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Shadow on Concrete Wall

Eva Rahman

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Eva is a trauma-informed, Scaravelli-inspired and a Heart + Bones yoga teacher and facilitator. The essence of her teaching is to guide students to cultivate their felt sense and capacity to deeply listen to their body, to enhance spaciousness, health, healing, and their capacity to adapt to stressors and self-regulate.

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Rooted in the spirit of embodied enquiry,  playfulness and curiosity, Eva works with asana, or yoga postures, embodied enquiry, somatic and animal movement, pranayama, breathwork, meditation, subtle awareness, mindfulness, journaling, inner journeying, visualisation and functional movement to foster a rich, varied and sensory experience for her student.

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She spent much of the last 20 years learning from, and is influenced by, Suzy Greenwood (nee Daw), Dot Bowen, John Stirk, Becky Barkans and Gary Carter, all of whom have several decades of Scaravelli-inspired teaching experience and have worked extensively with Diane Long, a long-term student of Vanda Scaravelli. 

Why I stopped saying my yoga classes were for everybody.
By Eva Rahman
12 March 2024


When I first started teaching yoga, I felt an enormous amount of passion and
commitment to accessibility and inclusivity. I regularly provided suggestions to adapt
postures to suit my students’ needs, I used invitational language, acknowledging
different experiences from my own, and encouraged the use of props as an antidote
to the ‘no pain, no gain’ mentality. My class description said, “suitable for
everybody”. In short, I was doing everything I thought I could to make my class
inclusive.


But gradually, I began to realise that that statement just isn’t true. My classes aren’t
for everyone. In fact, using the statement does a disservice to efforts to promote
diversity and inclusion. It ignores the fact that people have different body shapes,
abilities, preferences, and lived experiences. On a basic physical level, even our
skeletons are different! My thigh bone will not be angled in my hip socket the same
as yours.


Being inclusive is more than a statement and using invitational language. It is not
enough that I believe in the fundamental philosophy of yoga that is based on the
interconnectedness of all beings through universal consciousness (see the yogic
philosophy of Panchakosha originating from the Vedic text, Taittiriya Upanishad). To
be meaningfully inclusive requires that I acknowledge my own privilege and identity
as a middle class, cisgender, bi-racial (British Bangladeshi) who was brought up in
Bangladesh and India and has lived in the UK for the last 30 years, and what that
might mean in terms of my perspectives. It means we honour people’s diverse lived
experiences and create spaces where that is acknowledged, understood, and
welcomed. 


As facilitators in yoga and wellness spaces, it requires us to lead through the lens of
understanding how these identities and experiences intertwine and overlap. This
includes an understanding of how systemic, collective, and generational trauma,
such as racism and genocide, impacts those directly affected every day.
I believe you can’t be genuinely inclusive without being trauma-informed, and vice
versa.  

 

Most people have trauma, but people who are marginalised are likely to be
more impacted by inequality, injustice, and discrimination for example, precisely
because of the way privilege and power marginalise them in the first place. Have a
look around, these may be the people who are not in our wellness spaces, those
who are NEVER there. It might be due to barriers to accessing these events
including affordability, practicalities such as wheelchair access, as well as issues
around belonging and safety.


Our modern Western society is founded on capitalism and individualism and is by
nature, not inclusive. We are surrounded by ‘othering’ perspectives that separate us
from people who look, think, and behave differently from us - those that don’t fit into
the dominant worldview of what is beautiful, perfect, aligned, fit, healthy, politically
correct, moral, heteronormative, or successful. And this echoes through wellness
communities around beliefs of levels of consciousness, or what constitutes being

‘good’ at yoga, or an ‘advanced’ practitioner. Standards that are based in colonialist
paradigms. 


Within this context, my teaching approach will not resonate with everyone. Not
everyone will feel safe or welcome depending on whether the container matches
what they need at the time and how they arrive in the space- their intersection of
past, present, future. 


Representation amongst yoga teachers at wellness events like Yoga Camp is a great
start. However, for it to be meaningful, it requires starting a conversation,
acknowledging that we may not have all the answers yet, and if we can make space
for the wisdom of people from marginalised groups and begin to understand their
lived experiences, then we can begin to expand our perspectives and vision a new
world that is truly inclusive.

 

If we awaken a loving space to recognise, allow,
investigate and nurture (or RAIN, as Tara Brach puts it) our own trauma and tension,
we can begin to open ourselves to understanding others. If we can meet people
where they are, with a baseline of honouring of our shared humanness and lifeforce,
the privilege of being alive in the moment together - then we hold the intention
of including ALL, fostering deep repair.

 

And that is what spaces like Yoga Camp are
all about. A space to allow access to safety, build trust and honour our full humanity
and when we come together in community, we have the potential to amplify the
impact of our work and we have the potential to strengthen a wider culture of care.


Paraphrasing Albert Einstein, our solutions and social norms will need to be different
from the mindsets that got us here, if we are to transform our global messes into
collective liberation. And in the words of black feminist writer, Cole Arthur Riley, “Our
struggle is distinct, but our liberation is intertwined.”

 

Also, for me, it’s about how I can be intentional about how I occupy space as well as
hold space for others. My practice is about slowing down to be more intentional
around how I show up. Small moments of dropping into presence add up. As
facilitators, we must have our own ongoing practice of examining our stuff - our
prejudices, and biases - to be able to hold space for others who may be affected by
trauma. We only have capacity to hold for others what we have capacity to hold for
ourselves. We all have some kind of trauma, and I don’t want to be causing further
harm to someone.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is “inspire inclusivity”. 

For me, it also means asking myself how can I do better to support inclusivity?

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