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Ways to Make Your Yoga Class More Inclusive for Everyone

Ways to Make Your Yoga Class More Inclusive for Everyone

Reading Time: 5 minutes 45 seconds


DATE: 2024-05-30

There are many things to think about when teaching yoga. Is the space free from obstacles, and does it create the ambiance you desire? Do you have the equipment needed for your class, such as mats, props, or anything else you typically use? Another factor to think about, if you haven’t already, is if any person interested in doing yoga feels comfortable taking your classes.

Importance of Inclusivity as a Yoga Teacher

Everyone can benefit from a regular yoga practice. This makes it your job as a yoga teacher to develop a class that welcomes all types of students to join in. Especially since all types of people do yoga.

In 2022, the Yoga Alliance commissioned a Yoga in the World Research Study. This study included a survey of 11,020 people from 10 different countries. Those questioned were yoga teachers, studio owners, and practitioners from the general population. 

It found an almost equal split between male and female yoga practitioners, with a smaller number of transgender yogis and those with other gender identities. When looking at race, it found that practitioners are predominantly Black. There are fewer Hispanic and White practitioners, with those in the “other” category being second-most dominant.

The Yogi Times adds that most people who practice yoga are in the 30 to 49 age range at 43%. This is followed by individuals aged 50 and up (38%), with those between 18 and 29 years old compromising the smallest group at 19%. 

Inclusive yoga offers space for any yogi, regardless of their demographics, to take part in the practice. Just as other types of businesses are encouraged to focus on accessibility for consumers, yoga teachers should pay attention to whether they offer accessible yoga. Here are several tips that can help based on different areas of focus.

Promoting Inclusivity of All Body Shapes, Sizes, and Flexibility Levels

Yoga classes aren’t only for people who are already fit and flexible. They’re also for a student who may carry excess weight or does little physical activity. How can you make yoga inclusive for all body types and fitness levels?

  • Share modifications for each yoga pose. Show the class how to make a pose easier and harder. This lets each student choose which variation they want to do.

  • Have props readily available. Students may be embarrassed by their body or lack of flexibility. Explain that props are available and even advanced practitioners sometimes require them. Do a quick demonstration with a prop to show how it can help.

  • Purchase yoga mats in varying sizes. This enables a person with a larger body to select a larger-sized yoga mat. Label mats wherever they’re stored so students can easily see that different sizes exist.

  • Develop a positive body yoga mantra. Give students a body-positive phrase to repeat or simply say it often in your classes. “My body is a gift” is one option to consider. Another is, “I don’t need to change my body. I’m beautiful as I am.”

Share inclusivity information on your website or in your newsletter. Let students and prospective students know how important inclusive yoga is to you. This also encourages them to ask questions if they want to learn more.

Make Your Yoga Class More Inclusive to Varying Demographics

There are also things a yoga teacher can do to foster inclusivity for people with different backgrounds and experiences. Also think about differences in terms of their educational levels, incomes, health statuses, and where they live and work.

When designing your yoga class:

  • Educate yourself about different cultures. For example, a hijab is customarily worn by females in Muslim cultures. Knowing this upfront can help you avoid making a mistake and potentially disrespecting their culture by asking that it be removed before class.

  • Offer several payment options. This makes it possible for people with lower incomes to take your class. You may even offer yoga classes on a sliding fee scale.

  • Consider students with physical or mental limitations. Ask about any limitations on intake forms. Update these forms regularly so you have the most current information. Class members’ limitations should determine how you teach yoga. It may require that speak a different way or show modified pose options. 

It can help to get to know your students. Ask about their concerns or if there are any cultural practices you should be aware of. Let them know that their comfort in class is a priority.

Ways to Make Yoga More Inclusive for Different Age Groups

One student may be a teen, another a senior. How do you offer inclusive yoga to such a range of ages? Try these strategies:

  • Offer yoga classes for specific age groups. Develop a kid’s yoga class or a class for seniors. Some people feel more comfortable when surrounded by others like them. Offering this type of class provides this option.

  • Notice the ages of a mixed group. Before teaching your class, look around. What are the general ages of your students? If they are varied, provide instructions with each age group in mind.

  • Talk about props with older students. Research indicates that individuals over 55 have a 6% reduction in flexibility. Additionally, hip flexibility decreases by 0.6 to 0.7 degrees per year. This can make props more important for this demographic. Show older students how to use them. Remind the class to grab a needed prop before you begin.

Developing a Yoga Class More Inclusive for LGBTQ+ Community Members

Another factor to consider when creating more inclusive yoga is how welcome LGBTQ+ members feel joining your class. To promote inclusivity within this demographic:

  • Be aware of your pronoun usage. Not everyone uses masculine or feminine pronouns. Some people use they, them, or their. If you’re unsure of your student’s pronoun, ask. Or you might avoid the use of pronouns altogether.

  • Offer a dedicated LGBTQ+ yoga class. This is a great option for individuals who don’t feel comfortable around others who may not be so inclusive. Reach out to the LGBTQ+ community in your area to see if there’s interest. If there is, set a class up!

  • Create a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination. Let students and prospective students know that you’re committed to inclusivity. Having zero tolerance for discrimination and bias is a good start. 

How to Create an Inclusive Yoga Space for People with Non-Traditional Work Schedules

Sometimes a yoga class doesn’t feel inclusive because of the time it is offered. If a student works a non-traditional schedule, they may struggle to find a class they can take when off. Here are a few ways to develop an inclusive space based on time:

  • Set yoga classes at varying times of day. Admittedly, this may be difficult if being a yoga instructor is a side hustle. However, if possible, offer classes in the morning, around lunch, and in the evening too. This gives students plenty of opportunities to fit a class into their schedules.

  • Offer classes on different days of the week. People in a traditional job may have weekends off. Others get days off during the week. Offer a class on multiple week and weekend days. If one class has low attendance, ask students if a different day works better. 

  • Familiarize yourself with various religious holidays. Not all cultures celebrate the same holidays. Consider the groups prominent in your area. Make it a point to recognize their holidays, even if you don’t celebrate them yourself. This is also important from a scheduling perspective. 

Creating an inclusive yoga space is easy. All it takes is a little awareness and a willingness to make yoga accessible for all. Teacher training can help with this.

Boost Inclusivity in Your Yoga Classes with Teacher Training

You learn a lot in yoga teacher training. This course covers important topics such as yoga philosophy and history, how to break down poses when teaching, meditation and mindfulness, yogic breathing, and more. But you also learn how to tailor your yoga classes to your students, as different as they can sometimes be.

Yoga teacher training provides the foundation needed to become a successful yoga instructor. And when you use your training to give students access to an inclusive yoga community, everyone wins.

ISSA Yoga & Wellness Academy offers online Yoga Teacher Training. This course is approved by the Yoga Alliance and teaches you what you need to know to successfully lead a yoga class focused on inclusivity for all.

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