Today's internet buzz is rather or not overweight, LGBT, Blacks etc should have their own yoga classes. Before I go into this, I am Black and female but yoga is not about that....which is my point.
Yoga is liberation from the constructs of our mind. Separation creates constructs. Every time you label yourself, you create a construct or identity. An “I” that makes the ego stronger and the samskaras or negative mental patterns grow.
I understand that in order to start yoga, people feel safe with these constructs but a good teacher’s job is to move their students away from these constructs. So essentially, the people in all these classes should slowly move out of them either into a personal home yoga practice or back into the general population.
Being overweight, PTSD, LGBT etc are not issues that would keep someone from being able to join a normal yoga class at some point. To allow your students to stay in a specialty class with you for eternity to be bound by their own mental constructs is actually a disservice for them & a sign of a teacher who does not live according to the principles of yoga.
Another thing I notice is that these classes tend to be easier. Instead of taking their students past their self imposed limitations,the teachers usually reinforce them. An awesome teacher here in Charlotte, Jonathan Parham, often tells his story about studying with Sharath, the grandson of Pattabhi Jois and the director of the Ashtanga Research Institute in Mysore.
When Jonathan first started learning Ashtanga, his weight was in the upper 200's. He was told by one of his teachers that he should quit Ashtanga because it was not created for his body type. He did the exact opposite & signed up to learn from Sharath in Mysore. Sharath, who learned to teach from a lineage, or parampara, embraced him with open arms. He didn't give him a special sequence for big people. He learned the same yoga as everyone else but with modifications. Once Sharath noticed his mastery of the poses and that he dropped a few pounds, he weaned him off a few of the modifications.
Sharath didn't act like the weight wasn't there but he didn't single him out either. This method gave Jonathan confidence and allowed him to come back to the States and teach from a place of compassion and strength. The teacher who told him to stop Ashtanga made him feel less then, the teacher who made him be apart of the general population and face his weight and its limitations on his practice, inspired him.
This is the kind of teacher that so called minorities need. Someone who shows them what is possible. Someone who shows them that they can go beyond the labels of society and be something of great value to themselves and to the community. They should learn how yoga shortens the divide by teaching that the only way to Samadhi or eternal bliss is to embrace the oneness of all mankind.
Video of the Day: