[NOTE: This piece is in no way attempting to be a joke].
The Babarazzi get itchy around grand plans that attempt to speak for large swaths of people. Nine times out of ten these “initiatives” well overstep their own author’s limited perceptions, and ultimately end up being presumptuous about their audience’s needs and wants. We are, however, excited by “precepts,” “tenets,” and “suggested guidelines” that come from within small communities that help to orient a collective’s vision. For us, J Brown’s “Bill of Rights” (BOR), while no doubt very well intentioned, assumes a much more unified “yoga community” than we believe exists (thankfully, IOHO). As such, we believe the BOR, despite its attempt at being über-inclusive, extends well beyond the author’s own personal understanding of what a yoga practice is. In doing so, we believe this draft actually limits what’s possible for a student of yoga, “householder” or otherwise.
But, that does not mean Bills of Rights such as this have no place.
After thinking about the BOR for a spell, we began to re-frame our approach. What if we pretended that The Babarazzi were asked to seriously consider where the BOR might best work? We imagined we were on a Board of Directors such as this one, though with more mustaches and less dudes….
We began to wonder: is there a community that might benefit from a BOR such as the one proposed by J Brown?
When we started thinking in this way, we began to realize that the BOR’s lack of specificity actually does it a disservice (this is also a general belief of the Babarazzi as a whole). While we all could benefit from “safe spaces,” there are some communities that might actually need some form of codified vision such as the one Brown recommends in order to keep people safe. For us, it’s important to recognize that while we actually welcome a fair amount of play with regards to power dynamics, inverted social norms, and “decorum,” there are many people and communities where such activities would put them at risk of injury.
So, The Babarazzi got to thinking: What if we read this Bill of Rights not as a Bill of Rights for the entire world of yoga practitioners (because that’s just crazy), but rather as a Bill of Rights for, say, yoga practitioners whose developmental disabilities were so severe that simply being “in the world” (for lack of better term) was a risk to their well-being?
Then it clicked:
“Bill of Rights for Yoga Practitioners with Severe Developmental Disabilities”
As a yoga student you have the right to:
– Be personally introduced to your instructor
– A safe and courteous instructor who is attentive to your needs
– A knowledgeable instructor who instills confidence
– Decline to be pushed into anything that feels wrong to you
– Not be compared to anyone or made to feel small
– Ask questions and get sufficient answers
– Feel comfortable and that you are among friends
– Be discerning and make your own determinations
Now, some of us actually have ass-loads of experience working with communities of differently-abled persons, so we know that, as it stands, this BOR isn’t really appropriate for some random hypothetical school for yoga practitioners with developmental disabilities. Not to mention, a BOR of this nature would need to be written specifically by care-givers and their patients (if they were able to do so), utilizing a language appropriate to their own specific community. What we’re suggesting by framing the BOR in this particular light, however, can be broken down into three tasty statements:
- The “yoga community” is far too large and diverse to be asked to adhere to any one single set of tenets, no matter how generous and “open” the language therein.
- Small communities of one or more peoples should define for themselves the guidelines or anti-guidelines by which they engage the yogic tradition (if they so desire).
- Attempts at being “universal” in language is usually anything but universal.
Make sense? Good.
Now for some heart-trembling Sufi music by a couple of Moroccan women to get us back in the right frame of mind.
Respect your elders
Title image by Gary and Suzy Zahradka.