Welcome to the accessible yoga Podcast where we explore how to make space for everyone in the yoga community.
Amber Karnes 11:03:22
This podcast is brought to you by the accessible yoga Association, a nonprofit organization focused on accessibility and equity in yoga.
Hi, I'm your host, Jivana Heyman, my pronouns are here in him, and I serve as the director of accessible yoga.
Amber Karnes 11:03:37
And I'm your co host, Amber Karnes, my pronouns are she and her, and I serve as president of the accessible yoga board of directors.
Hi, everyone. Welcome back to the podcast. This is Jivana. And I'm joined with Amber again, hey, Amber. Hey, how's it going? Pretty good. I'm excited to talk to you I love when we get to do these podcasts together. It's been warm. And today, we're talking about community. You know, maybe how to build community and the benefits of a supportive community. And I want to mention that we have our big, accessible yoga community celebration coming up soon. May 31, seven to nine Eastern Time, four to six Pacific. And it's a great way to get together with the accessible yoga community and support the org. We can talk about it more at the end today. But maybe we could get started with this topic. What do you think?
Amber Karnes 11:04:42
Yeah, that sounds good. But y'all definitely stick around to the end. Because we want to tell you like, what we're doing, what kind of party it's going to be what we're raising money for all that stuff. So definitely stick around for that. We hope to see you there. All right, let's talk about my favorite topic.
I know me too. I think it's my favorite topic. You know, it's funny, because I think we did this. I think we've talked about it before in the podcast, but it's just like, both of us are slightly obsessed with this idea. And I have been thinking about, well, what I've been thinking about recently, is some of the ways that accessible yoga maybe is misunderstood. And maybe I don't know what I'm what the word is. It's like how kind of the capitalist system just like, sneaks in and kind of uses every kind of every grassroots movement. Right?
Amber Karnes 11:05:37
Yes, I do. Like something that's originally created like for and by marginalized folks, eventually, the mainstream is gonna, like, catch on to that, take it, run it through the lens of capitalism and white supremacy and diet, culture and all that crap. And then like, some weird thing comes out on the other end.
Yeah, exactly. That's kind of what I wanted to talk about. Like, I feel like that's happened a little bit with accessible yoga, just that I see. I mean, it's, it's great that it's more popular, and people are using that hashtag. Like, if you look on Instagram, oh, my God, look under hashtag accessible yoga, you're gonna see all
Amber Karnes 11:06:12
that hashtag. There. There's some stuff in there that I looked in there. I was like, Oh, this looks like when you google yoga. Right? There was a lot of things in there. I didn't necessarily interpret. Yeah, exactly. It's like, good and bad, right. The mainstreams. Like, maybe caught on to that as a term. Because now Oh, that's a marketing term, because people want to talk about it. But like, that's a good sign. But I think we have to like reorient on it sometimes. Right? What is What did you mean, exactly like so has been sort of misused, in a certain way?
Yeah, like that. You know, I think you've described it really well that like the culture kind of, you know, especially the contemporary yoga culture seems to be like absorbing accessible yoga. And I think the main way I see this happening is like this idea that accessible yoga is just about adapting āsana. And with the goal of having people having people with like, disabilities, and older people in larger bodies fit into like a traditional practice. And I feel like that's not really what I Oh, that's not what I was thinking. With accessible yoga. Like, to me accessible yoga is actually about sharing power, and disrupting the like hierarchy that we have in, in what I would call more traditional yoga spaces, where there's a focus on performance, and that advanced yoga is equated with advanced asana and people who have like, thin white, flexible bodies are considered more advanced than others. So it's just not true. And so I worry that the way accessible has been co opted is that we're being shown a kind of like, oh, you can just use some props or adopt the practice a little and then you then you'll be able to do what everyone else does, and you'll be able to do the real yoga.
Amber Karnes 11:08:12
Right? Yeah. So like so So what yoga is not a tool to like, basically take disabled folks or folks or like, whoever identifies with the movement or the tools that we talk about for teachers, like, it's not just to take that and be like, Okay, well, now you could do we'll pose even though you don't have the right kind of body, you know, like, just use these props and these modifications, but like, I'm not going to change my teaching at all, to accommodate a wide range of people. I just know that, like, if I teach you this one modification, then okay, you can just keep up with the class. I think that's kind of how it comes across. Sometimes it's just like, oh, well, actually, you're not that different. Your needs aren't that different. We can show you this different way of doing it, and then everything's fine. Exactly, when the different version of like, just go rest and Charles. Right, like, in a certain way?
