To the Other Black Woman I See in Yoga

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I love the blog post Open Letter to the  Fat Girl in Hot Yoga by Joshilyn Jackson. The world of yoga is definitely becoming more diverse, but I really identified with the sense of ‘otherness’ that was poignantly captured in Jackson’s essay.

There’s a small smile and nod I get and give when I see a Black woman in a yoga class.

I want to tell her that I’m so glad to see her in class because African-American women get more unhealthy each year. I smile at her because even though there are still so many people who think we all know each other, in this moment I do know her.

I know that’s it’s nice to see walls broken down. Not the walls of a yoga studio but the walls of our own community. Our community that tries to tell us that certain things are ‘Blacker’ than others.

Yoga will help change that. 

Yoga is/was not Black (Though I am convinced it is the new Black). And though some people will say, will ask, why does something have to be Black or White? I will say that it doesn’t but  (because of reasons that are too long to explain here) they are, for now anyway.

Yoga will help change that. 

I will say that I recognize that snicker or look  from ‘the’ community when you do something this is out of the ‘norm’ or realm of Blackness.

Makes me think of Lisa Bonet on the Cosby show, Lenny Kravitz, Living Color and Bad Brains…

I get frustrated as I try to explain that we are not one single experience. We are not one neighborhood, TV show, music channel or type of food.

I turn to my mat to think. Black history shouldn’t be celebrated for one month, but every day along with women’s history, Latino history, Asian history, Native American history and every other group who has come here in search of a better life.

I wish that more of America looked like the 6:30pm Yoga to the People class on 27th St in NYC. It is a sea of color drenched in sweat  in the 105° heat. Sweating with common purpose and smiling because everyone completed class together.

Yoga will help change that. 

I don’t want to admit it, but it’s nice to see a face like mine and feel like I’m back in the club, if only for a moment before my music, book or music choices get my privileges suspended again.

Yoga will help change that. 

I’m part of something. Something bigger than me.

Before, sacrifices were made to be called ‘Black’ enough. But seeing her in the studio, a space that is my church, I am happy. I am smiling, I am peace.

Peaceful as I flow through class.

Sometimes the class is Bikram. Sometimes it’s vinyasa.

We chat after, for a moment. Chat about hair or how long we have been practicing. It’s never a long conversation, but it’s nice. It’s even nicer now when I tell her that I’m a teacher and she wants to know where I teach, because her friends want to practice and she thinks it will be helpful or inspiring for them to see a Black teacher. We agree that yoga is amazing and it has invariably changed us forever.

Our differences make all of us stronger, not weaker.

And as I take my yoga off the mat I keep my hands in a metaphorical prayer and say:

Lokah samasta sukhino bhavantu

“May all beings everywhere be peaceful and free”

 

This is yoga. And with any luck it will change the world.

Namaste y’all.

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3 Ways That Yoga Made Me Love Me

Oneika

I have a confession.

I like trashy TV. And by trashy I mean those shows where the metaphors are heavy-handed and plot points trite. What’s worse is that I avoid them when they air and wait for seasons pile up. That way I can gobble episode after episode on those nights I can’t sleep. Battling insomnia is no bueno. Yoga has helped some, but sometimes the Sandman is elusive and I’m awake all night. Though a book nerd since birth, on sleepless nights I like TV. It’s cuts the guilt because it’s medicinal, ya know?

I mention this because occasionally, I glean a token of wisdom from one of my guilty pleasures (don’t judge me you know there’s a Grey’s Anatomy or reality train wreck in your TV closet). While it’s a known fact that I am highly suggestible, I’m also not the dullest pencil in the drawer. There’s merit to some of these TV lessons. You remember after school specials…

So, on one episode of Grey’s (yeah, that’s what the cool kids do, shorten the title) a character realizes she’s really, really gay after sleeping with her girlfriend. She exclaims that the revelation is like wearing glasses for the first time (Heavy-handed metaphor ahead…) Said character goes on to explain about how the world is fuzzy and you don’t think any thing of it, until she got glasses (dramatic pause).

WHAMMO! Her whole world changd. This resonated with me, as I do wear glasses and remember that moment of clarity clearly.

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The next morning in the shower I thought about yoga and how it brought my life into focus.

Years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to admit this to anyone but yoga has allowed me to accept what’s not perfect (or at least my perception of what perfect looked like). I think that when we talk about perfection we’re really talking about judgement. We judge what we do or what others do against standards real and imaginary. My practice has allowed me to bend more physically and emotionally. I now see what I’m really seeing, if that’s not to trippy to think about.

My yoga glasses did three things:

1. Regular practice provides clarity so I can see what’s really important and what may be ‘old noise’. Yoga helps me ‘hear’ an old record playing some negative pattern and has given me the ability to stop it.

2. Yoga helps me deal with what is, not what was or what is going to be.

3. Yoga woke up the self-acceptance I had as a kid. I ‘re-learned’ how to play and have fun my body without judgement or reprisal. One of my favorite yoga posts comes from author Joshilyn Jackson, ‘An Open Letter to the Fat Girl I saw at Hot Yoga in New York City’. Her candor was so refreshing. Her acceptance of herself was like speaking up.

I think that teaching yoga is my way of speaking up. It’s my way of saying that no matter how young or old you are, it’s never too late to love what you see.

Sometimes when I’m on my mat I dedicate my practice:

For the awkward girl who feels ugly.

For the recently divorced woman who is unsure of how to start over.

For the retired woman who pursues her childhood dream.

For every woman who has the courage to say I’m okay and for the ones who don’t, it’s okay I love you.

This is yoga. And I love what it has given me. I hope I’m able to give as much back.

Namaste y’all.

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