Yoga for Black Women: Expectations vs. Reality

Born black, fat and female, up until the time I was well into my adult years, I believed I was the most unlucky girl in the world. I mean why wouldn’t I? Being a dark skinned black girl with “nappy hair”, having parents who were rich in love but poor in finances in the go go Ronald Reagan 80s made me the target of many bullies because we couldn’t afford the latest name brand fashions. Being a girl in the United States is tough business, tougher if you are not the prototypical ideal of beauty. Well lets just say Cindy Crawford, Christy Binkley and Kate Moss, I was not and I knew about it.

When I was a teenager I had a secret crush on Adrian in the Rocky series because in addition to all the other “other” boxes I could tick off, I was also discovering I was gay, but I didn’t tell anyone that until I was 32 years old with four kids and a husband to boot, I digress. In the movie, Adrian is sort of a drab, shy thing who, ta da, is actually beautiful underneath it all. In the movie she laughs when Rocky tells her a joke and says “Well my mother always told me I didn’t have much of a body so I better use my brain”. This line resonated with me. I realized that no matter how much the kids at school teased me for my dried out jerry curl ( think Michael Jackson Thriller hair, but dried out into a tangled mess) ashy knees and elbows, none of them could ever take my brain from me.

So I focused on being an uber smart girl and I was very smart, involved in tons of after school activities, I landed myself in the Bay Area at the exclusive private school, The University of San Francisco. It was there that I took my first yoga class as an elective and the feeling in that first class was electric. Throughout my college career I would take classes, always noting I was often the only woman of color in class and the only woman above a size 8 for sure.

After leaving college, I met the man who would be my partner for the next 11 years. He was white and together we created four of the most beautiful beings to walk this planet. I ended that relationship so that I could be my authentic self and come out of the closet as a lesbian. That took courage I didn’t know I had but seven years later thanks to tons and tons of yoga everyone is in a good place.

Last year prior to turning 40, I promised myself I would full fill a dream and get my yoga teacher license. I enrolled for yoga training at a hot yoga studio in town that was very exclusive. I worked hard and completed the training at the top of the class but was told that they had agonized over “what to do with me” but ultimately determined that they just did not “physically” see me being one of their instructors. I was DEVASTATED.

Despite this my Fiancé and business partner created a yoga studio in our home the very next day and Yoga with Soul was born. Since that time, I have been consistently busy and can honestly say that my experiences in life have helped me connect to my clients who have never felt comfortable or included in a traditional yoga spaces. My client list is comprised of mostly professional women of all colors shapes and sizes who have been abandoned by the traditional fitness industry, and they want to spend money on their health in places they feel include them. I connect with these women because of my life experiences, I have the ability to put myself in my customer’s shoes and adapt a practice for them that helps them to heal.

I am so proud today of the beautiful dark skin I am in, I embrace my hair and my curves. I know now that all those things I thought were curses as a kid are actually my blessings. As Dr Maya Angelou so eloquently stated;” we many encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated. That in fact, it may be necessary to encounter defeats so we can know who the hell we are.”

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