20 October 2022

Over the past two years, Breathworks has been doing deep work to listen, learn and take action in becoming an anti-racist organisation.  We share more about this journey here.

In recent years, global events have shed greater light on ingrained inequalities and racial injustices in society. On hearing about the death of George Floyd in 2020 and the rise of anti-Asian hate crime following the COVID-19 pandemic, our team felt profoundly affected and moved to deepen our understanding of systemic oppression and racial bias. We looked at what we could do as individuals and as an organisation to educate ourselves and increase our efforts in becoming an inclusionary and diverse workplace and organisation.

In our field of mindfulness - where compassion, altruism and fairness is championed - we recognised something was missing: we lacked racial diversity. Breathworks has long been leading in awareness building around disability rights through our Founder Vidyamala Burch (regarded one of the most influential disabled people in the UK), however we knew that we and sister mindfulness institutions globally had work to do when it came to including the voices of People of Colour (POC) in our leadership, teaching, practice and research.

While Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism, originating in India, proponents who created the secular mindfulness movement as we know it today came from culturally western and white backgrounds. Critique of mindfulness today is that it lacks representation of race and experiences among leading voices, teachers, and participating audiences, and thus a lack of culturally-responsive and oppression-sensitive content.

We set out to understand what we as an organisation could do to address this, and move towards a future that we wanted to see: a mindfulness field where all individuals feel safe, represented and able to belong.

Our work began with awareness building through research, reading, sharing, listening and questioning. Books and materials were studied, including Ruth Kings’ Mindful of Race, Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, and Sounds True series Healing Racism with Tiffany Jana.

We understood that anti-racism means more than maintaining a zero-tolerance approach to systemic racism, it requires proactive action and systematic change throughout the whole organisation. So our work to create and implement an Anti-racist Strategy for Breathworks began. 

We looked to expert guidance, and brought on EDI expert and Race Equality Advisor for the Welsh Government Usha Ladwa-Thomas for team trainings and strategic counsel. In our meetings with Usha, we explored how racism permeates all aspects of the lives of POC, addressed what was lacking in the way we do things within Breathworks and shared our own discomforts and challenges in addressing racism. We also identified three key action areas for immediate attention: Recruitment, Training & Delivery and Communications


Studies show that people from the UK’s ethnic minorities (the global majority) are less likely to get access to workplace opportunities in the UK compared to their white counterparts. Driven by this, Breathworks took recommendations from research carried out by Cathy Mae-Karelse PhD, a Researcher in diversity and inclusivity within the mindfulness movement, to create a plan for increased diversity at all levels of our organisation. 

Breathworks POC Interns with Ginny, former Head of Training; Helen, Breathworks CEO; Stanter, Head of Programmes; Bodhilila, POC Internship Facilitator

Person of Colour (POC) Internship

We recognised the importance of affinity groups, so we decided to create our POC Internship Programme to support individuals on their pathway to becoming teachers. This was facilitated by one of our long standing teachers Bodhilila who is Chair of the West London Buddhist Centre and who has been running retreats and groups for POC for many years. 

In these supervision sessions, interns discussed their experiences on mindfulness training programmes and examined adaptations for course content that could speak to wider racial groups. After 12 months of supervision, Breathworks were pleased to announce last month the recruitment of three new teachers to the Associate Team. One of our new Associate Teachers Davinder Sohal says of his experience:

“I was delighted to be accepted on the Breathworks POC internship and felt this was a great opportunity offered by Breathworks taking into consideration the society wide challenges faced by minority groups. I had recently qualified as a Breathworks teacher and these sessions were invaluable in supporting my development. The monthly sessions were facilitated in a way that created a compassionate non-judgmental space and this allowed for mindful learning and development.”


Davinder Sohal, POC Intern Advanced Practice Osteopath (APO) & Acupuncturist

Off the success of the Internship Programme, we are pleased to be forming two new POC spaces in the new year. The first is a Trainee Teacher POC Supervision Group with an aim to continue to provide a space for people of colour to feel supported on their pathway to becoming teachers, the second is a new POC Group on our Community of Practice social platform as a space for our wider POC community to come together, share and connect. 

Diversity on our Board of Trustees

We also addressed the need for greater diversity on our Board. Further recruitment is currently underway to grow our trustee board and increase the representation for People of Colour who steer the organisation’s leadership.  From this, we hope to bring on two new Trustees for 2023 who can bring their experience and skills to continue our work.

For more on the trustee role see
here. Applications close on 31 October 2022. 

Training & Delivery

In our review of course curriculum, we have begun to identify and implement areas of improvement. One of which has been a review of poetry sources drawn upon in Mindfulness sessions and teachings to include voices from Black, Asian and marginalised groups. 

This is a long road, and we are committed to continuously reviewing and assessing improvements and adaptations to make our courses and trainings representative and ensure that they resonate with People of Colour. Several of our Training Team are participating in a programme being piloted through BAMBA to provide EDI training for mindfulness teachers and teacher training organisations.  Our plan is to provide this training for all of our associate teachers to bring greater awareness and learning into our work.  As always, we welcome feedback from our community on what we're doing well and what we could improve.

When we began delivering all of our activities under the Breathworks Foundation we were proud to be making a third of all places on courses and teacher training available with bursary funding. Our partial bursaries support all people from marginalised or under-served groups and for teacher training, prioritise those who want to go on and share mindfulness in these populations and communities. We are committed to continue to provide funding in this way to increase accessibility to mindfulness for all. 


We created an EDI Communications Guide which has acted as a checkpoint to ensure language, imagery and content that we put out on our website and social media is inclusionary and representative of diverse voices and experiences. We plan to give a platform to stories from different lived experiences through engaging with our community via guest-authored blogs and participation in community events. If you would like to contribute, we would love to hear from you.

Forward plans

We know the work is not complete and the journey towards a vision of a mindfulness field that is representative of diversity and inclusive to all is a long one. Our journeying into anti-racism has brought useful lessons already and we continue to reflect and learn to do better, and even more. Alongside continuing in our strategic work and personal work as individuals, we will  keep researching, listening and learning from others with lived experience. Part of this work involves you, our community. We warmly welcome your feedback, advice and suggestions to help us in creating the change we want to influence and see in the mindfulness field.

To share comments or feedback on our work in any of these three areas you can contact: 

Communications: Emma Tian Williamson, [email protected]

Training & Delivery: Stanter Kandola, [email protected]; Soo Strong, [email protected]

Recruitment: Helen Sullivan, [email protected]