I’m sitting to write why I want to teach a specifically queer yoga class (which I am doing tomorrow for the first time *yay!*). I’ve been asked the question, and answered okay verbally. I also want to try to splash a few words on the surface here, too, about why I want to teach a queer yoga class. Why not just teach yoga (I’ve been teaching yoga for 10 years)? Why does it have to be queer yoga?
Yoga has lined up in a big way with mainstream media, and has been translated through this information vehicle as something to enhance thin, white, mostly female-assigned bodies projecting a feminine image of yoga, and when the model is assigned as male, it’s usually a more masculinized presentation of yoga-supported health. It is a reflection of an externally-sourced idea of who we are.
Queerness in my viewpoint has something to do with discovering identity apart from who we’ve been told we are. The way I see it, the issue of sexuality is not connected in a direct way to a self-identified queer identity. It doesn’t mean a person is necessarily “gay”, “poly”, “trans”, “promiscuous”, or even “sexual”. “Queer” means a person is self-determining (from knowledge coming from within self through trial and error and success in experiences), and the only way to get to know someone is to get to know them personally, without the assumptions that often can present themselves based on how a person looks or expresses themselves.
Yoga has the potential to be a space to explore the atmosphere of your self, including sensations and impressions, without assumptions about what kind of body you have, or are supposed to have. Hopefully in yoga we can be free to be ourselves and make choices about how we want to participate, or not.
Sadly, in my opinion, many yoga classes uphold the mainstream perception of yoga as a way to be a hotter female, with a tight butt, constant smile, flat abs, shapely legs, and scant upper-arm fat. This is not a safe or comfortable environment for many people. Sometimes it is just numbing. Sometimes we know we feel good afterwards (depending on the class), so those of us who are into yoga forgive or ignore some of those controlling directives about how we are “supposed to be” presenting in class, or acting in life beyond class.
Can we have yoga without the authoritarian class environment? Can we have yoga without the sexism and racism? This is at least part of what queering yoga means to me. Is there room to express and discover our selves in yoga with our movements, as a group and as individuals on mats? Is it okay to place a boundary on whether you’d like to be touched in a yoga pose for a posture adjustment, or whether you’d prefer to be left to your own solutions for this one?
These are some of the questions and ideas I will be going into Queer Community Yoga with tomorrow, prepared by 10 years of experience as a yoga teacher with all the requisite training, and also by healing I’ve experienced in intentionally queer spaces, including friendships, art events, parties, writing salons, rituals, presentations and trainings.