Take action toward racial equity in Iyengar Yoga

Take action toward racial equity!

Are you ready to help make Iyengar yoga more equitable for BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color)? Please contact the Board if you have ideas and are able to help with any of the action items in the letter from the Board below. If you are worried that it’s not your turn to speak up or act because you are white, don’t be shy—this is work that white people have to engage in if change is to happen.

For context, find the letter that sparked our conversations as a Board here.




Dear IYNAUS Board,

We as the IMIYA Board are deeply concerned upon the receipt of the letter outlining the extensive harm that people of color have endured within the system of Iyengar yoga. We, as members of IYNAUS and IMIYA, absolutely believe that the authors of the letter were harmed and we take their feelings and perceptions seriously. We appreciate the authors of the letter for so clearly articulating what they believe must be done to repair the damage and make Iyengar yoga a safe and welcoming space for people of color and marginalized groups. ​We also want to acknowledge the time and effort that the IYNAUS Board has dedicated to addressing this subject. We carefully read the “Next Steps” letter dated June 24th and also understand that a letter to the authors has been sent. Thank you for that.  

We, the Board of IMIYA, acknowledge that we are a majority white organization. Whiteness is by default invisible to most of us and it takes difficult, unpleasant work to see the ways in which whiteness is toxic. Recognizing that there is not a quick fix to undoing whiteness, white supremacy, and racism, and given the nation’s current climate, the IMIYA Board is discussing how IMIYA might proceed in a far more equitable direction to the benefit of our community. 

As a part of an ongoing, sustainable project to work on seeing our whiteness and how it negatively impacts people of color in our community, IMIYA’s goal is to become an organization that reflects and supports the diverse communities unique to this region of the country. We seek to acknowledge the complex histories, resilience, and current lived realities of all, and to center and uplift BIPOC membership and leadership. What follows is a list of action items we are willing to explore immediately:

  • Make trainings available to our membership. This includes hiring BIPOC antiracism trainers to help us stay on track, while also taking responsibility for our own continued study and work;
  • Host monthly anti-racism/critical whiteness study groups to be held online, and eventually in person, for teachers and students; and,
  • Financially, energetically, and physically support BIPOC centered and BIPOC-only Iyengar yoga spaces and groups. An example could be to donate funds to the Equity Fund at Iyengar Yoga Center Detroit. We will also explore organizations that focus within our geographical region.

While the main focus will be on race, we plan to take an intersectional approach to learn how class, gender, gender identity, body size and ability, and sexual orientation intersect with race, creating oppression that directly affects who is present and who isn’t in our organization and classrooms. We know this will strengthen our community and build safer spaces in our yoga centers.

In addition, we recognize that this is the perfect opportunity to enact change in the way we run our organization. Recently, we as a Board have made Class Pack scholarship funds available. Please read more about them at None of these scholarships have yet been disbursed. While funding is available for all, we intend to disburse these funds to teachers/students of color and those otherwise marginalized individuals in the Intermountain region (Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming).

Just as IMIYA has taken immediate action in response to the previously mentioned letter, we acknowledge the action that IYNAUS is taking as outlined in the “Next Steps” letter and the first Symposium held on June 27. We understand that the actions in the authors’ letter may overlap with the actions that IYNAUS provided; however, we wish to share the specific actions which the IMIYA board feels need the most attention. Our hope is that these can be interwoven in the overall approach that IYNAUS is taking to address racism in Iyengar Yoga: 

  • Hire an external auditor with situated and embodied knowledge of anti-Blackness and its traumatic effects to examine IYNAUS and all its chapters with respect to its record of implicit and explicit racism and its failure to set and attain meaningful inclusivity and equity goals.
  • Release audit results with complete transparency to its members and make the results publicly accessible on your website.
  • Written acknowledgment (permanently installed on the IYNAUS and chapter websites) indicating IYNAUS’s commitment to ongoing anti-racism work.
  • Commit to an ongoing and non-ending process of repair that includes the following actions:
    • Establish an Inclusion and Equity Officer position as part of the national board, to be filled by a member from the BIPOC community, with a proven track record of social justice, and with power to audit the organization and implement structural change
    • Invest a portion of monthly income from dues to support Black-owned businesses
    • Give scholarships to students from BIPOC communities
  • Establish a Grievance Committee with an outside overseer. We strongly support a restorative justice approach for those with grievances.

Additionally, it is absolutely paramount moving forward that IYNAUS, each region, and all CIYTs be held accountable for their actions and words. We suggest registering with an outside regulatory agency to help ensure compliance in the future.

We recognize this may be a daunting list for a non-profit organization with a board made up of volunteers. We also recognize that we are part of IYNAUS and would like to support IYNAUS in taking these actions. IMIYA can help with this in the following ways: 

  • Assist with the search for an auditor. We have started doing some research in this area and would like to share information and recommendations with the appropriate individuals working at the national level
  • Financially, we would like to start by donating the $6,374.74 that we are receiving as part of the Power of Unity event to help with the financial burden that would come from an audit of this type.
  • Finally, we would like to have a discussion with the appropriate person(s) within IYNAUS to discuss other ways we can help either financially or with finding volunteer or paid help for this effort.  We are brainstorming ideas and want to be involved in making our organization welcoming to all.

Right now, IYNAUS and all the regional associations have a valuable opportunity to set the tone not only for Iyengar yoga in the US but for the larger yoga community around the world. Iyengar yoga is a respected system and taking action such as those outlined above would be a first step toward ahimsa and satya in the realm of racial equity. People of color in the Iyengar yoga system have been speaking up for years about the inequity in our system and now is the time to listen. We urge IYNAUS to take the authors’ lead and others like Hong Gwi-Seok (Iyengar Yoga Detroit) who deeply understand racial injustice and are taking actions toward equity.

We all have a lot of work to do, and these are just some small, first steps we can take in the on-going work that is required to dismantle racism and white supremacy. We welcome further conversation and are eager to work to make Iyengar yoga welcoming for BIPOC and other marginalized groups, with the understanding that freedom and healing for the oppressed means freedom and healing for us all.

In solidarity with BIPOC,

The Board of IMIYA

Sage Harrington, Secretary

Josh Warren, President

Brad Denning, Vice-President

Dana Hanizeski, Marketing

Mandy Coates, Membership

Darren Christensen, Treasurer

Paige Noon, Regional Representative

Avery Kalapa, Scholarships, Member

2 replies on “Take action toward racial equity in Iyengar Yoga”

I support IMIYA and IYNAUS in our efforts to address systemic racism as it exists within our communities and beyond. These suggestions provide a hopeful template for a path forward.

Thank you, Peggy! The Board requests help to achieve the above goals, so if you can help or know someone who can help, please contact the Board. Also, thank you for your years of service on the Scholarship Committee.


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