For years, wellness and whiteness have gone hand in hand. Although the majority of the concepts we associate with modern healing originally were developed by various groups of color - when you seek out these spaces both online and offline, you do not see that reflected. Yoga is no exception. Search the word yoga and you will find various images of white women contorting themselves into impressive shapes displayed before you.
#RepresentationMatters, and Setu, a digital community on a mission to elevate inclusion and diversity in wellness, is addressing the lack of diverse representation in yoga head on. Setu has debuted a video dedicated to the yogis who often are forgotten, erased and made invisible.
In the video, which is aptly titled I See You, nine age, race, body, and gender-diverse yogis are depicted moving through different poses and speaking their truths about what it means to be a yogi who doesn’t fit “the mold.”
The yogis depicted in the video recall experiences when they felt yoga wasn't for them. “Nobody looked like me. Looking at yoga magazines [the story] told was that yoga was for white skinny women who have money. I felt like yoga was expensive. I felt like I needed the outfits to go to yoga class, until I started practicing yoga. Then everything changed for me.” Says Ngone, one of the yogis seen practicing in the video.
Much like the plethora of other white-dominated spaces we navigate in our daily lives as Black people, places like yoga studios and healing houses have historically felt unwelcoming and isolating. These environments have made it seem like yoga, meditation, and other wellness practices aren’t for us.
Stories like these are not uncommon, and Setu is trying to change that. Through I See You, Setu is showing that yoga isn’t just for one type of person, yogis cannot be distilled to one “target audience,” and yoga is an experience of grounding, exploration, and healing and not a commodity that only the wealthy should have access to.
“I hope this video gives people insight into a lived experience they might not have been aware of before and encourages people who’ve had similar experiences as expressed in the video to feel less alone.” says Setu founder Libby Nicholaou. “I hope it opens up people’s minds about their yoga practice, teachers, fellow students and people they see in yoga pants and out in the world.”
Founded by Libby Nicholaou in November of 2017, Setu is people-first and digitally driven, supporting its worldwide community of 100 yogis and 200 instructors (and counting) through live events designed to foster positive mind-body-people relationships.
Follow Setu in person and online via Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/setucommunity), Twitter (https://twitter.com/setucommunity), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/setuyogacommunity), and Medium (https://medium.com/@setuyogacommunity).
This article was written by Marissa Hatten, a writer, yogi and communications professional living in NYC. She is passionate about sharing compelling stories and fostering human connection with words.