Next week I’m going to start teaching a yoga class at a Toronto YWCA community housing residence. I’m feeling both excited and nervous about sharing yoga with this group of women. Excited because I’m always excited to share my yoga practice with others – to help give them tools to create or expand their own personal practice. Nervous because I am hyper aware of my teacher-status as a privileged white girl.
I am worried about coming across as a “fixer,” if you know what I mean. Yoga can be construed as a tool for self-improvement and, when delivered with misguided intentions, yoga instruction can come across as preachy, prescriptive, or even appropriative of traditional cultures.
I am preparing myself for the possibility that I will, in all likelihood, initially seem like an intruder into another community’s space. I am reminding myself that I have to earn the good will of the community by serving it – thinking about what works for the group, rather than doing what I think is best for them.
In researching approaches to yoga service, I found some awesome, helpful information at yogaactivist.org. That site pointed me to the Journal of Yoga Service and an article by Yoga Activist founder Jasmine Chehrazi called Teaching Yoga in Service Settings: Best Practices and Common Mistakes.
In that article, Chehrazi shares some really useful lessons that she acquired through many years of experience teaching yoga in detention facilities, schools, hospitals, and various social service settings. Her main point is this:
“…yoga service teachers must acknowledge and understand that they are there to serve the community, not to fix or help it. Service is best perceived as a relationship among equals.”
Chehrazi’s organization, Yoga Activist, also has a great summary of yoga service tips in their 10 Commandments of Yoga Outreach.
I feel really lucky to be able to work with the YWCA and am looking forward to meeting the yoga group next week. I have a lot to learn about yoga teaching, and I’m sure this opportunity will serve to enrich my abilities as an instructor. I’ll keep you posted on how it all goes!