Black Women Do Yoga and Pilates, Too
My Yoga Experience
Prior to attending college, I thought of yoga as an activity for white women. Whether it was on TV or in magazines, those were the women I often saw flocking to yoga studios in search of their chi. Rarely did I see any women who looked like me in a downward-facing dog. I thought I was too Black, too curvy, too out of place for such activities. To my surprise, yoga was originated by people of color in ancient India as one of the six schools of Hindu philosophical traditions. I continued to do my research, thinking less and less about Western optics. Instead, I took note of yoga’s health benefits, like improved sleep quality, decreased symptoms of depression, and increased strength and flexibility. These advantages seemed perfect for me as a lonely, homesick college student going through the ups and downs of university.
While I have not always been the most consistent, yoga classes have definitely helped my livelihood in all of those ways and more. From needing a serious mental health break during the stress of exams to just guiding me towards a more purposeful and centered day, I practice yoga throughout all stages of my life. I also quickly became accustomed to (and slyly enjoyed) disrupting predominantly white classes with my large head wraps, curvy physique, and shoulder-length locs.
Black Women Do Yoga
I often wondered about Black women yogis disrupting social norms and the spaces and places Black women take up in such a transformative healing practice for my life. Here are some of my favorite Black women yoga practitioners who inspire me to focus on my purpose and make yoga a daily practice in my life.
Jamaican reggae songstress Jah9 is most renowned for songs like “Steamers a Bubble” and “New Name,” but what listeners may not know is that she is also an avid yogi. When she is on tour, she often hosts yoga sessions prior to her shows. I had the pleasure of attending her session onboard the Welcome to Jamrock Reggae Cruise last year and it reinforced the importance of meditation and breathing. She also has a Yoga on Dub playlist you can follow here!
Jessamyn Stanley is a yoga teacher, author, and activist who released Every Body Yoga: Let Go of Fear, Get On the Mat, Love Your Body in 2017. I began following Jessamyn upon falling in love with her body positive stance on yoga as a plus-size Black woman. She also has a podcast, Jessamyn Explains It All and a new app, The Underbelly, a yoga subscription service app that allows you to practice yoga on your own home.
3. Ash Makeda
Ash Makeda is a Jamaican writer, mother, and creative entrepreneur who uses yoga as a means of self-care as a new mother. She often shares videos on social media showcasing her Mama Recharge routine and how she balances her individual poise and self-esteem with her daughter in tow. “Yoga for me, as a young Jamaican Wombman and Mother, is/has been a powerful tool on my journey of Awakening to my Divinity. Through seeking to understand the union of my body, mind, and spirit, I have found a path of remembering my truths, my divine birthright as a black wombman in this Earth realm,” says Ash. She also has a page @JamaicanMomYoga where she encourages other mothers to practice yoga for their personal growth as well.
Jesecca Edouard is a social worker, trauma-sensitive yoga instructor, and founder of Brooklyn-based In Grace Yoga Therapy LLC. I discovered her page on Instagram when she was holding daily yoga and meditation live sessions in the month leading up to her birthday. Within In Grace Yoga Therapy, she advocates for wellness, self-care, stress, and anxiety-relief for the millennials.
Dr. Kimani Borland is a doctor of Naturopathic Medicine and yoga instructor. She recently held a yoga class at Skyline Levels in Kingston, Jamaica.
Dr. Borland says, “For me, yoga is both a survival tool and an absolute luxury of life. It is the very science of how to be present with yourself and all of life, so it teaches both resilience and joy. What I find most valuable about yoga is that it improves the full range of the human experience! Body, mind, emotions, spirit, and connection. Very few things equip us to handle the stress and pace of our current societies with greater ease and fulfillment. Achieving ease is essentially what the state of health is ( “disease” is dis-ease) so it’s really all we seek.”
Integral to the importance of balance and yoga, I also enjoy following Kimani because as a naturopathic doctor. She shares tons of information on how to remove health obstacles and implement better eating habits in your life.
*Photos courtesy of Instagram.
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