199: Creating Inclusive Yoga Spaces with Erin Ajayi

As yoga teachers, many of us have the intention of creating inclusive yoga spaces. However, we may not know what that looks like or feels like from the perspective of a BIPOC yoga student. Erin Ajayi joins Shannon in this episode to share her own experience of being a yoga student of color (from the perspective of a Black woman).

Erin Ajayi is the Senior Director of Development at I Live Here I Give Here, a nonprofit organization with the mission to make Central Texas the most generous community in the nation. Erin is also a part-time yoga teacher who has taught in studio spaces, and college and university spaces. Erin came to yoga as a result of a running injury but since then, her relationship with yoga has evolved. Today, Erin teaches restorative yoga “to help her students show up to the moments in their lives.”

Erin also opens up about some of the adverse personal experiences she has had within the yoga world and shares some deep insights about how mainstream yoga perpetuates exclusion or even racism. She also has some suggestions on what inclusive practices studios and practitioners can adopt as alternatives, and how yoga teachers and studios can hold space and give voice to this marginalized group within our community.

Key Takeaways:

[6:02] Shannon introduces her guest for this episode – Erin Ajayi.

[7:37] What was Erin’s yoga journey and how did she get into teaching yoga?

[10:20] How did Erin and her mom do yoga together?

[11:10] What is the work that Erin does now, and who does she do it for?

[12:51] How does Erin feel about the fact that the world is finally waking up to the idea of creating inclusive spaces for BIPOC?

“With yoga teachers, that relationship that they’re building with students is really important.” ~ Erin Ajayi

[15:15] What are some of the things Erin wishes yoga teachers were more aware of?

[18:31] How can we be more inclusive in our greetings to our students to make everyone, across the board, feel welcome.

[20:28] Shannon and Erin discuss the defensiveness that yoga teachers may feel when confronted with anecdotes of BIPOC being othered.

“I know the importance of representation in advertising and in literature.” ~ Erin Ajayi

[23:36] How can we invite more Black people and other vulnerable populations into our yoga classes?

[26:59] People are becoming more conscious of representation and the current global situation has opened up possibilities to connect with people of all different backgrounds, modalities, etc.

[29:15] How can we connect with people from marginalized groups in an authentic way?

“If you’re having trouble attracting a diverse student population, there’s an opportunity to do the deeper reflection and start to think – where can I have representation in other areas?” ~ Erin Ajayi

[33:28] What are some other instances in which Erin felt uncomfortable as a Black yoga student?

[36:46] Shannon wonders if giving a discount to BIPOC would help draw them in to events or festivals or studios.

“Don’t start with the assumption that Black people or people of color need a discount to attend your yoga class.” ~ Erin Ajayi

[40:21] There is no quick fix to this situation. Erin shares some strategies for yoga teachers to create more inclusive spaces.

[43:19] Erin has some other suggestions of things that yoga teachers and studios can consider.

[46:12] Erin shares some final thoughts around creating inclusive spaces for yoga students. 

[49:32] Check out the resources Erin recommended to Shannon in her original email in the links below.


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