The Fire Lounge, in Partnership with M.I.T. and Down Under School of Yoga, is a 7-week series where participants are invited to examine the way varied social injustices impact them, explore individual and collective healing, and refuel their flame. It is a collaboration between Down Under School of Yoga and the M.I.T community and was the recipient of MindHandHeart Innovation Funding in 2021. Down Under began a series in Jan, which is at capacity but there will be another cohort that begins in March.
Existing in a world where social injustice and by extension trauma are omnipresent and systemically interwoven, physical, psychological, and social dislocation can exist. Often, this dislocation can result in guilt, shame, fear, and anger. At times, we can unrightfully take on these narratives.
The westernization of yoga has impacted the degree to which the practice of yoga feels accessible to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) individuals. The lack of representation and inclusion, as well as concern regarding judgment and mismanaged microaggressions, become an impediment to attending a yoga class (in person or virtually). A dominant discourse currently is the lack of spaces and BIPOC instructors that can invite and affirm the experiences of BIPOC individuals. Given the momentum of anti-racist movements, there has been a greater push for cultivating accessible spaces wherein the wellness of BIPOC individuals is prioritized rather than an afterthought integration, and the beneficial effects of a yoga practice can be experienced by BIPOC individuals related to their social experience.
Michelle Johnson poignantly writes that the cultivation of spaces such as this project creates opportunities to be fully oneself, to speak to the realities of oppression (without spiritual bypassing), to find serenity within one’s body via breath, and to experience liberation.
Meaning behind The Fire Lounge name:
One limb on the 8-limb path, in Sanskrit, Tapas means “heat.” For some, it can be said that individuals are detrimentally impacted by life which subsequently influences impurities. With the practice of yoga, individuals can use heat to rid oneself of these impurities (body, mind, and spirit). Yet, some question that as all are “divine,” why should one rid themselves of anything. Rather than burning off, there is a shift in the meaning of creating friction (going against complacency and what is easiest) in effort of being the best version of self. Within our context, we include varied definitions which include discipline and internal fire.
More about the I.D.E.A. Team
Down Under’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Access Team rolls out our multifaceted short and long-term planning, holding our school accountable to prompt discernable change and the in-house systemic work required to ensure such corrections continue. As a school and a community of practitioners, we welcome all identities related to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ability, status, language diversity and we affirm, defend, and invest in Black lives. Yet, all may not feel welcome and so we commit to the work of educating ourselves and taking action to nurture diversity. As a predominantly white organization, we have been silent – and therefore complicit – in the face of a lack of diversity in the yoga world. We may stumble, err, and be awkward allies, but this will not stop us from attempting. We embrace spiritual activism while also admitting that we don’t yet know if yoga – as we have learned it – is capable of meeting the need for collective change and care that this current cultural climate demands. But we begin by accepting the role – as a school and as individuals – we have played in the systematic oppression of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC). And we welcome the chance to reframe the yoga language of union, speaking directly to how our humanity is lost when we overlook, discard, rationalize, and acquiesce.
Down Under School of Yoga
Brookline, MA l Cambridge, MA l Newton, MA