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How a group of ‘Poseurs’ created yoga community on the Hill

The evening sky above Capitol Hill is dark. Outside, a mean cold nibbles at any piece of skin left uncovered, but the basement studio of 15th Ave E’s Dance Underground, decorated year-round with soft Christmas lights, feels warm and fuzzy. The weekly yoga class, organized by yoga group Poseurs, just finished. Students stream out of the room. Others linger to talk, check in with each other, hug. “I love you,” says one person as they leave.

“Poseurs is the place where I feel like I can go in my pajamas and everyone’s chill with it,” says Alyssa Yackley, who’s been teaching with Poseurs since 2017. “There’s something about showing up to a place where everyone’s there to practice yoga, be in service of the community. There’s not a lot of space in the city to feel that way.”

“I’ve done a lot of classes at Corepower, and it’s a lot of Lululemon, a lot of thin white people,” adds Silver Fox, who’s been going to Poseurs for two years and started teaching classes last year. “I felt out of place. Seattle hasn’t felt like home to me until I found Poseurs.”

Technically, Poseurs is not a yoga studio. For one, the group doesn’t have its own space but instead organizes classes at Dance Underground, the Vajra or Love City Love. The “community,” as the teachers and founder Emily Denton call it, also doesn’t operate like most other yoga studios on the Hill or elsewhere. A core group of 5 to 10 regular teachers volunteer their time, and the classes are donation-based.

“If you don’t have five dollars you are still welcome to practice,” says Yackley. “Once you remove the idea that the enterprise is about money, but about the community, it is easier to make space for anyone who wants to practice. You shouldn’t be ostracized because you don’t have money in your bank account.”

“You can do yoga anywhere in this hood,” says Denton, wearing a black hat with yellow letters spelling out “PRACTICE.” “But if you practice with us, and pay what you can, you are supporting the mission of accessibility.”

Accessibility is why she started Poseurs four years ago. “I started a yoga zine called Poseurs during a teacher training in a corporate yoga studio. Coming from a punk rock music background, I felt out of place in that corporate environment.” When she started to teach, she noticed many of her “punk friends” were too nervous to join her or to attend a 20$ yoga class elsewhere. “I knew that if I wanted this community to be part of the practice, I had to make it accessible.”

Denton started teaching donation-based classes at Studio Current, then located behind Neumos. She paid the rent out of pocket, even though “no one would show up.” Attendance started to pick up after a couple of years. Every time Denton made money, she used it to organize more classes. She says that’s still happening, and that 90% of the money going into Poseurs goes back into funding new classes.

Poseurs now offer 13 classes a week, including “Dope Moments,” a weekly all-levels vinyasa class which donates the class’s monthly proceeds to causes such as Border Angels, Refugee Women’s Alliance or Youth Care. Last year, Poseurs raised $4,854, they say. In December, Dope Moments benefitted King County Sexual Assault Resource Center. On top of that, Poseurs added a teacher training course as well as new classes specifically for trans plus non-binary folks and POC, started and taught by former and current Poseurs students.

“To me, it’s a way to create space to be in your own skin without having to do the pretending, the code-switching that is very much a reality of living in a very white Seattle,” says Juniper Moon, who teaches the POC class “Liberation Flow.” Poseurs student Liz, who started a Trans/Enby class, say they want to include more of those classes, which they teach in West Seattle and Madrona, in the roster.

Other changes are afoot. The charity for the Dope Moments classes will start rotating quarterly, to leave more room for not just “showing up on the mat”, but actually showing up.

“Through having more time, we’re hoping to create more of a relationship with our community and their community,” says Denton. “We don’t want to just practice to raise money but also figure out how else we can help, get together and volunteer. Yoga and social justice can’t really be separated. The idea of ‘non-harming’ in yoga is not a passive act. We have to be different. Volunteer and connect with others that do this work, be a part of communities that are different from yours, learn and listen. That’s yoga in action.”

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