Much of the Yoga Community is Getting its Covid Response Right. Here’s Why it Matters.

In those first months of the pandemic, with election tensions rising, signs of Covid denialism appeared across a broad spectrum of society.  Yoga and wellness folks were no exception, capturing the attention of many who were surprised at the disconnect of such a group, often known for an emphasis on health and unity, openly disregarding or contradicting public health guidelines.  Many of us working in the yoga community were saddened by this development, but not shocked or surprised. Those who have been paying attention have been addressing this very disconnect in myriad forms for years.

 

Over many years, and often under the radar of the general public, segments of the yoga community have been working tirelessly to learn about, address, and devise strategies to change dynamics of abuse, white supremacy, consumerism, lack of scope, and a host of other issues that have plagued the yoga industry in the West.  It has been a long and imperfect process, but one that has also given cause for hope as a growing number of teachers and practitioners have devoted their labor to the endeavor of creating safer yoga spaces. Guidance from South Asian folks, People of Color, Disability Communities, LGBTQ+ Communities, and Survivors has paved the way, impacting many.

 

The guidance and work from these marginalized communities have not been acknowledged by other voices who now dominate the discussion of the yoga industry’s response to Covid conspiracies. Also overlooked are the countless folks paying rent on empty studios and teaching from basements & bedrooms to make ends meet while abiding by and promoting public health guidelines within their communities. It has been jarring to see familiar issues reintroduced to new audiences without context, and with a tone of absolutism, saviorism, self-righteousness, and black & white portrayals of complex dynamics.  But the clock will not be turned back, and the work of so many people will not be so easily erased.

 

The urgency of the Covid crisis has been used as cover for the distorted narrative and counter-productive tone, but a solution will not be found in hegemony of this sort. There will be no shortage of obstacles and hard lessons, now or in the future, but let us not be dragged backwards by confusion. The crises we all now face beg of us honesty, humility, and a renewed focus on the diverse and skilled community representation that has already begun to pave the way forward.

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About the Author

Kate Pousont Scarborough is a yoga teacher and studio owner, a Zero Balancing practitioner, a lover of movement and nature, and a dedicated cheerleader for her college-aged son. She lives with her partner in Western Massachusetts.

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