It began while on my quest as a yoga teacher to find some inspiration–a theme for my Saturday queer and trans yoga class. I figured if I searched tumblr or pintrest–or hell, even Google–I could get some good ideas.
But when I did an image search for “yoga”, almost all the results featured tiny, young, white women with
airbrushed rock hard abs, sporting lululemon logos on every clothed part of their body. A brown woman popped up once every 50 posts; a ridiculously buff white dude every 75. Not a single person that came up under my “yoga” image search was visibly queer, much less brown. There were definitely no brown dudes (save for pictures of older Indian yogis). So, I kept scrolling, and scrolling, and eventually, became very frustrated.
I’m tired of Googling “yoga” only to have images spat back at me that scream entitlement–the kind of entitlement that comes with being able to pay $18 for a class that takes place in some bourgie studio with the words “om” and “namaste” printed on everything and giant pictures of the Hindu God Ganesha everywhere.
I can’t stand the fact that every time I walked into a yoga class the teacher is a skinny white woman who looks at me funny and then asks if I have “ever done yoga before?” (You do see the $60 mat I’m sitting on don’t you? I’m pretty sure you have the same one custom ordered in sea foam green.)
I’m tired of being the only brown person in the room; I’m even more tired of being the only brown person AND the only dude. I’m over the way (white) people give me strange looks when I set my mat next to them and start ujjayi breath. And I absolutely hate the look they give me when I tell them that I’m a yoga teacher.
But I do love yoga. I absolutely do–deep in my bones. I never enjoy sweat dripping down my binder, ever, except during yoga. I love that I found yoga when I was so broken, that it helped me glue the pieces back together and eventually gave me the strength to build a new me. I love how yoga has given me the confidence to face my biggest and smallest fears–from riding rollercosters at amusement parks to quitting my 9-5 job to follow my dreams.
I love that I can do a headstand. Yeah I said it, a fuckin’ headstand. I love that I am not afraid to look in the mirror anymore, in the bathroom or on the mat. love that I can give queer kids an hour each week to concentrate on themselves. I love seeing them use yoga to come out of their shells and into their most authentic selves, even if they only do that on the mat. I love that my partner and I spend hours at a time breaking down poses for fun. That we can practice side by side to experience a union physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. And [as a trans man], I love that yoga made me not hate my body anymore.
Yoga teaches me that I can be in my body, even if it hurts and I don’t want to; that anybody, in any body can change themselves, their communities and the world; that how I show up to the mat is how I show up in my life; and that if I can’t be compassionate with myself, when I practice, I can’t expect to do the same when I take on the world’s challenges.
Every brown/queer/trans/dude/person can benefit from yoga. And I don’t say this to encourage an appropriation of yoga as a culture. I don’t do yoga for the money (though its nice to help pay the bills), and I don’t do yoga because it’s the next big thing to do to get in shape. I do it because I am moved to do so, because my heart has never been open the way it is when I practice.
Yoga was meant so that folks are able to be self-reflective and take care of themselves so they can take care of others in this world. I want my community to be able to take care of themselves. I want my people to be resilient because being who we are is dangerous within the institutions that dictate our lives.
Yoga is a gift that I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from and I don’t want to see members of my community missing out on such a beautiful journey just because many mainstream yoga spaces are unsafe. I dream of seeing a queer/trans/brown/round yoga studio in every community, with classes being offered on a donation basis, because I want everyone to be one step closer to their most authentic self, no matter when in their life they find a mat.
As a teacher, this dream is all the motivation I need to keep growing my yoga practice and showing up to other yoga classes–no matter how many weird looks I get. Being out, and present, and seen, as a trans man of color, especially when my comrades and community don’t have the ability to do so, is worth the effort, worth the pain; I can and will dive in, surrender to this purpose, because yoga has taught me how.
Edited by Spectra Speaks.