I was fortunate to have a 12 hour training in the work of Brené Brown when I worked at a non-profit women’s organization a few years ago. Since people in the group knew that I was on the executive level at the organization, and they had paid good money to attend the workshop, I couldn’t share my deepest feelings about leaving my position or…anything really. Each time we spoke of what happens when we can’t be our authentic self, I thought, “Here’s Meg, exhibit ‘A.'”
Nevertheless, I persisted in my own way. I found a position where I could be authentically me and deepen my teaching practice. Like the quote says above, by living into my authenticity, I belonged to me.
But so many things have happened since November 2016 that have made me see that me belonging to me isn’t enough. I have to belong to community — a big, broad, diverse, interesting, juicy community full of people who are unique in their background, their culture, their language, their perspective.
People in this kind of community bear a responsibility. We need to intentionally invite and welcome everyone, especially people who feel that they don’t belong. We need to examine and rid our community of systematic injustices that create barriers. So, to amend the Brené Brown quote above, “Belonging is being your authentic self and knowing that no matter what happens, you belong to you, and you belong to a community that embraces you because you are authentically, uniquely you.”
I would love to say that the yoga community in the DC region reflects this idea, but as I have taken a step towards being intentional about my yoga community, I have become acutely aware that there are yoga teachers and practitioners who cannot be who they really, truly are. They feel confined by the both the spoken and unspoken “rules” of asana or meditation practice, shamed by their bodies or the way in which they learn best, for straying from tradition or for having the audacity to claim ancient tradition — the list goes on and on. Next time you enter your yoga community, look around and note the predominant race, ethnicity, language, body type, age. Allow yourself to imagine that you are different from the majority of these faces. How would you feel practicing in this space?
That’s why as we come together to explore a regional yoga co-operative in the DC region, we must fight against homogeneity and work as a group to ensure accessibility, affordability and choice for all people interested in the practice. We must ensure that people of color and people who feel marginalized by our current yoga scene are not only invited, but are present at the first meeting at the end of January to help us envision what we can accomplish together. Our intentional community must reflect the beautiful connection of belonging, if we can be authentically, truly who we are.