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‘Skinny, bendy and blonde’: women of colour challenge racism in UK yoga

When Sue Forde returned to practising yoga in a studio earlier this year, for the first time since the pandemic, it was with a sense of trepidation. Because it meant she was, once again, usually the only black woman in the room.

“I’ve had my body pointed to as ‘an African body’,” said Forde, from Hackney, east London. “Recently, in a class, this discussion sprang up about whether black women have a bigger tendency to a pelvic tilt. You think: ‘Oh, please don’t bring this into the yoga room.’”

Forde is one of a growing number of black and minority ethnic yoga teachers and practitioners who are challenging racism in British yoga organisations. Many said they have experienced inappropriate touching of, and comments about, their bodies and hair in classes, as well as crass racial stereotypes, such as Indians being ‘naturally bendy’, and ignorance of yoga’s sacred texts, including the Bhagavad Gita.

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