How I love thee so.
I think many will agree that Yoga is BOOMING these days. With all the mental health and wellness movements, self-care and self-love pushes, spiritual enlightenment, and corporate involvement, how can Yoga not be at the forefront of everyone’s minds? Aside from the necessity of Yoga as a physical practice, Yoga has emerged as an aid for mental wellness and spiritual enlightenment. The term Yoga itself means “union,” signifying the union within oneself, the union with others, and the union with the Divine.
Yoga takes the brave individual on a full journey meant to renew the mind, body, and spirit.With all the benefits of Yoga and the call to join the Yogi community fully advertised, there emerged a demand for more diversity in the images of Yoga. Out of that demand came something along the lines of Yoga for everybody, meaning Yoga for every body type.
I love that movement. I love Yoga being pushed as a more inclusive practice. I love everyone learning the benefits of Yoga. I love Yoga being fully advertised. If you have immersed yourself in the Yogic philosophy and practice, you may understand my love for Yoga. It indeed has been a blessing and a renewal of my mind, body, and spirit. But with all the diversity in the images of Yoga, what about the reality of Yoga? I mean, what about Yoga off the screen? Yoga in the community? Who is Yoga truly accessible for?
I am a full-figured, curvy Black woman (not neglecting the ethnic components of my background). I have been practicing Yoga as a Yogi for going on eight years. In my eight years of practice, I have noticed the following:
1. I am generally the only Black woman in my Yoga classes.
2. I am usually the only Black person in my Yoga classes.
3. Yoga is expensive.
4. Yoga studios are located in specific neighborhoods.
5. The only time I have come across a Black Yoga instructor was at a Black-owned Yoga studio. This was five years into my journey. While I know there are Black Yoga Instructors at other studios, in my journey, it took a while for me to come across them.
6. I am often one of the youngest Yogis in the room. There may be two of us. Maybe just me.
Why does any of this matter?
Representation. Comfort. Relatability. The reality of a different experience of life. The reality of the accessibility of Yoga. I am rarely uncomfortable in a room. I attribute this to my parents and my upbringing. Thank you, parents. However, over the years, I have taken notice of the color of my skin, my body type, and my age during my Yoga practice.
They have all been brought into question in regards to me as a Yogi. One, from others in interesting ways. Two, from myself, as I’ve been in these not-so representative spaces. Its as if Yoga isn’t truly for every body, and it’s all just corporate marketing and an attempt at Yoga being for everybody.
If you are anything like me, this may bring you to tears.
Why? Yoga is popular for a reason. It is a holistic lifestyle approach that changes one’s perspective on just about everything. It is a practice, philosophy, and lifestyle that is backed by science. Yoga heals. I will admit that over the years, with the increase in social media influencers, I have learned about other Black Yogis, many who have gone on to become Yoga Instructors. I bow graciously and deeply to them.
I will admit that over the years, there has been a massive surge in the Black Yoga community. While I do not want Black Yoga to only be connected to Trap Yoga or Kemetic Yoga, I do feel immense gratitude to the Yoga Instructors seeking to create the spaces where Black Yogis feel comfortable, and Yoga’s Afrikan roots are celebrated. (Side note: Kemetic Yoga has been around for a while).
These spaces also tend to remain segregated, as with the other Yoga spaces. Yoga suffers from segregation.
Now, this is a personal experience. I invite anyone else to share their experience. Maybe your experience has been different, and the Divine has given me my journey for a reason. Whatever the case, I am an advocate for Black engagement in Yoga, especially as a healing practice.
For more information on the benefits of Yoga from Health and Wellness authorities, read:
2. 13 Benefits of Yoga That Are Supported by Science
3. Yoga – Benefits beyond the Mat
4. Yoga: What You Need to Know ￼
I wish you well.