Monday, June 28, 2021

Update About Accessible Yoga's Blog

Silhouette of person's hands forming heart, 
Photo by Gala Mayur

Accessible Yoga's blog will be taking a break in posting articles the first week of July while I take a vacation.

An important piece of news for subscribers:

Starting July 1, you will need to sign up 
here to continue receiving blog posts in your email box---the free subscription program we've been using is no longer available to us.

While I'm on a break you can look at old posts from the blog that you might have missed by clicking 
here or going to:

See you soon!

----Priya, Editor

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Toward a Queer Yoga

Gay Pride flag, updated design by Daniel Quasar

This is an excerpt from the upcoming book:
Yoga Revolution: Building a Practice of Courage and Compassion
2021 Shambhala Publications, Inc.

by Jivana Heyman

We each have a different role to play in creating an equitable and just world. The challenge is getting clear about our role, and standing shoulder to shoulder with others who are doing their own work. In this way, we are working separately, but together, toward liberation. This brings to mind the image of the rainbow, the symbol of the queer community, which I feel so blessed to be a part of. Our community is constantly teaching the world how to embrace differences, how to love, and how to be human on a spectrum of gender. My personal struggles as a cisgender queer white middle-aged Jewish man have been mild compared to what so many queer people endure for living their truth. Some are emotionally and physically tortured and even killed.

Gay sex was illegal in the United States when I came out of the closet in 1984 and, shockingly, it’s still illegal in many countries and punishable by death in eleven countries.[i] In the United States, there are major inequities within the queer community. In particular, trans women of color have an incredibly high murder rate that goes mostly unnoticed and unchecked by society.[ii] Trans women of color started the modern gay rights movement and are often on the cutting edge of social change, yet they don’t often benefit from these movements because of systemic racism and transphobia.[iii] The Stonewall riots, which were the spark that led to the modern gay rights movement, were led by Marsha P. Johnson and other trans women of color.[iv]

Stonewall is a good example of rioting, and protest in general, as a force for positive change. The queer community had been oppressed for so long and denied basic human rights. Stonewall was an opportunity to speak up against an oppressive system that kept us as not only second-class citizens, but complete outcasts. Similarly, I’ve seen some confusion within the yoga community about the ethics of protesting during the Black Lives Matter movement, and I think the issue is one of basic human rights. If the system that you’re living in doesn’t respect your basic human rights, then protesting that system is ethical. In other words, supporting oppressive systems is unethical, and it’s our job as yoga practitioners to speak up against suffering wherever we see it. That’s the heart of ahimsa, non-harm.

I bow to the queer leaders who are out there on the edge being themselves and challenging norms. I bow to our siblings lost to AIDS and celebrate the fact that as outsiders we can shine a bright beam of light on culture in a way that forces all of us to not look away. Although I feel protective of the queer community, I also know there is so much that we can teach the world. A queer sensibility is so often at the forefront of cultural transformation and renewal. The renewal I’m seeking is an embodied spirituality that catalyzes concrete change. I pray that this book helps lead to a small shift in our shared consciousness toward a place of acceptance, openness, and positive action.

I’m hoping to share the gift of the challenges I’ve faced. My experience as a queer person has made me stronger, and more capable of love and compassion—because I know what it’s like to not be loved and to not receive compassion. This is the hidden power of the oppressed: the ability to free ourselves and others. We’ve seen this time and time again through-out history: Black trans women leading the gay rights movement, Black people showing us what justice actually looks like through Black Lives Matter. According to Paulo Freire, in his groundbreaking work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed:

This, then, is the great humanistic and historical task of the oppressed: to liberate themselves and their oppressors as well. The oppressors, who oppress, exploit, and rape by virtue of their power, cannot find in this power the strength to liberate either the oppressed or themselves. Only power that springs from the weakness of the oppressed will be sufficiently strong to free both.[v]

With this I mind, I hope to highlight the gifts of our shared suffering and consider how we can use that suffering to free ourselves and others. With this possibility in mind, I shine a light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, but this isn’t Mr. Iyengar’s light on the Sutras. This is a queer rainbow of sparkling light shining from the twenty-first century. What I see in the Sutras is a pathway for personal liberation that emphasizes a loving, engaged, and extremely discerning mind. This is different from the traditional story we hear in the Sutras that feels more like the sad tale of a lonely soul searching for its own absolution.

