Allison Rissel is a yoga teacher and founder of the Yoga Teacher Conference, a new event organization that provides space for yoga teachers to have tough conversations. Learn more about their upcoming May 2021 event in Denver here.
by Allison Rissel
I’ve long been fed up with the yoga world, feeling unsupported as a teacher, and a serious lack of available resources for folks who experienced negative behavior, in any form. I founded the Yoga Teacher Conference and joined Yoga Unify as a Founding Circle Member as a way to begin weighing in on the conversations that matter; that will begin to reshape our community to make it more just, safe, and accessible for all. I couldn’t be happier to be a part of Yoga Unify, a participatory organization built by yogis for yogis.
Our whole world, our country, and our industry are at a crossroads. Do we go back to the old and easy way of living? Or do we forge a new path ahead?
I know where I fall on this spectrum.
It really comes down to the idea of there being a support system for yoga teachers. As the community currently exists, if you’re a yoga teacher, who has your back? What would you do if a yoga teacher groped you while giving you a physical assist? Or if they made racist remarks at the beginning of their class? Perhaps less benign but similarly lacking integrity, what would you do if a fellow teacher copied your yoga workshop and is running their own program from your work?
Aside from talking to the individual teacher involved, there’s really no one else out there to support you as a yoga teacher. Further, there’s no real central spot to explore and deepen your yoga studies as a yoga student, beyond a teacher training certification. What about a path to lifelong studentship and supported mentorship?
Both students and teachers need a participatory organization in the community to come together, hold space, and address difficult issues in the community. This is one reason I joined Yoga Unify—because the organization is building accountability for this process. Accountability and a safe discussion space are also two reasons I founded the Yoga Teacher Conference. These events provide a safe space and a community of other yoga teachers where we can share ideas, gain knowledge, and engage in our own deeper learning.
There are several reasons why this kind of coming together is crucial: the first being the issue of accountability. Developing systems of peer review and mutual accountability ensure that there will be processes to handle issues such as sexual misconduct, stolen curriculum, cultural appropriation, and studio/teacher relationships. Currently, though teachers may discuss these issues privately or write articles, nothing has changed. In order to create a more just, accessible, and supportive yoga teacher community, we need to each be willing and create the change we want to see.
That’s another reason I’m proud to be a Founding Member of Yoga Unify—their platform, again, is participatory, which means not only do they hold space for teachers, but they’re asking for feedback. They want to know what WE want to see a change in the yoga teacher industry.
Yoga Unify Governing Councils are meeting now and will present organization bylaws and procedures to the Advisory Board and Executive Team in December. We want to hear from you! Join the Founding Circle today and be sure to sign up for the March Yoga Teachers’ Conference. Let’s change the yoga world, together.