Yeah, it is. It's just like another version of like, not what it's a good example of, it's like tokenism or something where you like, don't actually change the structure, you just like, find a way to make people fit in and participate better. So it's like, it's to me, accessible yoga is not about participation, like, it's actually about shifting the whole, the whole thing, the whole structure, the whole dynamic and the way that yoga is being taught, because to me, what's what's really missing in contemporary practice is power and conversation around sharing power with students and people using yoga as a way to kind of live in their power and not feel like they're either giving it away or having it taken away by anyone, whether it's within the yoga space, or outside of that, right. I mean, to me, yoga is that incredible tool that can connect us to that truth to that power that we have within us.
Amber Karnes 11:10:07
So if I'm a teacher listening to this right now, and you're like talking about sharing power with your students, I might be like, what power? I don't have power over my students like, what does that even mean? Can you say more about?
I mean, well, that's kind of part part of why we're using the theme of community here, I think today in this conversation is because to me, that that's really where we need to move towards is around community and thinking of ourselves in, in relationship to others. And so I think what happens in as a yoga teacher, we're trained to act in a particular way to be the authority and to have our students follow along with what we tell them to do. I mean, that's just, that's the traditional way that education is done in the West. And I also think it's how yoga has been fit into that dynamic, where the student has almost no power. And the teacher has all the power in that relationship. And the teacher is the one basically, judging, you know, like, good or bad. And then we use ideas like correct alignment, to decide if someone's doing something right or wrong. And I think
Amber Karnes 11:11:20
beginner intermediate or
beginner, intermediate advanced, like, what the heck does that mean? And yoga? And, and yeah, you know, to me is like disrupting that dynamic would mean, finding ways to create an environment that's more equitable, so that within the yoga class, there's a sense that everyone has respect and has, is bringing something to that room like that every participant is important, and is bringing something to that experience. And that's useful for everyone else, too. So like, I don't know, there's something about the collective experience to me of a yoga class. That's not the same as like an elementary school math class where the teacher standing lecturing at the front of the room like I, to me, a group yoga classes truly accessible is like a much more dynamic, kind of chaotic, and collective group experience where people are just exploring themselves, but in relationship with to each other as well. Does that make sense?
Amber Karnes 11:12:23
Yeah, it does. Um, I think like, when I've been to a class like that, I would agree. It's like, more chaotic than the sort of like, maybe yoga class that most people are used to where the teacher stands at the front and says things in a very calming voice and everybody else just kind of like jumps to, you know what I mean? Whereas, like, in a class like that, where we're maybe like saying, Okay, we're going to do this posture, this practice. And if you're practicing from a chair, here's some options. If you're on the mat, here's some options like we have, you know, maybe we're leading them through some self syncing practices, and everybody sort of moving differently to like, explore into that. Yeah, it can be a little bit of a circus sometimes, but it's fun and it's, I think, so cool to be able to not just offer this sort of like one size fits all. experience that's like, you know, hopefully you're in the mood for what I've got planned for you today. And instead, like, encourage people to have the experience they're having and to meet their bodies where they are and really sense into that. Like that, I think is, yeah, it's a totally different type of experience, right.
And if there's a student that say, like, is newer or is struggling with a particular practice, I think the tendency in contemporary yoga is like to get frustrated and feel like that person can't keep up to tell them, Okay, yeah, just go rest in child's pose or something, rather than really looking at how does each individual affects the group and like, maybe that person's experience can be a way to, for everyone to go deeper into that practice to really look at, like revisiting the basics or looking at what what is that practice for, to think about, like the purpose behind the practice? And yeah, and maybe it's more of a workshop experience that way. I think I think what happens in a lot of yoga spaces is that people feel like they need to fit in and they don't want, they don't want to be different and they want to, and there's a competitive edge, the teacher is often performing themselves. In fact, online yoga is even worse, sometimes that way, where you just basically are taking a class with someone who's doing their practice, right. And you just look at them, like doing it, and you think I'm supposed to do what you're doing. It's like copy me kind of thing. And I think there's just this other way where you can really invest in like giving people tools to explore their, their bodies and their own minds and their their lives.
Amber Karnes 11:15:00
Can you say more about how that like this type of class that you're talking about? enables us to share power with students? Yeah. How does that come in?
Well, I think it begins, I think the beginning is just the teacher. First really reflecting on what their job is, and what the goal is for their class. Like, what what what are you trying to do and a few, I think if you enter into this space, thinking that you're going to fix someone, you're going to heal them, you're going to solve their problems you're going to I mean, even the idea of being like a teacher, I think, is kind of problematic for a lot of people, the word teacher, I think, is questionable, but it's still like, you know, it's easiest word to use. And especially like, as a yoga therapist, I think we really get into that, too, like, it's a power position, right to be the therapist, the one who fixes. And I think a different dynamic can be when you come in with the respect for each person's life and their experience and with gratitude for them to being there, you know, for being there and being part of the group. And when you're teaching, you could say like, like you said, Before, you could practice this in a chair on the mat on the mat, you could try this variation or that one, you know, you maybe don't just move along, when someone's struggling, you know what I mean? You don't just ignore it and go to the next thing, but actually take a moment to care for them. And you don't want to point them out, like you're not doing it right. I don't mean that but like, you see that people are not following along, or they're struggling with something and you think, okay, how could I? I don't know, how can I support them in this experience, so that they are a respected part of this group. I don't know how to say I, I'll give you an example. Like, sometimes I've been to classes where usually, like, the people who don't think they're quite as advanced, will go to the back, or like, hide in the back of the room. And whether it's like an older person, or someone with a disability, or someone practicing a chair or whatever, they'll kind of go in the back and they think they don't want to be seen. And it's almost like they're just observing or something, they're not really part of that. And that Right, right. Because I'm like, Why? Why can't you just be front and center like part of this whole circle of practitioners working together?
