July Reflections + White People + Yoga

Erin Kay Anderson
6 min readJul 3, 2019

Dear White Yogis,
(POC Yogis please feel free to read along)

This past month, @MarleneBoyette & Dr. Rachel Jessica Daniels brought a couple of incredible resources to my attention —

1. White Fragility by Robin Diangelo

2. The podcast “YOGA IS DEAD”the first episode being “White Women Killed Yoga,” produced by Jesal & Tejal

3. Laura Humpf & her Seattle based yoga class “undoing whiteness”

One of the things discussed in White Women Killed Yoga is the white privilege of yoga spaces taking on the speech of “We don’t talk about ‘politics’ in this space — only love and light.”

One of the quotes mentioned by YOGA IS DEAD that I shook my little yoga pompoms at was a quote by Arundhati Roy.

“The moment breathe enters the bodies it becomes political.”

So let’s take a deep breath.

Inhale. Exhale.

& to quote Laura Humpf, for the yogis who “would like to face reality,” keep reading.

Laura Humpf has been teaching yoga classes with the mission of addressing racism & deconstructing it at its root. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly she has received a wave of negative response from some ‘Yogis.’

Why am I addressing this with all of you?

As quoted in the article:
“There are an awful lot of black activists tired of educating white people about racism. Every time a person of color is asked to do unpaid emotional labor there is a psychological and physical cost,” says Hayes about people of color “serving as walking Googles” for white people on racial issues.”

It’s our job as white people to educate & challenge other white people on the systems and structures around race, to approach with care & empathy, and also with facts & the real history, the truth of the matter.

& again, why?

As stated by my mentor & sister, Malia Lazu “White People…Racism Kills both of us.”

We are coming up on my 37th Birthday. I spend a lot of time reflecting & recapping life when I celebrate another year around the sun. I want to let go of destructive white supremest systems & behaviors so I can be the best version of myself year after year. There are some things that I’d rather not pass onto my children, underwritten racist ideologies being one of them.

I have had a lot of white people over the course of my life say to me usually with a heated tone, “Why does it always gotta be about race with you Erin.”

As we were taught to in sociology 101, race is a social construct, and as much as we are all of the human race, we need to address the reality of what (we) white people created & white people need to fix — a Macro System of money & power upheld by blatant violence & microaggressions.

To be clear, we have been tricked by those who control the majority of wealth. The oldest of old money. Racism was invented in order to maintain power through deception, deceit, & death.

Why us? Why Yoga?

Because we can’t fix the system if we don’t fix ourselves. We must be humbled in the fact that we still have work to do.

Let us be reminded that Jnana Yoga — the yoga dedicated to knowledge & study is not just the study of yoga, it is seeking out of truth.

If you think that you know and don’t think you need to listen or read to understand more, you definitely need to pick up the for mentioned, White Fragility book or tune in into the YOGA IS DEAD podcast.

We must acknowledge the supreme biased systems what we were unfortunately born into & continue to perpetuate in behavior & subconscious/conscious action.

I’m one to speak to evolution, & believe/know that manifestation is our thoughts evoking our realities. So we must make the choice to be: open & aware, welcoming of feedback, honest about our resistance & to ask ourselves the question of why, where and how?

We must flow in posture & conversation with intention of releasing these ideologies in both body and mind.

A long term yogi & an attendee of the ‘Undoing Whiteness’ workshop remind us that we need “to work through racism. how (we) hold whiteness in (our) bod(ies) and to bring an anti-racist lens to an appropriated practice that so many of us white folks participate in. If (we’re) only “woke” in mind but not body, (we) will only continue playing out harmful, subliminal racist actions unintentionally.”

If we continue on this path we will continue to hurt people, further perpetuating the cycle & system that we “did not create” , but one that we continue to uphold as we hoard money, privilege, opportunity, safety, and freedom in life from people of color. I know this is not our intention, so it is up to us to do something about it.

White privilege is real & regardless of any economic status or family or individual hardship, those deemed or accepted as “white” have in coercive & subversive tactic — violence & force created a destructive model of power. As Diangelo states In her book “white supremacy is not about an event” but rather a ingrained system.

As a white Woman, I take a step to take a look at myself outside of my self in order to lean in. I practice both in and out of the mirror, to both see (some times you need to look yourself dead in the eye) & feel myself in order to better understand how my practice is killing yoga. Because we can point a finger at “society” all we like, but if we don’t start with us — ourselves, our friends & family we will never get to the root of the matter. We are the root — we hold the dna, the living cells & thoughts that keep this violent paradigm alive.

How Do We Fix This?

It only takes 3% of a population to shift a paradigm.

There are 3 Billion Yogis in a World of 7.53Billion. We are already sitting at 40% ratio.
We can do this!

Where To Start

We educate ourselves. We respectfully go to spaces where we may be the minority. We listen. We reflect & we flow. We seek out advice. We focus on our breath. We, speaking as a white people take the time to to dig into our Practice — setting intention to understand our whiteness. We support Black Business. We speak up and use our voice when we see racism play out in an event or when we need to apologize for our own action. We don’t just write about it. We do it.

With that said, remembering the path to enlightenment is not a linear scale, you get exposure, you loop around, maybe pass it by, and the circle back, ego comes in and out. We become more aware & then dive in deeper. We cry, we get mad, we breath, we hug. And we do all of this with courage & faith knowing that we will be better Yogis, and better people in the end. The other side of discomfort is change- leaning in is leaning into a collective healing of the people on this planet.

When I was younger I called myself a real idealist — meaning I was real about my idealism. I have the vision of utopia & I do believe we can get there, but we don’t ignore dirt by sweeping it under the rug. You clean it up. Any, good mother, father, or elder should have taught us that.

So to end, take a deep breath in for our moms & dads, grandparents, & great grandparents & recognize that we are their wildest dreams — those of peace & prosperity.

We are at this moment in time because of them. So embrace the moment. The time here. The time is now. All of the love in your life is standing with you.

Can’t wait to flow with all of you this month.

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Erin Kay Anderson

Woman + Human + Yogi (200 YTT) MA intercultural youth & family development BA Sociology & History Novice in this study of “life”