accessible Yoga Board of Directors.   

This post was edited by Nina Zolotow, Editor in Chief of the Accessible Yoga blog and co-author of Yoga for Healthy Aging: A Guide to Lifelong Well-Being.

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