Who is allowed to teach yoga?

Would you attend classes taught by a ‘fat’ yoga teacher? Would you hire a ‘fat’ yoga teacher? Paula Hines explores one of yoga’s great taboos

Why don’t I see more teachers who are older than me in studios? Or more teachers who look like me? Or… I could go on. Are we not allowed to be there? In a number of particular places that is certainly the impression, intentional or not. Nothing is said explicitly, but it is in the marketing imagery, it is in the standoffish response one may receive if they dare to step into certain spaces, it is in claiming that they welcome everyone yet not actually doing so. My experience of being advised in a class to sit out a pose because I was ‘a bit big’ by a teacher at a studio that claimed to welcome everyone is but one example, and I have heard numerous others from fellow yoga practitioners. Is it any wonder that different groups are increasingly creating their own yoga spaces where they know they will be welcomed and safe?

I know the teachers are out there, but more often than not, they are barely visible (if at all) teaching in certain studio settings. For instance, from my experience, of both attending and teaching classes I’ve had many instances of being the only person of colour and the largest person in the room. Given that this is in London, this is surprising to me. I know it needn’t be that way as when I look around some of my regular classes I see a wide range of ages, abilities, ethnicities and a mix of men and women.

If it is not a lack of teachers then is it a lack of will to hire outside the box? Or that teachers do not feel comfortable in certain spaces? Is it that from a business standpoint or because of who the desired clientele might be, there are certain places that will either consciously hire to type or unconsciously hire in their own image? Or maybe there are other factors.

For the places claiming that they want to be more inclusive, if this is something they truly wish to achieve, well, this can be approached in several ways, but a significant piece is looking at who is hired to teach. Are you unconsciously hiring in your own image, or the image of what you think a yoga teacher ‘should’ be?

Paula Hines is a London-based yoga teacher and writer  (ucanyoga.co.uk) Read more of her Teacher’s Tales here

Read more Teacher’s Tales here.

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