Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Yoga Training That Attracts Mainly People of Color Was Cancelled

Teacher Training Graduates at Sacred Chill West, Atlanta, Georgia

Recently, I read about Octavia Raheem's turmoil over cancelling an upcoming yoga teacher training at the Atlanta studio that she co-owns, and I was moved by her words. Octavia, like many other studio owners during these challenging pandemic times, is struggling to keep her yoga space alive so it can continue to do the important work it was set up to do. At Sacred Chill West, the students who blossom into teachers as a result of trainings are primarily people of color—a marginalized group that I, and many others, want to see represented in greater numbers in the yoga community. Here are Octavia's words.
Patrice Priya Wagner, Managing Editor

by Octavia Raheem

Last week, Meryl Bryant Arnett and I made the challenging decision to cancel our Fall 2020-2021 Yoga and Meditation 200 Hour Teacher Training at Sacred Chill West. ⁠In the past, our teachers-in-training have ranged in age from twenty-four to sixty-four and reflected the shape and size of humanity, which is not singular. They revealed the spectrum of shades, colors, identities, and came from a variety of professional fields ranging from academia to freelance photographer to real estate broker to retiree to lawyer to therapist to investment banker to life coach to make-up artist.⁠

⁠The thread that connects everyone in our Yoga Teacher Training course is that we are concerned about alignment as much as access to the teachings, business ownership, and practice. We care about pranayama well as understanding power and privilege. We want to learn yoga philosophy and connect it to real people. We are interested in learning to "read" equanimity in the body and speak for equality in the heart of humanity. We are curious about honoring boundaries and building bridges. Rooted in Restorative Yoga, meditation, Yin, and Vinyasa, our training values stillness as much as movement.

There were ongoing COVID-19 concerns, lingering uncertainties that made it challenging to plan as far ahead as November, challenging to fundraise and secure adequate support for financial assistance for those who may be in need. There were so many reasons that we decided to cancel our training this year.

In the process of making the decision, my stomach literally burned with fear and grief. What happens next? Are we disappointing our community? We could do it online ... But is that what we want to do? Is that what we need to do? Why not just wait and see versus make a decision now? What’s the function, role, and purpose of a 
200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training going forward?

But we knew many of the answers before we asked the questions.
 Once we decided to honor that knowing, we felt settled and clear. We also knew it would be a while before we led another 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training.⁠

Empty places on our once robust and full calendar are scary when we are building community and own a small business. But ignoring the voice that whispered, and urged us to leave space? Well, not listening to that inner voice is far more consequential than space on my calendar.

And now the practice of yoga begins. Yoga Sutra 1.1⁠.

I have said all along that this is the moment we’ve been practicing for.⁠

We must anchor down into our own feet and be incredibly strong—Tadasana/Mountain Pose.⁠

We must kneel at the altar of right now and surrender the future we’d planned to an ancient, new, and unfolding tomorrow—Balasana/Child’s Pose.⁠

Here we are dancing in the dark toward a light within—Vinyasa.⁠ ⁠

Here I am, holding onto the essence of my practice as a teacher of yoga by being a student of the path first, and honoring the still small voice within me despite the world's ceaseless chatter.⁠

I am making an offering to my future, by letting go of/by releasing something beloved.

I trust that the thirty-three yoga teachers that we’ve trained in the last two years will multiply this carefully gathered and precious offering.⁠

May this offering be fully received.⁠

Within the space created by letting go,

may I/we flourish, expand, and grow.

 Octavia Raheem is co-owner of Sacred Chill West Yoga and Meditation Studio in Atlanta, Georgia. She has received national attention for her work training yoga teachers and diversifying the yoga and wellness industry. Her studio has been featured on CNN, WXIA, and in Atlanta Magazine.

Octavia is a yoga teacher with fourteen years of experience and nearly 10,000 hours of leading yoga classes, immersions, and trainings in studio, corporate, and private settings. In September 2019, she was named one of four Yoga and Wellness luminaries who have transformed yoga in Atlanta by Natural Awakening Magazine. Octavia is also the author of the upcoming book, Gather. In Gather she invites her readers into a quiet contemplative place of inquiry, reflection, and deeper self-love.

She combines her passion for education, writing, yoga, and community in her job as Instructor (previously Co-Director) at the Yoga, Literature, and Art Camp for Teenage Girls at Spelman College Museum of Fine Art. Octavia is a proud wife and mother who is committed to maintaining a sense of peace, harmony, and wellbeing for herself, family, and community by practicing and sharing tools anchored in yoga, writing, the power of rest, and Yoga Nidra.

This post was edited by Patrice Priya Wagner, Managing Editor of Accessible Yoga blog and member of the Board of Directors.

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