beYogi sat down with Heather Sheree Titus, director and cofounder of Yoga Unify, to discuss the new participatory network taking the yoga community by storm!
Let's first introduce Heather! She has produced and directed the annual Sedona Yoga Festival in beautiful Sedona, AZ since 2013, where she has hosted a Yoga for PTSD 20-hour training for yoga teachers annually. Heather has been a practitioner of yoga since 1996 and studies in the Hatha Tantra tradition with Pandit Rajmani Tigunait and Rod Stryker, and has been certified to teach since 2010. She is passionate about bringing authentic yoga to the global conscious community across a variety of platforms.
In the last few years Heather and her peers have come together to create Yoga Unify. What people are calling A New Paradigm For The Future Of Yoga. Yoga Unify is a non-profit, participatory network dedicated to empowering the evolution of yoga. Created by yogis for yoga—both the practice as a whole and practitioners at every level—Yoga Unify is a supportive blend of governance and guidance that honors ancient wisdom while meeting modern needs.
Please Enjoy The Interview + Summary!
Tell us about your yoga journey? What inspired you to fully immerse yourself in this world?
My inspiration comes from how much yoga has changed my [Heather] life. Like so many people who choose to teach yoga for a living, there is this overwhelming passion and drive to share it because we recognize the power and benefits of it.
It was somewhere in my mid-twenties where it had been drilled into me that hard work and "grinding" was the only way to see success in the arts industry. I remember I was in NYC delivering sandwiches in the art district to all the designers and I must have been really stressed that day. Somebody I worked with sat me down and said, 'close your eyes and let your thoughts float in your head, witness your thoughts.' This moment has stuck with me, in the context of, why was it not until my mid twenties that anyone ever shared with me that that was even a possibility.
What is the Yoga Unify mission and what is your part in getting the vision out to the community?
The Yoga Unify mission is broad, accurate, and simple. The mission behind the organization is to preserve the tradition of yoga and to steward the forward evolution.
The vision is to create yoga that allows those to educate and practice and teach yoga while supporting their growth professionally and personally through mentoring or other forms. Yoga Unify is here to keep the practice from becoming diluted/commercialized and to honor the roots of tradition while creating tools and resources that allow teachers and students to have a life long practice of yoga.
How does Yoga Unify continue some of the community building you’re known for?
The more people you involve the more powerful something can be when we create together.
The way the organization has been structured and the way we are creating our policies is with the input from members of the community. It is called a participatory network for a reason, each person joining the organization has a voice.
Deep dive into the the organization
Within the DNA of Yoga Unify, is that it is not going to be a dozen people making decisions for the whole. The cofounders have some ideas they share but right from the foundation it is about bringing in the wisdom that exists in the community from people who want to participate.
There have been three counsels formed in the specific areas to inform the organization of subtleties: Governing Council Qualifications, Governing Council Community Investment, and Governing Council Ethics.
Can you speak to the 3 pillars that the organization has created.
The three pillars are Ethics, Education, and Community Investment
Ethics is front and center. When you look at any profession, religious practice, or yoga everything starts with ethics.
The goal is to provide safety while elevating the profession. Providing education, prevention, and mutual accountability while also enforcing personal responsibility and peaceful relations.
How do we take the yoga industry and course correct to bring back the balance. Yoga is not a commercial exercise it is about the yoga study and practice. It is a profession.
This pillar is designed to serve the student but also preserve the growth and professionalism as a teacher.
What significant changes can we steward right now that will study and serve the practice of yoga.
What makes Yoga Unify different than the Yoga Alliance and why now?
How do you create standards without standardizing the practice? This is an important piece when it comes to differentiating the two organizations. There has been so much growth and now there are more practioners than ever. There is room for new approaches.
The key aspect is mutual accountability and the not standardizing the role of yoga teacher. Built into Yoga Unify there is a competency assessment based on the individual rather the school or course the teacher took. You must demonstrate your capacity to teach and your ability to teach the skills and also what you know. See minute 38 in the interview.
What benefits would yoga teachers and students see from joining Yoga Unify?
There is a great list of tangible benefits that the student/teacher would get by joining the organization. See here for a list.
With joining YU, there are intangible benefits such as student advisors, you get the ability to clarify and present yourself with exactly where you are and what you do. Yoga Unify will be able to point to you as the instructor of choice for students and practioners who are looking for what you can offer.
Heather & the YU team would like to invite you to join the Founding Circle! Learn more.
Members enjoy voting rights for governing councils, access to community reinvestment funds including scholarships, grants, and research money, access to educational advisors and mentors, support for grievances regarding professional ethics, access to journals and publications, access to annual convention, guidance and resources for successful careers in yoga or lifelong study, and more.
Closing June 30th!