hejhej is committed to inclusive yoga. On our journey to make yoga more inclusive, we get to learn from many people. Here we have an exciting interview for you from Mechthild from Cologne. We filmed yoga classes with her for our Youtube channel. Here she tells you how she got into yoga and how she makes her own yoga teaching inclusive. We were able to learn so much from Mechthild, so we are happy to pass it on to you. Thank you for your important work dear Mechthild!
Who is Mechthild Kreuser?
I am Mechthild Kreuser, 34 years old. I come from the Rhineland and after living in the Netherlands for a few years for my studies, I came back. I have been living in Cologne for a few years now. In 2019, I started further training to become an MBSR (Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction) trainer. I completed this at the beginning of 2021. As I then wanted to get further involved with yoga, I started an online yoga teacher training with Return Yoga in September 2021. I successfully completed this in November 2022.
In 2021, I started my own business, Inklusive Achtsamkeit (english: Inclusive Mindfulness), to provide mindfulness services for people with disabilities and to give inclusive mindfulness groups where people with and without disabilities can meet in a mindful environment. But the path to this goal actually began much longer ago.
What was your first yoga encounter like?
My first encounter with yoga was actually in my childhood, as we already had children’s yoga books at home at that time, which I practised with myself. I consciously took my first yoga class during my studies, which was around 2008 or 2009. It was in the fitness centre of my university and the yoga class took place between the sports equipment. It was a bit too fitness-heavy for me, but something about yoga must have fascinated me. Because I signed up for another course with another teacher. Here I realised that yoga is much more than the physical exercises.
After a while I was even in the advanced group, although I thought myself that this was not for me.
What does inclusive yoga mean to you?
Inclusion in yoga means that each person can participate in the way that is possible for him or her. The person teaching can also respond to different people.
Why is it so important for you to combine mindfulness and inclusion?
For me, it is important to combine mindfulness and inclusion, as I find that the two cannot be separate. For me, mindfulness is an important factor for an inclusive society. Because if we look attentively at what the different needs of people are and how we can deal with them, inclusion can succeed better.
What is your core message of your work with Inklusive Achtsamkeit? What do people find with you?
The core message of Inklusive Achtsamkeit is that there are different ways to practise mindfulness. You don’t have to sit cross-legged to meditate and you don’t have to do complicated asanas to do yoga “properly”. Also, at Inclusive Mindfulness, exchange takes place in an open and mindful setting. Especially for disabled people, there are few spaces where this can take place. Even people without disabilities often have little contact with disabled people in everyday life. In the leisure sector, such as in a yoga class, it is a good opportunity to get to know other people and precisely for this reason people with and without disabilities should come into contact here. For this, I create appropriate spaces, online and offline, with the inclusive offer of Inclusive Mindfulness.
Can you tell us what should be consciously avoided in order to make yoga services more inclusive? Maybe also something you consciously avoid?
Something I consciously avoid when I teach yoga is to include assessments in the asanas. A particular alternative to an asana is not better or worse – for example, doing the warrior in a seated position on the chair is no less valuable or good than doing the warrior in a perfect lunge on the yoga mat. For inclusive yoga, I think it is probably most important to avoid making assumptions about people and the possibilities of people in yoga classes because they have a disability.
Finally, can you give us 5 tips on how yoga teachers can make their programmes accessible and inclusive?
5 tips on how you can create inclusive yoga as a teacher:
- In your marketing material (website, flyer, Instagram), state how accessible your studio is.
- Show pictures of people with and without disabilities
- Checking in personally with disabled people what they need and not in front of the whole group
- Remain open to the needs of the individual
- Give different options for an asana
Mechthild also has a great new offer for you to make your yoga class more inclusive. Here you can put your name on the waiting list for “Make your offer more inclusive”.
Here you can find the website of “Inklusive Achtsamkeit” (in german): www.inklusiveachtsamkeit.de
Here you can find Mechthild on Instagram, so you can also write her a message directly: @inklusiveachtsamkeit
Many thanks to you Mechthild for your important words. I hope we can inspire you to take a look at your yoga offer and make it a bit more inclusive. Maybe it’s also a suggestion for the (online) yoga studio you usually go to. Do you have feedback or more ideas to make yoga more inclusive? We are always very happy to read from you.
The latest video with Mechthild:
Inclusive yoga with Mechthild | 20 min barrier-free yoga class | in German