Amber Karnes 11:17:22
I think especially because I'm sorry, I'm gonna cut you off, go ahead. To add that, like, my experience is that usually someone who has, you know, a vastly different lived experience than the majority of the class, whether that's a person with a disability or somebody that has like a physical, you know, limitation or challenge in some way. Those are the innovators. Those are the people that I end up learning stuff from as a teacher, you know what I'm saying? Like, they come into my class, and they're gonna do something with their bodies that I've never seen before, or they'll support themselves in a way that nobody taught them. It was just intuitive and, and like, if I get curious and ask about that, always learn something. And I think that, you know, I wanted to respond to what you were saying about people kind of not wanting to be seen Hmm. And I think that there's a big opportunity for us as teachers to, I don't want to say correct that, but to maybe dispel the myth that they should be hiding in the back of the class or that they wouldn't be as important to the class as somebody who may be, you know, doesn't need to use the chair to get up and down off the floor or whatever. Like, I think it's up to us as teachers to normalize the idea that people are going to be practicing in different ways that people are going to come in here and different types of bodies, that bodies change from day to day, and throughout the seasons of our lives, and through injury, and through pregnancy, and through, you know, aging, and all those things. And like, these are things we can talk about in our classes, you know, these are ways that we can start to make it clear that like, yoga is not just for people in you know, young, thin, flexible, you know, whatever the stereotype is, like, well, you need to be this before you're like, good at yoga, you know, like yoga is not just for those people. And actually, what I think you're saying is that if we can give our students some tools around accessibility, that make the experience more equitable, that they can actually shine in their own individual way. And that's an asset, that's not something that's going to hold the class back. That's not something that like, they need to apologize for. But I think that, you know, as yoga teachers, like I say, this a lot, like we were the culture makers, like, we get to decide what this landscape looks like, you know what I mean? And so, we can either continue to do things the way that they are done, because, you know, that's how we were taught, or whatever, or bit by bit, you know, class by class, we can, like, drop these little things in, right, when we talk to our students and, and normalize the idea that like, Yep, I'm standing at the front of the room, but I'm not in control of you, like you're in control of your own body. You're in charge of what happens to that body. And what we do with that body, I'm gonna make some suggestions, but like, you know, just little subtle things that you can say like that, I think, totally change the expectations in the environment of a space like that, and really allow students to sense of the possibility of like, oh, right, I'm in charge of this, like, there's boundaries around it, there's, you know, choices that I can make that are better, better or worse for me. And only I really know that you know,
exactly, I mean, that's the key. And I think it's really hard for newer teachers, especially because I think, you know, when you're kind of new, you're insecure, and you think, Oh, I'm doing something wrong. If everyone's not doing this the same way, or something like that. I'm somehow failing as a teacher, and I need to get everyone and not everyone can catch up or whatever. Yeah. And it's like, well, actually, I think when you get more comfortable with yourself, as a teacher, then you're also more comfortable with other people being themselves. And it's not that you're not giving them information, like you can give information. But it doesn't mean that you've failed in some way. What I guess what I was trying to get at earlier is like, you can use the challenges as a strength. So if someone could be teaching a standing balancing pose, and someone's struggling with balance, you know, you could actually have everybody work at the wall, or everyone use a chair, find different version that is a little bit more supportive of balance. And that's going to help everybody. I think sometimes we get caught up in this idea that like the, quote, advanced students get frustrated, and won't want to come back or bored, right? I mean, if anything, then they're not advanced. Because to me, like, well, what is advanced and yoga anyway, right? Like is advanced yoga, because you can do some complicated form with your body, it was it because your mind is peaceful. You know, and if that's the case, if your mind is peaceful, then that's not going to bother them. If they want to work out, maybe they need to go to an exercise class. But I think that's part of where we get stuck, is if people want to come for their exercise, and they don't want to be held up by other students that are slower. But to me, that's not really what yoga is about. You know, yeah. And
Amber Karnes 11:22:35
that's not a community. You know what I mean? Like, there's difference between a fitness class where it's like, this is the class and this is what we're doing. And if you get left behind, well, you just need to take a break, you know, and a community experience where we're going to make sure that everybody is able to have you know, an affirming and positive, embodied experience, even though that may look vastly different from person to person. I'm not going to be like a drill sergeant up here, shouting out orders at the expense of like, whoever can keep up. That's not the feeling of a community, a community. Make sure that nobody gets left behind a community make sure that like If your resources one day and the other person isn't that you share it, you know what I mean? So like, sometimes maybe you have endless amounts of energy, and somebody else is not able to do what you're doing. Maybe you can slow your roll a little bit and take take into consideration the other person, you know what I mean? Just like they would, you know, maybe it's like, like, I feel like, okay, when I think about, for instance, the difference between, let's say, going for a run with a group of people like maybe that you meet up with in your city or whatever, you know, I've done stuff like that, or with the bike stuff. And like people do get left behind. It's like, oh, well, this is like intermediate ride that the, you know, versus like, let's say, a hike, I would leave at one of my retreats, we go slow, we go the pace of the slowest person. Like, that's just what happens. Because everybody is going to be doing the same thing I'm not worried about other hikers are bored, because they can go off and like look at leafs and you know, take pictures and circle back and help others if they got boundless amounts of energy. Like, to me the experience of everybody feeling like, oh, yeah, I was part of this, I finished I did the same thing. Like that is more important than like us getting good time or finishing a certain amount of postures and an hour or like whatever the you know, the thing is, like, remember, your remember the aim of like, what we're trying to do here, like this is not about cranking out some kind of quota or speed, this is really about like, are we honoring our students and like meeting them where they're at.
And it's not like supported from a culture that's built on the grind and production and performance and competition. I mean, this is really a anti capitalist approach, where it's like community based practice where I think what you said was so important, no one's left behind. I mean, that's essential to me, like everyone is valued equally, in a yoga class, regardless of their experience. And I think we can all benefit from that we all benefit from the diversity of the other students. Because for one thing, we're all going to be there someday, like, there's gonna be a time when you're older, or you're sick, or you're disabled, and you're going to need to go slow, and you're going to want people to wait for you. And so I feel like it's just, it's respecting humanity. And it's also respecting yourself, because when you leave someone behind, you're actually leaving part of yourself behind.
Amber Karnes 11:25:43
Oh, I like that, say more.
I mean, like, like I said, it's humanity, like, the reality of our humanity is that we're all incredibly, incredibly diverse, our experiences are different, our bodies are different, our abilities are different. And no one is better than anyone else. In fact, it's kind of the heart of ableism is this hierarchy of thinking that one kind of body is better than another kind of body. And, you know, in our system, we basically throw away bodies that don't perform, we actually think that people who are disabled or older or chronically ill are not as valuable as others. And I think we saw that through COVID. You know, where we don't put the energy into protecting those who have a compromised immune system or seniors, you know, it's like, I think we need to, I think respecting our humanity means respect respecting every single individual. It doesn't mean you have to agree with everyone and be friends with everyone, but you have to respect them. And so in a yoga class, I think as a teacher, it means you have to, like, make sure all of your students feel included equally. Like no one's left behind. Like that's, that's the theme in my classes, right? No one's left behind. And I love what you said about hacking is such a great analogy. But I'll say one other thought I haven't. To me, some of the challenge arises between students. So even if the teacher is doing a great job, and really like has their heart in the right place, and really trying to make a beautiful kind of collective experience I have found, even when I felt like I was doing my best that sometimes students wouldn't be on the same page with me. And they were like I said before, either stuck in this competitive mode. They were like, frustrated that they couldn't go faster, or they felt that it was their job to correct other students now has caused so many issues. Yeah, like we're all of a sudden a student decides that they're like, my teaching assistant, even though I've never asked them to help anyone else. They will start.
Amber Karnes 11:27:45
They want to adjustments, or like whisper like, try it this way.
Or like they're bringing props to someone like I've had often had like a student who has a disability and they were like, they're using a wheelchair or some other mobility device and like another student thinks they need to help the person with a disability and it's such like, it's such a example of ableism or like not understanding the value of disability to always think that non disabled people need to be helping disabled people. It's just It's just cliched nonsense and like, right, you know what, it's, that's not what I'm saying. Like, we're not saying, like, be the helper and like, make sure that everyone's doing the same thing. That's not what I mean, I'm saying, respect everyone's individuality and make sure they feel respected, actually, like respected, like literally like their autonomy is is respected like their bodily autonomy, so you're not going to go and like help them or touch them unnecessarily. Their humanity is respected, you know, meaning that you ask for their consent, like you would with anyone else. Like another example of this that I see a lot in accessible yoga classes as really a challenge is if you have a student who has communication issues, like they don't speak using words, or they have a, an assistant, bringing them to class, there's a tendency to, like communicate with the assistant and not talk directly to the participant. And that's, that is really problematic. That is a problem. You need to be able to communicate directly with your students in some way.
