A hashtag led to hundreds of cancellations just as the company was readying to reopen. But some teachers wonder how closing down helps Denver’s yoga community make progress.
By Jennifer Brown | 29 June 2020
THE COLORADO SUN — Patrick Harrington is sitting on a rock high on a hilltop, using his bare feet to push his flip-flops around the sandy gravel, his head in his hands.
The owner of Kindness Yoga, and one of the most well-known yogis in Denver, is struggling to piece together the words to explain what happened — in the span of a week — to his once-stellar reputation and his 19-year-old business. He is stunned, though remorseful. He is eager to speak up, yet on edge for fear of saying anything that could make all of this any worse.
”My goal is to represent our attempts at being a diverse, inclusive place where people felt like they belonged,” he begins, slowly. “I may not say things perfectly … I’m practicing learning how to speak in a way that is more inclusive and caring of diversity.”
Harrington, a straight, white guy who expanded Kindness to nine studios and 160 employees across metro Denver, announced last week that he was closing them all after a handful of yoga teachers, including a Black woman and a transgender man, called out Kindness on social media for “performative activism” and “tokenization of Black and brown bodies.” The teachers’ public comments, following a Black Lives Matter post on Kindness’ Instagram page that they termed too little, too late, evoked a backlash that was fierce and immediate.
Within 48 hours, as the nightly protests over police violence unfolded around the Capitol in Denver, just three blocks from Kindness’ Capitol Hill studio, the yoga company received nearly 400 emails from students who were upset, including many wanting to cancel their memberships. A week later, the emails had reached 800 and counting. Harrington has yet to read all of them, but with each one he opened, the direction his already precarious business was heading grew ever more clear. […]