April 22, 2024

Embracing Inclusivity and Accessibility in our Practice

Yoga has surged in popularity recently, becoming a staple in the wellness routines of millions worldwide. Yet, despite its widespread appeal, it has often been associated with a certain image: slim, young, flexible bodies, usually female, usually white, performing intricate poses in high-end studios or dramatic landscapes. This portrayal can be intimidating and exclusionary, leading many to believe that yoga is not for them. However, the essence of this millenia old practice lies in its accessibility to all, regardless of age, body type, gender or physical ability. In this blog, we explore how yoga can be inclusive and accessible to everyone, including you dear reader, and how its transformative benefits can be enjoyed by all.

What is inclusive yoga?

It’s an approach that seeks to make yoga accessible to all individuals, regardless of their physical abilities, limitations, or backgrounds. It focuses on adapting traditional practices to meet the needs of diverse populations, ensuring that everyone can participate and benefit from this ancient practice.

Breaking barriers to access

One of the key principles of inclusivity is embracing diversity. A truly inclusive class can be catered to specific needs such as disabilities, health conditions, age and any other aspects which may make attending a regular class not possible. This diversity not only reflects the reality of our society but also enriches the practice by offering different perspectives and experiences.

Accessibility is another crucial aspect. This includes physical accessibility, such as a studio not up flights of stairs, to providing props and modifications to accommodate different body types and abilities. It also extends to ensuring that classes are financially accessible, with options for discounted or donation-based classes.

In addition to physical accessibility, creating an inclusive environment is essential for making yoga welcoming to all. This involves fostering a sense of community and belonging, where everyone feels accepted and valued. Teachers play a vital role in this by using inclusive language, being mindful of their cues and instructions, and creating a safe space for everyone to practice.

Adapting the practice

Inclusive yoga involves adapting the practice to meet the needs of different individuals. This may include using chairs or props to support those in wheelchairs or with limited mobility, offering variations of poses to accommodate different abilities, and providing options for seated or lying-down poses for those who cannot stand for long periods.

It’s not just about physical accessibility of course; it’s also about creating a sense of belonging and community. For many people, yoga is more than just a physical practice; it’s a way to connect with others and feel a sense of belonging. Inclusive studios strive to create a welcoming and supportive environment where everyone feels accepted and valued. 

This sense of community can be incredibly empowering and can help everyone feel more confident in their practice. Inclusive yoga celebrates body positivity and challenges the notion that only certain body types are acceptable in yoga. This focus can be incredibly empowering and can help individuals develop a more positive relationship with their bodies.

So whether we are teachers or students (or both), remaining open-minded to the diversity of our yoga family is vital, as is being present to learn from others. Everyone has something valuable to contribute. Yoga is about breaking down barriers, fostering a sense of community, celebrating body positivity, adapting to different abilities and fostering self-awareness.

Cultivating a sense of belonging

I occasionally see people wearing clothing with ‘be kind’ emblazoned on the front. A home near me has a flagpole in the garden, they have a ‘be kind’ flag which is sometimes on display, flapping in the breeze. Both make me smile. A reminder that if we notice someone struggling, a simple gesture of kindness can make a big difference to someone’s day. Yoga is a practice that is able to truly meet us wherever we are, whether that’s in a wheelchair, a hospital bed or dealing with long term pain or illness.

Inclusive and accessible yoga is not just a trend; it’s a fundamental principle that lies at its very heart. By embracing diversity, creating inclusive environments and adapting the practice to meet the needs of all individuals, we can ensure that it truly is for everyone. So, next time you roll out your mat, remember that yoga is not about perfection; it’s about embracing who you are and where you are in your journey. 

We all deserve equal access to the transformative magic of the ancient wisdom teachings of yoga, which at their core provide all individuals with a path to empowerment. If you would like to explore more, one to one yoga lessons are the ideal safe space to start. At Mount Martha Yoga, experienced teacher Emily offers private yoga sessions on Mornington Peninsula, Dromana and surrounding suburbs,  supporting and guiding your practice, however that looks for you.