One major part of Yoga Unify’s mission is to make yoga more accessible to all, and to steward the forward evolution of the industry toward more diversity and inclusion. We’re proud that our Founding Members are already working hard toward this aim. Honorary Qualified Professional and founder of One Love Movement Kim Bauman has teamed up with Brett Larkin and Uplifted Yoga to provide teacher training scholarships to BIPOC yogis. They recently awarded their most recent scholarship to Carolann Jones (congratulations, Carolann!).
There are several factors that go into their decision: a person’s personal yoga journey, how they’re showing up for community, and how they want to continue to spread diversity. “We reviewed many who had amazing missions, but ultimately the most weight was given to where they were with their own personal journey and how the YTT could impact their lives and the lives of those in their circle/community,” says Brett.
We recently sat down with Kim and Brett to learn a bit more about this partnership, and why they think it’s an important initiative. If you would like to join Kim in the Founding Circle, it’s not too late! Yoga Unify Founding Circle Membership is closing in June. Be a part of what we’re creating—and help us work on initiatives like this—by becoming a member. Click here for more information.
How and why did you come to this partnership?
Kim Bauman (KB): Brett Larkin had always been spoken so highly of by my peers and I knew that I wanted to walk the talk and take action towards evening out the playing field by bringing people of color and disabilities to yoga. Brett was the first person I thought of to connect with about a partnership. She went out of her way to hop on a call, her presence and eagerness was contagious and I knew I had picked the right person to start this with. She was already in the throws of wanting to take action and do something to stand up for the BIPOC community that it was the perfect storm and I’m so grateful our timing and passion for change was mutual.
Brett Larkin (BL): This is actually our second time at it. Last summer, I started a scholarship with One Love for members of the BIPOC community for our 300/500-hour YTT. I had the most INCREDIBLE teacher join and train with us (she even helped put together a new Diversity and Inclusion training program for all our YTT students!). I wanted to make this happen again, because I know how challenging it can be (especially in times like these) to afford a full YTT. As much as I am able, I want to help eliminate cost as a factor keeping amazing teachers from pursuing their certification.
Why do you feel it’s important to uplift (pun intended!) BIPOC in the wellness world?
KB: The yoga and wellness world, from where I sit, is primarily white and people of privilege. We want to be a part of transforming the conversation of racism and having hard, uncomfortable conversations that do that. This is our work to stop the silence, educate, and provide scholarship and aid to help bring color to yoga, to support communities of color, and to include ALL. Here, we attempt to do our part to speak out and recognize the oppression that continues to exist merely due to the color of skin a person is born with or due to simply being different from what society claims normal.
BL: Just like with any industry, there is a lot of work to be done, and a lot of racial and cultural bias that needs to be erased. It’s just a fact that the BIPOC community faces more challenges than others in the wellness industry and beyond. Creating spaces for everyone to feel safe, welcome, and empowered to teach and practice yoga will always be a big part of my mission.
Why will more teachers of color mean more access to underserved communities?
KB: Because we want Black and Brown communities to see people who look like them leading the way, being spotlighted as the teacher, and in a role of empowerment so that they too will see there’s a place for them in yoga.
BL: Graduates of this scholarship can teach whomever and wherever they’d like. However, we’ve consistently seen applicants of our scholarship want to bring yoga to those who may not have access. Our graduates have gone on to teach yoga to refugees, displaced families, and in prisons.
Do we need yoga teachers to be of the same cultural background?
KB: Definitely not, diversity and inclusion is a fundamental part of yoga. In yoga we connect to acceptance, kindness, doing our own inner-work, so we must be in alignment with that even outside of our physical yoga practice. For example, it’s not a fit to practice kindness when you’re in the classroom or in a yoga pose, and then to go back out into your life and to be unkind to someone else because they look different from you.
BL: I agree that diversity is better! Not everyone will resonate with me or how I teach. We need yoga teachers of all shapes, sizes, and ethnicities. More people are interested in yoga than ever before, and they need someone they can best relate to. The more types of people teaching, the richer the experience is for everyone.
This feels like such a small step in solving a big problem. Will this make a difference?
KB: Yes! This scholarship WILL make a difference because it’s our individual actions that collectively add up and create change. Like that quote by Ryunosuke Satoro, “Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.” People sometimes feel it’s not going to matter if they don’t show up, but if we all said that, it’s scary to think where the world would be.
BL: One small step makes more of a difference than no step at all. There is so much work to be done, but I believe that starting here will create a ripple effect that will enable yoga to touch and heal more people.