Ah. Hip-Hop Yoga. One of my favorite topics when we speak of cultural appropriation and straight-up marginalization of people of color.
Have you ever attended a ‘hip-hop yoga class’ before? Who normally is teaching it? Do they tend to enhance black culture outside of teaching hip-hop yoga and profiting off of black culture inside of a yoga classroom?
The answers to some of those questions are: white yoga teachers normally offer ‘hip-hop yoga classes.’ No, they do not enhance or celebrate black culture outside of teaching this class. And the largest problem of all, the majority of these teachers offering these classes never speak on the social injustice of people of color, let alone focus on the oppressive, appropriated and whitewashed system that has been established amongst the yoga community in the U.S.
Let’s shift. For many yogis that I’ve tried to have the social justice conversation with, that reflect the majority of what yogis here in the West look like, have trouble with this topic. They feel insulted that as healers they would ever be questioned on not being welcoming to students of color or they bring up the tokenized black person in their lives or experiences. That’s exactly it. The issue is not that we’re not welcoming of them, but we darn sure are not going out to recruit people of color, migrant folks, the LGBTQ community and other minority groups. Yet, we have no issue offering classes focused around a very evident part of African-American U.S. history and black culture…hip-hop.
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📷 by @jmynattphotography . Hey ATL. We've heard the requests and we know you are ready to get our next class on the calendar. We are super excited to return to @sweetwatertaproom in March for another #hiphopyoga event. As we mentioned if you love #hiphop, and you're from Atlanta, or just love the music that comes from this amazing city, you're in luck. Details on the amazing teacher and our theme coming soon but for now save the date. When: March 22nd, 10:30 AM
Where: Sweet Water Brewery What: Yoga, Music, and YOU Ticket link and all the other things will be sent out to returning yogis first and then posted here. #Atlanta #AtlantaHipHOp #hiphopyoga #trapyoga #sweetwatertaproom #atlantayogaclasses #yoga #yogaevents #atlantasocialyoga
Hip-hop originated in the early 1970s in the good ol’ Boogie Down Bronx at a time in history where “white flight” was occurring and the predominantly Caucasian population was shifting to the surrounding suburban communities outside of New York City. At that same time mainly Blacks and Hispanics, including large immigrant populations from Caribbean nations such as Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and others, populated the Bronx. Among the higher crime and rising poverty rates that began to grow in the surrounding area, young people in the South Bronx began to use their resources and the influence of their culture to create different musical and artistic expressions. The scenes for the developing art of Hip Hop were public parks, community centers and sheets of cardboard laid out on city sidewalks became dance floors. The contributions of early Hip Hop artists including DJ Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash came about and led to influences such as LL Cool J, Run DMC, NWA, Tupac Shakur, Biggie Smalls, and Jay-Z to name a few.
Now, honestly, when and if you’ve attended a hip-hop yoga class, have you ever heard the teacher leading it highlight hip-hop origin? Or did they speak to that cultural influence in the Boogie Down Bronx? Besides playing the artist’s songs, do you get to learn about them, hear their stories or see why they play such a huge role in hip-hop and black culture? From my observations, I would say the majority of the answers to these questions would be no.
The point of this blog post is not to tear down white yoga teachers who teach hip-hop yoga, but to help them understand why they shouldn’t.
Most, if not all of these teachers offering these classes have not lived the black experience nor do they truly understand the roots of BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) living in the U.S. Maybe we should begin to do the work to understand that so we can help support and influence the hiring of more BIPOC yoga teachers and have them teach culturally appropriate classes such as hip-hop yoga. If you feel that you’ve taught a class like the following, or have thought about it, and this clicks for you, reach out to a yoga teacher that identifies as BIPOC and doesn’t follow the standard yogic lens of lean bodies, Alo yoga leggings, and inaccessible classes, or expensive clean eats after a yoga class. Ask a BIPOC yoga teacher who understands the struggle of being a minority not only in the yoga classroom, but also in the U.S. overall. Let’s gather and use the perks of privilege to uplift those that can speak to their history, their roots, and their culture and teach hip-hop yoga in its truest form.
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we’d like to thank the IG yogis who let us use these images for this article. Please give them a follow online!
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