AC­CES­SI­BLE YOGA

JIVANA HEYMAN, FOUNDER

Yoga Journal - - 2018 GOOD KARMA AWARDS -

Ev­ery­one, re­gard­less of phys­i­cal abil­ity or back­ground, de­serves ac­cess to the prac­tice of yoga. That’s the guid­ing prin­ci­ple be­hind Ac­ces­si­ble Yoga. Their mis­sion is to ad­vo­cate for un­der­served com­mu­ni­ties and build a net­work of am­bas­sadors to sup­port yoga ac­ces­si­bil­ity around the world. The or­ga­ni­za­tion ini­tially fo­cused on ac­ces­si­bil­ity for those with phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties or chronic ill­nesses and has since grown to in­clude ad­vo­cacy for any­one who lacks ac­cess due to phys­i­cal, emo­tional, cul­tural, or eco­nomic bar­ri­ers. In 2015, the or­ga­ni­za­tion launched its first in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence and brought a mes­sage of in­clu­siv­ity to a global au­di­ence.

Q & A YOGA JOUR­NAL: What in­spired you to start ad­vo­cat­ing for ac­ces­si­bil­ity in yoga?

JIVANA HEYMAN: I was an AIDS ac­tivist in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Many of my friends died of AIDS, in­clud­ing my best friend. I started teach­ing yoga to the HIV/AIDS com­mu­nity, and then the work ex­tended from there. I didn’t see yoga be­ing shared with peo­ple with phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties and chronic ill­nesses, so that’s where I put my fo­cus. There’s a mis­un­der­stand­ing that yoga is about ad­vanced phys­i­cal asana, when that is only part of the prac­tice. Yoga is about learn­ing to calm the mind and con­nect with in­ner peace, and that’s some­thing that ev­ery­one has a right to.

YJ: How does Ac­ces­si­ble Yoga ap­proach its ad­vo­cacy work?

JH: This year, we have two in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ences, and that’s re­ally our main fo­cus— cre­at­ing a plat­form for peo­ple who are shar­ing yoga in marginal­ized com­mu­ni­ties. These peo­ple come to­gether and net­work with each other and learn about each other’s work. This, we hope, will shift the cul­ture to be more in­clu­sive and eq­ui­table.

YJ: What does the con­cept of seva mean to you?

JH: I think “self­less ser­vice” is yoga in prac­tice. The real chal­lenge is learn­ing how to think beyond your ego’s self­ish de­sires, to look at oth­ers as equals, and to come from a more heart-cen­tered place that can bridge the di­vide be­tween in­di­vid­u­als and com­mu­ni­ties. That’s what we’re try­ing to do with Ac­ces­si­ble Yoga.

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