Cultural competency is a hugely important topic – and also a hugely scary one to write about, for me.
I am from the US and currently live here. This country’s human rights record is shameful, in particular in terms of treatment of people of color. Some things have changed, some have not, and even following change, past practices affect us today.
I also lived for 3 years in a country where civilians of Muslim background were targeted in conflict and went without international assistance for years. I spent a fair part of a two year dating a black man. I don’t claim to experience racism or discrimination in the way people of color do, but issues such as racism and discrimination feel personal and close to my heart.
Selfishly, it would also just be painful to be called a racist. Plenty of people are unwilling to spend the time and take the risk of going out on a limb to start a discussion on this topic, but quick to point out fault when others do.
What is cultural competency? What is it not?
Does it mean I should teach yoga to black people differently than I’d teach it to white people? Does it imply all Latinos are the same? Does it mean I can’t teach people of color well because I’m white? You might already have guessed my answer is no, I don’t think so!
“Culture is defined as patterns of human behavior that are part of a racial, ethnic, religious, or social group…Some of the variance across cultural groups can be affected by immigration, family structure, educational attainment, and socioeconomic status…Cultural competence …is an acknowledgement and incorporation of the importance of culture, the assessment of cross-cultural relations, vigilance towards the dynamics that result from cultural differences, the expansion of cultural knowledge, and the adaptation of services to meet culturally unique needs.”
The concept of cultural competency does imply that different cultures exist, and sometimes these fall across similar lines as race and ethnicity…but obviously variation can occur within groups as our identities are intersectional. To me, it’s important to balance this out with a reminder that we are all connected as human beings, and to avoid “othering” people by acting in a way that implies we are incredibly different. We can still become informed about experiences or practices that tend to go along with a particular culture.
Holding space for a discussion around this topic is, in my view, more important than me personally figuring out and sharing the “right” way to look at this topic. With cultural competence in mind, in particular, it makes sense to hold space for voices from people of color, not just “too” but primarily, instead of solely my view as a white yoga instructor.
That said, I am a white yoga instructor who thinks this topic matters, and really can only speak from my personal viewpoint! Here’s my way of looking at why this topic matters. What’s yours?
White people in the US benefit from privilege rooted in current discriminatory attitudes towards people of color, and also due to the legacy of racism and prejudice. This is true even though white people today may not have personally “done anything” or asked for privilege.
Even for those of us who haven’t necessarily “done anything”, it’s possible in any interaction to cause harm, including unintentionally.
As a yoga teacher – as a person! – I don’t want to cause harm! I can act like a human being with all people, but with culture in particular, we often take things for granted, that what is true for me in my culture, I don’t even think of it as culture, I think of it as truth. Particularly in a country with such a legacy of injustice, it behooves us all, and white people in particular, to pay attention to this topic and to learn and consider what others have to say.
Continue reading “Cultural Competency in Yoga: What is it and why does it matter?”
I got to Omega Institute just before 10am after a full night of driving (and napping in the car!). The irony of attending a workshop that at least touched on self-care after depriving myself of a hotel room or a flight to save money was not lost on me. But we all have to make sacrifices to do awesome things!
I mainly teach physical yoga classes, so it was hard to know how much of the presentation would be relevant to me. It was! In fact, I now think it was even more ideal to speak more generally around facilitation, rather than assuming we all did the same thing and there was one “right path” for us all. I really enjoyed Dr. Melody Moore
herself – she was both very human and very professional at the same time.
Our small group formed our own community agreements
, including regarding confidentiality, so it’s important to point out that what I share is what I took away from this session in general, and I strive to avoid publicizing any individual personal experience shared. And, of course, my takeaways might contain mistakes that are mine alone.
Read on to see 10 things I can and will apply to my own yoga classes (public and service classes), and other forms of facilitation such as workshops and teacher training.
Continue reading “YSC 2017 – The Art of Facilitation w/Dr. Melody Moore – What I Took Away”
I spent last weekend in Rhinebeck, New York at the Yoga Service Conference. I’d been looking forward to all of the sessions (and blogged about my thoughts on a few in advance!). In true yoga form, our printed program started with some community agreements intended to foster connection, understanding and respect (see photo!). Dr. Melody Moore hosted the Friday intensive I attended, and she guided our smaller group through the creation of some of our own community agreements. Among others – confidentiality.
