Black Virginians Are Using Yoga to Reclaim Historically Oppressive Spaces

Black Virginians Are Using Yoga to Reclaim Historically Oppressive Spaces

Subscribe to Outside+ now to get unique access to all of our content, including sequences, instructor tips, video lessons, and much more. An eerie silence fell over Richmond, Virginia, nearly three weeks after George Floyd was stabbed to death by a white police officer’s knee. A small group of people congregated in a circle around the base of a massive statue of Robert E. Lee, the Confederacy’s first and most famous general. The gathering of around two dozen people had gathered for a communal meditation and racial healing circle in a site that had functioned as a monument to white supremacy for the previous 130 years.

The 40-foot-tall gray granite pedestal that supported the 12-ton bronze statue was beginning to dissolve behind a layer of colorful graffiti: hand-painted memorandums criticizing police and asking for the abolition of inequity and systematic racism were covering the pedestal’s gray granite base.

It was established to provide a safe space for communal healing, Williams explains.

“Seeing the Robert E.

It is both a sign of love and a symbol of hatred at the same time now, with all of the artwork covering it, people communing with it and thinking on it.” See also the article The Story of Rosa Parks and Yoga.

Using Yoga to Heal Trauma

The use of mind-body interventions like yoga and meditation, which help to regulate the nervous system, can be extremely effective for healing trauma—including racism-related trauma, according to Dominique Malebranche, PhD, a counseling psychologist and professor at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Malebranche, a Black Haitian American, notes that racial trauma—which occurs from suffering race-based harm ranging from language to violence—has an affect on the functioning of the brain and how it perceives threats.

  • The ability to do everyday tasks and make decisions becomes more difficult when the brain experiences threat more frequently, while having less safety and control, as is prevalent in trauma survivors.
  • Williams comes into play at this point.
  • She is now on her third year of organizing the events.
  • There were several slave auction houses and apartments for traffickers in the area, as well as the infamous Lumpkin’s Slave Jail (also known as “the Devil’s half acre”), where hundreds of enslaved individuals lived and died while held in bondage.

Empowering Community Through Yoga

Williams had this difference in mind when she launched her weekly (when the weather permits) community yoga sessions, which often draw a varied mix of dozens of yoga practitioners. Williams has been teaching yoga for over a decade. She is empowering her community by reclaiming a space that was previously used to perpetrate horrors against Black people and transforming it into a place where Black people can now engage in community and self-care. “We are living on territory where lives have been lost, families have been torn apart, bloodshed has happened, and freedom has been snatched.” “We dwell on a piece of land that reeks of persecution,” she explains.

As Malebranche explains, “restoring cultural and historical memory is one of the earliest healing processes in the process of decolonization or healing from cultural trauma.” As a result of involving participants in these activities on specific places, “the intervention has the potential to recuperate and recreate cultural memories that may be incorporated into feelings of healing and strength, rather than past connotations with trauma and oppression.” Vicki Wise, a Richmonder who frequently attends yoga sessions at the 17th Street Market, says the history of the venue has heightened the impact of her practice.

“It makes me feel more connected to the community,” she says.

In my capacity as a Black woman, being able to participate in something that is both therapeutic and empowering is my act of resistance.”

Reclaiming Space

The creator of BareSOUL Yoga has established a new collective devoted to Black wellbeing. The following is a sneak look from the self-care piece “Calm Mind, Healthy Body,” which will appear in our January 2021 edition of the magazine. In the aftermath of the announcement that the two police officers who shot and murdered Breonna Taylor in her home in Louisville, Kentucky, would not face criminal charges on Sept. 23, Vicki Wise was understandably enraged. She saw it as just another reminder that the lives of Black people — and especially Black women like her — aren’t respected in this nation, especially after a summer marred by racial conflict.

The 17th Street Market, now a public plaza adorned with bright string lights and flanked with eateries, was once the focal point of the busiest slave trade port north of New Orleans.

BareSOUL Yoga and Wellness was founded by Ashley Williams, who chose this location for her weekly yoga lessons particularly because of its terrible history.

And for Wise, this was a goal that struck a chord.

In Wise’s opinion, “seeking tranquility is a form of resistance unto itself.” The fact that I was a Black woman performing yoga in that place — when you think of yoga, it isn’t always what comes to mind.” Williams recalls her first yoga class as a student at the University of Virginia, which she attended for the first time.

