In addition to showcasing teachers on our blog, Yoga District (YD) is honored and humbled to have a variety of dedicated students. For this reason, we have a “Student Feature” series, Q&As with our regular students featured on our blog, so that you can get to know some of the students that make YD such a special place. Today’s Student Feature highlights a frequent visitor, A. Anthony.
A. Anthony is a yogi who embraces the fact that this practice “is for every-body and is welcome to all races, genders, classes, sexualities, and abilities.” They are even planning to deepen their practice by participating in the 200-hour Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Teacher Training within the year. For A. Anthony, yoga is a relief from the stress of their work in activism and academia – yet, at the same time, activism in itself.
How long have you been practicing yoga?
Please describe your first experience doing yoga.
I went to my first yoga class in San Francisco in the fall of 2007; I was twenty-four. Two of my co-workers at Rainbow Grocery, a worker-owned co-operative since 1975, invited me to what they called ‘butch yoga.’ Butch yoga was a class held on Monday and Wednesday evenings, taught for and by butch-identified women in the Bay Area at Yoga Sangha, a now-defunct anusara yoga studio in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District. As a young queer and transgender person of color and as an ally to the older butch women in my community, I was more than excited to attend my first yoga class. I remember walking to the corner of 16th and Mission and excitedly opening the door to Yoga Sangha. After walking up one flight of stairs, I felt instantly quiet and internal. I quickly took off my shoes and walked up a few more stairs to the sangha. Now one of forty students, I sat near the back and marveled at the beauty of the space and the LGBT whose smiles filled the room. What I remember most about this day was the power and empowering nature of the first Om. Much like chanting in the street at a political protest or a dyke march, the Om was filled with queer and trans* ancestors, beauty, struggle, and happiness. As I began to move my body, I felt at home in yoga and one with myself, in community.
What do you like about yoga?
As a queer and transgender person of color, what I love most about the physical, selfless, im/perfect, and meditative practice of yoga is the gift of being in my body, safely and expansively for hours at a time. Yoga allows its practitioners the opportunity to begin moving, accepting, and, hopefully, loving the earthly body that they are in. Yoga is and can be for every-body and all genders. With the proper modifications, props, loving teachers, and with the support of a yoga community, all bodies, all sizes, and all abilities can benefit from the practice of yoga. A yoga classroom has the potential to be a diverse and resilient space to move our limbs and our hearts in unison to a practice that is older than the human mind can comprehend. Whether at home or in class, I can meet myself on the mat five to seven days a week. What I love most about yoga is the ability to have an ongoing practice of radical self-acceptance — the time to love one’s flaws, mental, emotional, and physical injuries. The practice of yoga offers each and every one of us the space and opportunity to remember that, although gender, self-expression, and the body can feel like battle, and our piece of the universe can feel lonely, yoga is always there to meet you where you are.
Why do you practice yoga at Yoga District?
I practice Dharma Yoga at Yoga District because I love my yoga community and the teachers that weekly guide our practice into the self. Yoga District makes the practice of yoga joyous, accessible, and affordable.
What is your favorite pose, and how does it make you feel?
My favorite pose is headstand. No matter which headstand variation you do, the pose offers endless moments of calm, quiet, perspective, and the opportunity for internal joy. Once you find balance on the top of your head and lift your lower limbs safely into the air you, can close your eyes and rest in the right side of your heart. One can always re-learn to coax the body into new shapes.
Washington, DC can be a hectic place where people can become stressed out and overworked. What would you say to your fellow DC residents to inspire them to practice?
It is important to remember that stress feeds stress and can feel poisonous to our physical, psychic, and emotional health. Our work and lives in the District can feel stressful; don’t forget to stretch, breath, and hold less to each passing moment.
Have you done yoga/meditation outside of yoga class? If so, can you describe the circumstance (what made you want to do yoga outside of class and what the effect was)?
I have a Dharma Yoga practice in and outside of the classroom. I practice active asana in class and in my home space. I am inspired by the potential positive opportunities for a practice of self-acceptance and the acceptance of others.
How do you feel your practice at Yoga District has affected your stress level and the ways you deal with stress?
Yoga is self-care, care of the self. As an American Studies doctoral student at the University of Maryland, College Park, the practice of yoga provides a steady base for the radical, activist, professional work I am trying to do in the world.
How will yoga continue to be incorporated into your life in the future?
Yoga is an ongoing practice of self-making and perseverance. In the face of local, national, and global unrest and struggle, yoga is activism. In my yoga activism I meet myself on the mat. I hold and love those who suffer and those who live to love. I practice yoga for those who can’t, for those who are living, for those who have died, and those that engage in activism to end the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic, for those who struggle with their bodies and their genders, for those who are incarcerated, and for those who I will never meet on the mat. Yoga is the practice of life, and my daily gratitude practice.
What do you want to share with others about how yoga has touched your life?
Yoga is for every-body and is welcome to all races, genders, classes, sexualities, and abilities.
Would you consider a yoga teacher training program to deepen your practice and/or to learn techniques for sharing yoga with others? If yes, please explain.
I am looking forward to participating in the 200-hour Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Teacher Training within the year. I am excited to deepen my own practice and for the opportunity to bring more transgender people into our vibrant yoga community. I look forward to sharing the guidance I continually receive at Yoga District and in academia. If you are a queer, transgender, or a LGBT ally I would like to encourage you to use the hashtags #transppldoyoga and #queerandtransyogis on your social media platforms. It is my hope that these hashtags will increase the visibility and diversity of yogi communities.
Love and hugs,
YD is proud to have such an outstanding individual in our community.