Embracing Diversity With Pride And Yoga
The beauty of yoga is that it is for everyone, whatever their age, size, ability, and ethnicity. Yoga is also for everyone regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. Yoga embraces diversity and the word ‘yoga’ is from Sanskrit and means ‘unity’. Pride 2021 began earlier this month and a number of the celebrations will include yoga. We have been finding out more...
The history of Gay Pride
In 1969, the Southwall riots in New York City were seen as the pivotal moment in the modern LGBTQ social movement. The riots by members of the gay community followed an early morning police raid on the Southwell Inn in Manhattan. The following year, the first Gay Pride Marches were held in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City and San Francisco to mark the anniversary of the riots. The movement quickly gathered momentum and went global with Gay Pride Parades taking place in many countries. In 2019 the largest worldwide celebrations were recorded with five million people taking part in the Manhattan events alone.
And Pride’s link with yoga
In the 1970s, there was a major shift in consciousness and a dramatic rise in the popularity of yoga in the west. There were movements to liberalise women, gay people, and people of colour. Yoga with its concepts of fluidity proved to be the ideal space for people to totally embrace ‘what is now’ rather than focusing on the past or on the future. In a world where gender and background mattered, in yoga, neither mattered at all. Consequently, yoga is the perfect physical and mental discipline for Gay Pride.
Pride June 2021
June is the month of Gay Pride and events are taking place in many countries. Gay Pride brings the LGBTQ community together with festivals and parades celebrating pride and culture and also showcasing the need for equality rights and more recognition of same-sex marriages. The events will culminate in Pride Day on Monday 28 June which will specifically commemorate the Stonewall Riots of 1969.
Unfortunately, last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Gay Pride events had to be canceled. This year, many smaller events will be taking place in North and South America, Africa, and Asia. In Europe, modestly sized events are taking place in Madrid, Amsterdam, Tel Aviv, and other cities. In Paris, the powerful LGBT Pride March is taking place on Saturday 26 June – but because of COVID-19, it will be a scaled-down affair without any floats. The aim of these major events is to try and combat homophobia and to evoke pride in being homosexual, bisexual, or transexual.
There have been a number of Pride yoga events so far this summer including several Virtual Pride Yoga events and the Vienna Pride Yoga that gave a taster of Hatha and Vinyasa to participants in the parkland on Danube Island.
A very special event that will incorporate yoga is Soul Pride in the UK, which will be taking place in the woodlands of the Wasing Estate in Berkshire between 8-11 July. This event will be a Retreat by day with yoga and talks about health and wellness and a festival by night with theatre and comedy. There will be DJs too and dancing long into the night. The event promises to be great fun.
Pride events – a cause for celebration
Pride events as well as celebrating diversity, also recognise how far things have improved for the LGBTQI community in many countries and that the ongoing struggle for equality is making progress although it is far from over.
It is important that the LGBTQI community globally stands together and in a unified voice protests when there is abuse of the human rights of LGBTQI people anywhere in the world. There has been a growing and very positive acceptance of trans/non-binary people in the UK.
Yoga events are often held as part of the Pride celebrations. In many countries including the UK, yoga has no barriers and everyone can attend classes, which is important as the LGBT community has in the past felt different and marginalised. Studies have found that yoga improves the health and well-being of this group of people, who often experience dysphoria and rejection of their bodies and often have mental health issues. The opportunity to practice yoga in a safe environment is of huge importance to them as it encourages them to find peace and self-acceptance in their body awareness and this brings deep relaxation.
Writing recently in Yoga International, Erica Woodland raised some thought-provoking points for yoga instructors to consider, that we can all embrace to improve our understanding of gender:
1. Stop giving gender to people, places, things, and energies.
2. Don’t make assumptions about people’s gender.
3. Let go of the binary:Femininity and masculinity are not opposites. Consider ways that binary thinking interferes with your practice.
4. Create spiritual communities that centre on those who are most often excluded from yoga and other spaces.
5. Embrace change:Our consciousness around gender is changing a mile a minute. Educate yourself and don’t resist the new ways people are inhabiting their bodies and experiencing gender. You might learn something.
During her opening speech of the 2014 Pride Festival in Iceland, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, the former Icelandic Prime Minister and first openly gay head of state said, “It is absolutely imperative that every human being’s freedom and human rights are respected, all over the world.”