We breath, we move, we surrender, and we practice awareness when we do yoga. All things capable of the human body but have been manipulated in a way so that Black, brown, and yellow black bodies are excluded. Yoga means to yolk, to unite and to find union with self and others. It’s in this practice that all bodies are welcomed, all bodies are capable, and all bodies are valued. So why has there been a lack of representation in class and in front of the class? I’ll keep it simple; systematic oppression, colonialism, white supremacy, and patriarchy, just to name a few. Not to be discouraged, overtime our representation has grown. There are more yoga teachers of color and more students of color. We are decolonizing the world of wellness one yoga class at a time. Image exchanging energy with someone who navigates the world as you do, with similar experiences based on the color of our skin. The meditation will be different, the intention will be different, the overall architect of the class will be different because the teacher can relate and teach to what is needed while holding space authentically.
You don’t have to imagine this type of yoga experience. It’s available and accessible, you just have to know that it’s out there. Meet these five yoga teachers who provide just that in their yoga classes here in NYC. Yahaya, Dre, Jazmin, Angelica, and Jo all teach yoga, and other forms of fitness, in spaces that flow with diversity, inclusion, and representation. Yahaya and Jo work closely with a non-profit organization named SLAP (Self Love Affirmation and Preservation), teaching low cost and sometimes free yoga classes in and around Brooklyn for the community. Jazmin teaches at Harlem Yoga, where she can give back to the community she was raised in. Dre teaches at Y7 Studio where he offers a space for people who have experienced trauma, big or small, peace and inclusion. Angelica, who also teaches at Y7 Studio, teaches to hold space but also for body positive representation. When is the last time you’ve met a plus size female yoga teacher of color who stands at 6’2? Most likely never! But they are out there.
If you’ve ever felt uncomfortable, distracted and or disconnected in yoga, consider taking a class with a teacher of color. Find a studio that is Black-owned, or search for an independent grassroots studio in your neighborhood that employs people that look like you. You may find a new passion for this practice because it feels safe, familiar, and relatable. Yoga is for every(body) and therefore everyone should be represented, in class and in front of it. Angelica wants everyone to know “that they can do yoga no matter their age, physical ability, shape, color, or flexibility level. With more teachers of color, we also see more diversity in body types. All too often we are presented with “the yoga body”; slim, white and tall. It’s all over the internet, TV, and most media platforms. If it’s not marketed to us, if we are not casted for wellness photoshoots, and if we are not in spaces teaching yoga how could anyone of color feel that it’s for them?
Start here with this article. Yoga is for you and there are yoga teachers of color out there. They are showing up to hold space because they want you to connect with your breath, your body, and your higher self. Yoga is a philosophy. It is a comprehensive system for wellbeing on all levels- physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. It is a system of techniques meant to enrich life. Most people start yoga for the physical benefits like increased flexibility, strength, and balance but they quickly find that there is so much more; body awareness, stress reduction, and self-confidence. So, when’s your next yoga class? These teachers and many more are waiting for you.