I think it’s important to share what I learned in terms of what I took away from this session and others – lots of people can benefit from the info; plenty likely would have loved to attend but could not afford the time away or tuition. But it’s important to be clear that what I share here is what I took away from the conference and the sessions I attended. I tried my best not to violate anyone’s confidentiality by speaking on any personal experience shared. Any inconsistencies (or outright mistakes!) on the topics at hand reflect my own errors and not the speakers’.
My weekend at the 2017 Yoga Service Conference will start with Dr. Melody Moore‘s Friday intensive session on facilitation. I’m especially interested in this session because even though my own work with higher trauma groups is pretty limited, it can still be a challenge to find a balance between serving others and caring for yourself.
“As facilitators, it is necessary that we understand how to become safe havens for our clients and students without causing harm to ourselves. Often, in our attempts to serve others, we end up overwhelmed, over-invested, or overcompensating…We will explore attachment theory, boundaries, shadow work, family systems, and group dynamics” (text from YSC website)
Even for those of us, or for me at least, who may not experience vicarious trauma in the sense of getting into great detail about specific challenges facing the people we teach as social workers or therapists might, it can be a lot to recognize that those circumstances are real for the people we teach and care about … and recognize that, despite what we CAN offer through yoga, there are many things we cannot offer..and perhaps things that no one can offer.
I’ve found it hard some days to transition from teaching in a jail, or taking a training on sexual violence, into something in my life with a more joyful or lighthearted intention. But I can still recognize how important it is to maintain a balance, to practice self care, so I can also extend care and positive energy to others.
I plan to blog about the sessions I attend, so stay tuned for my impressions of this intensive!
When I talk about trauma-informed yoga or yoga service, some people want to know, or at least wonder: what’s your story? What have you dealt with that makes you want to do this?
And I get it. Many people interested in this work come to it because yoga has helped them heal. Yoga has helped me heal too! When I’ve met someone who shares that they have dealt with something similar to me, I feel more connected to them. Often, even if I haven’t experienced something similar, it’s inspiring to hear how yoga has helped them – and even with different life experiences, our yoga experience may be similar.
Continue reading “Why does yoga and body image matter?”
Name of Organization: UpRising Yoga
Name of Training: Trauma Informed Yoga Training
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Number of Hours: 17 hours
Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cost: $300 early bird; $350 regular price
Other Info: This 2-day training will provide you with effective, yoga based tools for working with incarcerated youth and other at-risk populations. As part of the training, you will learn about UpRising Yoga’s approach to teaching yoga, based on practical experiences learned from our work in incarcerated settings. You will also have the unique opportunity to interact and learn from subject matter experts in juvenile justice, public policy, healthcare, community engagement and research. You do not have to be a yoga instructor to attend our training. In fact, many social workers, psychologists, teachers, and more, have been able to incorporate our teachings into their practices.
This blog primarily focuses on trauma-informed yoga, but yoga in general can be a powerful tool for self-care, stress relief and overall wellness – on top of a great physical work out. The cost of yoga can be prohibitive. Core Power Yoga (one of my employers) periodically offers free power yoga classes co-taught by groups of new teachers:
South Loop Core Power Yoga (c1 class) – Sundays at 4:30pm – 9/11 – 10/9
West Loop Core Power Yoga (c1 class) – Mondays at 8pm – 9/5 – 10/10
Streeterville Core Power Yoga (hpf class) – Mondays at 6:45pm – 9/5 – 10/10
Uptown Core Power Yoga (c1 class) – Saturdays at 2pm – 9/10 – 10/8
Hyde Park Core Power Yoga (c1 class) – Sundays at 3pm 9/11 – 10/9
Lakeview Core Power Yoga (c1 class) – Tuesdays at 8:45pm 9/6 – 10/11
Sauganash Core Power Yoga (hpf class) – Sundays at 2pm 9/11 – 10/9
These classes are heated (between 85-100 degrees) and vigorous! Visit Core Power’s website or use google for a preview of what you can expect. Find links here to other free or donation-based community classes (many will be gentler in style than Core Power classes).
Yoga can be a powerful tool for self-care, stress relief and overall wellness – on top of a great physical work out. The cost of yoga can be prohibitive. Core Power Yoga (one of my employers) periodically offers free power yoga classes co-taught by groups of new teachers:
Please double check online schedules to confirm!
Note: This a a C1 Intro to Power Yoga class – this is a dynamic practice with lots of movement in a room heated to 85 degrees. If you’ve never been to a Core Power Yoga class, Google and/or YouTube can be good ways to get a sense of what the class is like. Bring (or rent/buy) a mat, towel and water.