Piper Rose is an energetic and charmingly eccentric presence in Denver’s queer community. Often found emceeing events like Damn Gurl or female music festival, Titwrench, hanging on stage with queer rapper Kitty Crimes, or hosting her Werkout Palace series, a self described “Richard Simmons on LSD” yoga series easily mistaken for a rock concert, (which will be putting out a Lesbian Face Yoga video this summer, designed for women suffering stiff-jaws from … ya know). Lately Rose has trained her Y skills more specifically on the queer citizens of Denver, co-founding Queer and Trans Yoga, a new series that debuted this month.
“Yoga is a tool that anyone can use,” Rose said. “It’s a neutral tool, and it can be used in any specific way that a person needs to find healing or expression in their body. It can be designed for veterans, cancer patients, or HIV/AIDS patients. Our queer yoga instructors will introduce themes relevant to our community into the classes, like coming out, transitioning, or feeling ostracized.”
Joining forces with fellow instructor Sarah Lyons, this yoga series will meet Sunday nights at the CHUN Building, and will be geared toward not only providing a safe, social space for queer and transgender persons, but will gear its routines toward the cultural and physical implications of this sexuality.
This is nothing new as far as yoga is concerned. Beyond the themed classes that Rose listed, often mainstream yoga instructors will design a class for gender binaries, referencing certain poses as “good for opening up a woman’s hips” or that “males will find this pose more difficult than women,” comments that can make students with a more fluid gender identity feel irrelevant to the class. Rose points out that approaching a yoga class as a complete stranger can be awkward for anyone, not just sexual minorities, since confronting body image and physical health in public can be a universal discomfort. Yet these issues are be compounded for many queer or trans persons forced to deal with gender binary bathrooms, where the necessary change-of-clothes before a class can lead to self-conscious stress – which is the exact opposite reason you came to yoga in the first place.
“Yoga offers so many benefits to everyone, but your typical studio or gym can fail in many ways at providing what some queer and trans people need to feel safe and supported,” said Q&T Yoga co-founder and instructor, Sarah Lyons, who studied under instructor Jacoby Ballard, a pioneer of queer and trans yoga in New York. “Just like in mainstream society, yoga studios are not immune from sexism, transphobia, homophobia, etc. We want to create a place where all bodies are welcomed and celebrated, where there’s more diversity than ‘skinny’ or ‘female.’ One of the most striking things about these classes is that they are fun. People laugh and talk to each other. Forget the serious yoga face. Students relate to each other, make connections, make plans.”
At times, queer-centric events can come under criticism from misguided heterosexuals, who claim exclusion when certain dance parties or bicycle workshops request that only persons of a certain orientation attend. Though Rose insists that there are no shortage of community yoga classes are welcoming to all genders and sexualities.
While mainstream yoga classes can often take a big bite out of your wallet, Queer and Trans Yoga is donation-based, assuring that the series is class-neutral as well as gender-neutral. And while Rose is committed to providing a space that caters to the needs of the queer and trans community, she is equally adamant that these classes should be a springboard toward creating your own safe space wherever you go. “We create a space for people to find their own personal sense of strength and freedom, in order to go out into the world. The idea is that this wont be the only place they feel comfortable in, but through that connection to themselves, they can make a safe space that travels with them.”