What can I do as a yoga teacher to make my class more accessible to yogis of all body types?

Q:

What can I do as a yoga teacher to make my class more accessible to yogis of all body types?

A:

Making yoga more accessible is a process of learning and unlearning as well as being open to expanding your understanding of movement in bodies that fall outside the “norm” in yoga spaces.

You cannot possibly predict the bodies that will come into your class space so as the facilitators of this practice, we have a responsibility to be as prepared as possible.

There are so many resources for continuing education and learning including my work with Body Positive Yoga, Yoga For All Teacher Training, as well as organizations like Accessible Yoga and Yoga Service Council. I encourage you to seek out the education you might not have received in your 200-hour training. (Learn more in Yoga for Everyone: The Top Organizations Making Yoga Accessible for Every Body.)

Learn to challenge assumptions, revamp your language to be more accessible and welcoming, and understand how to adapt asana to a wide range of bodies and abilities. Three ways to begin to make your classes more accessible:

  1. Make sure you have props like chairs, bolsters, blocks, blankets, and wall space available for your students. Set up the classroom so everyone has access to the same props. Normalize the use of props and variations on poses by talking about personalizing practice and adapting poses to fit our bodies, not the other way around. Many folks already know how to modify poses to work with their bodies and just need access to the tools and permission to use them.

  2. Shift your language to empower and affirm rather than enforcing assumptions about marginalized bodies and experiences. This includes shifting your language around the hierarchy of poses (leaving out phrases like “full expression of the pose” and teaching in a progressive way that builds from foundations up, rather than the “full pose” and then offering modifications).

  3. Do your homework. If you create a sequence for a practice make sure you have done research about the ways each pose can be expressed and the tools available to create that pose in different bodies.

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Written by Amber Karnes
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Amber Karnes is the founder of Body Positive Yoga. She’s a ruckus maker, yoga teacher, social justice advocate, and a lifelong student of her body. Amber trains yoga teachers and studio owners how to create accessible and equitable spaces for wellness and liberation. She also coaches with human beings who want to build unshakable confidence and learn to live without shame or apology in the bodies they have today. She's the co-creator of Yoga For All Teacher Training, an Accessible Yoga trainer, and a sought-after expert on the topics of accessibility, authentic marketing, culture-shifting, and community-building. She lives in Richmond, Virginia, with her husband Jimmy. You can find her at bodypositiveyoga.com.

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