Accessible is the New Advanced

YOGA’S future is bright”, says Donna Noble, “not just because of its growing popularity, but because it is becoming more diverse, inclusive and accessible.” This is something she believes was accelerated by the pandemic, with more online offerings allowing practitioners to connect with teachers around the world. There is, however, in Donna’s mind, still work to be done to ensure everyBODY feels welcome.

Come One, Come All 

Donna, as some of you may remember from a previous edition of this magazine, is a passionate advocate and significant instigator of the movement to ensure greater accessibility and inclusivity within yoga. This includes facilitation and participating in emerging conversations about body positivity, mental health, education and social justice.

“I actively work towards showing that yoga is for everybody,” explains Donna. “These forms of yoga have a foundation based on collective liberation, which is now seen a lot more frequently within the yoga community. It is essential that these conversations are taking place and helping to form the future of yoga.”

Social Prescribing 

The changes inspired by these conversations serve

to demonstrate the overall resilience of the yoga and wellbeing communities. As Donna contends, yoga will always have a place in our society, not just because of its broad reach but because of its transformational benefits. Indeed, as yoga’s popularity continues to grow, it is

now being prescribed by the medical profession (social prescribing and GP referral)*. Its benefits are no longer being refuted, with plenty of evidence readily available to show how yoga can help with different health issues. “Many in society are now turning to yoga while seeking a more holistic way of life, others are seeing its benefits in terms of mental health, an issue that is being discussed more than I have ever seen – especially since the pandemic.”

Best of all Worlds

Donna has recently been pondering whether the future of yoga is online. A huge benefit of online classes is it makes yoga more accessible to many practitioners – the flipside being that some people may be excluded due to a lack of access to technology. The solution? A hybrid model. The hybrid model is a combination of in-person and online classes, giving practitioners more choice and flexibility (on all levels) than ever before. The option to practise at home offers convenience and removes a lot of perceived barriers to attending class. As Donna explains “Online classes can provide practitioners with more agency over their bodies as hands-on adjustments are not possible, and people may feel safer practising in their home environment.” Another benefit to online classes is the access to a greater variety of teachers, making it easier for potential yogis to find the best fit for them.

Disrupting the Status Quo 

For Donna “the future of yoga is to disrupt its current culture so it becomes more inclusive, allowing it to reflect the communities around us.”

Body positive yoga helps ensure teachings are shared with communities not always found in the traditional yoga space. Allies can help by sharing resources, to enable teachers

to offer mentorships and scholarships so these skills are transferred to the communities that require them. “Collective collaboration means everyone benefits, ensuring no one is left behind or excluded from yoga.”

 All Bodies in One Space

Yoga evolution needs creativity and innovation, which will stop the current trend of paring it back to just asana. As Donna’s friend Jivana Heyman says ‘accessible is the new advanced’. Being advanced is not about getting your legs behind your head – asana is an important aspect of yoga, it is not its whole soul. Body positive yoga, Donna hopes, will become the norm: “My wish is for online and physical yoga spaces to be rich with diversity as everyone comes together. The concept of body positivity is not a trend; it provides an actionable game plan to help change a massive societal problem.”

 Connection Not Exclusion 

“Body positive yoga in the UK was virtually unknown when I started Curvesomeyoga in 2015. My dream for the future of yoga is that anyone who wishes to access yoga will have an affirming experience.” To achieve this, Donna believes each studio or yoga space will understand how to break down barriers to wellness for marginalised people. The physical space will be accessible and welcoming; the teachers will have experience and information about how to teach to people of all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities in a trauma- informed and compassionate way. And every practitioner will feel part of a community, where the practices that have been so powerful for so many could be enjoyed by all. “I don’t believe that body positive yoga should be a separate entity, it should be the norm, allowing everyone to feel part of a community. This vision aligns with the true essence of yoga.

“We have a unique opportunity to shape yoga’s future, ensuring it remains a practice that fosters connection, not exclusion.” And who would argue with that!

About The Author

Donna’s work has seen her take on many roles – yoga teacher, author, wellbeing coach, speaker and educator. Over the past two decades, she has built a reputation as one of the UK’s foremost Body Positive yoga teachers. Her debut book Teaching Body Positive Yoga was published in August 2022.

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