Our Standards > The Ethical Commitment > Equity in Yoga
Equity in Yoga
Last Updated: February 27, 2020
With respect to equity in yoga, the goal of this responsibility within the Ethical Commitment is for a deepened recognition of the many instances of inequity that live in yoga spaces. It will support the membership and broader yoga community in building and contributing to yoga communities that unite.
This is reflected in the updated Code of Conduct and new Scope of Practice and their enhanced attention to anti-harassment, anti-discrimination, explicit and informed consent, and active inclusion, amongst other key points. It will also be evident in the introductory Equity in Yoga course Yoga Alliance is developing alongside experts and leaders in the field of equity, which will be offered in late 2020 for Continuing Education credits for all members.
Position on Equity in Yoga
During the last two years, Yoga Alliance and the Yoga Alliance Foundation have engaged in honest and informative exchanges with its membership and the broader yoga community—as well as with leaders in the yoga equity movement—to learn about their unique experiences, encounters with inequitable treatment, and the need for more welcoming, supportive, inclusive, and accessible yoga spaces. This has informed our increasing awareness of and responsibility to equity in yoga and influenced the development of the Ethical Commitment to be shared by all Yoga Alliance members today and moving forward.
Through the 18-month long, community-led Standards Review Project, a diverse group of yoga school owners, teachers, practitioners, and non-practitioners shared candid stories and advised us on the need for a more equitable yoga environment—especially for those who have been impacted by inequities. These insights built and shaped our awareness of these important issues and serve as the foundation of our continuing work. We now take this opportunity to explain why this is important to us and to share our hopes for increased equity in yoga within our membership and throughout the broader yoga community.
Why Equity? In the spirit of satya, we recognize the inequities in the systems that surround yoga and through which yoga is practiced. In the spirit of ahimsa, we acknowledge that these inequities have led to the exclusion and harm of many communities. Equity creates space for a fair distribution of resources, support, and opportunities amongst diverse populations and communities, allowing for the opportunity to teach, practice, and study yoga safely, without harm or judgment. By focusing on equity, we are able to center our work around facilitating change in the areas of diversity, accessibility, and inclusivity. This emphasis on equity aligns our hopes for everyone to have access to resources and support as well as recognizes that there will be distinct work required to ensure all communities are able to leverage opportunities across the training, teaching, business, and practice of yoga.
Why now? The emphasis on equity in yoga is not new. Many in the yoga community have been driving the conversation and working to promote a yoga that is welcoming, supportive, inclusive, and accessible. We are thankful for the opportunity to learn from these leaders and to join the movement. Yoga Sutra 1.1—Atha yoga anushasanam1—serves as a call to action for all of us to engage, to assess the present moment, and to tune into what is happening now. We can no longer sit on the sidelines and rather will strive to amplify the voices, experiences, and work of those who continue to guide us through this process of learning and expanding our awareness and responsibility.
Why Yoga Alliance? We are part of the yoga community, and we are on our own journey towards supporting a more equitable yoga. We recognize the many challenges we face and that this is the first step of many to come. In the spirit of svadhyaya, Yoga Alliance and the Yoga Alliance Foundation recognize the discomfort of this work and embrace it, continuing our self-study as we engage in continuous reflection, education, and training along this lifetime of learning. Our desire is for a deepened understanding of inequities and exclusion within yoga, and for spaces that welcome, support, include, and are accessible to all communities. Yoga Alliance is committed to supporting changes that will move yoga towards greater equity, as we believe in the potential of yoga, and we welcome all of our members and the broader yoga community to join, inform, and continue the work in this effort.
What’s next? We will invest our resources to facilitate greater awareness of, and responsibility to, equity in yoga within our membership and the broader yoga community. This investment starts with the Ethical Commitment, which includes an updated Code of Conduct and new Scope of Practice that contain enhanced attention to anti-harassment, anti-discrimination, explicit and informed consent, and active inclusion, amongst others. It will continue with the release of our introductory Equity in Yoga course and our support of events and activities that showcase a more diverse range of voices and lived experiences. Our goal is to collectively embark on this journey and to play a role in meaningful change through work founded in the spirit of yogic principles. We acknowledge that this work will likely be different for each of us, and we invite you to share in this responsibility and join us in our journey towards greater equity in yoga.
Please share your thoughts, questions, and insights by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To see the evolution of Yoga Alliance's position on equity, please read a letter from former Vice President of the Yoga Alliance Foundation, Quentin Vennie, on his personal and professional journey with respect to equity in yoga (June 2019).
