I have watched and participated in the act of supporting, nurturing, protecting and loving everyone, especially black men. But, we forgot to love ourselves on social media and in our daily lives.
I personally spent years pretending to understand what the black man needs in the time of them dying at the hands of vigilantes and police. Emptying myself and pouring all of me into the, “protect black men” cause. I knew they needed us but I had forgotten about the women that needed our tears, our protest, our understanding. I had drained myself of the energy needed to protect me.
I tried to avoid the, “Everyone hates black women including black men,” debates on social media, because I wanted to remain blissful in my ignorance. Other times, the reality of the debates ached so deep in my bones, I couldn’t stand it.
I needed an outlet. I needed the anxiety social media caused, to calm. I needed to quiet the noise.
That was the first time I ever really thought about what I needed. Prayer alone, seemed so cliché coming from a black girl born and raised in the south. I had to do more than just pray.
“Maybe I’ll meditate,” I thought. I did. It didn’t work. Eventually, (two years later) it worked. When I needed to step away from the dark cloud that sometimes hung over my head, I would meditate. I would meditate the damage of the day away. Since meditating, it has become clear to me that I love myself better than I have ever loved myself before.
Meditation may not work for you, (in the beginning) but it is imperative that you find something healthy that can relieve the stresses of the day. Perhaps yoga will work. Yoga had not worked for me, and I honestly wrote it off. But, then I scrolled through my Instagram timeline and stared in the calm, unbothered face of @Soulflower_Yogagso, while her body was twisted up like a pretzel (which I now know is the mermaid pose). All it took was a black girl serving face while calming the inner beast the world bring out of us, and I said, “ok this is intimidating, but more of the reason I should give it another try.”
I know @Soulflower_Yogagso as Milanda. She’s been practicing yoga for six years and have been teaching for two years. Milanda was introduced to yoga at the University of Memphis. She admitted she hated Yoga.
"The teacher wasn’t my style at all. I tried it again in Utah and fell in love. I came back and did it off and on with a DVD that I purchased frequently from my job at a bookstore then got an online subscription while I was teaching at a middle school. Yoga quickly became my way of coping and dealing with the stress of teaching." Milanda Said "Once I discovered that many different types of classes were available on YouTube, I was sold. I told myself if I still enjoy yoga like this, this time next year, I'll apply for a teacher training. It took three years and two posts on my vision boards, but I did it. I got my certification in Greensboro, North Carolina summer of 2017."
Milanda could not say that a black woman inspired her to do yoga, nor does she claim to know the full history of black women in yoga. But, she has seen online pictures of Eartha Kitt as a yogi and other black women in the yoga community.
"I also know that everyday Black women are making major strides in the world of yoga and sharing yoga with a broader and more diverse audience. More and more Black women are becoming instructors and/or picking up the practice every day. I'm thankful that Faith Hunter, Koya Webb, Michelle Johnson, Diane Bundy, and Jessamyn Stanley are huge names and huge leaders in the yoga community."
"I think that their presence via social media as well as finding out that you know different Black celebrities are doing yoga, I feel like that's all making it more accessible for young Black women to roll out a mat and give yoga a try. I'm not going to lie I was ecstatic to find out that Naomi Campbell and Beyonce and you know Erykah Badu and India Arie are all Yogis that really encouraged me and made yoga even more fun for me to be honest."
The benefits of yoga stretch far beyond physical attributes. I suffer from anxiety, and insomnia. Meditation has helped a great deal, but Milanda is strongly making me consider yoga to boost what I feel from meditation.
"There are all kinds of benefits from yoga. The physical practice, which are the poses you see online or do in a class can help you sleep better, help you lengthen and strengthen your body and improve your flexibility and posture amongst other things. mentally, yoga helps you channel emotions so that you can be fully present. It can help eliminate the chatter in your mind, which can ease anxiety. Who doesn't want that?"
Eliminating the chatter in our minds and living in the moment is exactly what most of us need.
"Yoga for me is a place where I get to express myself in a different way than I do as a dancer. I am challenged constantly on my mat to be present. I have to remember that each day is different and it encourages me to accept where I am that day, that moment, that very second, on my mat. It also represents a way for me to connect with other people. I feel like I'm able to learn about and meet other people, where they are in different ways now more than ever before. Although I may not subscribe to every different yoga philosophy or I might not have learned about all the different things that go with yoga. I just know that through practicing, through this practice I have a different way of connecting with others that I come into contact with and I really am appreciative of that. I'm a champion of yoga, like I really believe that if everyone, particularly Black women, like if we would just give yoga a try and carve out 15-20 minutes a day for ourselves to move our bodies in way that shows that we care for it and then to give ourselves that time 15-20 minutes a day to give our minds a break from all the stresses that we're dealing with as Black women and there are many! Yoga can address all of those stresses in a way I believe is accessible to everyone. I became a yoga teacher because I believe in the things that yoga has to offer."
If you’re like me, you probably thought yoga wasn’t for you, because of the lack of black representation (or so we thought). I also didn’t think about all that yoga had to offer, mentally, spiritually and physically. But, more of the reasons to be excited by the likes of someone like Milanda.
"I wanted to show other black girls and black women that we can be a Yogi and panic counteract what you see in the media that yoga is for a particular type of person with a particular type of income. I just genuinely do not believe that at all. I want to share with other people that I don't believe that. I'm going through a rebranding right now but there are definitely some things to look for on the horizon as far as the places that I want to take SoulFlower Yoga and Wellness and I'm hoping that more women see me, more girls see me and are interested in giving yoga a try. Thank you for talking with me, DopeSista, and for bringing the light the way that you do!"