Recently I was asked by a dear friend to expand upon something I responded to on a Facebook post of hers. So here we go:
Her post: so if yoga is about creating equity in the body, you would think we would be able to emanate that into other realms.
My response: i think part of the issue is that yoga is not fundamentally designed with equity at the forefront...
Next response: me thinks you need to work at a deeper level than the body….
My response: both/and...
Her request: jen...more please?!
Here's the thing, historically, yoga wasn't designed for curvy women, people with different abilities, elders, or a myriad of others. We have taken an ancienct practice designed to train warriors and still the mind and we've morphed it. Of course now there's another topic at hand here that the same friend was also asking me about, which is appropriation. My quick and dirty answer to that question is to ask yourself how much reverence is in your practice. Where do you practice? Who are you buying this ancient form of expression from? How preserved is it? How are you wearing it and representing it in your life? We can go deeper if anyone wants to around this topic, just leave me a comment about it please.
For now, back to equity vs. equality ~
Equity can most easily be described as fairness where equality can most easily be described as sameness. Here in lies where my first response came from. Yoga was not designed with fairness in mind, it was designed with sameness in mind. Have you noticed that there are certain body types that have an easier time with poses than others. Have you noticed that almost all of the posters hanging on yoga studio walls that show a series of poses in a system are represented by thin men. Here's the thing, for someone with a 'yoga body', yoga asana is more accessible and when we attach 'good' or 'correct' to a pose that is part of a system that we believe is inherently equitable, a lot of us are going to be physically, emotionally, mentally injuring ourselves a lot of the time. Sound familiar? This shouldn't diminish the precision of yoga. Precise is not the same as accurate.
In my experience, equality is the main jam of yoga asana. What we do on one side, we are encouraged do on another side. If you use a block on one side, you will likely be advised to use it on the other. There are blueprints for sale of how you get into this pose or that pose. Crooked is often used to make a point not be the example. Balance is pushed.
I've also taught and been in classes where there is recognition that the practitioner may need a block on one side and not on the other, that someone may not be able to do what the other is doing, that there is no blue-print, that crooked is the norm, and that balance is not necessarily always accessible ~ equity.
We should also remember that the way yoga has been packaged costs a fair amount of money and that by way of this, the access to the system is not open to all.
Equality only works when everyone is the exactly the same. Equity is the generating force of bringing things into fairness.
Think of this as an example: I have two dogs. One is shy and reserved and the other is, well, let's just say he's not. The way I trained them was different, based on their needs and who they are. One sleeps in a crate, the other in my bed - for example. I'd love for them both to sleep in my bed, but the one who is less reserved, he'll go to the bathroom in my house if he needs to during the night. The other one won't. If I were practicing equality they both would sleep in crates or in my bed. Most of the western culture operates in this way. Dogs = crates OR dogs = beds. Let's try this...some dogs = crates and some dogs = beds.
I realize that this is a bit of a elementary example with my dogs, but when we are looking at the world, its resources, who has access to what and the concepts of power privilege and oppression, plus how to treat everyone with respect and dignity we are looking at equity. We are looking at who has access to what and based on that, who needs what in order to have the same advantages. We are taking differences into consideration and we are not saying, 'this person or this group of people should because we all...'
Equity inherently dismantles the idea of egoic feats. It says this person can and will do what you can do because they too have access to it. Equity begs us to say, let's give everyone equal access. I believe strongly that this is why we have such a hard time with it. Our egos are alive and well and yes, while we need our egos to understand that we are of form, we likely can shed far more of them than we hold onto. Please don't mistake egoic feats with gifts.
So that's pretty much it. Except that I want to talk a bit further about how this manifests itself in the body because here I am, marrying my work as a counselor with my work as an educator with my work as an embodiment practitioner and teacher, with my work as a social justice educator and activist.
Take a minute and scan your inner system and and notice its differences, its nuances, its abilities. Take a quick inventory. Now ask yourself what you can do for those parts of yourself that are not being served, not being met in the way other parts are. The question to hold is how can you provide your system with equity ~ fairness... not equality ~ sameness.
Map this onto our educational system for instance. Students who qualify as ADD (although I would very much like that label to go away as I believe that those with ADD actually just simply have a different set of operating skills - not bad - different) need to get up and move around or run or explore or scream or bang a drum in order to be expected to perform anywhere near their counterparts who don't hold the label of ADD.
How do we start to create more equity in our systems you ask...? With a lot of inquiry, more knowledge of ourselves, more knowledge of the world, an understanding of what is going where, who and what holds more access compared to who and what, more compassion for ourselves and others, radical acceptance of what is, a clear course of action, and more knowledge about how all of these interplay. To start.