1 ”Now, the teachings of yoga [are presented],” as translated in Edwin F. Bryant’s “The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: A New Addition, Translation, and Commentary”, p4
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can you provide more details on how Yoga Alliance gathered insights on equity in yoga from its members and others in the yoga community?
Yoga Alliance has engaged in dialogues with working groups, task forces, school owners, and teachers of all levels on critical needs within the yoga community. In these conversations, there was a consistent emphasis on the importance of greater diversity, inclusivity, and accessibility—broadly defined as equity in yoga.
In response, Yoga Alliance has introduced a strengthened, contemporary, Ethical Commitment that includes an updated Code of Conduct, a new Scope of Practice, and an awareness of and responsibility to equity in yoga. This shared commitment will aid in fostering high quality, safe, accessible, and equitable yoga training, teaching, and practicing. In addition, these requirements will elevate the public’s understanding of the yoga teaching profession and serve as a signal of Yoga Alliance members’ commitment to building a yoga community for all.
Two critical contributors to Yoga Alliance’s equity work were the Inclusion Working Group and the Equity Task Force. The Inclusion Working Group paper emphasized the importance of learning, teaching, and practicing yoga in a manner that is fair, open, and genuine. To do so, one must include promoting equity, reducing harm, honoring cultural differences, recognizing the integrity of yoga’s cultural and historical roots, and fostering diversity and inclusivity. The Equity Task Force advised Yoga Alliance on how to approach an introductory course that will engage its full membership in expanded awareness of and shared responsibility for equity in yoga. emphasized the importance of learning, teaching, and practicing yoga in a manner that is fair, open, and genuine. To do so, one must include promoting equity, reducing harm, honoring cultural differences, recognizing the integrity of yoga’s cultural and historical roots, and fostering diversity and inclusivity. The Equity Task Force advised Yoga Alliance on how to approach an introductory course that will engage its full membership in expanded awareness of and shared responsibility for equity in yoga.
We are deeply grateful to those who shared their stories, perspectives, and experiences with us in pursuit of a more equitable yoga community. We welcome ongoing input as we continue this journey.
2. Please explain the choice to use the word “equity” over “equality”.
We use the word equality to reference offering the same resources, tools, and support to everyone, regardless of need. We use the word equity to reference providing resources, tools, and support according to the specific needs of the individual or the community. Individual or community needs vary and are based on a number of factors.
In the spirit of satya (truth), we recognize the inequities in the systems that surround yoga and through which yoga is practiced. These inequities have led to the marginalization of many communities within the practice. In the spirit of ahimsa (non-violence), we acknowledge the harm that has resulted from this.
Equity encompasses diversity, accessibility, and inclusivity. By providing resources and opportunities to practice yoga safely, without harm or judgment, equity allows everyone increased access to the benefits derived from the practice of yoga.
Today’s culture uses the words diversity, accessibility, inclusivity, and equity differently; depending on the context, the community, and other factors. As Yoga Alliance and the Yoga Alliance Foundation continue to develop the Equity in Yoga course, we will address differences in usage and provide additional resources on related topics.
3. What specific actions will Yoga Alliance and the Yoga Alliance Foundation take in the equity in yoga movement?
Yoga Alliance is engaged in a variety of programs and activities to promote and support greater equity in yoga. In addition to the Ethical Commitment, we are working with experts and leaders in the field to develop an introductory online course on equity in yoga. This course will offer initial exploration of the lack of equity in yoga, including potential causes, and will enable our community to begin to understand why many have been excluded from the practice. This course will also provide achievable approaches and solutions for increasing equity.
This introductory course will count towards ten (10) Continuing Education credits and will be provided to all Yoga Alliance members. It is intended to be an initial foundation, a first step, for yoga schools and teachers to deepen their awareness and understanding of diversity, inclusivity, accessibility, and equity. In addition, we will recommend other course work and svadhyaya to take individual learning to the next level.
Yoga Alliance will also engage in internal activities to foster equity and expand awareness of inequities within the organization. Through broader representation and an increased variety in voices, we will amplify issues of equity through stories, experiences, and perspectives from diverse yoga teachers and practitioners. The Yoga Alliance Foundation grant program will support those organizations and programs that foster greater equity in yoga. These ongoing processes will inform and connect all of our efforts.