In preparation for the 200 hour yoga school collaborative effort between Love Light Yoga and the Equity Collective, each teacher is lending their voice and interpretation to justice, liberation or leadership.
In this blog, Beth Zyglebaum, Owner of Leela Yoga Alameda reflects on how yoga philosophy gives a perfect outline for participating in transformation.
I don’t know if I’m a leader. I own a yoga studio.
Do I get to call automatic leadersies for that?
Studio ownership has been a learning process, and a great experiment in living my yoga.
Practicing yoga, necessarily at some point, brings us to a reckoning with the systems we live in. The question then becomes: how will I choose to be a part of the shift. What can I do personally, now in my life, and in my work, to move away from those systems that are not equitable.
The nice thing is: yoga offers a blue print for this in the yamas and the niyamas.
So the yoga is not separate from the business, is not separate from the teaching, is not separate from going to the grocery store.
Because, we can choose in any interaction to practice the yamas and niyamas.
When we are practicing yoga, a shift is required, someone should do something about that becomes What will I do about that? We have to know that we are the someone. You have to be that someone. I have to be that someone. We have to face the reasons we don’t do the right thing. We must not be afraid to rock the boat. We must not be afraid to speak the needs of our communities. We must not be afraid to listen to and amplify the needs of another community, or to speak out on their behalf.
These ideas seep into the way I run the studio. My advertising begins with the idea that representation matters. I aim to have a staff that represents the population of the east bay, one of the most diverse places anywhere on Earth. I begin every email to teachers: how are you, how are your classes, how can I support you this week? We open the studio when activists need space to meet and make signs. I offer free classes when we are experiencing communal traumas. I enroll the studio in the renewable energy electricity program. I have classes on the schedule that I know will never be revenue generators, because they are important classes to have, because students or teachers have said they are important for their community.
These ideas seep into the way I teach. I begin my classes with a focus. Some theme from sutras. And some piece of asana alignment that supports the sutra. As I’ve racked up years as a teacher, I’ve moved away from the idea that my job is to create a space for anyone and everyone to walk out of class feeling groovy. I’ve moved toward the idea that my job is to create a space for anyone and everyone to create positive shift in their lives. Sometimes that means a student walks out feeling groovy. Sometimes that means a student walks out with shit to deal with, because they’ve allowed it to surface, or because they have seen something in a new light.
As the bulk of my teaching is in pre-and post natal yoga, this often means supporting women through a medical system that was literally birthed from American patriarchy*. I offer them tools and encouragement to have empowered, informed births and empowered, informed, healthy postpartum.
So I do not shy away from starting my classes by pointing to a piece of news, or a new report. And I do not shy away from pointing out what the sutras might say about this piece of news. I do not worry that someone in the class might have more regressive views, or greater degrees of entanglement in biased institutions than I do. I worry about doing the work of yoga while I am teaching. I offer my spiel in the beginning of class, I lead them into their bodies, to make their own discoveries. I teach my practice and I have faith that the process of yoga works, and that change will happen. For them and for me.
* read Nurses, Midwives and Witches for a history on how medical care was legally taken out of the hands of women who had been educated in medicine for thousands of years and placed into the hands of men who had literally no training whatsoever, relatively recently)
Beth is the grateful owner of Alameda yoga studio: Leela Yoga, which she opened in 2013. She has been a student of yoga since a knee injury in 2001 and an instructor since 2008. Beth is certified to teach hatha yoga, prenatal and postnatal yoga and yoga for pelvic health. Her teachers include the greats Jane Austin and Leslie Howard. Beth teaches mindful flow, prenatal and postnatal classes at Leela Yoga.
Beth’s experiences with pregnancy, and the birth of her own three children brought her to specialize in prenatal/postnatal and yoga for pelvic health to fill a glaring gap in health care. With her expertise she offers educational workshops on the female pelvic floor and often works one on one with students who to rehabilitate pelvic issues of all sorts.
Prior to opening a yoga studio, Beth earned a Master’s Degree in Geosciences and had a 10 year career in concert and festival production. She is a wife and mother of three small kids who make her insane, and insanely happy 🙂