IYAGNY Commitment to DEIJ – POC Class

The Iyengar Yoga Association of Greater New York is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization dedicated to the art, science and philosophy of Iyengar Yoga. We seek to cultivate a diverse community of practitioners and affirm our stance as a place where all students are welcomed. 

The class came about out as a in response to the Black Lives Matter movement and as our way of reaffirming our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion within our Institute.The People of Color class, taught by faculty member Diedra Demens, brings together students from different ethnic and racial backgrounds, often referred to as minorities or BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), to practice in a supportive space with people of similar experiences and backgrounds.

Deidra Demens shares the following about teaching this class:

‚ÄúTeaching the POC class is a truly amazing experience, students and teachers from all over join in to take class. There’s a real sense of community that lets us know that we  are not alone. 

I first thought this class was important now, because of the racism, police brutality, and violence that we hear about everyday. The stress, fear, and loneliness that I and so many others often feel we need something, something to bring us together, something positive, and even healing.

From the very first class I saw everyone’s faces, and realized that this was completely new to me. I’ve never been in a yoga space with so many people of color. 

POC classes are always important, it’s a space where people of color feel welcome and safe.

Students who have participated in the class share their own experience with it:

I have practiced Iyengar yoga in Chicago for nearly 20 years. Classes and workshops are led by white teachers with predominantly white students. I am always the only Black student. A consistent in-person Iyengar yoga practice is an incredibly expensive endeavor. Studios are not located near communities of color.

The free virtual POC class eliminates some barriers of access to Iyengar yoga. Practicing with Deirdra Demens is invigorating. Having a talented instructor who looks like me…listens to me…and understands me is more important than I anticipated. The diversity of students creates an atmosphere of safety and inclusion. I can only imagine how much more powerful that would feel in person. 

I hope other Iyengar yoga studios will offer an accessible experience to POC. It would also be wonderful to have more POC as teachers.

Lea Sharpe

I took my first POC yoga class on May 30, 2020 with Deidra Demens, just five days following the murder of George Floyd. It was a difficult time and I was an emotional roller coaster with all that was happening. The death of George Floyd resulted in me reflecting on my own realities as a black woman, the injustices and the microaggressions I experience in my day-to-day activities, yoga class included. Therefore, receiving information that a POC class was being offered, was timely. In all honesty, at the time, I did not know how much I needed it.

Deidra creates a welcoming and safe space for us to be open, honest, and willing to share what is weighing heavy on our hearts and minds. POC classes that include discussion followed by asana practice are my preference, as I believe both elements are important. Being able to openly discuss concerns and experiences with other participants in addition to having that understanding of shared experiences, is both important and comforting. I feel accepted, connected, and respected, which is how all POC should be made to feel in every class, at every studio.

Valeria D

To learn more about topics of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion visit this resources page put together  by Iyengar Yoga National Association of the United States. https://iynaus.org/yoga-equity-resources/

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Institutes of New York
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