Yoga Instructor Teaches Class Aimed at ‘Undoing Whiteness’

Yoga
Getty Images/Joe Raedle
DYLAN GWINN

A Seattle yoga instructor is teaching a class that is aimed at “Undoing Whiteness,” by showing white yoga students how white supremacy is present in their “body, mind and heart.”

The class is taught by Laura Humpf, a yoga teacher of 15 years who claims that the class known as “Undoing Whiteness,” will teach students how to “unpack the harmful ways white supremacy is embedded” in the culture.

“I do stand behind white people needing to talk to other white people on how to undo whiteness,” Humpf told the Seattle Times. “Can I keep refining it and doing it differently and better? Yeah, and I will forever and ever. But I believe in this space as one tool.”

Humpf claims that she decided to offer the class after watching the “racist ways,” in which white people showed up to yoga classes.

“I was seeing white people show up in yoga spaces in racist ways,” Humpf explained. Particularly irksome to Humpf, was witnessing white yoga instructors make racially insensitive jokes.

“Her class tries to neutralize defensiveness, perfectionism and the ‘white savior complex’ as participants try to physically interpret words such as ‘oppression” and “liberation,'” according to the New York Post.

Despite the backlash she’s received for teaching a class that excludes non-whites, Humpf doesn’t see a problem. Instead, as the Seattle Times puts it, she sees her class as “racial caucusing.” In this case, a caucus with the intent of destroying white supremacy.

One of the books that the 39-year-old yoga instructor has her class read, is called “Witnessing Whiteness.” A book aimed at helping white people, “deal with discomfort around race-based conversations.”

Humpf has drawn fire for teaching racially exclusive yoga classes before.

According to the Times:

In 2015, Humpf offered her Rainier Beach yoga studio once a week to POC Yoga, a people-of-color-based yoga session that ‘respectfully asked white friends, allies and partners not to attend,’ without expressly barring entry to anyone.

Started by five queer people of color, the class, which operated controversy-free the previous five years, was intended as a safe space for people of color to practice yoga.

Humpf received encouragement in targeting white students for racial instruction by her mentor, the Rev. angel Kyodo williams.

“White-bodied people need to understand that just because you aren’t a former KKK member doesn’t mean you aren’t upholding white supremacy when you aren’t learning to do it,” says williams, a Zen priest and founder of Center for Transformative Change in Berkeley, California, who frequently writes on racial justice.”

Humpf has no plans to stop teaching yoga classes geared towards certain races.

Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter @themightygwinn

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