There is a saying that has circulated around social media and public discourse — representation matters. And it does. Seeing yourself reflected back at you is affirming. It tells you, shows you, that you are not alone and that you are okay.
After the turbulent 2017, I needed to see that. I needed a piece of alright and I usually find that at yoga.
I love yoga. It is my zen and my focus. Every time I step on the mat, I repeatedly prove to myself how strong I am and how much stronger I am becoming. During the darkest part of my life, the mat was where I proved everyone and everything wrong. I’ve cried on the mat, came to realizations on the mat, resolved on the mat.
But when black bodies were pushed on the ground or fell after gunshots ripped through their bodies, sometimes on a weekly basis, I didn’t want to be on a mat for a while.
For a long while. Even when I needed it the most.
But then I found out that a black yogi leads a couple of classes at a studio near me, I jumped at the chance, even if I had forgotten how to breathe.
Houston has a couple of well known black yogis and I’ve wanted to take a class with them for awhile. There’s the Awkward Yoga Girl, Alicia Tillman, who’s TrapYoga classes, I’ve heard, are the most legit thing on this planet. There’s also Davina Davidson who is inversion goals. But both of these ladies are too far from home and work to make it a regular thing.
Fall Creek Yoga is 20 minutes away and Jennifer Brown was leading a yin yoga class. I read what it was (I’m a heated vinyasa girl) but I didn’t care. I wanted to know what it was like to be lead by someone who looked like me.
Let’s say it now — yin yoga was difficult for me. Staying in the same position for five minutes is more challenging than you would think, especially if you’re used to flowing from one pose to the next. Despite that, that was the most comfortable I have felt in a yoga class.
Usually, this is what happens when I attend a yoga class.
- I’m the biggest person in the room
- I’m the darkest person in the room
- And before I take out my mat, people assume I don’t know what I’m doing.
- The yoga instructor may or may not pay attention to me (as far as making sure I’m positioned correctly)
Essentially, I have to be perfect as I can at yoga to be taken seriously as a yogi. Sound familiar.
But this class was no judgment. I needed to get out of a position? Go for it. I needed to adjust a yoga position to fit my body? Yup, go for it.
I felt welcomed and sometimes I’m not in a yoga class. Jennifer made sure I felt welcomed before and after class. The fellow yogis in the room also made me feel welcomed.
This is what it was like to see yourself reflected back. It means acceptance.
This is a small thing probably. But it’s a big thing for me as I find my way back to the mat and back to what I love.