When you look at yoga fashion brands, publications, festivals and marketing they often highlight one specific body type — the thin, white female body. If you only looked at mainstream narratives of yoga, you would think that this is the person who makes up the yoga world. This can often make the practice seem unwelcoming to anyone who doesn’t fit this type. But the yoga community should be a welcoming one and there are so many different people that make up the yoga community at large: different nationalities, gender identities, body types, and life stories.
After completing my 200 hour yoga teacher training, I realized how valuable yoga is for people across all ages, body types, and life experiences. I saw how yoga encompases more than Asana (physical poses). It’s more than being in Warrior 2 with your shoulders relaxed, front knee bent 90 degrees, and chest open. I experienced the meditation in a new way, through practicing it regularly over 2 months. I made connections with people who I hadn’t encountered in my previous day-to-day life. I read books that supported self reflection and challenged me to be honest with my opinions and perceptions. Yoga teacher training taught me so much about myself and my community in ways I didn’t expect.
Ultimately, the issues of diversity and the social impact of yoga stuck with me. I wondered what I could do to create greater visibility around the richness of the yoga community. I felt the least eligible to act on this but, with enough encouragement and critical feedback from others, I decided to create a way to support inclusivity with Setu.
Setu’s intention is to amplify the understanding that yoga is for everyone — including all nationalities, gender identities, body types and life stories. It will accomplish this through:
- Presenting a diverse range of teachers in the directory
- Hosting events led by teachers with diverse bodies, experiences and practices
- Connecting practitioners with teachers they may have not met otherwise
- Connecting teachers with each other through authentic communication
- Promoting teachers through editorial content and social media
There are many incredible individuals out there taking the lead in these areas for their communities — Jessamyn Stanley, Anna Guest-Jelley, Dr. Chelsea Jackson, Dan Nevins, Zeyah Roge and many more. I’m deeply inspired by them and want to add to their efforts.
I invite you to join Setu and actively use your practice to support the health and wellness of all people in the yoga community. Let’s love and respect each other on the mat and beyond.
– Libby Nicholaou