This National Yoga Month, it’s about more than the asanas
This September, as Living Beyond Breast Cancer marks both our 30th anniversary and National Yoga Awareness Month, we are examining ourselves and finding ways we can think differently to better serve our vision of a world where no one impacted by breast cancer feels uninformed or alone. People affected by breast cancer come from every race and every ethnic background. Ensuring we serve the needs of everyone impacted by breast cancer requires us to continually ask if we are doing our best to communicate, whether we are asking the right questions of the right people, and to unlearning beliefs, behaviors, and actions that act as barriers to appropriately serving our diverse community.
We have long embraced the benefits that yoga practices of posture and meditation can have for people affected by breast cancer. These practices are the center of our signature fundraising event, Reach & Raise, and of programs we offer at conferences. During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, we shared free virtual classes to help people cope with the stress of a rapidly changing world. But, like many people in the United States, we did not always present the full context of yoga or its South Asian roots. We, like many, did not even know what questions to ask.
As part of our growing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, our staff recently participated in a training with Anusha Wijeyakumar, MA, CPC, RYT, titled Decolonizing Yoga and Cultural Communications. We learned that meditations and the asanas — the postural practice — are just a few parts of the larger philosophy that comprise yoga. But these practices are often understood in the US as “yoga,” and their use is often paired with South Asian sacred symbols and words, sometimes inappropriately and often without the full context, or understanding, of the philosophy of yoga and its origins.
This month, we’ll share our existing programs featuring yoga practices that many of you have found helpful — and we will strive to bring you programming that presents a fuller and more accurate picture of yoga. We’ll continue to think carefully about the language and symbols we use and to aim to be respectful of the meanings of words and symbols to the people of South Asia and people who practice yoga. We are excited to continue learning about yoga and sharing meaningful, rejuvenating, and more fully informed yoga programs with you in the future.
Recognizing the diversity of the cancer experience will require us to look hard at how different people and histories are left out of existing narratives. It will challenge us to think about the stories we tell and find and elevate points of view that have often been left out. We’re committed to this work and to our mission to connect people with trusted breast cancer information and a community of support.