Today I am going to discuss a controversial topic: yoga and alcohol. It may seem surprising that yoga and alcohol is so controversial, but if you perform one quick search on google, you'll start to see some of the hate that it receives.
There are many yoga "purists" that believe the combination of yoga and alcohol takes away from the practice, is somehow sexist, promotes alcoholism and does not represent what yoga is really about. Some people even say that it strictly turns the practice from therapeutic to entertainment and that you must not be a good teacher if you need to add a "gimmick" to the practice.
Here is the thing: Yoga means many different things to different people, but one of the most important pieces of yoga, regardless of who you are, is to practice compassion and humility. Automatically making these kinds of assumptions and statements can be harmful and scare people away from the practice. Unless a student explicitly tells you why he or she does or does not practice yoga, you cannot truly know how that student feels or that it is just entertainment for the student. It can be dangerous to make such assumptions, and I believe it causes many people to lose sight of the fact that we should be welcoming anyone and everyone to yoga.
I remember during my first yoga teacher training, an instructor asked me what I wanted to bring to the table with my teaching. I immediately answered: to bring yoga to people who might be too afraid or intimidated by it, and who otherwise would never do yoga.
You see, I thought (and still think) of myself as the blue collar girl from Haverhill, MA who would never do anything like yoga. And then when I actually started practicing yoga, it took a really long time for me to find a studio that welcomed me and said hello (see this post here for the full story). Because of this experience, I always knew that I wanted to do everything that I could to help welcome people to the practice and to enjoy their experience. One of those ways just happens to be through brewery and winery yoga.
When I lead a brewery and winery yoga event, I am bringing yoga to an entirely new group of people. Most of whom who've said that had it not been for the event taking place at a space they knew and felt comfortable in, they probably never would have tried yoga. And guess what? Many of my current yogis who now come to my studio and online classes are yogis that I met through these events. It's not that they need alcohol to practice (that is a dangerous assumption), but they needed a seemingly fun and relaxed environment to get them to try yoga. Once they did, they then came back for the yoga.
Here is a testimonial from someone that I met at a brewery class I co-taught with my husband:
When a friend asked me to join her for a yoga class, my first thought was that I was going to be uncomfortable and make a complete fool of myself. My fear was quickly put to rest after just the first 10 minutes of class! Elyse and her husband have a vibe about them that makes you feel as though you have been friends with them for years! I never once felt judged or discouraged. They push you just enough that makes you feel as though you can do anything. Their power yoga class is definitely difficult, but it's also incredibly rewarding. I never feel better than I do after finishing a class with them. They inspired my love for yoga, and I'm thankful for that.
Now let me just be clear about one thing: if you own a studio and do not want alcohol in your space, that is 100% okay and within your right. I have people who do not drink in my classes, so I understand the need to create a safe space (ironically, I have had a few people who do not drink still attend my brewery events because they love the community of people that show up and that they get to hang out with afterward). I just ask that people be open to bringing yoga to other spaces, where you can meet new yogis. And if that's not your cup of tea (or wine), that's okay. Just don't say harmful words to those who are leading such events. While I may be secure enough in my own teaching and practice, and will continue to lead brewery and winery events, not everyone feels the same way. Your words have meaning, and they could very well be turning away a potential yogi.
In the end, as yoga practitioners and teachers, I hope we can remember that we are a community. We should strive to not be so quick to judge and make assumptions. We should welcome new yogis and make them feel comfortable. And if making them feel comfortable means stripping away the barrier of what may seem like an intimidating yoga space and bringing the yoga to a brewery, then so be it. I will always be down for taking yoga to whoever and wherever wants it!
Shout out to all of my brewery and winery yogis. You are truly so fun and incredible to work with, and I cannot even begin to tell you how big you have made me smile to see your practice grow. The friendships we have made along the way have been pretty incredible too. I cannot wait to see you all at the next event!