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How the yoga community can genuinely improve diversity and inclusion?

By Astra Farquharson, Mindful Yoga Coach and Founder of Therapy Yoga

I heard it put recently that the “revolution starts within”[1]. So how do we look inwardly to become an effective outward participant of change?

The seemingly endless incidents of police brutality and merciless killings due to misconstrued ideas of race, feels very personal to me. In fact, as a child of the so-called “Windrush” generation, and the things I have witnessed and experienced, it was an emotional struggle to find the words to give voice to this article.

There is an old African saying that to be human is to recognise the humanity in others. Equally when you diminish others, you diminish yourself.

A person or organisation who has the spirit of ‘Ubuntu’ is open and available to others. From the Eastern philosophical tradition, we learn that the root to equality comes through conscious and compassionate action. For some this is the essence of ‘Dharma’ which also makes room for anger as well as love, to achieve a better world.

As a teacher and student of mindfulness yoga, I’ve come to understand that it is within the process of enquiry, that we gain the deep answers we seek for activating change.

So what is our collective responsibility?

Firstly we need to have the commitment to see things as they really are. Categorisations of race do not refer to a universal objective truth, but merely an indication of the social racialization of people. Whilst sitting here writing this piece I’m watching scenes of people from all over the world, coming together to protest against injustice. This moment in time is a real glimpse into the possibility that we can finally collectively see that what is done to one is done to all!

Our responsibility is to do the internal work to ‘hear’ and genuinely ‘listen’ to what is being said.

· Organisations should begin with an honest reflection on current channels for hearing and listening.

· Diversity and inclusion is not just about having an open door, but also about reaching out.

· There is a need to ask honest questions about who you seek to collaborate with or not?

For the yoga community in particular, I see the challenge as how to increase the capacity to incorporate the benefits of yoga into everyday life, into schools, into the workplace, within healthcare settings etc. This will ultimately enable greater access for diverse groups.

Our collective responsibility is therefore to ensure our core values and actions are borne out of real enquiry, deep listening and understanding. For membership organisations like the British Wheel of Yoga, consider an audit of how far diversity and inclusion is considered in the decision making on programmes, events and training. Both in terms of content and the range of teachers delivering them. Rather than being a tick box bolt on, diversity and inclusion should run through the veins of values, communications, and activities.

It’s a time to learn something new about our capacity to do more together. It’s a time to become collective experts in creating safer spaces for all. In the words of social justice activist Ronda Magee “Something new is struggling to be born in this moment”[2]so let’s not lose this opportunity.

References

The Inner Work of Racial Justice, Healing Ourselves and Transforming Our Communities Through Mindfulness, Rhonda V. Magee

Stay Woke, A Meditation Guide for the Rest of US, Justine Michael Williams

Love and Rage, The Path to Liberation Through Anger, Lama Rod Owens

[1] Justine Williams, Stay Woke

[2] Rhonda Magee, The Inner Work of Racial Justice

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