Amber Karnes 11:29:20
For sure, so I want to get back to something that you were talking about, which is how, if accessible yoga, if the point is not to like, okay, help, you know, the misfits fit in or whatever, then, you know, I know you've talked about like accessible yoga is tools can really help folks like find their own individual individuality, is that the right way to say individuality? Their own uniqueness? Right, within community? Like how does that look when, when it happens?
Well, we talked a little about how it's like a mask can be. You mean, from the teacher side?
Amber Karnes 11:30:03
Like, like, how, what are ways that, that you can encourage students to find their individuality? Or like, if you lead this type of class, like, what tends to happen? Yeah,
I think what I do is I focus on people's inner experience, rather than the external appearance of a pose. So again, to say that, again, like inner experience versus outer appearance, because inner experience is really what we're working on at yoga, yoga, is yoga is an inner, personal spiritual practice is about subtlety. And, and learning to accept and love yourself. I mean, honestly, that's what yoga is really about, right? Like, the fact is that we use words in yoga, like, spirit and Atman, in Sanskrit, or, or perush, or whatever. But I actually think that's just you, like, those are just words for like, the essential you. And and I don't mean to oversimplify, but I really think it's about embracing the fullness of who you are, and loving the parts of yourself that are really unattractive to you, like loving your, I don't know, your body, your mind, your heart, and every part everything you think all the all your failures, and all your shortcomings. You know, I'm saying like, I think, participant, that's the goal of actually is to really like embrace the fullness of yourself. And so if the yoga class is taught in a way, where you're actually thinking that you have to change, or, I mean, even that word like transformation, and we say, oh, yoga is transformational. But I don't think that's correct. I don't think it's about transforming into something else is just becoming more, I don't know, to deepen your connection with yourself, to embrace yourself more fully. That's what the transformation of yoga is about.
Amber Karnes 11:32:05
Right? It's not about changing you as a person necessarily, it's about I think, a reorientation of the mind. And like looking at things through a different lens, increasing your self awareness, so then you can like move into the world in a more focused and grounded and compassionate way, you know, and in a clear way that isn't wrapped up in, you know, our identity or identifying with, you know, our possessions or our body or whatever. Yeah, yeah, go ahead.
I was gonna say, I think trauma informed teaching. It's important to mention here because I think that's often what trauma informed yoga is getting at. You know, if it's, if it's done correctly, it's getting out the idea of the inner experience of the practitioner, is the key. And actually, not just that, but there. The idea of trauma informed teaching is giving power back to the participant, and I feel like accessible yoga is the same to me accessible yoga and trauma informed teaching are basically the same thing. And I don't think you can really have one with that. But the other sometimes I think trauma informed teaching is misconstrued to be about Invitational language and don't say this word or Don't say that word. But really, it's a much deeper thing, right? It's a deeper question about, are you giving somebody more control so that they don't have, like, a trauma response in that class and actually can can quiet their mind through calming their nervous system to become more comfortable with themselves, and just be with themselves?
Amber Karnes 11:33:52
Totally. Yeah. And I think, I think community can do that for people. Sometimes, too, I think about especially when we talk about like affinity groups, or, you know, like, let's say, a yoga class, that's specifically for people in larger bodies, or specifically for disabled folks, or like, brown girls yoga, you know, stuff like that, where it's like a specific community, I think, can really relax the nervous system in a way that no amount of like correct cueing could do? Do you know what I mean? Like, because as human beings, like, our nervous systems affect one another. And so when you walk into a space, or move into a space, where you are the only whatever, right, if you're the only Black person in a room full of white people, if you're the only fat person room full of thin people, like whatever, that is a time when your nervous system may become very guarded, because like one of the most primal ways we know that we belong somewhere, it's like, can you look around and see other people that look like you? Right? That's sort of the first, you know, sort of, like, Am I in the right spot, you know, like, I like to say, like, you know, what, when you walk into a biker bar, you know what I'm saying, like, everybody there, like they have a certain way of signaling to one another of like, who belongs. And like, it's a funny example. But when you walk into a yoga studio or a wellness space, think about the subtle coding that is there, of who belongs in that space, right? Through everything from the physical space, can you even get into the door, if you use a mobility device, to the seating in the space is it going to fit your body to what is carried in the retail area, and what sizes, those clothing comes in, to, you know, the our fragrances used in the space, like everything, every single thing is a decision that can be made. And that also sends a message about, like, who belongs here. And so I think that when you can be in a space where you are with people who share a lived experience, or share an embodied experience of some kind, it does this thing where like, you can almost sort of let your guard down a little bit in an in an often unplanned and unconscious way. And I've seen it happen so many times, because I feel like, a lot of times, you know, you might go into a space and they say like, oh, all bodies are welcome, or you know, everyone's welcome here. But then their actions don't really tell you that, you know, the way they set it up, don't really tell you that. And so it's hard to really trust and like, let your guard down. Whereas I feel like when you're around people that you know, like, Oh, we've all been through this thing together, we all share this lived experience of being this particular identity or whatever, then the nervous system can relax and like you can really start those, you know, the yoga practice and not just like, Okay, let's push our body into different forms or whatever. And the other thing I want to say about that is like being around people who, where you can see yourself reflected, I think is so important.
