Dear Yoga Studio Owners:

I share this letter with awareness that many of you/us are head + heart deep in some serious challenges to keep our studios alive. I share this with reverence for what it means to risk it all for your dream, your studio, your community. I also share this as a former teacher trainer, current mentor, and owner who has witnessed Oneness be defined in a way that dismisses entire populations of people. I share this as a portal of reflection.

At Sacred Chill West, we have trained 33 Yoga and Meditation teachers. 31 of those individuals identify as BIPOC {Black Indigenous People of Color}

Less than a handful of those individuals teach at yoga studios other than Sacred Chill.

I mentor yoga teachers from all over the country. I have mentored 31 individuals in the last two years. 30 of those individuals identify as BIPOC.

Two of the Black teachers I mentored who finally “landed” a gig at a yoga studio were asked to audition at least THREE times. At my studio we have an intentional hiring process. It’s detailed. No one has auditioned three times. No one.

There are so many well trained yoga teachers in Atlanta and many studios hire from their own teacher training. I understand that. I do the same thing most of the time. Not all of the time.

Yet it has never ceased to amaze me that studios with 10-30 teachers on roster, in a city as Black and diverse as Atlanta will have ZERO or one/two Black teachers on staff.

If you think the solution is simply scholarships to your training, retreat, program. You need anti-racism education. You need inner work.
If you think the solution is simply hiring more Black/Brown teachers. Again, start with your inner work.
If you think the solution is a few days of diversity and inclusion training. See above.
If you think the solution is a day Black out of social media screens or one weekly newsletter. See above.
If you think the solution is a donation based class and that’s the extent of it. See above.
If you are planning to email me to pick my brain about what the solution is… again see above and then consider hiring Shane Roberts of Red Clay Yoga, Kelley Palmer, or Michelle Johnson to specifically consult you on that work. They have spent decades studying and doing it. I haven’t.

To be clear, all of the above may be useful.

To be clearer, there’s a bigger problem.

Ask yourself the question why are there so few Black teachers and students in your community?
I know you may have thought it before, even turned it over in your mind and heart, yet thought the answer was beyond you. Or about “them” not you.

What would happen if you asked yourself the question “do Black teachers and students feel welcome in my yoga space?” Why or why not? Does the way I train and orient teachers, managers, and staff support an authentic and welcoming environment? Do I embody welcomeness? What if you allowed yourself to answer the questions humbly and honestly?

Without a devoted commitment to facing the structures within yourself that have allowed you to do and say nothing or very little until now, you can’t bravely or sincerely face others.

To shift the outward “looking” dynamics in your yoga or wellness business, you have to look within. You have to listen. You have to unlearn. You have to relearn. There is no other way.

This moment is urgent AND It won’t be a quick fix. Strive for steady versus only speed.

My teacher Dr. Gail Parker says “you can be right or you can be in a relationship.”

You have to decide that what you think or thought was right is less important than coming into relationship with what is true about who you have been.

You have to risk who you have been in order to become who you can be. Someone who can more skillfully navigate and hold both light and dark. Someone you can powerfully lead.

From that truth, your knowing of the vastness of Oneness will grow and so will our community.

Love,

Octavia Raheem