What is an Embodiment Coach?

Embodiment is, in it’s simplest form, living in the body. Yes, you technically always live in your body (until maybe, many say, when you die). However, how often can you feel your feet touching the ground? Do you eat when you’re hungry and drink when you’re thirsty? Do you notice how your body feels after having a conversation with someone you like? How about with someone you’re struggling with? All of these things (and many more) are part of embodiment - inhabiting your body in the fullest and most authentic way possible, listening to what it has to teach you, and using that wisdom to make the best choices for you and your life.

Okay, so what is coaching? You may have heard of other kinds of coaches (business coaches, life coaches, even sports coaches). All coaches have some things in common: they support you in finding ways to reach concrete goals or intentions, typically ones that you created. Coaching relationships are often short term (shorter term than, say, a mentor or therapist) and focused on the present (rather than the past or future). Coaches may meet with you one on one, check in regularly through email or phone to see how far you’ve come with a certain goal, provide you with opportunities to practice manifesting your intentions, connect you with like-minded others, suggest resources for reaching your goals (books, podcasts, activities, etc.), and more.

Therefore, an Embodiment Coach is someone who supports you in creating ways of living more consciously and consistently in your body, embracing the present moment, setting intentions and goals from this embodied space, and listening to and following the wisdom your body has to share with you!

Other things you might address with an Embodiment Coach:

What are your favorite things about yourself and how can you celebrate those daily? In what ways does your body assist you in manifesting your dreams? What are your priorities and how do you center them? How do you feel in your relationships, in your living situation, with the ways you spend your time? How can you create time to do the things you dream of doing before you die? How can you love yourself more? What can you do to stop negative self talk? What are some ways to practice self care that don’t cost a lot of money? How can you love your body when you don’t like it? What can you do to build trust with your body and your decisions?

Transgender Inclusive Yoga

“Hello ladies!”

“If any of you women have your period…”

“This class is for pregnant women.”

“Men and women… men and women… men and women.”

These are only a few of the phrases I have heard in yoga classes and read in their descriptions. And what do they all have in common? They each erase transgender folks, nonbinary and binary, invisibilizing our existence and making yoga classes inaccessible and harmful.

In my experience as a nonbinary femme-presenting trans yoga instructor and often student, this is unfortunately not a unique experience. In fact, there are very few classes that I have been to where some comment similar to one of the above doesn’t happen. And usually, it happens more than once.

After nearly giving up on finding truly inclusive spaces to take yoga classes, I attempted to create my own. Attendance was inconsistent and that is what got me thinking… yoga spaces in this country (and I am sure others as well) are not at all accessible to transgender people. Because of this extreme lack of access, historically and currently, why would trans people show up to a class made just for us, even if it is taught by one of us, when society has already told us yoga is ‘not for us.’

Yoga can be endlessly helpful for trans people. For example, yoga has helped me to heal from sexual trauma, speak up for myself and my truth, and reduce anxiety (all common issues for transgender folks). Yoga is a healing and spiritual practice, and even if it is purely used to connect to the breath, this is something that so many of us have never done. Breathing is necessary for our existence, yet if we don’t even know we are doing it, how will we ever flourish?

Therefore, here are a few of the ways we can make yoga more accessible and inclusive for transgender people*:

  1. Don’t assume anyone’s gender or pronouns based on how they look. I have gotten arguments stating things like ‘but what if it is a bunch of macho men in class, they will want to be called men’..... No. Just because someone may look like a ‘macho man’ to you, does not mean that is how they actually identify or feel. In fact, they may be presenting this way due to lack of safety in the community, internalized transphobia, or just because they want to (gender presentations are fluid, y’all)!

  2. Don’t separate poses or parts of the class into ‘men’ and ‘women’. (i.e. ‘men’ chant now, ‘women’ chant now). First of all, this erases all nonbinary trans folks. Secondly, if the purpose is to separate people by the way their voices sound or the body parts they have, these assumptions are inherently trans-erasing and transphobic.

  3. Don’t assume someone’s pronouns tell you much about their gender. If someone tells you their pronouns are they/their, it is safe to assume that they do not identify as cis. And if someone tells you their pronouns are she/her, it is okay for you to refer to them that way (more than okay, it is necessary). However, this does not mean you can refer to them as a woman, lady, etc. because you do not know their gender. You only know their pronouns!

  4. Have All Gender bathrooms available. If your space has two separate bathrooms designated for ‘men’ and ‘women’, consider creating your own signs to go over them, even if it is just during your class. It can be as simple as a picture of a toilet (because that’s what people are actually looking for…).

  5. Don’t conflate trans and nonbinary with lesbian, gay, bisexual, or even queer. (Sometimes people use queer to refer to gender identity, but if it is referring to sexual orientation as the others listed above are, these are not the same). People within these communities have very different experiences. Gender and sexuality are not the same thing and people with these identities do not have the same experiences in yoga classes. For example, before understanding my gender identity, I thought that I was ‘just’ queer (i.e. a queer cis woman). Finding yoga classes that were affirming and safe was much easier and much more accessible in general then.

  6. Don’t talk about ‘feminine and masculine’ energies (sun and moon, etc.), including saying we all have feminine and masculine aspects, without stating that this is a problematic historical example of a false binary. Yes, this is trans erasure within historical yoga texts (and many others) that is not some kind of yoga ‘truth’. I have heard teachers explain that this isn’t a suggestion there is a binary, that rather we all have feminine and masculine elements. However, if we really dig deep into this, we learn that the ideas of ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ are completely arbitrary qualities and essences we have labeled in certain ways for many years. And even if you do adhere to the ideas of ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’, many trans folks completely reject having ‘either’ of these qualities within them.

  7. Be aware of other word choices or themes, such as body acceptance. There is a difference between loving your body and accepting your body exactly as it is. Many transgender people feel dysphoria (a distressed state arising from conflict between a person's gender identity and the (gender) the person was identified as having at birth) around their bodies, and suggesting they need to accept their bodies exactly how they are can feel invalidating or even traumatizing.

  8. Remember that everyone has intersecting identities. If your class is not accessible to People of Color (POC) or people with disabilities, for example, you will be leaving out a whole lot of transgender people, too (because there are tons of trans POC and disabled trans people…).

  9. Practice this outside of the yoga classes you are teaching. Yoga is not just what we do on our mats in a yoga class, but also how we live off of them in the world. Take these practices with you into your daily lives in order to make yoga in the world more accessible to all transgender, binary and nonbinary, people!

*This list is not complete. It will never be complete. The best way to stay on top of making yoga inclusive for transgender people, and all oppressed people, is doing your research and doing your own work of digging deep into your privileged identities, noticing how this may affect people who attend your classes, and keep being open to feedback and change.