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Queer critique, queer practice: embodied teachings for healing from trauma and social injustice.
Jacoby Ballard provides an empowering and affirming guide to embodied healing through yoga and the dharma, grounded in the brilliance, resilience, and lived experiences of queer folks.
Part I deconstructs the ways mainstream yoga perpetuates queer- and transphobia and other systemic oppressions, exploring the intersections of yoga, capitalism, cultural appropriation, and sexual violence. Ballard also addresses the trauma--complex, vicarious, historical, and collective--perpetuated against queer communities. In response, he offers tools for self-compassion, tonglen, lovingkindness, and grounding, and helps readers explore questions like:
• What is trauma? How is it a product of injustice--and how can healing it create justice?
• The world won't stop being homo- and transphobic, so how do I encounter that in a way that does the least harm?
• How do we love what is uniquely trans about us?
• What are affinity groups, and why do we need them?
In part II, Ballard offers a queer-centered, fully embodied, and equity-rooted practice with meditations, practices, and sequences for processing and healing from trauma individually and in community. He explains concepts like lovingkindness, letting go, compassion, joy, forgiveness, and equanimity through a queer lens, and pairs each with corresponding meditations, practices, and beautiful line drawings of queer bodies.
Enhanced with stories from Ballard's personal practice and professional experience teaching yoga in schools, prisons, conferences, and his weekly Queer and Trans Yoga class, A Queer Dharma is a guidebook, reclamation, and unapologetically queer heart offering for true healing and transformation.
About the Author
Jacoby Ballard is a social justice educator, yoga teacher, and Buddhist teacher-in-training. As a yoga teacher with 20 years of experience, he leads workshops and trainings around the country on diversity, equity, and inclusion-inviting participants into the inner process and the outer manifestations of that practice on high school and college campuses, and in yoga spaces, trainings, and retreat centers, and runs the Resonance Mentorship Program for certified yoga teachers to find their niche and calling. Ballard has taught in schools, hospitals, nonprofit and business offices, a maximum security prison, a recovery center, a cancer center, LGBT centers, gyms, and a veteran's center as well as many yoga studios. Ballard has been an advisor to the Yoga Service Council since 2014, and on the Faculty of Off the Mat, Into the World since 2016, and consults for Lululemon, Yoga Journal, and Yoga Alliance. He is currently being mentored by Buddhist teacher DaRa Williams in the Insight lineage. Find more at jacobyballard.net.
“In A Queer Dharma, Jacoby Ballard offers us a fresh, tender, and bold guide on how to root the timeless truths of wisdom and compassion in a contemporary commitment to justice for all. He brilliantly weaves together powerful stories from his life journey with profound explorations of complex topics including forgiving what seems unforgivable, equanimity in the midst of oppression, and the colonization and commodification of yoga. The meditations and reflections blended throughout are clear and inspiring. This book is a nuanced, courageous, and compassionate gift for our individual and collective liberation.”
—Sebene Selassie, author of You Belong
“Through Jacoby Ballard’s homage to their teachers, offering of the teachings they embody, and awareness that more teachings will come forth through them, A Queer Dharma is the guide and medicine that we need at this time. Ballard offers powerful teachings about compassion, forgiveness, righteous rage, love, God, and knowing we have a place here and that it is our birthright to inhabit it. A Queer Dharma weaves in feminist, Black, and queer theory, creating a pathway for us to consider our identities and complexities and see ourselves as more expansive than our bodies. Ballard reminds us we are here on purpose and calls us into deep inquiry and action. Stories of their study and practice of dharma, Buddhism, and yoga, a beautiful love letter to queer and trans folks, call for us to heal our collective trauma and invite readers to dig deeper, transform and be better, to shift the culture of yoga and spiritual practice and beyond. This book is a blessing and should be received as such.”
