LGBTQ+ yoga group encourages mental and physical wellness

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The Queer + Trans Community Yoga group meets from 10 a.m. to noon every Sunday at the 100 Acres Virginia Fairbanks Park. (Photo/Sarah Hutchison)
The Queer + Trans Community Yoga group meets from 10 a.m. to noon every Sunday at the 100 Acres Virginia Fairbanks Park. (Photo/Sarah Hutchison)

For Sarah Hutchison, creating a dedicated space for queer and transgender individuals to practice yoga and mindfulness was essential. 

The Queer + Trans Community Yoga group, which is part of Indy Community Yoga, started in February 2023 as a 10-person, sign-up only class in a small room at Indy Reads. Today, anyone is welcome to pop in for an hour or two every Sunday morning at the 100 acres.

“I would say one of the main benefits is that it helps you tune into your human experience,” Hutchison said. “A lot of our days, I think, in general, in our society is just going, going, going. … So yoga, this practice and meditation, helps you tune into what you’re actually feeling, whether that be body, mind.”

Hutchison, an instructor at Indy Community Yoga, has practiced yoga on and off since college as a way to relax. Now in their 40s, Hutchison started going to studio classes in 2019 and eventually found a home at Indy Community Yoga. 

Having a weekly routine of yoga and mindfulness not only helped Hutchison with flexibility and emotional intelligence but provided much needed support and consistency during the pandemic. However, there was an obvious lack of queer and trans people in spaces like these — not just at work or in other public facing spaces.

Hutchison decided to do something about that and started researching queer and trans specific yoga and meditation before coming across Jacoby Ballard’s book “Queer Dharma.”

After a year of training, Hutchison was able to lead a new group though Indy Community Yoga and decided to create one specifically for queer and trans people — not because Indy Community Yoga sessions is not welcoming of that community, but because “there needs to be a space where queer and trans people feel comfy.”

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“Being in community is the pride, right?” Hutchison said. “It’s like that feeling that you get from being around other people like you, practicing with you, supporting you and being there when you want to be vulnerable.”

The Queer + Trans Community Yoga session looks a lot like the regular Saturday session, just half an hour shorter, Hutchison said. The session is right across from the Funky Bones and is two hours, allowing enough time to do movement, which includes yoga and qi gong, before they take a short break — usually to say hello and have tea. 

After the break, the group moves on to meditation. Hutchison practices with them in the circle rather than teaching, and everyone is free to practice their own way for about 20 minutes with the goal of “finding ease in the body” — whatever that may be for them. Lastly, the group moves onto dialogues whether paired up or with the whole group, the idea is to practice listening and different conversation styles, Hutchison said.

“I have seen the way people’s bodies and nervous systems decompress and relax being outside,” said Chase Vining, a member of the group. “I think having a way to be outdoors and in nature is really beautiful … I don’t know, it is kind of radical to go sit outside in silence with 20 other people.”

Vining, who has been living and working in Indianapolis as a therapist in the health care system since 2016, started attending Queer + Trans Community Yoga in August 2023. Many of their clients identify as queer, and Vining stumbled upon the group while notarizing a document for someone else who regularly attended.

“I was going through a lot of transitions in life, so I was temporarily unemployed,” Vining said. “I was like, ‘Why not do something free? I want more community, and what else am I doing on a Sunday morning?’ So, I might as well go.”

Vining described themselves as a beginner, having only done a few YouTube yoga sessions in the comfort of their home before trying the group. However, Vining was interested in the philosophy of yoga, and the group ultimately aligned with their values. 

Weekly yoga in the park gave Vining a “protected reset space” each week and a consistent routine to stick to while unemployed. Eventually, Vining said they started to notice their hips hurt less, their knees felt better and they felt more grounded and centered during the week. 

Vining was making meaningful connections during the weekly session and just continued to go. The sessions not only gave Vining the space to unwind and reset each week but allowed everyone to show up as they were, being comfortable, wearing gender affirming clothing and modifying moves to work with their skill or body type without judgment.

“There is just freedom to totally be whoever you are, and people celebrate that there, it’s like, ‘Oh, cool. You’re you!’ and that, I think, is just so rare,” Vining said. “That’s really essential, especially as people explore their own identities. Because where else do you do that if there’s not permission to?”

The Queer + Trans Community Yoga is open to everyone, regardless of experience, skill level or body type. On average, the group sees about 25-30 people from 10 a.m. to noon every Sunday at the 100 Acres — making it the most popular Indy Community Yoga group. 

New members can literally just show up, Hutchison said, although they should wear comfy clothes and bring a yoga mat (Hutchison usually has 6-7 extras).

Indy Community Yoga

Indy Community Yoga is nonprofit co-op , founded by Tony Wiederhold, and  focuses on community harm reduction and well-being by offering free daily classes in mindful movement, meditation, mindful dialogue and mindful nature walks. Classes are held both on Zoom and in person at various locations around Indy, including the 100 acres at the Virginia Fairbanks Park. For more information, visit indycommunityyoga.org/queer.

This story has been updated.

Contact Arts & Culture Reporter Chloe McGowan at 317-762-7848. Follow her on X @chloe_mcgowanxx.