The Institute for Living Yoga, which provides programs originating from the more than 2000-year-old yogic tradition of India, believes in unity among all the diversity of creation. We embrace and respect all, without bias to race, age, religion, gender, sexual orientation, neurodiversity, or physical ability. We welcome you wherever you are on your journey.
JEDI: Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion
JEDI MISSION STATEMENT: To educate, bring awareness to and ensure that The Institute for Living Yoga and all of its programs have the information required to implement its core values, mission and vision. Implicit in this is ongoing education in JEDI, Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, so as to ensure a continued access to our programs on all fronts in the community. The Institute for Living Yoga is driven by the desire to foster inclusion and to make trauma-informed, therapeutic yoga accessible to all people, including those who otherwise may not have access.
Barriers to access that we aim to address include, but are not limited to the following areas:
Justice & Equity
Prioritizing and promoting diversity and inclusion must include recognizing the far-reaching social and systemic issues that impact access to yoga and wellness more broadly. This includes issues of poverty, housing insecurity, food insecurity, lack of access to education, medical care or financial opportunity, involvement in the criminal justice system, and other social determinants of health that can adversely impact individuals’ ability to prioritize self-care and wellness. By working to address these issues, we create a more equitable and inclusive environment for all individuals.
Understanding issues of systemic oppression, racism, marginalization and disempowerment in our society includes an inward looking journey to examine the ways in which those of us who are a part of the dominant culture and have benefited from the privileges of our position in our society have internalized cultural biases, positions of power-over, and an unconscious stance of dominance. While this may seem intimidating and people often feel uncertain about how to take responsibility for such tremendous social challenges, the practice of yoga will work within us in such ways as we will become more and more deeply and painfully aware of the injustices and civil unrest of which human nature is capable. We will not be able to tolerate denial. We will feel compelled to explore these issues as a personal matter of our morality and ethics. Therefore, we recommend stepping into the exploration and to see it as a process that will ultimately liberate us as individuals from the long-standing cultural conditioning that creates separateness, hierarchy, and the “othering” that allows for violence to occur, in both micro and macro ways.
Our JEDI Initiatives
Sarahjoy began teaching yoga in Oregon’s prisons in 1998, a program that continues to reach 5 prisons in Oregon and has expanded from twice weekly classes to the training and certifying of resident yoga teachers in prisons via our 200hr Yoga Teacher Training. In 2024, the Prison Yoga Outreach Program will expand to reach 340+ facilities in the United States. Sarahjoy began teaching yoga for the MS, Multiple Sclerosis Society, in 1996 bringing adaptive yoga programs to hospitals and community centers. She continued creating a more inclusive yoga environment at the DAYA Foundation developing Adaptive Yoga Programs to include students with Parkinson’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, scleroderma, spinal cord injuries, chronic pain, amputations, and other physical challenges for which students benefited from the therapeutic approach of Adaptive Yoga. Students of many ages and abilities, including Veterans, victims of trauma, seniors, and people living on fixed incomes or below the poverty line due to medical conditions, attended these programs. This program provided classes with Sarahjoy and 2-3 assistant teachers for less than $2 per student.
Sarahjoy has been leading Trauma-Informed, Brain-Sensitive Yoga Training since 2001 to train others in the essential perspective, knowledge and approach of trauma-informed, brain-sensitive yoga. This program supports teachers to build the skill and confidence they need to bring yoga to settings where people have experienced trauma, marginalization, addiction, oppression, adversity, anxiety, and depression.
Sarahjoy's Commitments To
Outreach, Volunteerism & Scholarships
Sarahjoy began yoga outreach programs in 1998 as a volunteer for the Oregon Department of Corrections. As yoga awakens an instinct for service and contribution, an innate impulse to give to the lives of others, Sarahjoy also created volunteer opportunities for thousands of other yoga students and teachers who wanted to expand the access of yoga in their communities.
Sarahjoy established the DAYA Foundation, a non-profit yoga studio, to support the public community to have access to the teachings of yoga, to have a place to come together in practice, and as the means to cultivate community within and beyond the studio. Classes and other events have always been offered on a sliding-scale basis. Sarahjoy has offered all of her teachings to the public and to the outreach programs, as well as her service in administration and fundraising, as a volunteer. She specifically endeavored to create a non-profit which she would be stewarding. Keeping her livelihood separate from the non-profit activities has allowed her to fully express the practices of Karma Yoga, service, and Dana, generosity, in her life.
Sarahjoy’s livelihood is derived from her Yoga Teacher Training Programs, accredited with the Yoga Alliance and the International Association of Yoga Therapists, as well as her retreats at Breitenbush Hot Springs, and her private practice as a yoga therapist. Continuing in the spirit of Dana, Sarahjoy has offered scholarships for yoga teacher trainings as well as private yoga therapy for over 23 years. Scholarships are offered based on financial need with priority given to students with medical challenges, financial limitations, BIPOC students, and students experiencing life transitions and/or trauma.