—Michelle C. Johnson, author of Skill in Action
“What a gift A Queer Dharma is to the world! Filled with deep wisdom and vulnerability, Jacoby Ballard shares radically courageous teachings and practices for transforming our lives and our communities. Whether you are a curious new practitioner, a spiritual activist committed to social justice values, or a seasoned practitioner or teacher seeking to grow and stretch on your path, this book is a tremendous offering for befriending yourself and others and developing practices for building Beloved Community in brave and collaborative ways. Deep bows of gratitude to Jacoby Ballard for this timely medicine for these times of shift in the world.”
—Brenda Salgado, author of Real World Mindfulness for Beginners
“A Queer Dharma is for all people—queer or straight—and for anyone who has struggled with societal labels or identity in the world of yoga, meditation, or just in everyday life. Jacoby Ballard shares a unique point of view and their own experiences, which can help open the reader’s eyes to the need for diversity, acceptance, and inclusion.”
—Sharon Salzberg, author of Real Happiness and Real Change
“Only when we fully hear the voices and lived experiences of our trans, genderqueer, and nonbinary family can we move toward being a more whole and inclusive society. With great courage and humility, Jacoby Ballard explores timeless wisdom and practices that call forth the Buddha nature in each of us and invite us to embrace all beings in our tender, open hearts.”
—Tara Brach, author of Radical Acceptance and Radical Compassion
“Jacoby Ballard has written a book that is both a fire under us calling us, in our own way, to be accountable to creating a just world and a salve offering a hopeful vision for the future. He skillfully weaves in the wisdom of his elders and contemporaries while sharing his personal journey of trauma and healing as a trans person, yoga and mindfulness teacher, and social justice activist. His unique experience situates him between the binaries, not just of gender but of justice and healing. Jacoby is a fierce guide with a huge heart. A Queer Dharma is for anyone and everyone interested in personal, interpersonal, and collective healing.”
—Hala Khouri, co-founder of Off the Mat, Into the World and author of Peace from Anxiety
“Ballard’s book brilliantly describes through teaching, personal story, and collective narrative how we, regardless of who we are, are everything—our identities, our suffering, our joys, our trauma, our achievements, how we heal, and how we harm. And because each of our ‘everything’ is indispensable to the whole, every one of us is so worthy, needed, and valued in this life together.”
—Larry Yang, author of Awakening Together
“Jacoby has written a book that does a beautiful job of weaving between the deep wisdom of Buddhist meditation practice and yoga practice while modeling an accountable relationship to a cultural practice that is not his own. His approach is respectful: what is it to bring a queer lens to the traditions, the cultures that have emerged around those traditions in the US, and then to share practices that support individual and collective liberation? It’s a cautious thing to bring a contemporary lens—in this case, queerness—to a thousands-years-old tradition. Jacoby manages to hit the balance well so that the end point gives us something that feels respectful, aligned, and powerful. Mixing personal stories with the teachings of his teachers, Jacoby manages to both offer concrete suggestions and then also, when there is no clear answer, to not be afraid of the not knowing.”
—Susan Raffo, Healing Histories Project and Relationships Evolving Possibilities
“Deeply vulnerable and deeply moving, A Queer Dharma offers lessons from Ballard’s personal journey to the heart of the dharma, bringing the whole body and loving the whole self. This book is for anyone who has a body and seeks to love courageously with an open heart.”
—Autumn Brown, host of How to Survive the End of the World
“In A Queer Dharma, Jacoby Ballard’s journey of self-acceptance in a world that wants to deny the existence of queer/trans bodies is a revolutionary story of how the practice and teachings of the Buddha can transform suffering into liberation, both individually and collectively. This book serves the healing of many of us who belong to oppressed and marginalized groups as well as being a guidebook for those who seek to be better allies in creating greater access and belonging.”
