Yoga as a spiritual, mental and physical exercise began in India, but not everyone knows that, especially after Google-searching the word or attending a variety of yoga studios across any major city in America. The white-dominated practice can be an uncomfortable space for some.
“In 2010, a handful of yoga teachers and practitioners of color recognized the need to create a space in which people of color, especially queer and trans people of color (POC), could practice yoga without having to face judgment or microaggressions from their yoga teachers or fellow practitioners,” Teresa Wang, co-founder of POC Yoga, explained in a statement sent to Real Change.
Rainier Beach Yoga studios offered a stable space for a Saturday practice, but after kiro-fm radio’s conservative host Dori Monson brought the class to the spotlight when a listener passed on a posting from Rainier Beach Yoga, the POC Yoga class was forced to shut down because of death threats and harassment.
“I have no problem with it,” said Monson on air. His problem, he went on to elaborate, was the fact that if white people were to do the same thing, “they would be vilified.” Monson’s offense lies in the idea that this space will be seen as “progressive” in the city of Seattle, when, as he said, “the fact is, they’re both racist.”
Co-founder Teresa Wang appeared in edited clips during the radio segment and explained the function of safe spaces for people of color and queer POC.
“We really want to make sure we’re offering yoga that’s accessible, whether that’s because you have a larger body, or you’re queer, or because you are a person of color or can’t afford yoga otherwise,” she said.
Monson claims what is commonly referred to as “reverse racism,” a term that some argue contradicts the definition of racism itself, which many define as a power-based concept in which a majority race benefits off of a minority race.
“Yes, the people in our group have asked that our white friends and allies respectfully not attend to allow people of color this space,” Wang said. “We asked; we did not demand it, and we never turned anyone away. It shows the extent to which people will go to reinforce the racism that pervades our lives.”