When you picture someone doing yoga, certain stereotypes come to mind. Ayomide Njo, co-founder of Yoga Bilingüe, wants to dismantle at least one of them—the fallacy that there are no people of color in Portland's yoga classrooms.
Yoga Bilingüe's mission statement is to "decolonize and decapitalize" yoga. It's a collaboration between a few pre-established groups—Trash for Peace, Hablo Yoga and Humans of Color Movement Alliance—aiming to redefine Portland's yoga culture by increasing representation of people of color as both teachers and students.
"Our mission is the focus of creating intersectional relationships with allied yoga studios by focusing on bilingual and POC yoga teachers," says Njo. "We need more POC yoga teacher representation—–specifically among organizations working with youth because they need people to look up to who look like them."
Yoga Bilingüe offers training and resources to anyone interested in language learning and teaching kids, but the group emphasizes incorporating people of color into training courses. It then works alongside the nonprofit Trash for Peace, which runs after-school programs at seven affordable housing sites. Njo then delivers yoga classes to those sites, serving around 500 kids annually.
"It's a petri dish for creating community," says Yoga Bilingüe co-founder Mayana Bonaparte, a former Lewis & Clark College student whose senior thesis helped catalyze the group's creation. "You are literally meeting these kids at their home, and teachers have the opportunity to come in and say, 'Hey, how's everyone feeling? Who's interested in chocolate and yoga?'"
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