Yesterday, over on Eating Rules, there was a post on Hunger in America. Andrew’s post was done in support of a call to action for food bloggers to donate a post about hunger in America. While I blog about food, I am not a food blogger (or at least I don’t categorize myself that way). However, all of this did get me thinking about hunger in America and what it means in relation to the things I write about here.
I think we all know that when you are poor you cannot afford healthy foods, particularly if you are supporting a family. Folks who live in poverty are usually regulated to eating processed foods loaded with chemicals. Once I got through thinking about that, I realized that living in poverty shuts you out from having a Bikram yoga practice. Now, on one level I’ve longed since understood this. Bikram yoga is expensive. I know it is common for studios to offset the expense by offering work-study to some of their students, but that can’t be offered to everyone. There’s only so much work to be done by a student in the studio and only so many people it can be offered to.
However, in reading posts about hunger it dawned on me (and I will admit to being slow), that even if you could afford to go to Bikram yoga (or had a work-study option), your practice would be greatly hampered by the lack of nutrition you were likely receiving. If you are not eating regular meals then I don’t see how you can practice in the hot room without wiping out. If you are eating regular meals, but they are generally lacking in nutrition, you might be able to make it through the class, but the quality of your class would suffer.
Here’s what I know about my yoga practice: I simply cannot live without it. I absolutely agree that a regular yoga practice will do things for you mentally and physically that other forms of physical exercise cannot. I am not saying we should never engage with other forms of physical exercise. I simply believe a regular yoga practice will benefit people in ways those other forms will not. To be denied the opportunity to engage in a yoga practice due to finances is heartbreaking. And here, note, I am talking about people who live in poverty.
In 21t Century Yoga, Matthew Remski makes an argument about crafting culture and community in yoga. While the chapter is not about hunger in America, or any country, he argues that yoga studios could/should double as soup kitchens. In the example he provides, everyone gathers after class to enjoy a stew together. His main idea is to create and foster community. He also puts forth the idea that maybe people wouldn’t leave studios if studios offered “more in terms of cultural services.”
Although Remski’s ideas are not about addressing community hunger for people in poverty, his ideas came immediately to my mind as I started thinking about hunger and yoga. Should yoga studios be expected to provide cultural services to their community? Should those services address issues of hunger? What might these services look like?