Yoga and Diversity: Introduction

Yoga continues to enjoy explosive growth in the West, with over 20 million yoga practitioners in the US alone. Despite the increasing number of people practicing yoga, statistics indicate that this is a largely monolithic community. Put plainly, the majority of people practicing yoga are wealthy, highly educated women.

​Why?

Perhaps the barrage of images in advertising and mass media of “perfect” yoga bodies frozen in impossible postures plays a role. In the transition from East to West, yoga is perceived less as a form of mental cultivation and more as a form of physical fitness, with all the inherent hard body imagery that goes with it.

Festival of India, 2013
Festival of India, Center Island, Toronto, 2013

Perhaps there’s a private club mentality at work that makes outsiders feel unwelcome if they don’t fit the standard. More than a few people have entered a yoga studio for the first time only to feel like they just crashed a private party.

Perhaps yoga, as it’s practiced in the West, is simply of more interest to certain demographic groups than it is to others. Is this simply a birds-of-a-feather phenomenon? There is, however, a growing movement of both teachers and practitioners that challenge this assumption, and are working to introduce more diversity in western yoga.

In this documentary, we explore the delicate issue of diversity in western yoga from the perspective of colour, gender and shape. We also introduce you to some of the people who are advocating for a more inclusive yoga community.

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