This essay analyzes yoga in contemporary culture and addresses its potential for creating connection and supporting social justice within academic realms and within communities. It reflects the tensions of holding the dual role of “yoga teacher” and college professor and analyzes how questions of race, ethnicity, and social justice are critical to both the spaces of teaching yoga and the spaces of the academy. Discussions of yoga, race, and social justice in the classroom promote critical inquiry and shift the dynamics of the classroom and have the potential to impact a culture and its communities. Bringing together yoga and academic work can be a way to address inequities within our various social and cultural spaces to dismantle our assumptions about bodies and notions of the “individual” and the “collective.”
The essay focuses upon how creating a “yoga space,” whether it is within an academic classroom or a studio setting, can shift the dynamics of a community and foster new forms of collaboration and understanding as well as produce social change. It considers issues of the body and touch—ways that yoga asks us to address touching the body; issues of space and community—how we build and support new spaces for communities; and finally, questions of identity—particularly how yoga can give us opportunities to reflect, challenge, and complicate narratives surrounding identity. It suggests that we need to reclaim and assert the presence of our bodies (and our yoga practices) within pedagogical spaces, spaces of the academy, and spaces within our communities.