  1. Later, when she began attending yoga studios in and around the Richmond region, she became acutely conscious of her otherness on a regular basis.
  2. She would invite her Black friends to yoga courses, and they would express dissatisfaction with the experience, claiming that the settings weren’t intended for them.
  3. The coronavirus outbreak, as well as the racial reckoning that followed George Floyd’s death in June, brought the issue of Black wellness to the forefront of public discourse.
  4. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black individuals are more likely than white people to get diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
  5. Yoga has been shown to be effective for stress reduction as well as for increasing mental and physical well-being, according to research.
  6. Suzanne Burns, the owner of Humble Haven Yoga, had been dealing with this issue for quite some time, and it had gotten much more pressing by the summer of last year.
  7. The fact that we didn’t have a particularly varied group in attendance made it difficult for me to serve a holistic community.” Burns started Humble Haven in Shockoe Slip around five years ago and plans to construct a second facility in the West End in early 2020.
  8. In their talks about the value of representation in wellness, Burns and Williams, who met while working together on trauma-informed yoga teacher trainings, discussed the necessity of representation in health.

According to Burns, she “talks a good game but doesn’t walk the walk.” The author writes, “She is real in her relationships, yet at the same time, she never strays from her objective, which is to bring yoga to neglected populations.” A lot of thought went into the design of the facility, and Williams came up with the idea of it being a virtual program hub as well as a welcoming area for meditation and small, in-person yoga classes.

She had a vision of selling items and artwork from Black-owned companies and Black artists in her neighborhood.

Most significantly, it would provide a deliberate place for the promotion of Black wellbeing.

The Healthy Collective, as Williams has titled the venue, officially opened its doors in November with the slogan “I am well.” “Everything is well with us.”

Restorative Yoga

According to Ashley Williams, a yoga therapist and the creator of BareSOUL Yoga and Wellness, yoga is about much more than just physical movement. Making room for relaxation in both mind and body, going within, and finding joy despite of external circumstances are all important aspects of this practice. Restorative yoga is slow and gentle, enabling the practitioner to remain grounded in a restful position for several minutes at a time, frequently with the assistance of a bolster, cushion, or yoga block, in order to promote deep relaxation and healing.

  • Breathing through the diaphragm, often known as belly breathing.
  • Hold your breath in your belly and feel it expand under the palm of your hand, all while keeping your chest completely motionless.
  • Repeat for a total of six to eight cycles at your leisure.
  • Pose with a fish on your back.
  • Stretch your arms out to the sides while lying down with your back supported by the cushion.
  • Opening the chest in this position might assist to release physical stress and open the chest.
  • It is possible to build a loving space of awareness that embraces both yourself and others through this form of meditation.
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The Black Men Yoga Project — And Yoga Studios

Historically, society has denied black males access to basic health care while simultaneously abusing their health for the advantage of others and the profit of society. In addition, there is the generational trauma and stress that is seldom, if ever, repaired in this situation. According to the findings of a poll of more than 30,000 people, racial minorities are more stressed than the general population. According to theSociology Inquiry, 18.2 percent of black individuals specifically experience emotional stress, with half of that number also experiencing extra physical stress; however, this was only true for 3.5 percent of whites, who had the identical results.

When it comes to health and wellbeing, the black community as a whole, and black males in particular, are severely overstressed and neglected.

See also:  The Mental Health Benefits of Minimalism

All of this while having limited access to health and wellness solutions to help balance these negative energy in their lives.

In order to give back to our culture and community, our founderDonald Edwards, a black man yogi working in a white-dominated yoga environment, is dedicated to providing subsidized or free access to yoga therapy as well as a safe space for black males to recover and relax from the ills of society.

social arrythmia Archives

In addition to access to resources, equity entails a strong commitment to emancipation based on self-love, self-justice, self-healing, self-determination, and compassion for one’s fellow man. Dr. Ram Bhagat is a well-known author. When I was born, the famous Brown v. Board of Education decision had just been handed down by the United States Supreme Court, which declared that racial segregation in schools was unconstitutional and, thus, unlawful. Despite this, the Commonwealth of Virginia implemented a statewide program known as Massive Resistance in order to prevent school desegregation.

  1. At the time, I was a relatively young teacher, and I developed a program called “Afrikan Males” to combat the injustices that African males faced in school.
  2. They are less likely than their counterparts to complete their high school education.
  3. From pre-K through 12th grade, race and income are predictors of how well pupils will do academically.
  4. These factors result in social arrhythmia – communities that are out of sync – in which isolation, alienation, and distrust are prevalent and communities are out of balance.
  5. Dr.

Resilience on a Massive Scale In his seminal work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, the famous educator Paulo Freire argues that “oppressed communities must be their own examples in the battle for their own redemption.” They must not become perpetrators, but must instead raise themselves via a process of self-healing.” Founded on the universal values of Ubuntu, Sawubona, and Sankofa, Massive Resilience is a framework and set of practices I’ve developed to help people build resilience in the face of systemic racism.

