Newsflash: yoga is for skinny white women

by Jul 9, 2014Yoga0 comments

Look around your yoga class. Is it mostly white women? If so, you’re not alone. Rosalie Murphy at The Atlantic says yoga seriously lacks diversity.

“Thick, glossy copies of LA Yoga, Yoga Journal, and Yoga Magazine cover the rickety folding table in the lobby of Green Tree Yoga and Meditation. The magazines share tales from Malibu, Santa Monica, and Pasadena. Nearly every spread features a thin woman, usually in slim yoga pants and a tight tank, stretching her arms toward the sky or closing her eyes in meditation. Nearly all of these women are white.”

Happily, the article goes on to talk about Green Tree, a yoga studio that breaks this trend where less than 1% of students are white.

“You can look at all those [yoga] journals and you’ll not see one woman of color,” Raja Michelle told Rosalie Murphy. Raja is herself a white woman, and she founded the studio. “We associate yoga with being skinny, white, and even upper class.”

And that statement is not inaccurate. About one in every 15 Americans practices yoga, according to a 2012 Yoga Journal study, and more than four-fifths of them are white.

Green Tree is looking to change those statistics, especially in Los Angeles where yoga is often a privilege of the upper class. Yoga classes in Los Angeles average $15-$20, and require the student to purchase equipment and fitness clothing.

L.A. yoga studios are heavily concentrated in wealthy white neighborhoods. In a corner storefront beside a tattoo parlor and across from a used car dealership, Green Tree recognizes that religious, economic and social divisions underlie yoga’s racial divide. Its neighborhood is about 80 percent black and 20 percent Latino. Household incomes hover around L.A’s average, but crime rates are high and college diplomas are rare.

“That upscale white woman is the image of yoga,” Robin Rollan of the popular Black Yogis blog told Murphy. “I think a lot of us see yoga as something that’s not for us, because of the lack of imagery [of people of color in yoga]. It is changing, but the image of a white, affluent, thin person is still very entrenched.”

I feel blessed because my yoga class is crazy diverse. Among the students is a bevy of Japanese school girls, a group of black football players, several black women, Latinos, an adorable elderly Indian couple, and even some ex-cons. I can’t imagine going to a yoga class where everybody looks like me. I hope to see more minority friendly, and even minority oriented, yoga studios popping up around the country.

What is your yoga class like? Let me know in the comments.


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