Because community, I think like when community is at its best, a couple of things happen. Number one, you don't have to leave parts of yourself at the door in order to belong. So automatically, you're going to be there in a more open, more grounded more genuine way, right? Because you don't have to pretend to be something or not. I think another thing that happens is that community really becomes this sort of sometimes I say like a mirror, but it's sort of this like proving grounds for yourself if you let it right, because like oftentimes when we're around other people who shared a lived experience with us, and maybe we see them do I'll just give a personal example like for me when I was trying to first like make peace with my body, you know, most of my life I'm in a bigger body, plus size, fat body and you know, everything in society is telling me that I'm not good enough. I'm not attractive, I can't have the clothes I want I can't get a day you know, like all those stories we have about what it means to be a person a bigger body. And so I discovered you know, the body positivity community on the internet. This was like long time ago on Live Journal. And I would see these fat women in these fabulous outfits like in these fashion communities that I joined. And I would feel so weird inside just like, oh my gosh, like, I want to look like her. But I don't want to look like her like she's even fatter than me. But I want to look like but. And it was like this, this thing broke in my brain where it was like, I could sense possibilities for myself in other people that I never would have been able to if I hadn't, like seen it on them first, do you know what I mean? And like fashion is sort of a stupid example. But I've seen this happen at my retreats also, where, you know, we'll have a bunch of fat women in the room together, and we start doing headstands. And we start encouraging one another, and we go on a hike, and people jump off rocks into the water, or they like, do whatever thing is that they were told is not for them. And then there's this transformational moment where you're like, hold up, if they were wrong about that. What else were they wrong about about me, you know what I mean? And that, I think is something that can only happen in community, where you really get to see yourself reflected in a way that is positive, and in a way that dominant culture can never like, imagine you to be right, because dominant culture looks at us and doesn't value us right. When I say us, I mean marginalized folks. And so, you know, the people we're talking about today that benefit from accessible yoga, like, dominant culture sees us as disposable, as not desirable. And so like, they don't even have the imagination to say like, Hey, you know, like the people that have, you know, practice with me and say, like, I've never even had a teacher asked me if I wanted to do a headstand, you know what I mean? Like, there's like these and not to say that, like, you have to have some goal like a headstand, I'm just giving that as an example. Because I've had so many students tell me that they really, really want to do one, but they don't think they can, because they're too big or whatever. And they've had teachers tell them that it's not for them. And so I think sometimes it takes being in community with other marginalized folks that share your lived experience to be able to even see you in a way that says like, No, I see you as like the full and valuable and whole person that you are with all of the like amazing stuff that you've learned in these lived experiences that you've had, like that being embraced and community in that way, I think is such a game changer for so many people. Because we get to really like see the possibilities for ourselves in others first, and then it like feels possible to try it. And so I don't know, I just I love talking about this, because I feel like creating a space like that, you know, even if students come in and they don't, you know, it don't have to be some big, audacious goal. And maybe they never even give you the feedback about it. But like creating a space like that is transformational for people, not in the way of like, oh, and then they'll finally be able to do a handstand, but in the way of like, it's going to change the way they see themselves. It's going to change the opportunities that they allow for themselves. And it will change the way that they show up to a class like that right? To not hide in the back. But actually to say like, yeah, check me out my chair up here, you're gonna learn something. I mean, I
mean, yeah, I do. But I want to connect it like to what I was trying to say before, I think you said it better. I was trying to say like, the goal of yoga to me is that like self acceptance, right? Like to be at home with yourself. And you're saying, like, that's what community does. And that's beautiful. I think you're right, like, community can like give us that experience of coming home. And that's what we want and yoga, to feel safe and connected, you know, and to be at peace with ourselves. And I think affinity groups alike are especially important. And I it's interesting because tan asked that question in our accessible yoga community Facebook group the other day, and honestly, I think some some teacher, some white people were confused, to be honest about it, and I get that
Amber Karnes 11:42:26
and what kind of what kind of way
they're cool. I feel like some of the responses were like, I want to welcome everyone to my class. Like that's the point. Is this is divisive? Yeah. And then like, oh, accessible yoga is about making everyone feel welcome. And it's like, yeah, but you know what, you can't always do that. Like you can't you as an individual, especially as a white person cannot create that safety for all your students. So let people have their own space like that's okay. It's okay. You don't have to be there for everyone.
