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Why talk about racism in yoga?

After a hiatus without writing on the blog, I come back with an extremely pertinent subject for the moment we are living. Few things have touched me more than the #blacklivesmatter demonstrations in the USA and all the worldwide repercussion that this subject has taken. Like many people, I also made a silent immersion by reading and finding out about this subject that is old but so current. I have darker skin, curly hair and hated it for many years. I heard from many friends and family how beautiful I was, if it weren't for my hair, I heard that racist expression several times that I have a foot in the kitchen or in the slave quarters (a horrible Brazilian expression to denote someone has dark skin but is not considered black), not to mention that some acquaintances even doubted my mother when they found out that my father was not black. I had a great-great-grandmother and a great-great-great-grandmother who were black, and their genes as well as a desire for change and equality reached me to this day.

Today it has been a week since I silenced my Instagram posts and used my time on the internet to listen to black influencers, watch movies, read, listen to podcasts, and talk to friends and family about a subject that is not so comforting but absolutely necessary to create a world where everyone has a voice and is heard.

I am not here to talk about the lack of black representation in the labor market (especially in the highest positions), universities and society in general. I believe that as much as people still need to know about this data, there is a lot of it on the internet, in articles and by just doing a quick Google search you can find them.

Something that has always caught my attention in all the yoga studios I have practiced and taught (all of them, without any exception) is that the staff and members are mostly white skinned, have you ever noticed that? The big problem with racism these days, in my view, is that people are no longer racist, or at least do not consider themselves so. Most people do not judge the other by color anymore and I imagine that if you are here reading this text, you are like that. Many of the people who follow me have this quest for self-knowledge, yoga, and know in their hearts that we are all the same. How then can this be a problem? What occurs behind this is not realising the suffering of the black community, leading us to believe that: if I am not racist and I have not enslaved black people, then there is nothing else I can do. Laruga Glaser, in a brilliant IGTV, points out that the big problem about racism in yoga is that it is not necessary to even talk about it in practice, since there is nothing in the scriptures or traditional texts that address this issue.

When we exempt ourselves from any and all responsibility for the racism that still exists today, we become neutral in a subject that unfortunately still needs our attention. Because it is something veiled, it is much more difficult to fight against it. It's time to understand that even though you don't see the difference between a white person and a black person, you realize that in general black people still suffer racism, even if indirectly, that they do not feel welcome in environments such as yoga schools for example, often because there is no one there like them or because they feel that the environment is elitist. Maybe you think this is victimization, or maybe it's because you were born with the luck to never worry about that or even notice it. In my view, being born with that luck is a great privilege and also a responsibility to become an agent of change in today's world.

Speaking to a friend of mine, she told me that she had two black teachers in her entire life, and that living in the USA it was super difficult for her to get a job: only two studios hired her and one had a black woman as owner, and the other was genuinely because the owner of the studio liked her style. Talking about this subject is uncomfortable, I thought about that several times this week: I used to follow very few people in the yoga niche who were black, not because I discriminated them but because for some reason they never appeared to me! I believe that adding more diversity to our social media is a start because it brings us closer, but it certainly is not enough to help solve this problem.

Especially those who own yoga schools could look for more black professionals to work in the studio, or make more partnerships for workshops, retreats, etc. If you have a brand of clothing, accessories, and especially if you are in the spiritual field, it is high time to collaborate with people of color. Not just because they are black, but as a way to add diversity! The beauty of the world, of life is precisely in this diversity of colors, races, cultures, music, clothes, foods, languages, dace and so on. I would really like to see more black practitioners in the studios, retreats and yoga trainings. I still don't know how to address this or how to act so that this diversity is found, but I will continue to seek ways to do that.

At an IGTV, an Ashtanga Yoga teacher, Laruga Glaser, spoke for an hour about everything she faced on her yoga journey. She still suffers boycotts and retaliation, even from senior yoga teachers (which makes me realize that they didn't learn anything a thing about yoga), and talked several times about how people gave her a little space, but never too much and how she was constantly “put in her place”. People with much less practice, with fewer years of education receive more attention and greater focus than her, who has been practicing for 24 years. Imagine yourself entering the spiritual world to seek peace of mind and self-acceptance and to constantly deal with contempt and prejudice. That same friend of mine that I commented from the USA, is no longer giving many classes because she did not feel acceptance in the world of yoga, which despite being a spiritualist world, of peace and love, she was more welcome in another professional environment.

The black community has many traumas, it carries centuries of atrocities in its DNA, slavery, suffering, rapes, separation from its motherland and relatives, torture, and much more. From 520 years in Brazil, 388 had slavery. In other words, for only 132 years have blacks been “free” in Brazil, that is only 3 generations, that is to say: most likely my great grandparents were slaves or daughters of slaves. This community would benefit immensely from the teachings and practice of yoga. A practice that teaches us at the same time to silence our minds, to release traumas and pain from the past and to connect intimately with who we really are: infinite, full and happy. It is a practice that teaches love, forgiveness, calm and self-satisfaction. It gives you the strength to change what can be changed, and a consolation for what cannot. Imagine how wonderful it would be if yoga, that was considered a world heritage site by UNESCO, reached the people who need it most?

It is high time that we bring awareness to this subject and ask ourselves: what I have been consuming, saying and doing that I have not contributed to this cause and how can I act from now on so that it changes? Yoga goes far beyond asana. Is spirituality doing anything for you if it does not take into account the feelings, fights and well being of others?

What to do, exactly I don't know. Some things that can be done: follow black influencers, listen to what they have to say, be willing to have uncomfortable conversations with relatives who still reproduce racist speeches, support local businesses that are led by this community, try to bring more diversity to the studio that you work, study with black teachers, and be very, very willing to listen carefully. Much of the suffering we are experiencing today could be avoided if we listened with all our hearts.

This post does not provide answers, just some reflections. I hope you carry those words in your heart.

May all beings, everywhere be happy and free from suffering

May my words, thoughts and actions contribute to everyone's happiness

Let there be peace, peace, peace

Namaste.

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Por que falar sobre o racismo no contexto do yoga?

Depois de um hiato sem escrever no blog, volto com um assunto extremamente pertinente para o momento que estamos vivendo. Poucas coisas me tocaram mais do que a manifestações de #blacklivesmatter nos

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