Ask Me Anything: Inclusivity in Fitness Spaces with Sarah Ezrin, senior yoga instructor

Published on ‎07-28-2021 05:43 AM by | Updated on ‎08-03-2021 04:42 PM

Join AthletaWell yoga Guide Sarah Ezrin for an intimate and important chat about inclusivity and accessibility in yoga and fitness spaces. Sarah would love to hear from you about the experiences you've had in wellness spaces that have been both welcoming and not inclusive. Sarah will also provide tips for teachers and fitness professionals on how to make their spaces more inclusive, such as being conscious of gender-based pronouns or how we talk about what we're teaching.


Leave your questions for Sarah below including—

  • Do I have to be flexible to do yoga?
  • A teacher made me feel unwelcome; what should I do?
  • How do I know if I'm welcome in a yoga space?
  • What do I do when the class feels physically inaccessible, but I'm already in there or it's the only time I can move my body?

Leave your questions for Sarah in the comments section below, and she'll be back to answer them all on 8/4 at 2pm PT. 


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Wed, Aug 4, 2021 02:00 PM PDT
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How to get around men staring at you at the gym?

That is such a good question. I'm glad you called out the elephant in the room. I find it to be so offensive. 

So uncomfortable!!! The world is going to present things that cause an aversion. Whether it’s the smell of your neighbor’s cooking or your dog barking. You can’t control what’s happening outside of you, but you can control your responses to it. I recommend wearing a hat and airpods and keeping your head down.

If you feel unsafe alert staff immediately. 
This next suggestion may not be the most yogic approach, but you can also ask them to stop staring. “Excuse me sir, do you mind looking elsewhere. I’m feeling uncomfortable.” And again, if it ever feels unsafe, don’t approach the person, leave the area and ask for help.


Yea its so annoying @Sarah_E @asparling1986. I'm usually the one to just leave. But I should speak up especially if I really need to be in the area. Thanks for the advice!


Some classes say "all levels" but everyone in there looks like a pro.  It can be really intimidating to go to a new class - any tips on what to look for in a class description?

Oh yes, I know this well. First, no matter the class level and no matter your level, ALWAYS listen to your body. I teach a level 2/3 and often say that what makes it advanced is not the poses we are doing, but the ones we skip.


All-levels are tricky, bc like you said, sometimes the students are all quite adept. Often it’s a mish mash. 

my best advice would be to stick to levels you’re comfortable with as you’re learning and if you do attend an all-levels class (or any level, honestly); do what feels good to you! That is the yoga after all




There are certain classes where an instructor seems to be besties with everyone in there and chats after class with those besties. If I'm honest, sometimes I feel really left out, especially if I've gone to the class many times. Anything you can suggest or should I just get over myself and introduce myself??

Ooh it never feels good to feel like you’re on the outside. Honestly, if you’re going to classes where there is that clicky vibe, I would just ask yourself what you’re getting out of it? The best classes I go to are the ones where I feel seen by my teacher! at the very least, them smiling at me or learning my name makes a huge difference. I don’t have to be there bestie, but at the same time I still feel like I’m a part of the club. I will always tell you to introduce yourself! It’s such a great way for teachers to get to know their students  


I just had my second daughter (last week!!) and I know it'll take some time before I'm physically ready to get back on the mat, but it'll also take some time for me to get back to be able to do the yoga poses pre-pregnancy. The class that's most convenient timing is a level 2, do you think I should try that when I'm ready? I'm worried I won't be able to do anything.

Omg 2 weeks!!!! First off, CONGRATS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have a 20month old. In some ways, I’m stronger now than ever. In others there are def poses I can no longer do, but it doesn’t matter! You figure out what feels good, and isn’t that what yoga all about anyway? I think I waited two full months to do yoga bc I had a really bad tear and it was the last thing I wanted to do (and yoga is my first love!). Instead, I went for super long walks and started doing more cardio stuff, as that’s what my body craved.

Then when I did come back to the mat, it was like I’d never left. The mat will always be home and the body remembers🙏🏼


I've never been to a yoga class but my friends are obsessed. I feel like I can barely touch my toes most days though. My friends try to get me to go with them but I don't think I could do anything in there. Would the teach single me out, help me or ignore me haha? I'm scared to go tbh!

Oh my goodness no!!! They better not single you out! You can always go to the back of the class and just blend. I do love it when new students come to introduce themselves. It helps me keep a loving eye on them and even give compliments, but I’d never be like “hey so and so lift your leg higher”.


@asparling1986 see if the above answer feels adequate to you or if you want me to go deeper? Xo




Our language plays a huge role in creating inclusive spaces. It’s amazing how powerful words can be when they’re intentional and how hurtful they can be when we’re not paying attention.


Some things to consider when addressing a group of people:

- You may not know how people identify and so don’t automatically assume someone is a he/she. When in doubt, always ask!

- The term “guys” can feel very gendered. Instead, try addressing the group more neutrally, like “hi everyone!” Or my fave “hello loves”! What are some ways your teacher has addressed you that made you feel comfortable?

- Observe your metaphors. @Tamika_CM teaches Ashé yoga out of her inclusive wellness space The Ranch Houston. In an interview we did a while back, she gave the example of not using the term “bra line” and instead saying back ribs.

Or I often used to say “high-heels,” but now try to use more general metaphors, like tippy toes

- Keep descriptive language general when addressing guests of the students. Don’t assume someone is a husband or wife. Say partner. Or for children, say child. For siblings, say sibling.

- Resist the urge to comment on people’s bodies- even if you were going to compliment them for “losing weight”. You never know the causes for weight loss. Instead, focus on the intangible, like complimenting someone’s great energy or light. 
- Observe the diversity of people taking your classes. If there is a huge gap or lack of BIPOC folk, consider talking to the studio owner about ways to offer classes to different communities.


With a little bit of mindfulness and presence, we can make BIG changes in our classrooms and create spaces that truly embody what yoga is about: connection.