As an organization committed to the holistic well-being of women of colour, The Villij teamed up with Downward Dog Yoga Centre in Toronto to provide scholarships for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour. I was fortunate enough to be the first recipient to enroll in the 200-hour Fundamentals of Vinyasa Yoga Teacher Training. The scholarships are geared towards people interested in furthering their yoga knowledge/practice yet may have found that trainings were inaccessible.
Surprisingly, Toronto, one of the most diverse cities in the world, still has limited opportunities available for people of colour interested in becoming wellness practitioners. I’ve spent most of my life here, and I’ve always associated wellness spaces as predominantly white spaces. Downward Dog Yoga owner Karen Parucha, clearly recognized the need for more diverse yoga teachers in her studio - and in the industry at large - and decided to offer scholarships to members of groups that have been historically marginalized.
When I first heard about the opportunity, I was both excited and hesitant because it’s important for me to feel safe and to see people like me reflected in the spaces I’m in. I immediately looked up the studio’s website to get a better understanding of Downward Dog’s history, values, and the expertise of its instructors and faculty. I was curious to know if Downward Dog had an anti-oppressive approach to their yoga teacher training, and I must admit when I saw the studio’s team I was hoping for more diversity on staff.
Prior to hearing about Downward Dog, I had always sought out yoga spaces where I knew I would be in a community with other people of colour. As much as I appreciate that the yoga community is taking steps towards creating accessible and inclusive spaces by reducing or removing financial barriers to teacher training, I wanted to be sure that I would be in an environment where students of all backgrounds felt welcomed and supported. In other words, I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t entering yet another overwhelmingly white space where I wouldn’t feel seen or heard.
I wanted to be sure that I would be in an environment where students of all backgrounds felt welcomed and supported.
Ultimately, I had made a promise to myself that I wanted to evolve my yoga practice and pursue my teacher training one day. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do that if I exhausted myself by focusing on the whiteness of the wellness industry, so I decided to use the opportunity that Downward Dog Yoga Centre provided as a way to tackle my discomfort. My intention with pursuing this training is to one-day hold space for other women of colour looking to embark on a similar path.
I prepped myself for the start of this journey by participating in a 21-day meditation challenge, this allowed me to begin my training with a clear mind and cultivate a sustainable meditation practice. During the training, I learned about the foundations of Yoga, such as its philosophy, postures, and anatomy. What I appreciated about the Downward Dog Yoga training was the anti-oppressive focused workshops offered, which taught me how to make my own practice more accessible. Of course, critical conversations around how to create inclusive, anti-oppressive spaces is no simple undertaking. As to be expected, there were a few tense moments where people in my training cohort didn’t see eye-to-eye, but I saw these moments as a necessary part of learning how to deal with challenging conversations.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from this training is that it’s okay to slow down and focus on my own wellness before I am able to care for others. It’s been an intensive learning journey so far, and I’m slowly continuing to gain confidence in my asana and meditation practice. I’ll be spending the next couple of months honing my practice, and then I hope to move into the next phase of my journey: teaching to the community!
For anyone considering yoga teacher training, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- What is your intention behind taking yoga teacher training?
- What is the motivation behind your personal practice?
- What is your intention for the community you’d like to teach?
- What are some ways that you could take an anti-oppressive approach to your practice?
I have found that these questions allowed me to get clear on my vision and the role I intend to play in diversifying the wellness space. Connecting with my mind and body, and managing my relationship with anxiety, is what motivates me. I hope to one day create restorative yoga spaces where women of colour can show up as their authentic selves. As challenging as it may be to find wellness spaces that genuinely cater to BIPOC individuals and our well-being in accessible ways - organizations like The Villij and Downward Dog Yoga Centre exist and are truly committed to creating diversity in the wellness industry.
The Villij and Downward Dog Yoga created The Women of Colour Do Yoga 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training Scholarship to provide two scholarships (one at 100% discount and another at 50% discount) this summer. You can learn more about the teacher training here and apply here.
This was great! Thanks for sharing.
This was an insightful and honest article. Loved it!