Namaste, y’all. Not sure if you are aware but I am a yoga instructor. I love yoga. I took yoga occasionally throughout the years and then really started practicing through some tough times in my life and it helped tremendously. I was focused, felt strong and flexible and I fell in love with it. And since I am not a selfish lovah, I wished to share this with others. I am not (yet) a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) but have been certified in Yoga Fit and will continue on until I become a RYT.
But today, something caught my eye. A piece written in XO Jane (see it here if you are interested in reading), by a self proclaimed “skinny white girl”, stating how a fellow student, new to yoga made her quite aware of her “whiteness” and made her cry or something. The new yogi happened to be a “heavyset black woman”. Now, I get it, the author doesn’t see a lot of black people in yoga class. The new yogi was heavyset. She couldn’t the poses. It made the skinny white girl cry (Girl… BYE!). The author’s account of her ordeal, her hardship through downward dog and other extraness offended a lot of people (see here and…here) including me. And while I found it offensive and need her to have several seats, it wasn’t for the reasons people may think.
First off, yoga is about inclusiveness. So, if you see a fellow, especially new, student struggling near you, HELP. THEM. Share your experience instead of running to a corner to cry. Show them Child’s Pose. Pull you mat next to them. Do something!
Second, who said that yoga cannot accommodate someones body type? Anybody can do yoga. Anybody. You might not do Scorpion, or Crow or stuff like that, but uh,I have a question: Do you like to sit in silence? Yoga has a pose for that. Can you lay on your back and do nothing (one of my favorites!) ? Yoga has a pose for that. See? Everyone can do yoga.
But most important, her essay highlights a fact. Black women are minimized in the world of fitness. I think the author makes a great point. Yoga, the world of fitness in general is displayed as being very white. I mean, of course she was hyper-aware because every, single fitness publication she, and everyone sees, has a plethora of “skinny white girls”, and swole white men and a few black men. I get equipment catalogues all the time and very rarely see a black female inside of them. If that is all I see and I am actually LOOKING for black women, what does she see?
Yoga and fitness has been there for me through difficult times, made good days better and provided an plethora of challenges for me to enhance my overall wellbeing. It is a gift and I love to share it with any and everyone who wants it. I know many dedicated, fit, black women, I am a part of some awesome Facebook fitness and motivational groups that highlight black female accomplishments in fitness, even if it is a slow mile or a healthy breakfast (I’m looking at you Fit Girlz Clique and Black Girl Run!). Black women do work out! We do exist!
But I digress. To the yogi who wrote that essay, I say think about why you love yoga and practice it so much. Think of those you can help and share this gift with, no matter the perceived ability, weight or race of the person. Remember that it takes courage to step out of your comfort zone and try something new and its nice to have support when doing it in a judgement free zone. So practice some deep, cleansing breaths, do a few sun salutations and know that the spirit of yoga, self love and overall wellness is capable to be within all of us.