  • It is centered on the principles of interconnectedness, inter-relatedness, and inter-resilience, which collectively promote compassion, courage, and creativity.
  • Ubuntu literally translates as “I Am, Because We Are,” and it calls for a fundamental commitment to interconnectedness or compassion on the part of the individual.
  • It is only when my freedom is defined by your freedom that we must unite to combat injustice.
  • This fosters a sense of interdependence as well as inventiveness.
  • The Color Line Is a Constant Source of Conflict Our city’s collective unhealed racial trauma is profoundly entrenched in the historical injustices created by the fiction of white supremacy, which has been perpetuated for centuries.
  • Theodore Dubois, MD, once said, “The color line represents the issue of the twentieth century.” Although racial tensions exist in the 21st century, we can view them via the omnipresent lens of social media, as the painful impacts of racial subjugation pervade the whole area.
  • Dubois in 1919, Dr.
  • Since the beginning of time, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) people have been striving to live in this poisonous racial environment.
  • These symptoms include, but are not limited to, community violence, poor academic performance, high suspension rates, mass incarceration, chronic diseases, premature and excessive deaths, all of which disproportionately affect BIPOC individuals.
  • It was startling, distressing, terrible, and overwhelming to have your home address, name, family traditions, dignity, freedom to interact with the environment, and spiritual cosmos taken away from you without warning.
  • Healing Within Racial Groups in Schools and Communities Massive Resilience is a program designed to aid in the healing of intra-racial conflict in schools and communities.

When it comes to dealing with the devastating impacts of racism, Black people’s souls are frequently denied the necessary space and “permission.” In the absence of effective treatment in a culturally appropriate social emotional milieu, the consequences can be both negative and re-traumatizing for the individual.

  1. Healing from unresolved historical sorrow, as well as from current oppression and racial stress, is dependent on a thorough understanding of past trauma.
  2. It is a culturally responsive model that integrates four spheres of engagement: art, culture, education, and health.
  3. White Allies Who Aren’t afraid to Speak Out Positive white allyship can and must be used to combat the concept that social position earned as a result of systemic oppression is a privilege, which can and must be countered via systematic oppression.
  4. It necessitates honesty, openness, vulnerability, a willingness to relinquish power, and a willingness to confront bigotry.
  5. “Your quiet will not protect you,” says Audre Lorde emphatically.
  6. It takes more than a village to bring a youngster back to health.
  7. We require allies who are willing to cross the color line and participate in the process of repairing historical wrongs in order to be among us.

It is vital to consider how allies stand up for BIPOC individuals.

Allies recognize that everyone has a birthright to human dignity, affirm the personhood of BIPOC people, and affirm the personhood of BIPOC people.

Conclusion The heart and soul of Massive Resilience is an arts-based paradigm that employs a variety of forms of the Black Aesthetic for intergenerational trauma recovery as well as mindfulness-based restorative practices as its heart and soul.

For Black people and communities to be healed, we need more schools and community-based organizations and places to support the strategy of huge resilience, which is currently being implemented.

We must do more than just survive; we must prosper and soar into the twenty-first century.

This will require more than a village to accomplish.

We require allies who are willing to cross the color line and participate in the process of undoing historical wrongs.

Ram Bhagat has been educating and reforming communities for over 35 years.


Ram is a professional restorative justice practitioner and international conflict resolution trainer who specializes in arts integration and restorative justice.

As a founding member of Drums No Guns, a world-percussion group that uses drumming, dance, and drama (3D) to involve kids in a process of “healing communities through rhythm,” Ram was instrumental in the development of the organization.

Bhagat’s work with adolescents and families who have been traumatized by gun violence, the Drums No Guns Foundation was created in 2017 to bring a combination of trauma healing, restorative practices, mindfulness, and artfulness to bear on their problems.


Part of the Richmond Racial Fairness Essays series, this article examines what racial equity looks like in the city of Richmond, Virginia. It is reproduced here with the author’s consent. Take a look at the entire project, as well as the associated films and podcast.

#MYBODYMYPOWER: Reclaiming Black Women’s Bodies as Spaces of Power

The idea of physical autonomy is one that we rarely think about or discuss in depth with others. It is the capacity to act solely on one’s own behalf in order to make decisions that have an impact on one’s personal well-being – mentally, physically, financially, or spiritually. How do you make use of the power you have inside you? What activities do you do to assert your autonomy in a good manner? What would you do if someone came into your personal space and started talking to you? Or, more specifically, what would you like to be able to do?

