I had to find something that was for me. Mine. I was a runner by nature. Running was how I got away. Running was my escape. But things started to get in the way of running. Pregnancy, and the subsequent mommy duties often threw a monkey wrench in my daily running routine. My knees stopped tolerating running on concrete as well. Soon I was running less and less, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to replace that feeling of release and freedom.
Then one day I attended a yoga class. I remember sitting in the class, on a borrowed mat, thinking, “I have no idea what I’m doing”. And I didn’t. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The next day I was sore in places that I’d forgotten or didn’t even know had muscles. I could barely walk. Was this yoga? Maybe I had done something wrong. I stopped going to yoga for a while after that.
My husband deployed to Afghanistan shortly after the birth of my 3rd child. I remember feeling lost, and like I had been left alone. I decided that I would try working out again as a way to take my mind off of things. I was able to take my kids to the gym while I worked out, and I would walk past the yoga classes and wonder if I should give it another shot. The class was full of older women, and I thought that surely I could do whatever it was they were doing. So I attended another class. This yoga class was much gentler, and I left feeling like I could make yoga part of my workout routine. I was sore, but not in pain like before, and truly learned the meaning of what a beginner yoga class should be. I wasn’t regular in my practice, however. I didn’t practice at home in my free time, and I didn’t have an accountability partner, or anyone that I could relate to in the classes. Again, these were all older ladies, and most of them were white. This made me feel like I had no personal connection to yoga. It was just something that I was doing to take the place of running, which was still my first love.
Several years went by, and I still kept up my yoga practice. I downloaded apps so that I could practice at home, and I would go to classes at the local gym when time allowed. My practice still wasn't consistent, but it was regular enough that I knew what I was doing. I appreciated the mindfulness aspect of yoga more, and I had gotten to where I knew yoga was about much more than flexibility. I still didn't have anyone I could relate to, however, I had discovered a podcast called "Black Girl in Om". This is when I realized there were more women of color who practiced yoga, which drove my curiosity to find more yogis of color. Also around this time I became more interested in social media, and began to "follow" yogis of color on different social media sites. I was inspired to get on my mat more often, and also to attend more pop up yoga sessions around town.
Then, a year ago, my house flooded. I felt like I had lost everything I had worked so hard for, and I just couldn’t shake the notion that it was entirely my fault that the house had flooded in the first place. I fell into a deep depression, and I dropped out of school. I stayed in bed a lot and quit eating. And then, I decided I’d better go talk to someone. I found a counselor and nutritionist, and started working on myself. I started ND Inc. and began practicing yoga more often. In the picture, you can see that my house was in the middle of being remodeled. I felt like both my home and personal being were under construction at the time. It made sence for me to work on myself at the same time as I began working on rebuilding my home. Yoga was cathartic. It just worked.
There’s a lot that I have learned from practicing yoga more regularly. The yoga mat is a drama free zone. I start each practice by sitting quietly and setting my intention for my practice. I decide if I need more core work, or if I need to work on balance, or relaxation. I thank my creator for giving me peace and comfort. I practice alone, or with my accountability partner. I don’t judge myself when I make mistakes; I correct them. I celebrate my achievements. I smile when I fumble, knowing that I will get better with practice. I end each practice feeling stronger and grateful for my strength. These feelings are so similar to those that I would get with running, that I now feel like I have something that I can adequately substitute for running. Not only that, but yoga in and of itself has been a rewarding practice. Like running, yoga can be practiced at home, free of charge. And I enjoy the company of the yoga community, and those who are into wellness and spiritual healing. Best of all, I get that feeling of release and freedom, especially with inversion and balance poses.
The one thing I felt like I was missing in my practice was representation. I started looking for Black yoga instructors in the Spring of 2017, and began planning yoga events that catered to women of color. The sole purpose started out of a selfish need for me to be able to practice yoga in the locations that I loved, and with women that looked like me. After the first event, though, I realized that this feeling of togetherness is just something us women of color needed all along. Yoga has proven to be a obtainable and sustainable healthy lifestyle choice for me, and I am so glad that I get to bring women of color together to practice. I hope that more women find that yoga can be a great way to maintain a healthy mind, body, and spirit.