One of the things I love about the yoga community is the growing conversation about inclusivity, accessibility, and how different bodies are represented in studios as well as within the images and literature. Author, professor, and yoga visionary Melanie C. Klein is the editor of Yoga Rising: 30 Empowering Stories from Yoga Renegades for Every Body. Klein has produced a book that does far more than simply pay lip service to the aforementioned issues. Yoga Rising boldly makes space for a diversity of voices that inspire with their candor and vulnerability. It simultaneously confronts the privilege in the yoga community that can make it an unsafe place for many to develop their practice and take ownership of their self-care.
Stories in Yoga Rising
Yoga Rising is a compilation of dynamic and engaging stories that touch upon the complex and interconnected physical, psychological, and spiritual dimensions of our beings as they evolve and are better understood through the yoga practice. In this book, we meet heart-to-heart with people from a broad swath of abilities and ethnic, cultural, socio-economic, and gendered backgrounds. Each writer tenderly and honestly reveals the resilience and persistence it took for them to rise above adversity. They share the processes that take place both within themselves as well as within the broader yoga community.
Many of the contributors discuss the constraining stereotypes that are often found in the yoga community. These include the assumptions that to practice yoga one must be youthful, strong, flexible, able-bodied, healthy, financially well-off, and from the dominant culture. To overcome this, it meant finding the courage to develop a practice or to even build their own yoga community in order to include those who may not have otherwise had access to the dynamic healing process that yoga can offer.
There are a number of powerful stories in this anthology. Dr Melissa Mercedes talks about How to Say Good-Bye to the Inner Critic. Accessible Yoga Founder Jivana Heyman shares the process of developing self-acceptance as a gay man. Dana Byerlee writes with vulnerability about how yoga gave her the tools to cope physically and emotionally during a year of cancer treatment. Teacher Elizabeth Wojtowicz discusses practicing and living with cerebral palsy. Photographer and teacher Sarit Rogers addresses imagery lens-on with her words, “My camera is not a weapon of mass perfection. Instead it is a conduit of change.”
Yoga Rising Encourages Everyone to Find Home in their Body and Practice
In an increasingly divisive world, I would be willing to bet that there are thousands, if not millions, of people right now who find themselves in yoga spaces (as well as in life) coping with the challenges of invisibility, perfectionism and low self-worth, discrimination based on size, sexual orientation, ability, country-of-origin, or race. There are thousands or millions who are journeying through chronic illness and addiction recovery and therefore might not feel as though they ‘fit’ easily into the yoga community.
Yoga Rising proclaims with a fierce love and compassion that there is space for all beings to find home in their body and in their yoga practice. That is the true beauty of this book. The stories in Yoga Rising are manifestations of what inclusivity is all about. It is exactly the kind of narrative we all need to embolden us to continue to heal and to come together around what unites us in our humanity.
Dr. Sará King is a passionate advocate for yoga and mindfulness as healing practices for youth and marginalized communities. She wears many hats as a mother, yogi, meditation teacher, political scientist, and an educator who works with anthropologists and neuroscientists to explore the transformative relationship between story-telling, embodiment and cultural identity.
Her dissertation was the first at UCLA to examine a yoga and mindfulness meditation intervention from a social justice-based point of view. This book of research critically examined the counter-narratives of urban youth of color as they explored the use of yoga, meditation and pranayama through a school-based intervention in ways that impacted their relationships, emotional resilience, and well-being.
She most recently completed a year long teacher training in the Insight Buddhist tradition through Spirit Rock in Marin, CA and continues to developed mindfulness-based curricula grounded in neuroscience and art therapy research for elementary schools, university classrooms, and organizations when she isn’t spending time frolicking at the beach with her family.