The World Health Organization defines the social determinants of health as “the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age, including the health system”. The WHO attributes persisting health inequities – the unfair and avoidable differences in health status – to social conditions which are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources. Health inequity is something that is very real in today’s existing systems on global, national, and local levels. Yoga, as we know it in our western culture, has become an amazing source of health promotion and well-being that is unfortunately not equally accessible by all. If we trace yoga back to its roots, we can make a strong distinction between Yoga and the Yoga Industry.
How do we overcome the barriers of health inequity? If we look at yoga as an example of a practice that demonstrates incredible holistic health benefits, how have we come to a place where it’s something that is mostly practiced by people who can afford it? Yoga studio owners are business people who need to keep the studio alive by setting competitive prices. Yoga teachers and therapists are professionals needing to earn a living. The disciplined self-practice of yoga takes a certain level of emotional stability and overall health. The reality is that there now exists a divide between those who participate in the westernized yoga world and those who don’t – or can’t. The divide is attributable to the same social determinants of health that are responsible for the inequities in any other of the systems that rely of the distribution of money, power, and resources.
Community yoga classes that run by suggested donation, teachers volunteering their time, and community agencies/schools finding the funds to offer free yoga programming are among some of the ways in which a sense of equity is being brought to the practice. At Adi Shesha Wellington West Studio in Ottawa, we offer a community yoga class at a 5$ suggested donation on Sunday afternoons. Teachers have been volunteering their time and a wonderful community is building around the initiative of making yoga more accessible for all. If you live in Ottawa, come out and practice with us. Wherever you live, work, practice, or teach, there are many opportunities to help break down these barriers. Thank you to all of you who volunteer your time and thank you to all who work toward making our health systems equitable. You’re amazing! (even if you only have thoughts of wanting to contribute).