Summer presentation at the “Accessible Yoga Conference,” Toronto, June 22-24

I am excited to announce that this summer I will be leading a workshop on topics related to consent, gender identity, and yoga at the Accessible Yoga Conference, in Toronto Ontario. Check out the event on Facebook.


Moving with Intention: Consent and Gender in Yoga

With Tobias Wiggins
Sunday, June 24th, from 1:30 – 3:30

To have “intention” means to be mindful, to be attentive in our actions and to plot our course with a gentle deliberation. We often begin our yoga practice by setting intent – a simple thought to guide our movement, and to return to as a foundation. Interestingly, in medicine the word intention carries a different meaning. It is the process of closing a wound, and the restoration of health.

In this workshop, we will explore this double meaning of intention in discussions surrounding the key topics of consent and gender, as they relate to yoga. Broadly, we will consider how trauma-informed feminist consent politics can deepen our practice and transform studio spaces, by using mindful touch to promote community healing.

People who experience gender marginalization – such as women, transgender people, and non-binary people – may have complex or difficult experience of navigating yoga spaces because of sexism, transphobia, and other intersecting systems of oppression. These hierarchical systems are typically enacted and reinforced in subtle ways, often going unchallenged despite even the best intentions. In this session, we will unpack issues of gender identity and expression as they relate to consent culture, developing tangible tools for safer yoga spaces. Participants will have the opportunity to reflect on their own experiences of touch and consent in yoga, and in particular, how their gender identity has shaped their experience. All gender identities welcome!



You are welcome to make use of my code “Tobias” to get 10% off registration. Scholarships are also available.

Early Bird Pricing-Level I – $290 (C$375) by February 28th
Early Bird Pricing-Level 2 – $350 (C$450) by April 30th
Full price: $390 (C$500)


Tobias Wiggins


Review: CALPURNIA fiercely tackles everyday racism with tact and humour

Review originally posted on Nightwood Theatre’s website:


Calpurnia by Audrey Dwyer, co-produced by Nightwood and Sulong Theatre

Audrey Dwyer’s game-changing play effortlessly captures the ways that complex legacies of oppression can function in everyday, contemporary Canadian domestic space.


Calpurnia, a play by Toronto-based writer/director Audrey Dwyer, has been building a steady buzz. Already selling out almost all of its opening shows, it has quickly reached become one of Nightwood’s best-selling productions in its 38-year history, with the actors receiving an electrified standing ovation with each curtain drop.

But all of this hype and excitement is especially impressive, considering the emotional tenor of its main themes, and the political work Dwyer is asking her audience to do.

The play is set in a contemporary upper middle class Black Jamaican-Canadian home, where Julie (Meghan Swaby) struggles to revise a draft of her radical screenplay of To Kill a Mockingbird, which reimagines the famous story, but from Calpurnia’s perspective. Her brother Mark (Matthew Brown) does not appreciate her critical reading of Calpurnia’s strife, and is not shy in letting her know that, as a rich 20-something living with her family in Forest Hill, she is “not Black enough” to write from the perspective of a Southern maid in the 1930s.

In a living area next to the opulent modern kitchen (flawless set design by Anna Treusch), Julie fights with her laptop for inspiration while the Gordon family’s Filipina cook and housekeeper Precy (Carolyn Fe) continuously hovers and tidies the space around here. They have a clear closeness, especially given that after Ms. Gordon passed away, Precy cared for the children. Yet despite their familial connection, Precy is still available in a hired domestic role, a tricky parallel with maid Calpurnia that Dwyer maneuvers with ambition.

The rivalry between brother and sister is punctuated by Mark’s white, spandex-toting yoga-ambassador girlfriend, Christine (Natasha Greenblatt), who while stretching and sipping hot lemon water with fresh mint, continually plays the peacemaker. Their father (Andrew Moodie), a kind and affluent judge, is perhaps overly supportive of his two children. He is in the process of setting up an elaborate dinner for Mark to meet James (Don Allison), the head of a distinguished law firm that he hopes his son will join.

It is at this ill-fated pristine dinner party that all of Julie’s frustrations, and creative impulses, come to a hilarious and disquieting head.

Dwyer explains that she began writing Calpurnia in 2012, and while “time passed as I wrote… Black men in Canada were being brutally murdered by the police… Trayvon Martin had been brutally killed. Sammy Yatim was also brutally killed.”* Informed by a climate of increased visibility and conversations about overt racism and violence against people of colour, Dwyer has taken up the difficult task of representing the intricacies of social injustice that we still don’t always see in the media.

