A Letter From Our VP of Yoga Alliance Foundation
Published: June 25, 2019
Dear Yoga Community,
I write today to share news of a milestone achieved in the yoga community: Yoga Alliance is formally addressing equity as a core component of its standards for all yoga instructors. With this step, equitable access to and representation within yoga are acknowledged as essential to our work. Yoga Alliance and Yoga Alliance Foundation commit to engaging in collaborative dialogue on this topic in the yoga space, and to spearheading initiatives that will help move us all from conversation to action.
As many of you are aware, over the past 18 months Yoga Alliance has conducted an in-depth, community-based information-gathering process of our current standards and credentialing system. Although we had one working group specifically dedicated to inclusion, there was an overwhelming call to action across all working groups to address the societal and systemic inequities that exist within yoga. We feel a deep desire and responsibility to do so!
Before I share more details about this work, I will take a moment to formally introduce myself and share my personal connection and commitment to the subject of equity in yoga.
My name is Quentin Vennie, the newly-appointed Vice President of Yoga Alliance Foundation. As an African American male, I have often felt excluded and underrepresented in traditional yoga spaces. I’ve experienced groups of practicing yogis move to the opposite side of the yoga studio in order to not practice alongside me. I’ve been excluded from yoga gatherings due to the color of my skin, and then made to feel like I didn’t belong in the ones I did attend. I have friends that have been humiliated in yoga spaces due to their sexual preferences, gender identities and body types. These experiences, plus others, have led me on a path dedicated to increasing equity and access within and beyond the yoga community.
Prior to joining Yoga Alliance Foundation, my work focused primarily on introducing yoga to underrepresented populations and communities of color, similar to the ones in Baltimore where I was born and raised. I’ve visited inner city schools and have been a keynote speaker to students and staff on the importance of yoga. I’ve directed public school programs led by non-profit organizations within the yoga space. I’ve led meditations for hundreds of children in recreation centers and have collaborated with community leaders on initiatives to increase equitable access to yoga. Just this past month I had the honor of creating and leading a pilot program on behalf of Yoga Alliance Foundation, bringing yoga to first graders in one of the most under-resourced communities in West Baltimore, culminating in a one-of-a-kind yoga field trip to one of our member studios in Baltimore.
My hope is to pave pathways for the non-traditional yoga practitioner to use this modality to address and help heal the many traumas we experience in and throughout our communities, to end the stigmas associated with mental health, and to shift the misconception that yoga is reserved only for the wealthy or privileged.
We know that there are different ways one can discover yoga. Nonetheless, we are also aware of the barriers that prevent many people from being able to experience the practice. We will work to address and undo them by committing to increasing equity in yoga, across several dimensions.
Equity encompasses diversity, inclusion and accessibility in yoga — with these elements traditionally referred to collectively as “DIAE.” We have made the conscious decision to address each of these issues thoughtfully and intentionally throughout our equity work, including within our new Equity in Yoga course, which will be introduced in February 2020. In recognition of this subject’s importance, it will be required of all new and renewing RYTs. The course will be offered for free online and will count toward continuing education credits.
We don’t intend for our Equity in Yoga course to solve all issues of inequity in yoga, however we do intend for it to ensure that each student can look at our credential and know that the teacher holding it has an awareness and a commitment to making yoga more equitable, inclusive, accessible and diverse. We encourage our RYTs to further their awareness and education on the issues of inequity within and beyond the scope of yoga.
All people deserve equitable resources to make yoga more accessible and inclusive, both domestically and internationally. Yoga Alliance and Yoga Alliance Foundation are dedicated to platforming collaborative conversations and initiatives to ensure equity is attained and all will see themselves in the union of yoga. I look forward to moving this important work forward with all of you.