I also bow to the wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita, the song of God, and listen to the story of Arjuna, a person torn apart by the challenges of life. The Gita shows us how to transform our contemplative practice into action through service—action born from love. Krishna teaches us how our practice makes the mind clear so that we know how to act for the highest good. This is what the Gita calls “skill in action,” the ultimate goal of yoga. This is also the title of the groundbreaking book by Michelle Cassandra Johnson,[vi] who approaches the idea of applying these ancient teachings to address the contemporary issue of racism and white supremacy. She explains:

I do not see my practice of yoga as separate from the work I do to create a just world. They are one and the same to me. The way I practice and what I choose to center as the practice of yoga is focused on how we create a just world. Yoga is about selfless service, devotion, and knowledge. These paths are important keys to us realizing a world in which we all can be free. My practice of meditation and movement as well as the study of the Bhagavad Gita provide emotional and spiritual sustenance to me. This nourishment from spiritual practice allows me to fully see with clarity the ways in which injustice persists on our planet. Being spiritually fed pushes me to strive to do everything I do in my practice off of my cushion or mat in service to the collective good and our liberation.

[i] Human Dignity Trust website, “Map of Countries That Criminalize LGBT People,”
[ii] Madeleine Carlisle, “Two Black Trans Women Were Killed in the U.S. in the Past Week as Trump Revokes Discrimination Protections for Trans People,” Time, June 13, 2020.
[iii] Isabella Grullon Paz and Maggie Astor, “Black Trans Women Seek More Space in the Movement They Helped Start,” New York Times, June 27, 2020.
[iv] David Oliver and Rasha Ali, “Why We Owe Pride to Black Transgender Women Who Threw Bricks at Cops,” USA Today, June 24, 2019.
[v] Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (London: Penguin Classics, 1993), 18.
[vi] Johnson, Michelle Cassandra, Skill in Action: Radicalizing Your Yoga Practice to Create a Just World (self-published 2017).

You can pre-order Yoga Revolution here.

Jivana Heyman
, C-IAYT, E-RYT500, is the founder and director of the Accessible Yoga Association, an international non-profit organization dedicated to increasing access to the yoga teachings. Accessible Yoga offers Conferences, Community Forums, and a popular Ambassador program. He’s the co-founder of the Accessible Yoga Training School, and the author of Accessible Yoga: Poses and Practices for Every Body (Shambhala Publications), as well as the forthcoming book, Yoga Revolution: Building a Practice of Courage & Compassion (Nov. 2021). More info at

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

° FOLLOW Accessible Yoga on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
° REGISTER here for our next conference.
° DONATE here to help us bring yoga to people who don't have access or have been underserved, such as people with disabilities, chronic illnesses, children with special needs, and anyone who doesn't feel comfortable in a regular yoga class.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

What To Do When You Cause Harm

Woman in pink sweater on grey couch
Photo by Renee' Thompson
by Jasmine Allen

Yoga classes are meant to be spaces where people are able to deepen the connection between their mind, body, and spirit. Unfortunately, not all yoga classes are safe spaces. Teachers and students impact the experience of others and have the power to cause harm with their words, actions, and inaction. Using offensive language, touching without consent, not being trauma-informed, and not being accessible are some of the ways harm is caused in yoga spaces. We live in a world where we are all impacted by systems of oppression whether we are the ones being oppressed or the ones benefiting from the oppression. We internalize beliefs about “others” and it impacts the way we think and behave. Whether harm is caused intentionally or unintentionally, providing a repair is essential in creating spaces that are truly inclusive and accessible. Fortunately, repair is possible and an important part of relationship building and healing.

Here are five suggestions for ways to make a relational repair once you’ve caused harm.

1. Take accountability and apologize

For people in oppressed groups, their oppression and experiences are often undermined, dismissed, or flat out ignored. If someone lets you know that they were offended, triggered, or hurt by something you said or did, the worst thing you can do is get defensive and try to argue against their experience. When someone has been offended, triggered, or harmed they don’t feel safe with you in that moment. They have fallen out of attunement with you. In order for them to be able to safely reengage, there must be a repair. Ironically, a common reaction when someone is informed that they have caused harm is to get defensive. They say things like, “No one else ever reacts like that when I say that.” “I have gay friends. I can’t be homophobic.” or “I don’t have a racist bone in my body.” As trauma expert, Dr. Bruce Perry says, “Well, the issue isn’t your bones. It’s your brain.” Becoming defensive does not help us unlearn dangerous beliefs or help others feel safe in our presence. Arguing against someone’s feelings when you’ve caused them harm is essentially telling them, “What you are feeling is wrong!” A better alternative is to take accountability and apologize.

Understand that your intention is not what is important at that moment. What is absolutely paramount is that, like it or not, you have caused harm. The practice of ahimsa in yoga does not just mean the absence of harm but actively working against causing harm. So when someone brings it to your attention that you have caused harm, take accountability for it and apologize. Lastly, remember that an effective apology never has the word “if” in it.