—La Sarmiento, board president and teacher, Insight Meditation Community of Washington
“Perspectives on Buddhism, yoga, queer yoga, capitalism, anger, self-love, compassion, oppression, the breath, and much more fill the pages of this amazing book. In A Queer Dharma, Jacoby tells the story of a life filled with challenges, pain, and awakenings. An evocative work, this book shines a light on the difficulties inherent in expressing oneself as queer or transgender. By sharing Buddhism and yoga’s ancient practices, Jacoby teaches us the importance of forgiveness, experiencing anger, and refusing to internalize hatred. As a Black woman, I know the pain caused by racism, sexism, and xenophobia. I stand alongside those finding their voice, as they become who they truly are. A Queer Dharma is an insightful and noble work. Thank you, Jacoby.”
—Maya Breuer, vice president of cross-cultural advancement, Yoga Alliance
“A heartfelt offering that invites all of us to pause, reflect, and dive deeper. Jacoby provides thoughtful insights and practices to help lead us toward a more evolved, loving, and compassionate society.”
—Coby Kozlowski, author of One Degree Revolution
“Jacoby addresses a foundational question of this decade: who gets left out of the modern yoga, mindfulness, spirituality, and wellness worlds, and how do we remedy that? This book is filled with fresh insight, vulnerability, and generosity of spirit. Highly recommended for practitioners of yoga and mindfulness, yoga teacher training and dharma center directors, somatic educators and therapists, and anyone engaged in building a world with more inclusivity, equity, and belonging.”
— Bo Forbes, psychologist, somatic educator, and author of Yoga for Emotional Balance
“Through personal narratives, eclectic spiritual teachings, and mindful practices, A Queer Dharma offers up a practical and spiritual pathway that, if applied, can dismantle the oppressive practices, both within ourselves and within our world, that cause so much suffering and harm. This powerful guide is recommended for the student who wants to understand more about the intersection of spiritual practice and social justice. It’s for the activist who needs tools for self-regulation and support. It’s for nonbinary, queer, and/or trans folk or any marginalized person desiring a compassionate narrative of a lived experience that may mirror aspects of their own. It’s for the teacher, the ally, the family member. It’s for those of us in the dominant, mainstream culture who want to challenge the limitations of our awareness, as well as our participation in the systems designed for inequality and hardship. It’s for anyone who wants to live by the principle of Ahimsa—the commitment to not cause harm and disrupt it when we see it—but don’t quite know how to do that mindfully. It’s for everyone who wants to understand the complexities of the human experience and discover tools to help integrate truth, discharge emotions, and surrender to the Spirit within. If you want to understand the connection between spiritual practice and justice … read this book. If you want to participate in creating a world that is compassionate, healed, and whole … make this book your own, do the work, and put Jacoby’s words into action in all aspects of your life.”
—Seane Corn, co-founder of Off the Mat, Into the World and author of Revolution of the Soul
“A Queer Dharma is an offering for every heart that has been broken, every body that has survived violence, and every mind that has internalized false limitations. Like a balm, it soothes broken places and unidentified wounds, and through Ballard’s exquisitely honest and tender pen, will fashion grace and deep healing from the fragmenting impact of the societies we are born into. From Ballard’s tales and experiences as an educator, a Buddhist, an activist, and a yoga teacher, we are gifted with the timely and priceless exemplar of how to embody yoga and live one’s dharma: by courageously embracing suffering, harnessing it skillfully and with care, and transforming it into a rare and active expression of profound love in an oft-unloving world.”
—Crystal McCreary, yoga, mindfulness, and health educator and author of Little Yogi Deck
“In A Queer Dharma, Jacoby Ballard transforms his painful past into powerful teachings using the magical alchemy of spiritual practice. Jacoby offers a message of healing and transformation through a contemporary perspective on yoga and meditation. The message is that peace is available for all of us, regardless of our background or life experience. I pray that all yoga and meditation teachers read this book!”
—Jivana Heyman, director of the Accessible Yoga Association and co-founder of the Accessible Yoga School
“A Queer Dharma is a brilliant and important book with a profound message. With wit, humility, and keen discernment, Jacoby shares insights and wisdom gleaned from the lived experience of being ‘othered.’ Othering is a fundamental aspect of the socially constructed framework that the ancients call maya. Maya, the ancients say, covers us like a veil. Guided by the wisdom teachings of Buddhism and yoga, Jacoby offers us a glimpse into the possibility beyond the veil. Jacoby has given us a gift. I hope everyone reads this book.”