Amber Karnes 11:42:57
You know, that's right. Yeah. So you're not the teacher for everyone? No,
although I do it's funny because we talked about that in a previous episode. Like I think that concept. I think you have to prepare yourself as if you are going to be the teacher for everyone but not be upset if you're not you know, you may not be upset when people Before I don't mean
Amber Karnes 11:43:15
it in the way of like, oh, well, if you can't keep up, I'm not the teacher for everyone like not that way. But more like, there's gonna be certain students that are drawn to you, and certain ones that don't vibe with you. And like fast also natural in any human situation, you know what I mean? Like, you may be the most skilled teacher in the world, there's still people are gonna be annoyed by your mannerisms or whatever, because you remind them of their mom or something, you know, like, so I think.
But it's also a power dynamic, I think it goes along with I would say the theme of this conversation, which is sometimes it can be a power tip to think that you're going to make everyone welcome. Like when I I was saying before, like, that's the goal, right is to create a space where everyone feels welcome. And everyone is respected all that at the same time, you may not be able to do that. And that's not your fault. It's not your fault, necessarily. If you're trying, it could just be that that student needs a different group, they need a group of people who look like them. Like, I remember Kelly Palmer, you know, she always talks about race and equity and my accessible yoga training and people think like Kelly's going to teach you like how to make your like, as a white teacher, how to make your classes more welcoming to People of Color, and it's like, not at all what she's talking about, right? That's not what the point, she's like hand over power. What did she say she's like, give them the keys to the studio, like give Black people the keys to the studio is what Kelly says. And I feel like, that kind of sums it up, which is like, create space, like lift up other teachers either support them in some way and handover your classes occasionally give them your platform, like if you have a platform like for me, that's what accessible yoga is for, like accessible yoga is an organization, the nonprofit is literally designed. And and the school as well, are designed to platform teachers that normally don't have a platform like we aren't we survive like we exist, to platform diverse voices. Because I know that I'm not that I'm not there. I can't do it for everyone myself. Like that's not the point. The point is to hand over the keys. Right? So anyway, anything else you want to share about community? Or should we talk about the celebration to talk about accessible yoga celebration?
Amber Karnes 11:45:33
Yeah, let's do that. But um, I wanted to talk about just real quickly. If you're a student that wants to find a community, like how do you do that?
Well, you know, one thing is like with COVID, I feel like all the teaching that's moved online has been really helpful for people that are really wanting a particular group to practice with, like an affinity group. And I think it's easier to find that online than in person. So you can really do some research, you can reach out to the accessible yoga community and post in there on Facebook, we have a huge community, you can always ask, like, anyone know about yoga for blank. And you can find community that way. I think talking to yoga teachers and asking their, for their help and finding the right place to fit in. I mean, the problem is a lot of yoga teachers will say like, just come to me. Google, you know, Google is your friend, I would say just like Google at yoga for blank. And I just feel like there's so many small little communities that popped up over COVID time that can really be there for people. What do you think? What else can people do?
Amber Karnes 11:46:45
Yeah, I would say, Yeah, I don't know. I don't remember if you just mentioned this, but or if it popped into my head, but ask in the spaces that you're already in. So let's say like, if you're a person, a fat body, who wants to practice with other fat folks, you know, I'm in a bunch of like, plus size related communities on the internet, like in Facebook, there's, you know, this one called like, oh, my gosh, I'm not gonna remember the names of them. But we'll just say like, if I'm in like a plus sized fashion community, I could actually post in there and say, like, Hey, does who you who has a yoga class that they love online, right? Like if you're, if you're in a support group for some kind of like disability or chronic illness, or whatever, ask for your recommendations there. Like to other people who have similar lived experiences to you. I think asking friends is always a great idea. And I would also say that, like, if you have a yoga teacher that you trust, who maybe doesn't teach in a way that you can, you know, vibe with or whatever, you could ask them like, Hey, do you know anybody that like, runs these types of classes, and they can always point people to I mean, we get emails all the time and accessible yoga or yoga for all training or any of the stuff that I'm involved with. It's like, Hey, do you know a yoga for all teacher in Kansas City, you know, and then we can actually post in our groups and ask for them. So you know, sometimes you Just got to like, flex your network a little bit and just see who knows who.
Yeah, I think that's the what makes me sad sometimes to think that people try yoga, once they go to the local studio, they take whatever random class is happening. And they think, oh, yoga is not for me. And I would just say, maybe yoga is not for you. But I think probably you could find a more welcoming environment, or a different class that would work for you. And so I just say, don't give up, try out different classes, like go to different teachers, find different communities, you know, explore, like, it's an exploration, there's so much out there. It's incredible. Like so many yoga books, so many amazing online resources, accessible yoga, like we're the nonprofit, we're building out a studio, which I haven't talked about much. But eventually we'll have classes people can take through our platform. And you know, there's so many, there's so many opportunities out there to find the right community for you.
