Updated: Jun 7, 2021
The journey of Elumi Yoga
Over the past 12 months or so I have shared a variety of content through my blog posts and social media profiles, everything from how to get more sleep, to working with the Chakras, to my own personal struggles with body image and self worth. All very different topics with a unifying theme of self-love, self-acceptance and loving your body, exactly the way it is.
Last month I had the privilege of attending the Accessible Yoga teacher training with Jivana Heyman, and in this months blog I would like to share how this knowledge altered my perspective and how this will shape the future of the Elumi community.
Why Accessible Yoga is close to my heart?
I spent most of my childhood growing up in the diverse population of South Africa, a country that has faced so much heartache and inequality. I was a shy, introverted child and even though I always felt that we are all equal, I never had the strength to speak out for those who couldn’t speak for themselves, and whenever I did try, I was faced with resistance, defensiveness or plain ignorance.
I would often cry for those who were mistreated, excluded and overlooked and always felt a sense of helplessness. It always baffled me how this wouldn’t affect those around me, or perhaps it did, and like me they were too fearful to speak up for those who couldn’t advocate for themselves.
This sense of inequality has surrounded all of us in some way or form throughout our lives, and it shows up every day, when you make those quick judgments about someone who passes you on the street, when you see how people squander their finances on random purchases and display it all over social media for the world see, whilst there are people who are struggling to put food on the table.
These are the things I sit up at night thinking about, I think about how privileged I am to have been able to, not only live in South Africa but also to have been able to afford to move back to London and have access to all of the luxuries that this country has to offer. Luxuries that, I sometime feel, we feel entitled to. In these moments I can’t help but see all the faces of those who are struggling in South Africa, and it breaks my heart.
Learning more about Accessible Yoga with Jivana Heyman
I had the privilege of spending the last week of our third lockdown in London working through the Accessible Yoga Teacher Training with Jivana Heyman, and I have to say that this training has opened my mind, got me thinking about the way that I see the world, and the words that I use. It has given me some bravery to share messages that my past self maybe felt a bit fearful of sharing. It has pushed me to sit and consider how I, as a yoga teacher and a human being, can make my yoga classes more accessible, and choose my words more wisely.
Working through these well-thought through lectures and listening to all the guest speakers talk about everything from offering yoga to diverse populations, to cultural appropriation, to making yoga accessible to people of all shapes and sizes, and many other topics, I found myself sitting in a lot of self-enquiry and asking myself the hard questions. These moments of self-enquiry nurtured what I have always known in my heart but never really knew how to express or deliver…yoga in for every body.
Seeing how Jivana has built this amazing community of people who support and lift each other up, has inspired me to not only want to be a part of that community but also to build a community of my own, that is able to hold space for anyone who wishes to be a part of it.
“if you slip others will lift you up” Jivana Heyman
Admittedly, I am still learning and this is only the beginning of this journey, but I believe that we need to be brave enough to make mistakes and learn from them in order to share the message that lies in our hearts without fear, as Jivana says; “if you slip others will lift you up”.
What yoga has taught me
Yoga teaches us that the source of our happiness lies within us and connects us with others on a similar journey, and this is what I will strive to make the Elumi Community about…connection, to yourself, to others and to causes that will hopefully help to shift the perspective of this practice, from one of physical contortionism to one of connection to ourselves as human beings in this human experience.
It’s important that everyone who is interested in the practice of yoga has access to it.
This means so much to me as I've had that experience of feeling unwelcome in a yoga class, feeling like I am “too fat” to be a teacher, feeling like I am not enough and I would never wish those feelings on anyone else. It’s important that everyone who is interested in the practice of yoga has access to it.
I say this because I believe that if we all took the time to connect to ourselves we would live in a more diverse community, learn to communicate with each other rather than react to each other, and have more understanding of those around you. If we took to the time to actively listen to what people are telling us, instead of listening to respond, or making quick judgments about people based on their appearance or abilities, we might start to see the person, the human being who stands before you, instead of what our minds have made them up to be within those first 5 seconds of an interaction.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have been this person, and I openly admit that I am an imperfect being with no desire to be perfect. I have been on the receiving end of these judgment and I’m still learning how to be better at this thing we call life, but what I can safely say is that I will do everything in my power to ensure that no one feels excluded or less than in my classes or around my energy.
