6 Black IG Yogis You Should Be Following
Hola out there!
I don't know about you, but I'm slightly moritified that it's already mid August. What the hell was I doing for the entire summer??
Well, I was busy dodging going to my hot yoga classes while also beginning to teach in front of a different one. It's been exciting, and I'm so happy to finally be in front of other yogini hopefuls. It's inspiring to watch people, some who have never practiced, try this new art and come back time and time again.
Wanna know what inspired me to become a yoga teacher? (Sure you do!) When I started dabbling in yoga, I rarely ever (and I'm saying rarely ever since I can't verify that I was the only brown person in class 98.9% of the time) saw anyone in class that looked like me. That didn't bother me since I had essentially grown up surrounded by vanillas. I was often in places that had very few ebonies, so I was used to it.
The more I practiced, the more I fell in love with it and realized that the people who might benefit from yoga the most (low SES, minorities, the disenfranchised, etc.) had the least access to it. Yoga can be accessible if you seek it out (pay-what-you can classes, free classes in the summer, classes at your gym) but it can be pretty intimidating when you know nothing about it. These are the barriers that stood out to me most:
- yoga spaces that feel welcoming
- lack of being able to see yourself in or identify with the idea of yoga.
Yoga at a studio (IF there's a studio closeby to you) isn't cheap. You could be paying upwards of $20/class a la carte. It can also be daunting to see an activity filled with people who look nothing like you, who may not have the same body type, lifestyle, income, or even workout clothes as you have. You might think, "This is not for me. I don't belong here." And what if the space is super strict with yogic philosophy and practices? If you're not seeking that, you're less likely to give it a go.
Honestly, at first I saw yoga as a practice for white stay-at-home moms who may or may not have ever worked a day in their lives. This same group of women (in my head) wore Lululemon all day, drove black SUV's or minivans, and possibly could twist their bodies into pretzels... Or at least that's the perception that is heavily reinforced in movies and media. Good news is, that's changing. (Queue singing angels.)
I love Instagram (IG), so when I started getting serious for yoga, I searched for yoga personalities on there. All of them vanilla. Now, this isn't bad or good, right or wrong... But imagine for a second that you grew up in China, where all the baby dolls looked different than you, the people on TV commercials looked different than you, and most of the people you went to school with looked different from you. I don't care what anyone says - representation matters for so many reasons.. SO, I began seeking out black yogis. And here are a few of my favorites..
I really enjoy watching her journey unfold. She's pretty advanced in her asana (pose) practice, able to twist and carve space in crevices of her body that I can't even dream of. She also seems to be really down-to-Earth and doesn't have a problem checking somebody when they step out of line on her page. She speaks her mind and encourages people to find out what yoga means to them. She has said her page is for inspiration, not teaching which I really admire since it's easy to get carried away imitating IG yogis when you can barely touch your toes. ;) Stay safe my friends.
Her asana practice is beautiful! She's little in stature but is mighty in strength. She flows effortlessly and gets upside down like it's second nature. She is a former athlete (I think a gymnist). I had the opportunity to attend a handstand clinic of hers, and it was really beneficial. She was also very nice, and the vibes in that place with all these eager ebony yogis felt amazing. I'm happy to report (which is also evident on her IG account) that she has a beautiful smile to match her beautiful energy. When I first started looking for ebony yogis to muse at, she was one of the first I found. She's been really influential in being a beacon for girls of color starting their yoga journey. Consider this girl of color another added to that list.
OkCookiee's real name is Channing, and she is hilarious. She's a lean machine, full of quirk, and makes the best "Do this, Not this" tutorials. I stumbled upon her and quickly followed after seeing a few of her storytimes. She screams authenticity to me and makes yoga seem like this fun thing that you can take or leave however you'd like. She has a beautiful practice with really sound form. Having her RYT 200 cert, she does teach, and fun fact: she also dabbles in nude art. (Her photos are gorgeous!) If you're looking to find a best friend in your head, she's your girl. You're welcome. ;)
Tie Simpson, popularly known as Hippie Heathen across the interwebs, is a veteran. She views yoga as a journey of the self, through the self, to the self, and she serves as a great example to others by offering unfiltered, unadulterated snippets of her life. A creative in her own right, she moonlights as a yoga art model, participating in live artistic events where artists paint her body before she amazes people with her beautiful movement. She also co-hosts a podcast, As Above So Below, with Dade2Shelby, who also happens to be on this list. She's a creative, busy, entrepreneur mom who doesn't always have it all perfectly together (so she's a real live human!) but always finds the lessons along the way. And THAT, is what I love. Yoga isn't just beautiful poses done by overly enthusiastic people. It's a tool to help you get by, maximize the place you're in, and give you hope for the place you're going... and so much more... Tie exudes this beautifully.
DJ Townsel, former NFL player, is affectionally known as the Rasta Yogi. He shifted into serving as a personal trainer and yoga teacher after his NFL time, and I love following him because he's real. R.E.A.L. He's so authentic, it's sickening (in a good way though.) It drips from the words he speaks on his podcast and jumps off the screen from the words he types alongside pictures. Again, I love watching people make yoga their own and not falling into this idea that yogis must be these exceptionally optimistic humans who are always meditating which in turn makes their lives perfect. It's not true. And following him never makes me feel lesser than - in life or in my practice. He's encouraging and inspirational. I also like following him because he's a man! It was difficult for me to find black men who practiced yoga, and he was one of the first I stumbled upon. Although there are more men on the scene nowadays, DJ is still my favorite. Yoga is just as beneficial to men as it is to women.
And last but most definitely not least, is my girl Jessamyn Stanley. Not sure how or when I first stumbled across her page, but I was instantly intrigued. She's this black girl from my home state (NC stand up!), with this short hair, dimpled skin and fleshy rolls adorning her body, practicing naked or half naked in her living room, AND she swears like a sailor..?
I'm in! I'm in right now. This very moment. Count me in. I was here for all of it! Or, I guess I was there.. Wherever I was, she was amazing, and I loved her. She is this unapologetic soul who speaks her mind, no matter who it pleases or offends, because it's her truth. She unabashedly posts photos of herself in the bare naked body that she was blessed with because it's beautiful, it's hers, and she can. In doing so, she's connected with so many people (dare I say millions) and sent a loud message of self-love and self-acceptance. In being open and honest and raw with her own journey, she's inspired so many others to do the same. And this authenticity thing keeps popping back up for me because it's so important. Even though she's accepting of herself today doesn't mean she always has been or even is every single moment in her present life. She has her own struggles, just like the rest of us, and she shares those, even calling attention to racial and gender matters and hypocrisy in the yoga world. It's a breath of super fresh air. She makes it very clear that she is no "special" person, different from me or you, in spite of her fame. Alongside being a beacon of light for "normal" people, she's also an author. I had the opportunity of meeting her at a book signing, for which her books sold out. :( She still wrote me a note on a Post-It though. :) How sweet was that? Every Body Yoga. Go check it out and support her. She's doing great things, and I'm very thankful for the little piece of light she's shone on me.
There you have it, my top 6 black yogis you should be following on Instagram. I hope you give their pages a glance. If you're looking to get into yoga and need inspiration, those are great starting points.
Who are you favorite IG yogis? I'm listenniiiing.