I would like to say I’ve been practicing yoga since 2011, but after learning of the true meaning of yoga and its involved practices, I cannot. Since 2014, I have been practicing yoga; since 2011, I have been involved in the American act of what yoga represents…just physical exercise.
My first time doing yoga was in a hot, sweaty, and funky Bikram yoga class. It was already over 100 degrees outside, and the heat inside felt hotter. Although I almost passed out in class, I fell in love with Bikram yoga. I kept at it, dropped over 10 pounds in two weeks, and was faithful to the yoga studio. Bikram yoga later came to my rescue when physicians told me I would suffer from chronic headaches and neck spasms stemming from a car accident. After a few sessions of Bikram yoga, I have been pain free for years. After Bikram yoga, I branched out into other forms of yoga, including Hatha, Iyengar, Ashtanga, and Yin (Restorative). I’ve read many books on the various poses and the anatomy and physiology that are affected by yoga. I purchased clothes and yoga mats from “environmentally conscious”
too damn expensive retailers, and happily posted pictures of my poses on Instagram just to show how much I was into this yoga world. In other words, I thought I was becoming a true Yogi.
Fast forward to the summer of 2014. I was working one night with one of my favorite nurses. He was from India and received his collegiate education in London. While talking to him, I started bragging on my yoga practice and my progress. He then asked me what was yoga. Specifically, he wanted to know what was my understanding of yoga and how have I been utilizing my life within the practice. No one had ever asked me that, and when I replied, he simply stated, “That’s not yoga. That’s the cultural appropriation that America has taught you.” I was quiet for a moment, and then I asked him to educate me. This made him elated because he loved to teach, and he was a great teacher. During that 12-hour shift, I learned more from him than I have ever learned from all of the yoga teachers that I met. It was refreshing to learn from him because he challenged my thought process. It was also nice to learn the meaning of yoga from a person who was organic to the lifestyle. Just being honest, I’ve never had a yoga instructor that was of color, and seeing that yoga is a practice that is indigenous to continents made up of people of color, I enjoyed learning it from his perspective. At that moment, I realized yoga was more than just being able to do poses, attend classes, and wear the clothes. You can purchase the best of the best yoga accessories, but if you don’t know the true meaning and principles of yoga, you’re not doing yoga. You’re just participating in cultural appropriation and capitalism.
My yoga practices now are deeper. I train my mind just as much as I train my body. I utilize my chakras and the energy within to help me improve. I’m award of my surroundings and my inner self (my power). Yes, I do indulge in yoga outfits from time to time, but I realize I don’t have to have what society says is best. I get what I want, and I refuse to get caught up in the label. I have one good yoga mat (two, if you include my husband’s mat that I sometimes use), one set of blocks (that I never use…need to sell them or give them away), and one strap to help me bend whenever I need the extra help. I also have my Pandora radio for when I want to practice to the sweet melodies of artists such as Jill Scott, Lauryn Hill, or Stevie Wonder.
That’s all I need.
I have yet to attend a yoga studio because I haven’t found one that I approve of. I want to attend one where the instructors are culturally and spiritually aware of what they’re teaching. Unless I see that, I will continue to practice at home and advance in the way that I wish for free.