One of the ways we celebrate Black History Month is by sharing stories about Black yogis in the community. Not only does this help you get to know a fellow yogi better, but it can also help disrupt a certain American image of who yoga is for. Yoga is for everybody, which is why Yoga District tries to have inclusive spaces that are accessible for all.
Check out past posts that feature black yogis in our community. The history of black yogis in America is entwined with the civil rights movement. Black people, in the 1950s possibly earlier, were practicing yoga and adopting non-violent practices also called ahimsa. Learn more about the history of Black yogis in America in our post, Celebrating Black Yogis: Then and Now.
This month we highlight Allison C.’s story.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR YOGA JOURNEY?
I feel fortunate to realize that I liked yoga by taking a Black teacher’s classes at a gym. However, I was super intimidated when I decided that I wanted to start going to a studio. It was more than 10 years ago and I think I just started googling until I found Yoga District. Yoga has been a special part of how I keep coming home to myself. Over the years, there are weeks where I have practiced everyday and months at a time that I didn’t touch my mat. But all along the poses, the breathwork, the deep connectivity to people and also the planet have been my conduit to restabilize and get present. I am so grateful for it.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY ABOUT BEING A YOGI / YOGA PRACTITIONER?
Being a perpetual student. Always learning and practicing. I’m not ever perfecting but just trying again.
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU LIKE TO SHARE ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND?
I’m Black and more specifically African-American. My ancestors were enslaved to Virginia and South Carolina. I feel deeply connected to the entire Diaspora.
WHAT DOES BEING A BLACK PERSON MEAN TO YOU?
I like yoga but I love being Black. I’m grateful to have grown up with a deep connection to my own history. I often think about how much choice and freedom I have compared to many of my ancestors.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT WHEN YOU HEAR “BLACK HISTORY MONTH?”
I think “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” and Black History Month programs at the local library in my hometown. I know it can be dangerous and tokenizing but I also know it can be celebratory.
IS THERE A SPECIFIC BLACK PERSON FROM HISTORY WHO INSPIRES YOU? WHAT ABOUT A PERSON FROM TODAY?
Octavia Butler inspires me. Her certainty about her own success and her skill in clearly seeing the future makes me want to invest in my own creative process. She reminds me that our success is based on the goals we set for ourselves and our own commitment to consistently use our talents.
WHAT DOES BEING A BLACK YOGI / YOGA PRACTITIONER MEAN TO YOU?
Hmm, I haven’t thought about it before. I just am that.
WHY DID YOU COME TO YOGA DISTRICT/ ACTIVIST? HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR EXPERIENCE SO FAR?
Mostly good. When I started there weren’t a lot of other Black people but I never felt alienated like I have at other studios. I don’t know if I would still be doing yoga if it weren’t for Yoga District.
WHAT WOULD YOU RECOMMEND THAT YOGA STUDENTS, TEACHERS, AND STUDIOS DO TO CREATE A MORE INCLUSIVE ENVIRONMENT FOR PEOPLE IDENTIFYING AS BLACK PEOPLE OF COLOR?
Be honest about whether or not that is a goal and then act accordingly.
HOW DO YOU FEEL YOGA RELATES TO YOUR EFFORTS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE?
It’s 100% since I’m the Director of Equity, People, Inclusion and Culture at the Working Families Party. Yoga helps me to be deeply connected to myself and to remember my own humanity as I remember others. It helps me to be authentic, to trust my colleagues and to show up for them emotionally and physically.
IN YOGA PHILOSOPHY, THEY SAY THE FIRST ETHICAL RULE OF YOGA IS AHIMSA, ALSO KNOWN AS NONVIOLENCE OR ACTIVE LOVE. WHAT DO YOU THINK YOGA PRACTITIONERS COULD DO TO PRACTICE AHIMSA?
To think more deeply about how we would truly act if we were invested in being in community. I’m conflicted about this, because I do think there should be space for yoga that is not necessarily location bound. Yet even in that case there are always ways that we can support and connect to each other. There are always more ways that we can do love for ourselves and each other.