When “All One” Becomes Oppressive.

Photo credit: MARS

Photo credit: MARS

Of course I get the warm and fuzzy good intensions and vibes that can surround a sentiment of “all are one” in a yoga class. The widely accepted interpretation goes something like, “under the appearance of difference we are all connected and somehow essentially similar with the same human needs for food, shelter and affection.” Feel that expanded consciousness of connection! Good stuff!

Realize how people are reduced to basic survival instincts when “all are one” is taken literally: now it’s not so good. So much of what I value about being alive is not included. I love art and expression, and have made no secret about my passion for queer theory and expressions. My art will be different from your art. My gender and expressions of gender may be different from yours. You can’t possibly understand me without getting to know me.

“All are one” becomes flawed when it becomes a concept that attempts to homogenize difference.

“We are all one.” ≠ “We are all the same.”

But just under the surface of thinking this can be what happens. I imagine the functioning of the problem to be something like, “I feel/believe I am one with this other person who is a virtual stranger to me so I will expect that they will like what I do/feel safe when I do/want what I want.” Without realizing it someone can fall into some harmful assumptions about other people.

I am always super-honored when I am published on YogaDork, and my recent piece Questioning Queer Yoga is no exception. (I hope you’ll go over there and read it!)

In the comments section the validity of queer yoga classes are questioned. My interpretation of what was written there includes a questioning of the right of queer yoga to exist. Queer yoga is already happening in many places in many cities, so reality might be truth enough. But the logic of the comment I am thinking of seemed to question a need for a class like this. Just because one individual feels their needs are met in a yoga does not mean that every other individual will also get their needs met.

And when people assume that everyone is the same, or they assume that they know what everyone needs, and they are in a position of power—like a yoga teacher—these assumptions can harm students. We need queer yoga right now because there is not sufficient awareness of respecting difference, agency and self-determination of yoga class participants.


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