This Yoga Body is a Wonderland!

{After completing my 200 hour level 2 yoga training at Tranquil Space}
{Notice I’m the ONLY Black girl and I’m okay}

TT200.2012

I’m sure by now my lovely readers have read the story about a white yoga student being uncomfortable watching a “young, fairly heavy black woman” in her yoga class. Really? The interwebs went crazy. Twitter and Facebook were going bananas. Why is this story even on xoJane’s site. I discovered it late Tuesday evening and spent all day Wednesday going back and forth on social media about how I felt the story was offensive and racist. I stand by my responses. I wanted to write when I wasn’t angry and saddened that the piece was ever published. I needed to step back, assess it for myself again, and write from my heart.

Why? I didn’t come to yoga because I was trying to get a yoga butt, get fit or in shape. I came to yoga because I was DEPRESSED. Yes, depressed.

I spent days on the floor of my apartment crying, not showering or eating because I had just come back to DC from Houston because I had to bury my oldest brother. It wasn’t easy. To take a sibling off life support was one of the worst experiences in my life. I was alone in a city that I had only lived in for 10  months. To add insult to injury the job I moved for was in transition and the guy I was dating was unfaithful. This all happened in a matter of 4 weeks. You do the math. It didn’t take long for the cloud of sadness to stay like a veil I couldn’t get off. I went to church because as a young Black girl growing up I was taught that God would take care of it. Well, I prayed and I cried and cried and I prayed. I was still depressed. No amount of running and weights could get rid of it for me. I called my doctor and said I need an anti-depressant. After a deep moment of pause he said “Julia, can you do one thing for me first. Try yoga.” Say what? “Doctor, doctor I am a runner. I run marathons,” I pleaded. He said “do this for me and if it doesn’t work then I will give you the anti-depressant. Find a place that’s hip and fun. Yoga can be fun you know?”

I threw caution to the wind. This was going to be my lifeline I hope. I started googling “hip, tranquil, and yoga” to find what I needed in a yoga studio. I found something better. I found Kimberly Wilson’s podcast called Hip Tranquil Chick. Seriously? And it’s all pink? I spent two days listening to every single episode. I made plans to visit Tranquil Space and take a class. How bad could it be? She’s from Oklahoma and she like pink.

To say my first class was hard is an insult. It was bloody hell. My hamstrings screamed as they opened up. I couldn’t help confuse my right with my left. You want me to flow, what the hell is that? Chata-who? Oh that thing. I was out of my element, but I stuck with it. I never realized I spent 30+ years on this planet not really breathing. I proceeded to “inhale, let – exhale, go.” Tears flowed, but I didn’t feel uncomfortable. After 75 minutes I was spent. I lay in savasana (resting pose) in tears. Not because I was in pain, but because as my curvy, tight hip, and distended belly from three uterine surgeries moved through each pose their was a freedom I just couldn’t explain. For weeks I felt like a weight was constantly pressing on me and I couldn’t lift it on my own. I knew at the end of the class that yoga was going to be a part of my life. It has. After my first teacher training in 2007 and my second in 2012 I am always grateful for the practice.

The problem with the article is the problem with what yoga represents in this country. It seems that we only get images of the super flexible, super skinny, you aren’t a good yogi if you can’t put your foot behind your head, blond, and white. A lot of this is true, but a lot of it isn’t. I have met numerous yogis of all races, ages, and body types. I’m looking forward to my next yoga retreat (probably yoga and stand-up paddleboarding) and yoga conference. I have practiced and studied under many famous yoga teachers. Did I feel out of place. Not once. Do I notice that I’m normally the only Black girl in the room, yes. But, what I also notice are the nice yogis that chat with me and make me feel welcome because we are bonding over our love of yoga. I think back often how I felt after that first class. I was on a high. Why? I had a skilled and conscious instructor who helped me, I had yogis smile and tell me where to set up my mat, and after class there was tea, cookies, and conversation. Special. Yes, I felt special.

This is the very problem with the story. The teacher should have made sure she was okay, checked on her during her multiple child poses, gave her modifications, and her encouragement. The student, instead of gawking and feeling pity because the student wasn’t a “skinny white girl” should have chatted before class to the student, asked if she was new, told her to go at her own pace, and that to continue coming back because we all have to start somewhere. Instead of staring at her during downward facing dog because she was curvy and black, she should have practiced kindness and smiled at the student then returned to her breath and concentrated on her own inner peace. She should have told the student “practice and all is coming.”

That my beauties is the true meaning of yoga.

{Yoga can be awesome, fun, and just a little crazy!}

TT2.crazy

P.S. If you are curious about yoga, have questions, or want to drop me a private line – email me: julia@juliaconey.com. Namaste y’all.

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Comments

  1. Thank you for this beautiful post. I went to TS frequently while I was in DC and had a very similar experience. I am amazed by the beautiful space that Kimberly has created there. But beyond the aesthetics, like you, I was taken with the great care that each instructor, and staff member showed me to every single time I walked in the door. It truly is a special place with selfless, kind, thoughtful, beautiful, talented people. There’s no place quite like it. While I, like you was often the only black woman in class, I always felt welcome, challenged, motivated, and loved. I recently started a teacher training in my new city but think of Tranquil Space often. Thank you for writing such a thoughtful piece. Namaste.

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