055. Collaborating with Neurodivergent & Disabled Folks in Yoga Communities with Laura Sharkey

Season #2

In episode 55, Amber interviews Laura Sharkey, an autistic meditation teacher and social justice activist. They speak about their experience of ableism and other forms of oppression that are present in many yoga communities, as well as practical tools that non-disabled folks can use to confront bias. We discuss the importance of seeing our disabled community members as whole, capable human beings with agency and choice, and how we can support them in non-ableist ways. We talk about the difficult emotions that arise when we confront unconscious bias and how yoga can support us in building more resilience for difficult conversations or work. Finally, Laura shares some tips on how yoga teachers can make “quiet and still” practices more accessible to neurodiverse students. 

 In this episode:

  • Laura introduces themself and talks about how yoga helped them feel at home in their body for the first time in their 40s
  • We discuss ableism, anti-fat bias, and other forms of oppression present in yoga communities, and how Laura brings a yogic framework to their social justice activism
  • Laura counters the dangerous assumption that someone’s spiritual awareness or dedication to practice can be gauged by how they look or how “healthy” they are, or that yoga can “heal” or “fix” anyone
  • They discuss “cure culture” and the medical model vs social model of disability
  • Laura shares tips on how we can approach and support disabled students in equitable, non-ableist ways
  • We discuss building resilience for the uncomfortable work of confronting bias and how we can better learn to be in relationship to disabled people
  • Laura shares tips for teachers to make quiet and still” practices more accessible to Neurodiverse people, and talks about why “fidgeting” isn’t necessarily a bad thing
  • Finally, they share ways that yoga teachers can help students to experience downregulation even if it doesn’t look “typical”