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Why I Am Not Interested in Your Virtual Ashtanga Course

During this Shelter in Place, I signed up for 4 virtual courses…none of them Ashtanga. I am so tired of the same interviews with the same hand full of people who have the same perspective. I am tired of the same workshops by the same few super flexy people on the same subjects. I am tired of the same tutorials by the same genetically gifted people on the same techniques that no one but genetically gifted people can even do. I am tired of this homogenous picture that the Ashtanga world insists on painting.

When Ashtanga comes under fire for being a shallow elitist practice for skinny genetically gifted circus freaks, the Ashtanga community is quick to jump in with examples of people who don’t fit this description. They beat the drum of how Ashtanga is for everyone and how it can be tailored to all walks of life. They talk about how Ashtanga is based on the 8 limbs of Patanjali and how it is a legitimate path to enlightenment. But as soon as the dust clears, Ashtangis go right back to their old ways of lifting up the voices of Karen, Becky, and Jim who can do handstands and look stunning in crotch shots with their legs behind their heads.

To be clear, I am not saying that pretty able-bodied people should not be using their gifts and teaching what they know. This is about what we as a community continue to uplift. When we defend the Ashtanga community and speak of its diversity, it is true, we are diverse. Ask yourself why you continue to only uplift one segment of this community?

During the Shelter in Place, I signed up for a Yoga For All training ran by two abundant bodied beauties, Dianne Bondy and Amber Karnes, a trauma-informed training by a Black woman, Nityada Gessell, a course on Honoring and not Appropriating Yoga while teaching in the Virtual space by Susanna Barkataki, and a course on Women in Hinduism ran by female staff, two of South Asian descent, by OCHS. I chose all of these people because they either come from populations that have perspectives that need to be uplifted or they themselves uplift perspectives of marginalized people. It is how I do my part in creating a world that is truly diverse and that uplifts all voices. It is a choice. Something I do on purpose. If we want the world to change, it has to be with purpose and on purpose.

Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail shanna@ashtangayogaproject.com.

2 Comments

  • Rachael

    Being able to attend Ashtanga class with my Ashtanga community during shelter-in-place has been a gift. I live 90 minutes away from my teachers and during normal times it’s hard to get there on a regular basis. Now I’m able to have that community 1-2 times per week. I also teach Ashtanga and the virtual classes have been a way to keep our community together. After each class I am inspired and uplifted, and my students tell me the same thing. It’s one thing we can do to take care of ourselves mentally during this difficult time. I am grateful for the virtual classes.

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