Amber Karnes 11:49:16
Right, so if you want to join our community, you Chicago community celebration, how's that for a segue?
Yeah. And I would say, if you're listening to this, you're already part of our community so that
Amber Karnes 11:49:27
you belong there anyway. Yeah. Tell us about this event, like what's going on? What are we raising money for? Well, it
is a fundraiser. So I'll just say that upfront, we call it a community celebration. It's our annual fundraising event. We did it well, annual, we did it the first time last year last May. And this is the second annual and we're raising money for our Scholars Fund. And that's where we, we give away $1,000 gifts to yoga students with diverse backgrounds who want to become yoga teachers. And we gave away the first round last year, and you can read about that on our website, six people got $1,000 grants to take yoga teacher training, and we're gonna raise money to offer to do that again this year. So we have a bunch of ways you can be involved, you can come to the event and make a donation when you get a ticket. Although you can also get a ticket for free. If you want. You can bid in our silent auction, which is going to happen, probably leading up to the event and also like online, you can bid and then also at the event, the bids will close. And you can just make a donation to the Scholars Fund. Or to accessible yoga in general at any time, the event will be hosted by you and me. Right Ray?
Amber Karnes 11:50:51
Everyone's favorite comedy hero.
Well, you're finding at least in my mind, a legend. We're gonna have entertainment by mix Pooja, who does really great Jotun. I'm excited about that. We'll have oh, and we give away awards. So that's really fun. We have three awards that we give away every year. We have the ambassador of the year, the Advocate of the Year and the supporting organization of the year. And one of them this year will actually the Advocate of the Year is going to be in memoriam for Marsha Danzig, who passed away a few months ago who is the founder of yoga for amputees and we want to honor her work. And so we'll be talking about her a bit. And giving away two other words that I think are still going to be a little bit secret.
Amber Karnes 11:51:46
So you have to come to the community celebration to find out.
Yes, so it's a celebration of our community, we give awards to just a few people, although everyone in the community probably deserves an award. And we try to get you to donate or bid on our you know, on the great stuff we'll have in the silent auction, we'll have really great things. We have some yoga vacations and yoga trainings on there, lots of stuff that you can buy, to support.
Amber Karnes 11:52:17
That's right. And at the end, unfortunately for all of you, I'm going to be DJing again, so we're gonna be having another dance party. Accessible yoga just doesn't want to hire an actual DJ.
We would not do without you.
Amber Karnes 11:52:37
I'm happy to do to DJ which means make a playlist. But the thing that I have fun is like if y'all haven't been to one of my Xoom dance parties, I think they're pretty fun like we have a great playlist is high energy and basically we have like a dance off the whole time because my job is the DJ is basically just the highlight people zoom videos with consists of course if you have your video on you don't have to. But it's so fun to watch everybody in their different outfits and their different backgrounds and where they are and like the kids come join in and the pets come on. on the camera and like it's a blast, so I hope that y'all will join us. It's really fun.
It's a party.
Amber Karnes 11:53:21
It is a party. It's great time to be together. Yeah. stuff is hard y'all right now. Like, is it dangerous to be alive? The world has lost its mind seems like our government is trying to kill us. Like, let's get our joy where we can like, we really want to celebrate with y'all and celebrate the work of these amazing people in our communities. So
yeah, exactly. It's I was gonna say it's a great moment to stop and celebrate some of the good things going on in the world. And anyway, I hope you'll be there. You can get more information on our website accessible yoga.org Tickets are free or by donation, any amount you want to, you want to donate to us. And, of course, we're nonprofit. So it's tax deductible. You know, whatever that means. You have to figure that out yourself. I guess. It's on May 31, which is Tuesday. I'm confused. Yes, it's a Tuesday in the US. And it's a four to 6pm in California time here in Pacific time. And I believe seven to nine on the East Coast. It'll be probably the middle of night in Europe, but in Asia and Australia could probably join us. So I hope you will. And I hope you'll hope you'll join us that day or support accessible yoga in some way. Thanks so much for listening to the podcast. Thank you, Amber for great conversation as usual.
Amber Karnes 11:54:43
Yeah, it's great to hear from you. Alright, y'all hope we'll see you there.
Thanks, everyone. Bye, Mei. Thanks for joining us for the accessible yoga podcast. We're so grateful to be in community with you.
Amber Karnes 11:54:56
Please check out our website accessible yoga.org. To find out more about our upcoming programs including our annual accessible yoga conference. At our website. You can also learn more about how to become an accessible yoga ambassador and support the work that we're doing in the world.
Please subscribe to the podcast and leave us a review wherever you listen. We'd love to hear your thoughts.
Amber Karnes 11:55:15
You can also submit a question or suggest a topic or potential guests you'd like us to interview at accessible yoga.org See you next time.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai