It’s been almost a year since I arrived in Brisbane, Australia. As much as I miss what I consider to be my home, London – I’m incredibly grateful to be weathering the Covid-19 storm here. Thanks to fewer restrictions, more space & certainly more sunshine, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on what I really want to do with my life going forward. Due to the timing of my move here with the pandemic, I’ve only recently started to seriously look into working within the yoga industry in this city. What I’ve unfortunately found so far though, is eerily similar to my experience of the yoga industry in Vancouver back in 2017 – an unknowing cult of wellness worshipping spiritual bypassers in every studio (apart from one) that I’ve visited so far.
I, being a white woman in my 30’s, am constantly questioning my role as a yoga teacher in the Western world. How do I teach this life-changing practice in a way that is authentic & not culturally appropriative? Is that even possible to do at all?
Every person I know from the yoga community in London was & I’m sure still is, also asking these same questions (to themselves and others). Perhaps I was just lucky in the sense that I found myself surrounded by like-minded people in that city? I know that the spiritual bypassers exist in London too, I just didn’t encounter them all that often. Whereas here in Brisbane, the norm seems to be that they will be 99% of the occupancy of each & every yoga space/studio. While I have met some teachers here who can also see that this is the case, they mostly seem all too happy not to challenge the status quo & instead are teaching classes in the way which these misinformed types of students expect to be taught – full of superficial ‘love & light’.
Another part of issue here is the large number of yoga/wellness studio owners expecting teachers to do unpaid administration work around their classes. I can’t believe I even have to write this but asking teachers to arrive 20-30 minutes before their scheduled class, have them open up the studio, sign in their own students, take payments etc. & then clean/tidy up afterwards for another 20 minutes is not professional nor is it ethical. The $50AUD most studios are paying their teachers for a 1 hour class is in my opinion, the absolute minimum that they should be getting for the class only. If there are other duties that studio owners require the teachers to do then please, PAY THEM FOR IT.
I have worked as both a teacher & a manager in yoga spaces in the UK & in Canada. I’m not coming from a place of inexperience when I say that studio owners should be paying their teachers/staff for ALL of the work that they do & for the time that it takes them to do it.
So, Brisbane has far too many ‘love & light’ spiritual bypassers creating issues for the yoga community here, along with the large number of wellness studio owners who are masquerading as having ditched the corporate world. In fact what they have actually done is just swapped industries. They are running ‘yoga’ businesses without any thought or action that is even remotely in line with the philosophy of yoga (or any of the other modalities that are running in these wellness spaces). These owners are simply taking the parts of the practice that ‘sell’, promoting them and ignoring the rest. This is both disrespectful & cultural appropriation. It’s not OK.
And it’s about time that it started getting called out.
So, I need your help.
Is there a way of being more authentic in how we collectively teach & run yoga businesses? In how we learn as students? Are there certain standards that we need to decide on & then continue to make sure that they are upheld?
Unpacking what yoga has become in the Western world is a task for more than just me. As individuals, we can continue to work on our own subconscious biases & beliefs which are allowing us to participate in the cultural appropriation of yoga but we also need to come together as a community to tackle the industry of yoga & what it has become (or perhaps always was?).
If you have thoughts, let’s connect. Let’s have discussions. Let’s create change.