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7 Transformative Steps: Evolving as a Yoga Teacher for Conscious and Inclusive Practice

Updated: Apr 10


The Art of Adaptation: 7 Ways My Yoga Teaching Style Transformed

Last week I celebrated the 7th anniversary of completing my first yoga teacher training. Becoming a yoga teacher has been a transformative experience for me, and my commitment to continuous learning and growth has led me to make some significant changes in my teaching approach over the years.


In this post, I will share the 7 key ways my teaching style has evolved since becoming a yoga teacher, as I strive to create a more conscious and inclusive yoga practice that honors its ancient roots while dismantling white supremacy and cultural appropriation.


Abandoning The Misuse of "Namaste"


When I first became a yoga teacher, I would end my classes with "Namaste," having been taught a completely made-up definition of the word. It wasn't until Susana Barkataki's guest lecture at my 300-hour teacher training and their book "Embracing Yoga's Roots" that I realized my mistake. I've since stopped using "Namaste" in my classes, as I work to decolonize my yoga practice and approach it with greater cultural sensitivity. I now end my classes by chanting Om Shanti Shanti Shanti and thanking my students for sharing practice with me.


Moving Beyond Asana


As a yoga teacher in the United States, I noticed that many people here view yoga as merely a physical workout. However, asana (yoga postures) are just one of the eight practices that make up yoga, and not even the first one. I now aim to provide a more holistic yoga experience in my classes, incorporating various aspects of the practice to help my students achieve a deeper connection with themselves. I even inform potential students that if they're looking for a physically demanding workout, I may not be their ideal teacher.


"I feel like I am now able to access the deepest well of inspiration and energy to share with my students. " – Dani Frank

Eliminating Music From My Classes


While I love music and have played it for most of my life, I've come to realize that music can be a distraction in yoga classes. Most people don't want to explore their inner world and will look for any opportunity to not do that. Music may help set the tone of the environment, but it can also pull students' focus away from their inner experience. Instead of using music to make my classes more comfortable, I now embrace the sometimes uncomfortable nature of yoga, which challenges us to confront our authentic selves.


Respecting The Ancient Traditions Of Yoga


As a white woman, I am a visitor in the world of yoga, and I need to be mindful of my white supremacy and how it manifests in my teaching. I've chosen not to create novelty yoga experiences, such as goat yoga or happy hour yoga, as these detract from the authentic roots of yoga. Instead of trying to come up with something new, I focus on honoring the ancient traditions of yoga and sharing my journey of growth and evolution with my students.


Embracing The Connection Between Yoga and Social Justice


Before becoming a yoga teacher, I was an activist. As I deepened my practice, I discovered how yoga was enriching my activism. Yoga is about unity and serves as a gateway to understanding that we are just one piece of a larger whole. Connecting to this truth has expanded my empathy and driven me to integrate social justice into my teaching, emphasizing the interconnectedness of all beings.


Prioritizing My Personal Practice


Maintaining my personal practice is essential as a yoga teacher. My practice helps me stay grounded in my body and mind and ensures that my energy is clear and focused when teaching and sharing with others. I learned the hard way that while demonstrating poses during class is part of my job, it is not a substitute for my own practice. I now make sure to engage in my personal practice before teaching or leading a class to maintain and enhance my connection with myself and my students.


Stepping Away From Yoga Studios


Initially, I dreamed of being part of a thriving yoga studio. However, after experiencing the negative aspects of some studios, such as white supremacy, cultural appropriation, and unsafe environments, I decided to practice and teach outside of traditional studio spaces. This choice allows me to create more inclusive and safe spaces for both my students and myself, free from the influences that may compromise the integrity of the practice.


For example, during my time at a well-known studio in the Seattle area, I witnessed teachers being threatened with physical and sexual violence while the studio owner did nothing. I also saw teachers who perpetuated white supremacy and cultural appropriation praised as the best instructors in the studio. While I understand that not all studios are like this, I've chosen to distance myself from spaces solely owned by white individuals, as I prioritize creating an environment that fosters inclusivity, safety, and cultural sensitivity.


A Journey Towards Conscious & Inclusive Yoga


My journey as a yoga teacher has been one of continuous growth, self-reflection, and adaptation. As I continue to evolve my teaching style, I remain committed to dismantling white supremacy and cultural appropriation, while advocating for mental health and embracing the ancient traditions of yoga.


I invite you to join my community on this unfolding path, as we work together to cultivate a conscious, inclusive, and authentic yoga practice that benefits everyone involved.


I am taking actionable steps to decolonize my yoga practice.

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1 Comment


Dani,


Thank you for your reflection! Yours touched on two aspects with my own regard to yoga, and the relatively little I know of it as barely a novice.


First, prior to finding your Sole Journey Wellness, and with regard to your inclusion of white supremacy, my only images of yoga were white women in studios full of other white women, listening to music of all kinds, and moving around often without any guidance - just "do what I'm doing" from the instructor. I found it odd, and wondered "I don't see the appeal to this. I can do this at home, alone, for free. At least Richard Simmons seemed to be having more fun doing the same thing!" Certainly…


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