Inclusivity, Appropriation, and Action

by Amy Robinson

We are a Welcoming, Inclusive Community reads 3 Oms Yoga first core value.  I am learning that it isn’t enough just to be warm and friendly.  Our culture is in the midst of a deep, essential conversation about what it means to be truly inclusive.  As a white, middle age, middle class, Irish-Catholic mother, business owner, doula, yoga teacher, woman, and human — I’m not claiming to be an expert on inclusivity.  But I’d like to attempt to share some of my process and what I’m learning.  As a people pleaser with fear about hurting people’s feelings, at times I feel almost paralyzed when it come to speaking about this topic. I’m learning it is important for me to let go of trying to be perfect, to listen to others, and some times have uncomfortable conversations.  As a yoga practitioner, I am called to investigate my Ego (designed to keep us safe and it categorizes everything; sometimes it’s healthy, and sometimes–if unchecked–can be harmful), and my biases.

Topics I’m Working With

Spiritual Bypassing

Spiritual bypassing sometimes occurs in the yoga community by washing over people’s suffering or minimization by saying things like “We are all one.”  While this is true on a spiritual and biological level, unfortunately it’s not yet true at the systemic cultural level.  At a diversity training at the Whatcom Peace and Justice Center, the facilitator, a Black woman shared when someone says this or “I’m color blind” that she is not being seen or acknowledged and that injustice is being ignored.

Cultural Appropriation

Cultural Appropriation “is the act of taking things from one culture and using them for one’s own benefit and material or emotional profit without having any relationship to the people from which they took them” (from Skill in Action by Michelle Cassandra Johnson).  As a yoga practitioner it felt important for me to spend time in India and study and experience yoga there.  As a yoga studio owner, I feel a dilemma of sharing the gifts of yoga without exploiting where it came from and running a healthy business.  I believe as yoga practitioners we have a responsibility to understand and honor the roots and birthplace of yoga.

As yoga practitioners it is crucial for us to look at our life and actions through the yogic lens starting with the first Yama, Ahimsa (non-harming, like the golden rule) or “Embracing reverence and love for all, we experience oneness” (from The Secret Power of Yoga by Nischala Joy Devi).

Resources I have found helpful

  • Skill in Action by Michelle Cassandra Johnson—an excellent book with guided meditation and journal exercises to “radicalize your yoga practice to create a just world.” The 3 OMS Staff is currently reading this book together (we also have copies for sale in our book section).
  • Whatcom Dispute and Resolution Center’s Diversity and Inclusivity training— this was a profound training we did as staff
  • This Omstars blog post about cultural appropriation in the yoga world
  • This video about white privilege.

Actions Taken In Response

As a business, we know we have a lot of work still to do, but we are working to take actions that will have a positive impact and help increase access for all. If you are experiencing any barriers to coming to yoga, we are making efforts to lower those barriers by offering scholarships, work trade, donation community classes and outreach. For more info, please check out our Karma Program, or send us an email with any questions.

Amy Robinson is the owner of 3 OMS Yoga, and teaches Intuitive Flow and Prenatal classes each week at the studio, in addition to leading workshops and retreats.

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