I first took a yoga class when I was in university, around 15 years ago, and I’ve been in love ever since.
In the many different classes that I’ve taken over the years, I am often the only black person, let alone black woman, in the room. Fair enough I live in England but, London is a diverse and multi-cultural place.
I have come across several people, with complexions similar to mine, who have misconceptions about yoga that prevent them from trying it. Some feel that it’s in conflict with their religious beliefs and some feel that it’s something that only ‘privileged people’ do. I think it’s a shame for barriers such as these to prevent the discovery of the amazing benefits of yoga – physical, emotional and yes, spiritual too.
I’m always excited to discover black female yogis who are breaking the mould (and hopefully some of those barriers). Here are 3 women I’ve come across, via beloved Instagram (which, over the past year, has really encouraged me to concentrate on truly creating the life that I desire). They have inspired me to get serious about something that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time: develop a consistent, regular practice.
They are, from top: Yoga Racheal (@yogaracheal) is a yoga instructor who describes herself as a ‘lover – encourager – giver – believer’; Wasia Wasia (@wasiawasia) is an artist, musician and yogi; Koya Webb (@koyawebb) is an international holistic health coach and yoga instructor; Racheal and Koya are run Acroyoga workshops together, in Los Angeles, CA (There’s one tonight!).
Resources + inspiration
For those of you interested in practising yoga, here are some other useful resources and inspirational people:
Over a decade ago, I came across a quote which has stayed in my memory since:
"Had I not fallen, I would not have arisen.
Had I not been subject to darkness, I could not have seen the light"
The quote has special resonance for me now, given how good I feel about this year, in contrast to the last. Incidentally, as I look back through my Instagram feed from the past couple of months, there are quite a few photos that play with this contrast between darkness and light. Above and below are a few – catch the full story behind each, over on Instagram.
Taking yourself out of your usual environment, every once in a while, is a great way to get some perspective on your life. It is often during these displacements that I learn new things about myself or remember old lessons (you know how we humans forget!).
I was away in New York for most of July. It wasn’t a holiday as I spent most of it busy working and, despite this, or actually, because of it, I came to some game-changing conclusions.
Days after, I was still in pain from a community Africa Yoga Project class in Nairobi. I can’t thank my friend Aleya enough for introducing me to what has to be the most uplifting experience I’ve had this year.
2 hours allowed for a holistic session comprising of meditation, thankfulness, an intense physical practice and time afterward for newbies to introduce themselves and share how it was for them. There must have been at least 50 people in the room and the energy was electric. And so positive!
Despite the fact that there were so many of us, we didn’t lack for individual attention. There were several teaching assistants constantly roaming the room helping to support, adjust and push you past where your mind had decided it couldn’t go.
Yoga for all
Africa Yoga Project is bringing the amazing benefits of yoga to a diverse mix of people in Kenya. From their website:
“Yoga has empowered millions of people across the world by supporting physical, mental and emotional health, facilitating authentic personal expression, building supportive communities, and inspiring positive actionto contribute to others. We are dedicated to delivering all that yoga has to offer to the diverse communities of East Africa, while at the same time providing opportunities for members of the global yoga community to participate and contribute.”
These guys believe in accessibilty. Their outreach has included classes for the deaf, for women in prison and for other marginalised groups. You can take classes at a very reasonable price, 7 days a week, or visit the free community session on Saturdays. As the counter on their website announces, the project has trained 52 yoga teachers who are earning a living wage; it runs 250 free classes each week in the slums of Nairobi and; reaches 5,000 people every week!
Over to you
You must check out the Africa Yoga Project website – it’s inspiring stuff (don’t forget to ‘meet’ the teachers). If you’re fortunate enough to live in or visit Nairobi, I compel you to try out a class. Make me jealous – tell me how you found it.
Images via the Africa Yoga Project Facebook page, photography by Robin O’Neill Photography.
- 2013: The Year of Kindness
- Movements and Bodies, in the Spirit of Living Unchained
- My 21 Days Without Grains and Sugar & 21 Reasons to Try it
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We're well in to Black History Month in the UK now. If you follow Afri-love on Facebook or Google+, you'll have already seen some of related links and event notices from me. Here are some more that have caught my eye …
WEDNESDAY 17th OCTOBER
Venue: Dulwich Library, Southwark
With rhythmic movements and a focus on breath, Afrikan yoga is noted as a system of healing and transformational self-development with its origins rooted in ancient Egypt. Its emphasis is on movement, dance, and the awareness of muscles and internal organs.