—R. Nikki Myers, founder of Y12SR: The Yoga of 12-Step Recovery
“A Queer Dharma sits steadfastly on a compelling precipice between brave, bold conviction and humble heart-guided revelation. Full of eye-opening, unflinching personal experiences and learnings, Jacoby leads the reader by the hand through his own journey, which is at turns painful, uplifting, insightful, and captivating. The more I read, the more I found myself feeling how overdue a book like Jacoby’s is. He offers crucial guidance without ever shaming or scolding the reader. Instead, you’ll find yourself on your own journey of inquiry, right beside Jacoby—and a what a rich and rewarding journey it is for any wanting to undertake the path toward greater compassion.”
—Jurian Hughes, Kripalu yoga teacher and trainer
“The dharma is the moment when our collective will to heal, to grow, and to love well was given a new voice. That voice has now been informed by countless moments of practice across thousand of years. Jacoby Ballard added their voice to the dharma as a student, a teacher, and now as an author, offering us a thoughtful, honest, useful book that I believe will support each of us as we work to become the person we aspire to be. Einstein wrote that we believe ourselves to be separate from each other and that this sense of separation forms a mental prison each of us lives in. In doing the work and writing this book Jacoby has offered us a path toward connection.”
—Rolf Gates, teacher and author
“A Queer Dharma takes us by the hand and walks us, step by loving step, through the process of turning the painful into the sacred, the hidden into the path. In his seminal work, Jacoby Ballard shares an unflinching view of the pain we’ve collectively inherited as queer, queer-adjacent and nonqueer people surrounding gender and all of the intersections that cross it. Part semi-autobiographical confession, part satsang, this field guide to tenderhearted yet fierce action gives us not only the terrain we must traverse if we wish for collective liberation, but the practices that can transform us along the way. A Queer Dharma streamlines many voices of wisdom, and so is for queer folks remembering their own power, allies pursuing an honest answer, and seekers of all experience who wish to walk more compassionately through this world.”
—Jordan Smiley, co-director of Courageous Yoga
“‘No mud, no lotus’ is a popular Buddhist catchphrase. A Queer Dharma actualizes it and offers all of us—people of all colors, genders, orientations, and faiths—possibilities to imagine how we too can blossom like a lotus from the mud that life has dealt us. Through his own journey of finding wholeness in his body—despite the violence of gender and whiteness—Jacoby gently invites us to do the same. Jacoby is a queer seer of our times and this book is an invitation to heal for anyone who is ready and willing to join him on the journey.”
—Anu Gupta, founder and CEO of BE MORE with Anu
“A Queer Dharma is a deep, liberatory exhale. It is inclusion. It is vulnerability. It is grace. It is strength. It is humanness. It is profound wisdom that transcends words because it is truly an invitation to embody our wholeness and light amid the darkness. This compassionate, spiritual, and intersectional guide is a must read for every yoga instructor to understand the intersections of systemic oppression and injustice while simultaneously tending to our own wounds and care. It offers an invaluable window into understanding how integral it is to ensure all humans feel seen, valued, and affirmed—just as they are. I am completely moved by this work of art and by the reminder to ground ourselves in the power, practices, and community of vicarious resilience.”
—Zahabiyah Yamasaki, author of Trauma-Informed Yoga for Survivors of Sexual Assault
“A Queer Dharma is a first aid kit loaded with fuel for the soul and balm for the heart.”
—Kathryn Budig, author of Aim True and co-host of Free Cookies
“The time is NOW for this book. With intimacy and vulnerability, Jacoby invites us into the power of compassion and life-changing transformation. This book, their stories and reflections, will shape the way we offer yoga in our communities.”
—Tejal Patel, yoga teacher, founder of Tejal Yoga and abcdyogi, and co-host of the podcast Yoga Is Dead