...always be teachable and open.
This is my commitment to my community, and I know that I will make mistakes along the way and I fully expect to be called out on them, but I will learn and continue to learn because this is one of the values that yoga has instilled in me, always be teachable and open.
As yoga teachers we have a lot to focus on in a class, especially now with the online experience thrown into the mix. In a single yoga class we have to focus on teaching to a room of individuals who all see the world in a different way, but are united by the practice of yoga, we talk to our students about injuries, and give them safe options to practice with these injuries. We talk to the students who are practicing at home and now we are trying to find new and unique ways to teach without props as they're not being used in studios due to the risk of spreading the virus. I don’t speak for all teachers but this is my experience of teaching at the moment. On top of all of this, we still want to make our classes fun and engaging and in my case throw in a couple of awkward jokes that the 1% might find funny.
We are still learning and hopefully, going forward, more teacher trainings will cover how to make yoga accessible to everyone.
Honestly, it can be overwhelming at times and taking the time to consider absolutely everyone in our population can seem daunting, because the majority of 200-hour yoga teacher trainings don’t cover these populations, which is in itself a form of exclusion, in my personal opinion. We are still learning and hopefully, going forward, more teacher trainings will cover how to make yoga accessible to everyone.
Exclusion in yoga and being able bodied
So when I speak about these excluded populations who am I speaking about? I am speaking about diverse populations who have no or limited access to yoga, including people of all shapes and sizes, all colours and kinds, I am talking about people with physical disabilities, developmental disabilities, seniors, people with vision and hearing impairments, and those who don’t feel comfortable in mainstream yoga classes. I’m talking about people of all races, sexual orientations, gender identities and financial statuses.
...it's about consistently checking my privilege and questioning whether I am making my classes truly accessible.
Being able bodied is a privilege that a lot of us take for granted, myself included, and for me its not about feeling guilty of the fact that I am able to move my body in ways that others can’t, its about consistently checking my privilege and questioning whether I am making my classes truly accessible.
In the past, when I planned a class, I would put some music on and flow, in any way that felt good, I would use my intuition to allow the sequence to come to me organically. I would then structure the sequence and practice it from beginning to end, feeling out any transitions that didn’t feel safe, keeping in mind the most “common” injuries, lower back pain, soar knees and tight shoulders. I would then teach this sequence to my mum, notice how her body reacts to the sequence and have a discussion with her after the practice to note any parts that maybe didn’t feel safe or was a bit too challenging, and then I would adjust the sequence accordingly. I felt like this was a great way to formulate a class that would be accessible to most people, but now, my perspective has been shifted to consider so much more.
Is it overpowering? Well I think everything feels overpowering when you first start, but as you learn and progress, it starts to become like second nature and then perhaps you can’t believe that you used to do things any other way…this is my hope and goal for Elumi Yoga.
This is my commitment as a yoga teacher and fellow human being.
How will I make Elumi Yoga more accessible?
Firstly, I would like to say that this is not something that will happen over night, as I, personally, still have a lot of learning to do, but here is my commitment to my community…
I will strive to make Elumi Yoga more accessible by:
offering yoga to those of you who have financial difficulties but still want to practice
making online classes (and hopefully in person classes soon) accessible to anyone who wants to join and offering variations for poses depending on who I am serving on that day
consistently checking my language use in class and on social media
ensuring that everyone feels welcome, no matter their background, size, abilities or sexual orientation
continuing my learning and being honest about the knowledge I have and don’t have
being open to feedback from the Elumi community
no longer ending my classes with "namaste"
This is my commitment as a yoga teacher and fellow human being. I am here to serve my community and truly believe that everyone should have access to the practice of yoga.
Click here to see the existing services that Elumi Yoga offers at this time. I am currently looking for a physical space in London that will allow me to offer in person classes so stay tuned.
Please feel free to reach out to me via email if you would like to join any of my online classes and cannot afford to do so. My email address is email@example.com.
I am excited about the social media content that I'll be sharing this month and I hope that it helps you to see this beautiful practice in a fresh new light.
I would like to leave you with this final thought, the next time you meet someone new, take the time to really listen to that person and acknowledge their existence as equal to yours, and notice how that interaction makes you feel.
Love and Light