I Didn’t See Myself Reflected in Yoga, So I Made My Own Space
I believe the only way you can understand the purpose of Black Yoga Society is by first being conscious of what the experience is like for someone in a Black body to navigate the yoga and wellness space.
The first time I did yoga was with a club at my high school in 2009. At this point, all I knew about yoga was whatever I saw on TV and heard from Gwenyth Paltrow—it’s for rich, skinny, cis-gendered housewives who don’t look like me. Being the adventurous type, I decided to try it anyway.
At the yoga club, they played instructional DVDs led by a woman who fit into the “yoga stereotype” I knew and continued to feel like this practice wasn’t for me or my body. I didn’t do anything yoga-related again until I was in college and struggling with my mental health. I began to meditate everyday and found solace in closing my eyes, letting my body become light, and quieting my thoughts. It became a glimmer of hope for me in a moment of pure darkness. Finally, I found my practice.
As I continued to practice throughout the years, I realized the stereotype of yoga from 2009 was still present today. There weren’t many POC or people who looked like me as full-time teachers at my local studio or prominent voices in the wellness space.
Up to today, I’ve only experienced 3 Black yoga teachers. Out of those 3, none were full-time staff at the gym or studio and were either substitutes or a teacher-in-training. My heart would always flutter when I walked into a room and got the surprise that someone who looked like me was teaching my class. It was so rare. I was taken aback each time and thought, “where were the other Black teachers I could learn from and look up to? Why is it so hard to find a BIPOC yoga teacher in one of the most diverse cities in the world?”
This feeling is what led me to becoming a yoga teacher myself. My thought was to hopefully inspire the same feeling in other Black folks and persuade them to continue their practice and become teachers as well. However, this didn’t help with my need of finding Black yoga teachers to learn from and look up to.
In May 2020, Black Yoga Society was formed from my consistent struggle to find other Black people in healing spaces after a decade of practice. I wanted an open, no-judgment space to meet other Black movement workers, intuitive healers, and esoteric experts. I hoped that by making a space for others to join, it would help me to meet other like-minded individuals.
In the first month alone, BYS garnered over 350 community members! It exceeded any expectations and has grown even more since. When the group started, I noticed the roadblocks many professionals faced with promoting their services. I came to find out that there were tons of BIPOC yoga teachers out there, but they weren’t given the same opportunities as their white counterparts for full-time employment, publishing contributions, or visibility on large yoga platforms. I also realized my consistent struggle to find these professionals wasn’t just a “me” problem.
I created the directory soon after to help bridge these gaps in the space. The directory is not just for yoga teachers, but also astrologers, doulas, life coaches, flow artists, nutritionists, movement specialists, and any Black professional who focuses on holistic well-being.
My passion is to connect people with resources and opportunities for beginning or continuing their internal journeys plus make space for others who are passionate about their craft to promote their offerings.
The best way to support BYS is to support Black health and wellness professionals. Hire more Black wellness professionals in your studios or gyms as full-time staff. Watch Black wellness content creators on YouTube and support their channels. Attend classes and find services by Black professionals. Follow them on social media and share their content. Word of mouth is the best type of marketing, so always share teachers that you find and enjoy with your circle!
I hope that you think critically about the spaces you occupy and promote. Are they open to everyone? Is it a welcoming environment? When a BIPOC student comes to the front desk, are they treated in the same way as everyone else? Am I taking different body types into account in my classes?
The first step is admitting the problem is there. The next part is taking steps to eradicate it and create spaces that are truly welcoming for everybody and every body.
Here are all the different ways you can interact and get in touch with Black Yoga Society:
The Community: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2830096530450327
Here’s the video from the Breakfast Television interview: