YSC 2017: Cultural Competency

I attended a breakout session on cultural competency at the Yoga Service Conference in May. I looked forward to it because I care about this topic a lot, and because plenty of my students are people of color.

A very specific topic sparked my initiative to share my thoughts. Then, I found myself needing to write another whole blog post on cultural competency in general, in large part so I could be more sure people would not think I was a racist. After that, one more. This post is the fourth! I share this now not because I feel like I’ve finally said it perfectly, or covered all there is, but because I really think this same sort of concern (I don’t want people to think I’m racist!) prevents a lot of valuable conversation on this topic.
One aspect of the conference and the session was that we want to be mindful of respecting the privacy of people within each session. Know that I’m limiting some of what I say in order to hold to that. One comment, though, worth sharing specifically, came from one of the presenters, that we need not only “safe spaces” to discuss, but “brave spaces”. In that spirit, of all the possible topics to write about, I’ve written about these:


As a white woman in yoga, I am not necessarily the best person to write authoritatively on the topic of cultural competency! Many aspects of my culture are included and taken for granted as overall truths. That said, white people play a role in this too, and my thoughts and experiences are quite literally the only personal ones I have to share.
What else would be amazing topics to hear about, from a perspective that is not mine:
What would my students of color want me to know about their life experience and yoga experience that can make my teaching friendlier?
What steps can a yoga teacher take to become more culturally competent?
What cultures might it make sense to consider cultural competency in, keeping in mind that culture is not identical to ethnicity or nationality or race?
How does yoga students’ perception of the teacher or the teacher’s identity/experiences shape their views on the teachers practices? Sometimes our identities or experiences – struggling with an eating disorder, being in an interracial relationship, sexual or gender identity – are not visible or may be assumed incorrectly.
How might a culturally competent approach overlap with a trauma informed approach, and how might these approaches clash or supplement each other?

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