2. Extend gratitude

Finding out that you have offended or harmed someone is not easy but it’s also not easy for the person letting you know that what you did was hurtful. It takes a lot of courage to tell someone that they’re being harmful, especially when you are the one being harmed. Thank the person for informing you that what you’ve done or said was wrong. They have shared with you a wonderful opportunity to learn and grow. Know that it is not on the oppressed to educate the privileged. If the way you offended them was news to you, it’s probably because you sit in a place of privilege where you don’t have to be informed in order to survive. Even if the information is coming from someone who sits in a place of privilege like you but just has done the work to educate themselves to be an ally, thank them for letting you know what you’ve done so you can grow too.

3. Share your plan for changed behavior

While an apology is a great first step and is often necessary to even keep the conversation going, it’s not enough on its own. An apology means nothing without changed behavior. As stated before, being informed that what you did was offensive or harmful is an opportunity. Use this opportunity to share how you plan on changing your behavior. Perhaps, you’re never going to use that term again. Maybe you know what else you can do or say instead. Maybe you don’t know what to do but plan on getting more information so that it won’t happen again. Whatever it is, let them know your plan to move forward and do better. Remember that the burden to create that change is on the people in positions of privilege, which in this case would be you.

4. Find the appropriate space for your feelings

As humans, our nature isn’t to cause others harm and when we do, it can trigger feelings of shame, fear, sadness, or embarrassment and of course activate our own stress response. You are not expected to negate those feelings but placing the responsibility of processing those feelings on the person/people you offended is unfair and unproductive. Too often when someone has offended someone else, they are overcome with guilt and begin expressing themselves so much that the person they offended feels inclined to comfort them. Know that it’s okay to step away or step back after you have acknowledged your wrongdoing and apologized, and share your plan to change your behavior. Find a space and time to process how you are feeling. Consider speaking to a therapist who is well versed on the topic or someone within your group of privilege who has done the work to become an ally to the group that you offended or harmed. If you don’t have someone in your network like that, start to do some research and expand your circle. There are groups of people actively working to unlearn negative beliefs about “others.”

I’ve created an example repair that combines steps one through four.

"I am so sorry for my choice of words (or actions). It was inappropriate and thoughtless. I apologize for causing you pain and disrupting this space. Thank you for letting me know that what I did was wrong. I recognize that you didn’t have to do that and I appreciate you for enlightening me so that I can be better. Moving forward, I will never use that language again because I understand that it is offensive and harmful. I am going to do some work to educate myself so that I can fully understand the history behind it and its impact today. I’m really embarrassed by this whole situation so I’m going to take some time to be silent but I will continue to listen if anyone has anything they’d like to share.”

Depending on the context, you will need to make tweaks and every repair does not have to look exactly like this. The point is taking accountability, apologizing, extending gratitude, and committing to rectification.

5. Do the work to educate yourself

Finally, be intentional about getting informed and making better choices. Take this experience and give it meaning. Let it be the moment that you started investing in learning about the experiences of others who don’t look like you or have access to resources in the way you do. Become proactive about learning what real change looks like. Be intentional about where you are spending your dollars and attention. Oftentimes, when people set out to do this work of acknowledging their privilege they will only tolerate it coming from certain people. Are you only willing to listen to conversations about race when it’s coming from Jada Pinkett-Smith on the Red Table or do you give that same level of reverence to your neighbors or a stranger at the store? Do you only care about body positivity when you see Jessamyn Stanley on the cover of Yoga Journal or do you think about the ways you internalize fatphobia even in your view of your own body? Remember that people are not a monolith and there are often nuanced perspectives and complicated histories to understand.

Fortunately, there are many experts doing work to help educate people in privilege. Be intentional about researching experts and investing in their work. There are books, websites, workshops, articles, and research available at your disposal. Use your privilege to get access to information that will help you become an ally and truly practice ahimsa. By taking accountability, extending gratitude, sharing a plan for better action, finding an appropriate space for your feelings, and taking intentional steps we can create the environment for authentic healing and restoration.

Jasmine Allen
is a trauma-informed yoga instructor and trainer, writer, and business owner. She teaches hundreds of students virtually three times a week in her yoga program, Abundance with Jasmine Allen and sells cork yoga mats and props through her online boutique, With Jasmine Allen. She provides trauma-informed trainings and workshops for businesses, organizations, small groups, and individuals. Her articles on trauma-informed yoga have been featured in Yoga International and XONecole. Jasmine holds a 200hr yoga teacher certification and 40hr trauma-informed yoga teacher certification from Yogaworks. Jasmine is also trained in accessible yoga. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from Temple University and Master's Degree in Education Policy from Columbia University.

