A rare treat and honour to run a session for Starcatchers Expecting Something group, using yoga practices, to foster unity, self care and support community. This free weekly creative group for young parents and their little ones, is led by the phenomenal Katy Wilson, at Whale Arts centre in Wester Hailes, Edinburgh. Here, an example of embracing Yoga as an equity* practice. The impact of cultural appropriation of yoga in the west, has all too often, reduced these practices to just a physical practice, exercises. A means to profit, endorse fashion trends, ‘looks’ even certain body aesthetic’s ( eurocentric). It reveals the systemic imbalance of privilege and power over the source culture and fractionating these practices, in opposition to how they were intended, creating separation and disconnection . Embracing Yoga in its fullness, means considering its source, honouring its roots and restoring a sense of community and connection, through practices that cultivate unity, within mind, body and heart, and which uphold social justice. Yoga is and should be for all. A science of liberation, a complex and holistic system of practices for mind, body and spirit that provide guidance for self regulation, as a means to reduce human suffering and transform intention into positive action for liberation, personally and socially.
Katy had the vision to create a relaxation retreat in the woods for the group, sharing Yoga practices, Asana, Pranayama (breathwork) and self massage to promote relaxation and restoration. 🌱🌳 What was most evident, this second time working with the group was its impact, in facilitating young people to navigate through, this incredibly transformative and challenging time as parents, and for many, amidst great personal and social challenge. The reality is dominance of power and privilege drives the wellness industry in the west. For many marginalised groups, these practices are not accessible, financially, or individuals are made to feel they don’t have the right look, clothing or equipment to practice. Here was a group of young people, receptive to a total stranger and these seemingly unfamiliar practices; Pranayama, sound practices, self massage and combinations of seated asanas (poses). What happened, in this time was nothing short of extraordinary. These young adults began to share openly; aches and pains, mental, emotional tensions, questions about self regulation, changing mindsets, coping strategies.
One young mum stated she found it very difficult to connect to herself, to recognise changes or signs in her body, mind, or her breath. We explored simple techniques in self massage, movement and breathwork that could be used to soothe, stimulate, relieve anxiety. How a little bit goes a long way, exploring practices, which deepen svadhyaya (self inquiry), helps us sensitise and foster greater unity in self and beyond. We discussed the importance of healthy boundaries as parents, which prioritise self care and worth. I was humbled by their honesty and desire to expand self awareness. I listened to how a young mother had advocated for friends about self respect and body autonomy, skills she was teaching her young daughter. Here an example of how the *Yama’s and Niyama’s (yogic ethics) can provide guidance and for this young adult, honouring the second Yama, Satya - in speaking her truth. After working as a teacher for over 9 years, predominately, with students who experienced inequity as a result of socio-economic status, race or religion, I experienced the deeply important work, needed to earn respect and trust, by those let down by systems, that should have been working to liberate not oppress. Anyone can do yoga, you can do yoga anywhere. You don’t need certain clothing, equipment or a studio setting. Yoga provides a comprehensive framework to deepen connection and build community. What I witnessed within this group, was a truly diverse space, a community bound by inclusion not exclusivity. A group who welcomed and trusted me to share some practices that may provide some small pathway to fostering self worth, healing and unity in self and beyond. So deep respect and gratitude to Starcatchers and Katy Wilson, for the work they do in building community and promoting equity. And to these #extrodinaryhumans, who are raising the future 🙌🧡. Terms - Defined by Susanna Barkataki in Embrace Yoga’s Roots: *Equity Giving everyone what they need to be successful, taking into account the vast diversity of structural privilege, power and oppression, and life experience. Equity identifies and strives to eliminate blocks that have prevented some groups or people from participating fully. *Yamas and Niyamas The Yamas and niyamas are ethical foundations of yoga. They represent a yogic vision for a global yoga practice, lifestyle and ethic. Want to learn more about Yoga as an Equity Practice ? Check out Susanna Barkataki and her extrodinary book Embrace Yoga’s Roots