QUESTION: queer yoga

question / pregunta: 

I'm interested in why yoga classes specific for queer, genderqueer, and transgendered people are springing up all over the country. What is it about queer people's experience of yoga that is unique? Also, many queer, genderqueer, and transgendered people describe a disconnection or dissociation with their physical body--how does yoga affect the relationship between the queer, genderqueer, and transgendered person and their body? What research or writing exists about whether queer, genderqueer, and transgendered people have a unique relationship with yoga?

queer yoga

Sorry for the delay! You might find some useful information in this book, part of which delves into yoga: Androgyny: The Opposites Within

Hopefully that source will lead you to others. We'll keep an eye out for anything else that might help. Thanks for asking!

some guidance on researching queer yoga

A basic web search for transgender yoga, as you've doubtless found, reveals very little, although I did find one piece that might be relevant, although you need to register for the site in order to read it.

If you have access to databases at an academic library, you may have more luck. A search for "transgender" and "yoga" in EBSCO's Academic Search Elite (which is all I have access to via my public library) gets no real results, but their Academic Search Premiere, which many academic libraries subscribe to, may well have more results, as would most any database that deals with the social sciences. A search for those terms on Google Scholar did turn up one book, Looking Queer, that has several references to yoga in the index and might be of interest.

I had more luck with searches for queer yoga. There is not a ton of information on the queer yoga collective page, but they do have contact information and might well be willing to share more with you about what queer yoga means to them. Also, here is an interview with a trans yoga instructor which might give you some insights and an essay about yoga and feminism that also addresses queer and trans yoga.

A Google Scholar search for yoga transgender OR genderqueer OR queer did not seem to yield much in the way of results, but you may find something in there that is of use.

Some other Radical Reference people with better resources may be able to provide additional suggestions!

some additional articles that discuss queer yoga

Taking Laura's suggestion and searching EBSCO's Academic Search Premier (my public library is lucky enough to have a subscription -- yours might be, too), I came up with a few articles. Here are the citations and some key quotes; the articles are arranged from most anecdotal (and perhaps most unfortunately titled) to most scholarly. For full text of the articles and further searching, I'd suggest following up with your local library.

Article 1 suggests (perhaps with a certain degree of sarcasm) that yoga is particularly well suited to recharging life/relationships after fighting homophobia all day.

Sheklow, Sally. (2009, May 1). "Goddesses and Groin Strain." Lesbian News 30(10), 41.
"Stressed? Overextended? Constantly tired? I sure was. Fighting the homophobes wiped me out. ... My energetic spouse, eager for livelier company, suggested I try the new Kripalu yoga class a couple of dykes were teaching in a nearby studio. ... the message I needed [was] I'd been way too uptight to enjoy life. All my energy had been locked up in the struggle with no room left for pleasure."

Article 2 includes a quote from a yoga studio owner who identifies yoga as a mental health support.

Hernandez, Greg. (2004, April 13). "A Flexible Inner Peace." Advocate 912, 48-49.
"City Yoga makes it a point not to judge students who can't strike a perfect pose, and even the most basic beginners are welcome, especially gay men and lesbians, who 'have issues with self-worth and self-loathing,' Holzman says. 'This practice of yoga can be used as a reminder or a remembrance of the students' essential goodness.'"

Article 3 complicates the issue a bit, confirming that although a greater percentage of lesbians use complimentary and alternative medicine than straight women, lesbians don't go to yoga as much.

Smith, Matthews, Markovic, Youk, Danielson, and Talbott. (2010, Nov.). "A Comparative Study of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use Among Heterosexually and Lesbian Identified Women: Data from the ESTHER Project (Pittsburgh, PA, 2003-2006)."
Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine 16(11), 1161-1170.
"Lesbians had greater odds of having ever used complimentary and alternative medicine (CAM)...than heterosexuals. ... Among women who used CAM in the past 12 months, heterosexuals had significantly higher yoga participation rates than lesbians." ... CAM use was also associated with "white race, increasing years of education, residence in a large city, perceived experience of discrimination in a health care setting, and having been previously diagnosed with a mental health condition."

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.