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

° FOLLOW Accessible Yoga on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

° REGISTER here for our next conference.

° DONATE here to help us bring yoga to people who don't have access or have been underserved, such as people with disabilities, chronic illnesses, children with special needs, and anyone who doesn't feel comfortable in a regular yoga class.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

We’re All Addicted to Something

Blurry double image half blue, half red of man looking down

Elaine Jackson

Drugs and alcohol are not my problem, reality is my problem, drugs and alcohol are my solution. — Russell Brand

A sweet friend of mine recently lost his mother to lung cancer. We were talking one day about how his grief was playing out, and he described being angry that she had been a heavy smoker despite knowing all the risks and potential outcomes of the behavior. He said something like this: “I can’t believe her addiction was more powerful than her brain.” In response I asked him to give me his cellphone for the day. You can guess what his reply was.

In short, we’re all addicted to something, and the part of the brain that controls judgment is simply not as powerful as the lizard brain that wants what it wants.

In recent years, with advances in brain-imaging technology, and with the internet allowing research to become public knowledge faster than it used to, we’ve learned a lot about addiction. We’ve discovered that temperament plays a role, and that children who have difficulty with delayed gratification at the age of five have a higher likelihood of suffering from addiction later in life. We’ve learned that children can learn to delay gratification with a little help from caring adults. Also, we’ve discovered physiological differences from person to person that directly affect how prone we are to become addicted to substances. Finally, we’ve awakened to the idea that the fundamental cause of addiction is pain—not lack of willpower.
The pain could be physical, emotional, or even existential; for example, being unemployed or on the receiving end of discrimination or prejudice.

In yoga psychology, we examine the spaces between having a sensation in the body, developing a feeling about it (I like this, I hate this), and taking action. An addiction works something like this: It’s dreary and damp outside, I feel tired and depressed, I don’t like the feeling, so I go get myself a piece of chocolate from the leftover Halloween stash. The chocolate gives me a way to feel something I like better. Myriad things achieve the same end—caffeine, nicotine, potato chips, Facebook, TV, wine—basically anything I find pleasurable. In moderation, none of these things are a problem. If we turn to them habitually and compulsively, however, and if we lose our ability to moderate, all can be damaging to our well-being.

The way we treat addicts, unfortunately, is usually based in judgment and intellectual ideals as opposed to a sophisticated understanding of the complexity of the problem. Historically we’ve treated addicts as losers who lack self-discipline. We’ve denied them the benefit of sympathy or curiosity. It’s easier not to regard their suffering if we think about them as “less than” or “inferior” to the rest of us. This is not to deny the fact that people with addictions can cause terrible pain and suffering to the people who love them, but rather to say that addiction is complex, and that we’re all affected by it.

Our whole culture is addicted to consuming at rates higher than at any other time in human history. According to the International Institute for Sustainable Development, since the 1970's we have been “over-shooting” the natural resources the Earth can sustainably regenerate. The amounts of water, soil, minerals, fish, trees, and fuels we consume have been growing at alarming rates and are leading to deforestation, extinctions, loss of biodiversity, pollution, and climate change. “Earth Overshoot Day,” the date each year that marks us taking more than Nature can regenerate, fell on July 29, 2019, the earliest date since these metrics have been collected. We are “consuming” ourselves to extinction.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with diversion or enjoying the finer things in life—as long as it feels like a choice. The hope is that as we practice more, we develop better awareness of what is driving us, the cheese balls and cocktails become less tempting, and we can consciously decide between self-restraint or indulging in life’s little pleasures.

Practice & Reflect

  • What are you addicted to? When are those addictions most likely to show up? When you’re alone? With others?
  • Are you addicted to something that you haven’t previously thought of as an addiction? Horoscopes? Newsfeeds? Instagram?
  • How do you feel about others who have addictions? Choose three descriptive words.
  • How do you feel about your own addictions? Choose three descriptive words.
Excerpt from Enough Already, Elaine Jackson. Apple Books.

Elaine Jackson
began working in healthcare as a teenager and was a licensed Occupational Therapist for 29 years. She completed her 775-hour yoga teacher training (Scaravelli Method) in 2003-2004 at Esther Myers Yoga in Toronto. She has been teaching and learning about yoga ever since. In November 2020 she published Enough Already: 7 Yoga-Inspired Steps Toward Calm Amid Chaos. She can be found online at or about ten minutes by car outside of the rural village of Mount Albert, Ontario.

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

° FOLLOW Accessible Yoga on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

° REGISTER here for our next conference.

