I believe that relaxation is a human right. It is essential for our minds and bodies to function properly. So it's especially cruel and backward that in our society, we treat relaxation like a luxury to which only a privileged few are entitled. I started teaching Gentle Yoga for Terrible Times to bring inner peace and relaxation to as many people as possible but in trying to find a way to sustain the class financially, I inadvertently replicated the very hierarchies I was trying to dismantle.
Classes that teach yoga, meditation, and breath work—practices which are thousands of years old— are often marketed to and designed for wealthy, white, thin, able-bodied people. I am on a mission to make the practices more inclusive and accessible in every sense. The Saturday class is, and has always been, completely free of charge and you don't even need a mat to participate. I try to offer as many variations as possible so that people of every size and disability status can enjoy the benefits of the class.
The practical reality of running and maintaining the class is that I pay out of my own pocket for a Zoom subscription that can accommodate up to 500 participants and a moderator/host who answers questions and keeps the class safe, which I learned was essential after being bombed numerous times by hateful bigots and people looking to sexually harass me and the students. Eventually, I started asking for donations but it didn't feel like a reliable or consistent way to keep the class going so I decided to start a monthly membership program.
It seemed like a good idea at the time— people who could afford to pay $5 a month would get members-only blog posts and a newsletter and those who could pay $20 a month would get all of those things plus recordings of the classes and an additional weekly class and I thought a few wealthy people willing to pay $100 a month would get all the above plus a private session. I figured those who had the means could subsidize the Gentle Yoga for Terrible Times class so that it remained free of charge and I could just focus on teaching. What I should've but didn't anticipate was that this would create a hierarchy in which those with the financial means got access and felt entitled to more— more classes, more attention, more inner peace, more relaxation and those who did not were just once again overlooked and underserved.
I end every yoga class I teach by reciting a translation of a Sanskrit mantra Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu:
May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may my thoughts, words, and actions contribute to the happiness and freedom for all.
I believe that my suffering and your suffering, my happiness and your happiness are connected. I am committed to the happiness and freedom for all. So starting today, I'm ending the membership program. There will no longer be members-only classes and all the content on the site, including recordings of the sessions, will be available to everyone. If you would like to cancel your membership, I respect your decision and I wish you well. Members who want to join me on this path can continue allowing their monthly fee to be charged knowing that it is going towards fostering a community with more inner peace, joy, and compassion for all.
If you believe in this mission and have the means to contribute to help sustain and support the class, you can donate via PayPal: https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/oneandonlyjoycewu or Venmo: @oneandonlyjoyce.