CULTURAL APPROPRIATION MATTERS
Yoga's Growth In The West
Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years. In recent years there has been a growing awareness of the lack of diversity and inclusion in the yoga world in the West. Yoga was traditionally practiced by Indian men, yet in the past few decades yoga has become popular in the Western world where it has been practiced by predominantly white, middle-class women. As yoga continues to reach more people, while also excluding others, it is important to recognize the ways in which the practice in the West has been influenced by cultural appropriation, commercialization, exclusion, and marginalization.
Prioritizing diversity and inclusion in yoga means creating an environment where people of all backgrounds and abilities feel welcomed and valued. This includes not only people of different races, ethnicities, and cultural backgrounds but also people of different body types, ages, genders, sexual orientations, neurodiversities, and musculo-skeletal capacities. When yoga is more inclusive, it has a more significant impact on individuals and communities, promoting social connectedness, interpersonal mutuality, and collective well-being.
Sarahjoy’s primary teachers are in India, where she returns annually to study. While we have seen an explosion of yoga in the West, benefitting people’s physical and mental health and, for many, igniting a deeper sense of the sacred in their daily lives and an intrinsic desire to give back to the greater good through service or volunteerism, we have also suffered from the hyper-commercialization and commodification of yoga. This has resulted in a surge of cultural appropriation, and in some instances, ignorance of yoga’s roots at all, as well as the creation of financial and other barriers to the practice of yoga.
Yoga is rooted in ancient Indian philosophy and spirituality. Even today, it is a very alive, thousands of years tradition. Yet, many people practicing yoga in the West consider it to be solely a physical practice for enhancing their physique or for finding temporary stress relief (which falls short of the powerful transformation that is possible through yoga). This has led to a disconnect between yoga and its cultural and spiritual roots, and in some cases, the appropriation of sacred symbols and practices without proper understanding or respect.
Contemporarily, yoga has become a global phenomenon, practiced by people of all religions, cultures, and backgrounds. Yoga is embraced by people of many faiths, including Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Indigenous Wisdom Traditions, among others. For many practitioners, yoga is a way to connect with their own spiritual beliefs and deepen their sense of connection to the world around them, including nature and all living beings.
The underlying, intrinsic principles of yoga, including devotion, attention, concentration, self-reflection, dedication, mindfulness, compassion, surrender, self-awareness, and wisdom in action, are universal and speak deeply to the hearts of human beings. Overlooking or excluding these teachings is disrespectful to the tradition of yoga and creates a misunderstanding for students who are not offered these vital aspects of yoga. Such classes may curate a superficial dip into yoga while perpetuating a misperception about what yoga is (for personal flexibility or strength, a more desirable physique, or a mental timeout from the ills of modern society). This may seem harmless, yet it perpetuates a commodification of a practice, taken out of its context, that can short-change students from comprehending, and then choosing to participate in, the full potential of yoga’s transformative system for healthy living, for ethical and societal transformation, and for spiritual awakening.
OUR SCHOOL'S JEDI COMMITMENTS
On The Side of Justice
Learn more about Yoga & Social Justicebased on Sarahjoy's yoga in prisons initiatives, which began in 1998. The DAYA Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to yoga as a tool for social justice.
The foundation of our lives is our fundamental interconnectedness and interdependence. Exclusion gives rise to separateness and to the mentalities that diminish and dehumanize others. It is not only harmful to those who experience exclusion, in its many forms, it also prevents us all from truly knowing and understanding ourselves. Inclusion raises up the worthiness and dignity of all and creates an atmosphere of mutual regard and unconditional belonging.
Equity Means Creating Opportunities
We are committed to equity as a means to create potential for a fair distribution of practices, resources, support, and opportunities amongst all populations and communities. Creating opportunities for students and teachers to teach, practice, and study yoga safely, in community,without harm or judgment raises up the mission and vision of the Institute.
Diversity In Community
Our training faculty includes Sarahjoy’s teachers from India, native to these traditions, as well as members of the BIPOC community and the LGTBQIA+ community. Guest presenters, ambassadors, mentors, and assistants bring a diverse background of experience to our training community. In addition, members of our faculty have their own deep personal commitment to unpacking white privilege and examining dominance and power dynamics in relationships.
We recognize that our team will continue to evolve and expand. As such, our team represents our movement toward greater diversity as we also welcome additional faculty members, representing diversity in yoga, whose commitment to and comprehension of trauma-informed yoga fits with our standards for being a faculty member.
Safety, Diversity & Inclusivity
A cornerstone of diversity and inclusivity in yoga is creating a safe and welcoming environment for all individuals, regardless of their identities or experiences. This means taking steps to prevent and address harassment, discrimination, and other forms of harm that can occur. The Institute for Living Yoga has clear policies and procedures for handling incidents of harm, as well as providing ongoing training and education for teachers and staff.