The Samasthala Initiative
Bringing yoga to those who need it the most. By Richard-Hubert Clarke (Hubert Clarke, Jnr.)
It was a beautiful spring afternoon, sunlight dispersing through the park trees. There was a natural warmth, penetrating the large open windows of the modern yoga studio.
I was repeating the actions of Visvamistrasana, a little more slowly, after the first demonstration, which was at a full pace. I tried to emphasise each point, breaking down the posture for the crowded room of advanced practitioners and teachers.
During this workshop, in that moment, I found a deep sense of Svadhyaya ‘self-reflection’. Raised in Aston and Perry Barr as a kid, I would have levelled my future self with a second glance, after viewing what
I now do for a living.
I guess as a yoga teacher that is both male and a person of colour, I’m still probably considered a little of an anomaly.
So, how did I get here?
The year was 2013. My body lay broken, following years of mercury poisoning (amalgam fillings) and pushing myself to the limits, through the practice of an intense martial art, Southern Mantis Kung Fu.
I lay close to bedridden and was in considerable pain. Yoga was my guide out of the darkness and into the light.
A dear friend introduced me to yoga in 2008. Though not all are fortunate to be in a position of having the funds, self-confidence and access to this wonderful practice.
My past experiences have instilled a deep sense of Dharma ‘duty’. It led me to ask: what can be done, in bestowing the gift of yoga to those who probably need it the most, but don’t have access?
Through the exploration of this question, the Samasthala Initiative was born.
One of our goals is to build positive connections within various parts of the UK community in which yoga would be crucial to their wellbeing. This is driven through free yoga classes for marginalised groups such as refugee shelters, homeless centres, victims of domestic abuse, and mental health charities.
It is also our aim to offer the resources and career opportunities for a small number of enthusiastic yoga practitioners from low economic backgrounds and underrepresented groups, through a scholarship plan. They, in turn, will teach at one of the required locations (homeless shelter, refugee camp, etc.) for free, for six months once they have graduated from our teacher-training programme.
We are dedicated to the mission of building a more diverse yoga community, a little at a time. One that is more reflective of the society we populate. Whilst facilitating the healing process for those that have seen darkness in their lives but are now slowly moving towards the light.
The Samasthala Initiative will begin trials in Birmingham, in the UK, this summer. It is limited to two scholarship places per teacher training course. Our intention is to broaden our scope, as we expand our main teacher-training programme.
To find out more about the Samasthala Initiative visit: samasthalayoga.com
LEVEL PLAYING FIELD
The Sanskrit word Samasthala means ‘even’ or ‘level ground’, a situation in which everyone has a fair and equal chance of succeeding. It is the driving force behind the new Samasthala Initiative.