Ali Arbeau has been doing yoga for most of her life. “It’s such a beautiful way to connect with yourself, disconnect, or work things out,” says Ali. “Being more in tune with the way your body moves, or the way your mind works is so much more important than people think it is.”
However, as much as Ali loves yoga, she did not often see herself reflected in those practicing around her. That was particularly true when she decided to become a yoga trainer. “I’m a person of colour, someone who is Queer and a bit bigger, and none of those qualities were represented in the industry in 2019 when I did training,” she recalls.
When Ali learned that Warrior Yoga, an organization that helps make yoga more accessible for all people, was looking for volunteers she knew she’d found her calling.
Warrior Yoga is a non profit with a focus on bringing meditation and yoga to vulnerable populations. It helps make the practice more financially attainable and provides a space for people of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and abilities to feel safe and welcome.
“We make yoga more accessible for everyone,” says Ali. “It’s some of the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done because there’s something incredibly special about being able to provide safe spaces to people where, when I was growing up and even now, I didn’t feel there was a space for me.”
“The wellness and yoga space is currently very white and affluent, but it was not originally meant to have this big price tag and brand attached to it,” Ali continues. To help make the practice of yoga more inclusive, Ali volunteers as Warrior Yoga’s Spectrum Committee Team Lead and BIPOC Committee Volunteer Coordinator, and she’s proud of the organization’s unique approach.
“We focus on offering scholarships to folks from the BIPOC, queer and disabled communities who are looking to do yoga training, and anyone who has financial need or feels that they’ll bring something unique to the yoga community,” Ali explains.
The scholarships are a creative way to change the current face of yoga, especially when training costs can be so prohibitive. “It’s not just the financial cost, it’s the time,” Ali explains. “Basic yoga training is thousands of dollars and approximately 200 hours, so our hope is that by providing the scholarship, we can help people carve out the time and space in their lives to get it done.”
Warrior Yoga raises money through ‘donation classes’, where participants pay a small fee which goes directly to the organization, but they’re also lucky to have generous partners who provide free spaces, and big-hearted local businesses which support them in creative ways. “The feedback we get from scholarship recipients is absolutely incredible,” says Ali. “They are so thankful that somebody was able to see this need and was willing to do something about it.”
Ali is passionate about helping to transform the wellness space into one that helps all people feel nurtured and respected. “It is not always about the physical practice of yoga itself, but about bringing community together and helping people find support,” she says.
“When we help someone become a teacher, or even just to show up in a class in a traditional studio space, we are empowering them to be seen and heard,” she concludes. “We help them not to be afraid to take up the space that they deserve to take up in the world.”
And that’s how Ali Arbeau is making a difference, one pose, one deep breath at a time.
For up-to-date info follow Ali on Instagram @ali.arbeau