And in actuality, these injustices are invisible by their very design. Everyday racism, or the way that our dominant ideology is founded in white culture, is a more subtle and naturalized form of social discrimination. Because of this naturalization, it can be a lot harder to address. This is especially relevant to a Canadian audience, for whom a national ethos of multiculturalism can lend to complacency, or an inability to identify more systemic, hidden forms of prejudice.

So through the resourceful use of humour and storytelling, the play asks the audience to do some heavy lifting, not only to consider how racism informs the very foundation of everyday spaces like our homes and jobs, but also how racism is inseparable from other systems like classism or sexism – a concept Black feminist scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw famously termed “intersectionality” in the 1980s.

For example, although clearly attuned to issues of social inequity, Julie’s inability to write the character of Calpurnia is informed by her own class location. Her frustrations and entitlement lead her to inappropriately question Precy at length, trying to derive an “authentic” insight into maids’ lived experience. And Lululemon-Christine, who is often hyperbolically white and privileged, is also sometimes able to speak most fluently about racism. Simultaneously, she has her worth measured in weddings and child rearing potentials by sexist houseguest James, the inflated lawyer, who eventually calls Julie a racist.

The plot is seriously layered! To be playful, I would say watching Calpurnia is a bit like social justice Inception – just when you think you hit a pretty deep level, heart pounding, you get dropped through another couple insights about systemic power. And although its about the “everydayness” of oppression, the play is also a clear commentary on how domestic conventions are steeped in broader legacies of racism, primarily through the creative use of the classic To Kill A Mockingbird.

These complicated dynamics certainly leave the audience a bit unsteady, and unsure about how to feel about each character. Perhaps this is one of the things that makes the play so uniquely humbling and real – none are perfect, and all are prone to struggle.

From Julie, who is unquestionably woke but still getting her sea legs, as she works hard to develop and refine her own political thought; to Mark who often denies obvious racism to survive as a lawyer; to Precy who, although disapproving, tolerates the family’s drama and provides an inordinate amount of emotional labour (a type of under-acknowledged, unpaid care work that is often expected of women) – each strives to somehow manage their social location (their race/class/gender, etc.) with honourable intentions, yet all are susceptible to political “failures.” The question of what is a political failure, however, Dwyer quite artfully leaves unanswered.

is therefore as much of a conversation starter as it is entertaining, which is a feat when broaching difficult issues like intersectionality. And because of this, there is no doubt that your own social location will impact your experience of the performance.

The set was cleverly designed so that the audience sat facing one another, with the all the action happening in between. I felt this was a tangible invitation for us to engage in dialogue, to see other people’s reactions, and to consider our own. Were they moved by the same issues as me? Do they feel angry, delighted, or ashamed? Are they laughing, and should I be? Watching Calpurnia as an ally, you might be inspired to have new conversations with those across from you; and as someone marginalized, you may get the opportunity to share a moment with a stranger, who has undoubtedly had that same experience.

Artfully told, with the softening qualities of comedy and the power of unspoken truths, Dwyer has crafted a theatre experience that is compelling, provocative, and honestly, not to be missed.


*From Audrey Dwyer’s Message from the Director/Playwright in the Calpurniahouse progra


Creating a Culture of Consent through Yoga Practice at Union Yoga

Over the past six months, I have had the honour of working closely with Union Yoga as an anti-oppression consultant.

We have been integrating brand new consent cards into their studio, while also facilitating a larger community culture of consent. I wrote this article to accompany the launch of their new cards, after running consent trainings with their staff.

For more information about my yoga practice, see the “Community Support – yoga” section of my website.

See the original article here:


Creating a Culture of Consent through Yoga Practice

By Tobias B. D. Wiggins

To touch and be touched is not an uncomplicated matter. There is something immediately profound and tender about physical proximity to another being. Touch takes trust and elicits vulnerability; it is the vulnerability of two people connecting, of one letting the other into the private space of their own body.

In most Western yoga studios, physical adjustments from the instructor have become a taken-for-granted part of the practice. And like other customary practices, it sometimes becomes difficult to question its normalization. In other words, it can be most challenging to dispute “the way things are,” to disagree with a set of unspoken rules that govern a studio space or larger community.

Some people crave the deepening or alignment that can come from the steady and knowledgable hands of an yoga instructor, while others – perhaps those whose have survived trauma, who are socially marginalized, or who live with chronic pain – might have more mixed feelings. In reality though, everyone’s desire to be touched can change day to day, and even from moment to moment.