° DONATE here to help us bring yoga to people who don't have access or have been underserved, such as people with disabilities, chronic illnesses, children with special needs, and anyone who doesn't feel comfortable in a regular yoga class.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Take It Outside...Accessible Yoga, That Is

Women standing with arms raised overhead, palms touching,
Seen from the back among palm trees, body of water in the distance 

by Janis Ware

Bringing together two loves...Accessible Yoga and really pretty simple when it is just me out on the trail with trekking poles in hand, eagle eyeing every tree, bench, picnic table, post or other element of nature as a potential support prop. But how to bring this concept to an Accessible Yoga class where people practice seated, standing, or like to move between the two?

Let’s face it, hauling a folding chair to an outdoor space, while possible, is not so appealing. Then there’s the uneven ground to consider, a daunting thought for those of us struggling a bit with balance. Practicing on a slab of cement? Just no.

Some parks have shelters but for a class folks can count on, shelters need to be rented, and they are not cheap. Finding a sustainable and accessible option with enough room for safe distancing can be a challenge.

Then one day, it appeared, and it had been there all along. There is a smaller open-air shelter, open on the sides but with a roof, in a nearby arboretum, so I decided to look at it from a new perspective. Views include a beautiful grassy meadow full of bluebirds and big sky or the arboretum area with, well, lots of trees. Naturally.

The shelter offered three large picnic tables that can be moved to ensure safe distancing, several built in benches along the back for those who like to move between standing and seated, a place on each end if someone really wants to roll out their mat, a paved sidewalk leading to the shelter, wheelchair accessibility, and Disabled Parking spaces. It was perfect.

I reached out to my local Parks and Recreation Department to ask about offering an Accessible Yoga class in the arboretum’s shelter, and they loved the idea! Accessible Yoga! Outdoors! Props provided! In May and June! The excitement of bringing together two of my loves is bursting and leaving me with a big smile on my face and happiness in my heart.

Teaching outdoors presents its own unique opportunities to practice yoga. The first day of class was a beautiful day. That morning, I drove over to the shelter only to be met with a parking lot full of construction vehicles and a concrete crew ready for work. Interesting. The theme of our first class was building a foundation with yoga practice. Here was a crew onsite literally preparing to pour concrete and build a foundation. We moved the class to a different park with a large outdoor covered patio surrounded by trees. Perfect, right? The foundation of Yoga helps us to not be shaken by circumstances. Yoga in real life.

The next week presented with rain and possible thunderstorms––luckily we were able to return to move to an indoor space at last week's park. Theme of that class? Santosha, the practice of contentment. So we centered in our foundation once again and embraced the moment, knowing that santosha is not based on condition. The space was beautiful with big windows looking out to many trees. And since it was also a tornado shelter, it was very quiet and safe. Coincidentally (or not), this story was part of our closing: One of the oldest men alive was asked the secret to longevity. He replied, “When it rains, I let it.” Yoga in real life.

Bringing together two of my loves, Accessible Yoga and Nature brought with it a special gift. A third love. The teachings of Yoga are a powerful, sacred, and cherished part of me that are interwoven throughout my daily life. I knew this, of course. Yet, this experience brought with it a whole new awareness of their depth, and I was able to share this with others. Not only do I have a smile on my face and happiness in my heart, but I also am filled with peace and gratitude for this opportunity to serve in a new way.

Sure, we hope to be outside at the arboretum next week but whatever happens, we are learning how the teachings of yoga can guide us as we go about our everyday lives. Sometimes the lessons we did not plan for are the most powerful ones.

Janis Ware
, RYT200, is an Accessible Yoga Ambassador and Certified Teacher and is Trauma Informed Yoga Certified. She teaches in Iowa, in the DesMoines area, including at a holistic wellness center, an adult ed class, a class sponsored by a cancer organization, and a 55+ retirement community. Her students have ranged in age from young adult to 97! Nearly all tell her they come to the class because it is adaptive and accessible. They want to feel better in their bodies, minds, and spirits, want to practice yoga and hope they've found a safe space to do so.

Janis has additional certifications in Adaptive Yoga I with Mind Body Solutions, Lakshmi Voelker Chair Yoga, Yoga for All (Dianne Bondy & Amber Karnes), and Therapeutic Yoga (Cherie Clampett & Arturo Pearl). She has personally practiced variations of accessible yoga for 15 years and has loved sharing this with others for the past three years. She can be contacted at

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

° FOLLOW Accessible Yoga on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

° REGISTER here for our next conference.

° DONATE here to help us bring yoga to people who don't have access or have been underserved, such as people with disabilities, chronic illnesses, children with special needs, and anyone who doesn't feel comfortable in a regular yoga class.