Tulsa, OK

Sun People Yoga Makes Classes Available to Diverse Students and Instructors — In Tulsa and Virtually All Over the World

Aimée Gramblin

Whose Minds, Bodies, and Spirits Do Yoga Studios Generally Cater?

Yoga can be fantastic for the mind, body, and spirit. But, whose minds, bodies, and spirits does yoga cater to? Here in the United States, yoga is steeped in rich, white, and modelesque culture. When you see yoga on TV or in person, it’s likely that you will observe mostly young to middle-aged white people with skinny, average, or athletic physiques. And, these people can afford yoga. A 2002 survey found the majority of yoga students were college-educated white women. 48% of the surveyed group made $65,000 or more annually.

Yoga, whose name is derived from a Sanskrit word for “unite,” has done quite a bit of dividing in the U.S. A typical class can cost anywhere from $5 to $20, or more, and monthly studio memberships regularly run between $100 and $200 — roughly the cost of the average American’s food spending for a week. — Jordan Rosenfeld, The Atlantic

Dr. Simi Burn and Michael Ruth are addressing the issue head-on in Tulsa, Oklahoma — and online— with Sun People Yoga studio. By renting a low-cost studio they’ve cut down on overhead. Their goal is to provide accessible and affordable healing yoga and meditation classes to all people while hiring diverse instructors who are paid a living wage.

Yoga For Every Body

I’ve attended yoga classes off and on since I was in college. That means I’ve been in and out of yoga classes for over two decades. The limiting factor for my access to yoga has always been my financial situation. I’m a white, average-weighted woman. When I’ve been a little overweight, I’ve felt kind of “too big” and waited until I lost weight to attend classes.

Honestly, if I had black or brown skin or felt like my body took up “too much space,” I’m not sure I would’ve ever walked into the door of any yoga studio.

The Yoga Alliance, a nonprofit organization, whose mission is to “foster and support the high quality, safe, accessible, and equitable teaching of yoga” sums up the issue of inequity in yoga:

If you knew nothing about yoga other than what you saw in popular culture, it would be easy to assume that yoga is only for certain people.
Different body types, abilities and ethnicities are not always represented in the yoga community. This lack of representation can deter potential practitioners from starting their yoga practice in the first place. In a world fraught with chronic health problems, mental illness and stress, the world needs yoga more than ever. We can’t afford to turn people away from yoga, even if it’s completely unintentional.

Sun People Yoga participates in community outreach. Burn and Ruth are actively creating a yoga community in line with the Yoga Alliance mission.

Michael Ruth, Navy Veteran, states, we offer “a place for all those who are oppressed who just want to be and feel safety and grow and heal.”

Dr. Burn sees yoga as medicine and wants all people to have the opportunity for healing through the practice:

“Most people are looking for healing — this year has been traumatic — for helping with anxiety, with grief, with all the ways that that gets stored in the body and really wanting this to be a space that is for everybody- all ages, all socioeconomic groups, all people. All people. We have all kinds of cultures, all kinds of people here, indigenous teachers, black, South Asian, Latino.” —Dr. Simi Burn

“Sun People Yoga in Tulsa is Oklahoma’s first and only yoga studio owned by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color). We created this space with the community in mind to make yoga affordable, accessible, welcoming, and inclusive. ESPECIALLY for those left out of mainstream yoga environments. These practices are about much more than an exercise or stretch class… this is about going within, healing, releasing trauma, and creating self awareness. Healing within community is individual AND collective.” — Sun People Yoga

The Sun People Yoga co-founders have created a yoga program in which every body is welcome. They employ diverse instructors. Sun People Yoga pricing reflects the founders’ values. All fees include unlimited virtual and in-person classes.

  • $15 drop-in fee.
  • Sunrise Campaign $150 for A 6-month membership ($25/month)
  • Unlimited Membership Package — $199.99–10 months of unlimited classes good for one year. Divide with your family, a group of people, friends, a business.
  • 1-month unlimited pass for $99.
  • 6-class package for $84 to use within 3 months ($14/class).
  • 10-class pass to Embodied Meditation for $50 ($5/class).

Leaning Into Yoga For All

If you are a yoga student, yoga instructor, or person interested in exploring yoga and inclusion, the YBI Coalition is a good resource for gathering comprehensive information.

The Yoga and Body Image Coalition is committed to body love by developing, promoting and supporting yoga that is accessible, body positive and reflects the full range of human diversity. Our mission not only advocates yoga as an essential tool in personal transformation, from the inside out, but also includes a critical social justice component by challenging industry leaders and media creators to expand their vision of what a yogi looks like.”

If you’d like to hear more from Dr. Burn, Ruth, and other yoga instructors in the Tulsa area, watch the embedded video panel discussion “Decolonizing Yoga in Tulsa, OK.”

As soon as I heard about Sun People Yoga I purchased a 6-month membership. I’ve attended virtual meditation and Pranayama-style yoga with Dr. Burn. I’ll try Egyptian Yoga next week. The virtual experience has been seamless and I’m looking forward to attending regularly. I’m excited to be part of this community and want to pass on the opportunity to you.

Sun People Yoga Instagram | Facebook | YouTube | Website

Previously published by In Fitness and In Health August 11, 2021

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