Many yoga communities have begun to recognize how social and political issues impact our personal practice – including discussions about how cultural appropriation, capitalism, racism, body positivity, and feminism all transform yoga spaces. As a holistic and embodied movement, the physical components of teaching asanas must also then, consider the politics of consent.

Consent has been discussed in many venues, but is mostly tied to feminist movements that challenge naturalized sexual violence and slut shaming, while also supporting survivors of assault. But discussions about consent reach far beyond sex, to thinking about agency more broadly, and our right to say “yes,” “no,” and to change our minds in any situation. From feminism we’ve learned that consent cannot be implied; consent cannot be assumed from the absence of a “no,” as it requires an active “yes” that can be revoked at any time, without shame.

Because Western yoga spaces carry the taken-for-granted notion that adjustments are desirable, yoga instructors can also face regular pressure to give them. This includes the subtle message that if they do not give expert physical assistance, they are not a “good enough” teacher. The uncertainty about how to actually get reliable consent to touch students may create additional stress.

A yoga teacher may try to ask the student out-loud during a class: “can I offer you an adjustment?” But for many reasons this question restricts an easy, straightforward response. The teacher might already be so close to touching the student that saying “no” feels hard, there may be concern that saying “no” in a public space to a generous offer is rude, or the student may not believe that a “no” is really possible. And because of these and other restrictions, students might be given an unwanted adjustment, one that perhaps carries negative emotional or physical ramification.

This is why creating a culture of consent is so essential for yoga studios. In a larger social world where consent is not seen as normal or natural and where rights to bodily autonomy is often questioned, it can feel embarrassing, challenging, or even impossible to articulate needs (or worse, if you do articulate your needs, they aren’t heard!). Many facets of Western culture often teaches us that we do not know our bodies and mind – in fact we are encouraged to disconnect. Which is, of course, antithetical to a practice of mindfulness through yoga, but still present in a yoga practice taken/up by the West.

Creating a culture of consent in a yoga studio is about much more than asking permission to touch each other. Its about actively challenging a social world that tells us we don’t know ourselves and our bodies, that renders self-care suspect, and encourages us to push ourselves past our limits. Crafting a culture of consent means valuing our many different identities and histories, with the knowledge that those identities and histories are an intimate part of “showing up” in our practice through body, breath, and movement. It’s about normalizing conversations about boundaries, self-love, and choice.

Touch is important. It is also a beautiful part of yoga – allowing someone who has committed a part of their life to the practice, to impart their knowledge through physical connection. This is why tools like consent cards, which allow students to flip between a “yes” and a “no” during their practice, are so essential. These cards are becoming more common in studios across North America, including their introduction in Toronto by Christi-an Slomka and Jamilah Maiika in May 2013. Other local studios have been following suit, including Union Yoga’s upcoming launch of their cards in August 2017. Slomka shared in an interview the year of their release:

“We can’t always know what someone has been through and if touch may be a trigger (especially when it comes without consent). Rape and sexual abuse can continue unchecked in a culture that doesn’t value consent. By demonstrating that consent is important to us, I believe we may be able to empower a shift in culture. Ultimately consent helps us to cultivate a safer space.”

By including these cards, yoga instructors communicate a vital message to their students. Consent cards, if well integrated into a studio’s culture, highlight that their community prioritizes informed choice, accountability, and student’s agency regarding their own bodies. It allows everyone to develop self-awareness, empowering both teachers and students in the processes of offering and receiving adjustments. Most importantly, it is through having these conversations, with each other, that we can continue to build the types of healing communities we truly need to thrive.


I want to acknowledge Christi-an Slomka (, and thank her for her contributions to my thoughts and progress towards writing this article. I’m continually moved and inspired by your yoga practice and politicized care work.


Tobias B. D. Wiggins is an academic, consultant, artist, and social justice advocate in Toronto, Ontario. A Ph.D. candidate at York University, his research investigates issues surrounding transgender mental health. Wiggins teaches and writes on topics relating to sexuality, gender, race and racism, dis/ability, and colonization. He also works in the Toronto community, organizing various anti-oppression workshops, trainings, and mental health support groups. He has been practicing yoga for 17 years, and was recently awarded the Yoga Alliance “Aspiring Yoga Teacher Scholarship” for his social justice contributions in local yoga communities. Visit for more information.