Elle Potter

Elle Potter is a yoga teacher who created a non-profit, Yoga Buzz, to give back to the community. Since 2014 she and her team have hosted over 400 events in the St. Louis area along with a few pop-ups across Missouri.Yoga Buzz has had over 20,000 people come to their events and they have given over $100,000 in scholarships to members in the community to have better access to yoga. She shares her failures, moments of clarity, and her process to help float centers provide greater access to their services in their community.

Elle started offering classes through Yoga Buzz in an unconventional way. The goal was to create more accessibility to yoga. She begins by describing how she realized her efforts had been falling short.

We hosted this event at the Ferguson Brewing Company in Ferguson, which is a really diverse neighborhood, very diverse population statistically [but] I was teaching a group of white able-bodied women who had $20 to spend on a yoga class. That stuck me, [I was] living in my own bubble. I think most folks [attending this event] look like me and have these shared experiences… and I never really thought of that before.

I went to a workshop with a yoga teacher one time who was in town visiting, her name is Dianne Bondy and she refers to herself as “The Fat Black Yoga Teacher”... and I remember her saying in the workshop if you look around you, and everybody looks like you, thats an opportunity to reflect on why is that and what can I do to surround myself with people who have different perspectives… and I was like “oh!”

Elle shares with us a destabilizing realization. These events she was creating with the plan to bring accessibility to the community were attracting people exclusively similar to her. It made her reconsider her activism and inclusion.

Activism… looks like marching on the streets, calling your representatives to share your opinion within our government, donating money, it looks like a lot of things. Recognizing ultimately that activism means you are active. You are taking an active role in our community and deciding to create change. Nobody can do everything, I’ve tried it’s not possible. When we discover the things that we are really good at, and we recognize the resources we have available, and then we hone in on that. That’s when activism then becomes sustainable. We find the thing we are really good at, we go forth and we share that, we make that available.

Seemingly anything can be used as a tool for activism. Floating is no exception. Yet, without intentional research and self-education, we can easily fall short. There are many challenges with creating sustainable community activism. Elle shares her approach.

Some of the challenges that we face when we go to take these tools out into the community is people’s perception… Recognizing the thing that keeps people from trying something is oftentimes the thing that will change over time. There’s an education that has to occur. [Try] to bring to the foreground a shift in perspective of what it is [you] are offering. There is a process of education that occurs that is different depending on who you talk to. I look at how I can adapt what it is I share with the community and who I’m speaking to.

Then most importantly looking at it from a perspective of helping vs. serving. Helping comes from a place of really good intention. “I have something that I’m passionate about and know it would benefit you, please let me share this with you.” But going into a community and telling them what they need rather than going into a community and asking them what would support them, that’s what is incredibly important. [Especially] when coming from a community that has a lot of privilege.

Check yourself. What are your intentions? Are you building authentic relationships with the communities you are looking to serve or are you doing it for good PR?

Rick Boling