Phoenix Rising Project: Creating Space for Underrepresented Identities in Wellness

Phoenix Rising Project: Creating Space for Underrepresented Identities in Wellness

The Phoenix Rising Project was one of the first initiatives I got involved with at The Kaivalya Yoga Method. July 2020 brought along social justice issues and aggressions often caught on a cell phone camera, as well as a heightened level of consciousness and accountability that extended from corporate workplaces to wellness spaces alike. We saw the rise of public accountability social media pages and a move for so many to get it right. While it seems that some of that collective accountability and outrage has shifted, much in light of the most recent presidential election and transition season, for The Kaivalya Yoga Method, this accountability is an ongoing and developing commitment and practice. several

The Phoenix Rising Project is a monthly scholarship that addresses the lack of diversity in the yoga community. If you’ve read any of my blog posts, then you know that accessibility and representation are at the center of my practice and my calling. So you can imagine that I was pleased to know that the team here at TKYM was ready to commit to doing the work. Each month, the Phoenix Rising Council, made up of five individuals that embody one or more underrepresented identities in wellness, review applicants to award a scholarship that covers 50% of the 200-hour online yoga teacher training through the Kaivalya Yoga Method. Justin Blazejewski, Shawn J. Moore, Melissa De Los Santos (or Meli the mentor), Jase Cannon, and Shellie Crow review applications and videos to select the recipient in their respective population.

Who is eligible for this scholarship? Glad you asked. The scholarship is awarded monthly to people who identify as Black, Indigenous, or as a person of color (BIPOC); Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Questioning or Queer, Intersex, Asexual, or identify outside of the letters in the acronym (LGBTQIA+); people with disabilities; veterans; and survivors of abuse.

Why these groups? Also glad you asked! It is abundantly clear that the yoga and wellness world is overwhelmingly white in the West, and yet, the world is not. Our job as yoga teachers, healers of multiple modalities, and spiritual leaders is to ensure that there is space for everyone to truly live out their purpose. Representation matters so much. I’ll never forget the first Black yoga teacher that I ever had. I felt seen. I felt safe. I felt like I belonged in class, and when she told me to “take up space,” I almost wept. Some may argue that identity doesn’t matter and that we’re all one. I disagree. And yet, I’d much instead dedicate my energy to creating spaces where folks of all identities feel safe.

I’ve also recently come across critiques where folks argue that scholarships aren’t enough. It doesn’t matter if underrepresented groups have access to a program if there’s no safety in said program. And I have to say I agree. I feel so fortunate that at TKYM, we’re a community that prioritizes safety, and while we won’t get it right all the time, we’re committed to learning, growing, and getting better.

Why the name Phoenix Rising Project? By now, y’all have to know that Alanna loves myths! The phoenix is a mythical bird that sets itself ablaze and burns down into a pile of ashes. From those ashes, it rises as a new bird, better and more beautiful than before. This mythology resonates so much with our team in that we must reconcile and “burn” our thoughts and practices of what “diversity” once meant, and lean wholly into our purpose of preparing spiritual leaders of ALL backgrounds, and our practice compels us to stand in solidarity with the groups that are most underrepresented in wellness.

So, if you feel like you would be a good fit and would like to learn more about the scholarship, or if you know someone ready to begin their journey as a yoga teacher and spiritual leader to make a change in their community, then click this link to learn how to apply. To learn more about the Phoenix Rising Council, then click here.

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