  1. There has to be a change toward fostering this agency throughout our lives, rather than only in times of self-defense when we are young.
  2. Furthermore, the absence of Black women’s control of their own bodies is an additional tax for which history provides enough evidence.
  3. Oncology, polio vaccinations, and aesthetic tests have all been pioneered by researchers at the University of California San Francisco.
  4. Scientists had been attempting to monitor and create circumstances that would allow human cells to multiply eternally since 1951, but had failed.
  5. The cells were stolen from her without her knowledge or consent, but nowadays, HeLacells are widely available and frequently used (if you’ve studied a biomedical or biochemistry-related degree, you’ve definitely worked with them yourself).
  6. Marion Sims employed on female African-American slaves in the nineteenth century.
  7. Black women have not only been raped, but they have also been denied justice and acknowledgment for the terrible contributions they have given to society as a result of these violations.

A lack of support for Black women’s voices to be heard and recognized once again is highlighted by the whitewashing of #MeToo and the inability to identify it as a movement founded by a Black woman and inclusive of all women.

Only a small percentage of individuals who manage to make complaints go on to press charges against the offenders.

It is possible to help balance the imbalances of power we face in our many fields of life by recognizing our bodies as places of authority, similar to any political board or forum.

I am an intern with FORWARD.

I asked them how they exercise their bodily autonomy as part of FORWARD’s MyBodyMyPower campaign and why, given recent allegations of sexual abuse, ownership of their bodies and space is important to them.

My Body, My Strength ADVANCEMENT x Marianne Olaleye As a makeup artist, I attempt to instill confidence in young women by demonstrating that they do not need to wear layers of makeup.

It is not necessary to be the person that society expects you to be; rather, it is necessary to be yourself.

Solidarity, empathy, and compassion are values that I hold dear.

Women from all walks of life must remember that bodily autonomy is not something we are granted and cannot be taken away from us.

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The importance of reclaiming our bodies can’t be overstated since we don’t owe them to anybody else; they are solely ours.

When we are uncomfortable, we are uncomfortable.

Beginning to retake my seat on the subway system.

As a result, I’ve made it a point to inform others when I believe they are invading my personal space.

By reclaiming my body and my space in this manner, I am taking a little step towards asserting my rights.

When things were happening, I didn’t see them for what they were-harassment and abuse-because I assumed that was simply the way things were and accepted it.

When you declare ‘this is mine,’ you are stating that you will not control, mistreat, or exploit your body for your own pleasures in the future.

This is because the notions we have amongst ourselves, particularly those that divide us, are a product of the widespread male influences and misogyny that women endure.

We must rely on empathy if we want to be successful; else, we will fail miserably.

No one has the authority to make you feel inferior unless you give them permission.

It is critical to disseminate information on what it is like to be a Black woman today and throughout history.

My experience with sexual harassment is similar to yours, and being surrounded by a sisterhood may be helpful in dealing with it.

It is critical that women be not silenced by patriarchal systems.

The reclaiming of the power that comes with being a woman is, in my opinion, really vital for women.

It is critical for a woman to develop her inner power and to go ahead and accomplish whatever she feels like doing.

Despite the fact that I’m 5 feet 11 and “heavy,” I am far from the “stereotypical” girl who fits into a box, and it is by recognizing that fact that I am recovering my power.

While it is lovely, we must remember to prioritize ourselves as well.

We owe no one or anything anything and are completely independent.

‘My body, my power’ indicates that I am not defined by the standards of the world, but rather by my own.

I am the way that God meant me to be, and no one has the power to change that.

Beauty is not determined by our social standing, body size, or complexion; rather, it is defined by who we are, how we choose to appear, and how we communicate it to others.

I believe it is critical for young girls to understand that their bodies are strong because our bodies are the first area of power that we experience in our lives, and I believe that it is about feeling secure and understanding that you have control over your own body.

As young women in the society that we live in, there are many places where we are disempowered, and therefore being strong and confident in your own skin is quite vital to your overall wellbeing.

I am proud of every curve and every form on my body, and I am the one who defines the beauty of my own body.

The concept of reclaiming one’s body and taking control of one’s own body and sexuality is particularly significant for women, and particularly for young black girls.

Not only is a Black body not for eating, but it is also something to be cherished and admired.

I am pleased to be a woman living in an era in which we enjoy some of the privileges for which so many have fought and died.

I can gently raise my hand to make a contribution and then be completely ignored.

I can fight with my White and Asian friends in the fight against sexism, but I find myself battling alone when it comes to combating the actors who desire my own oppression and oppression of others.

Although Time magazine included Tamara Burke, the founder of MeToo, in its Person of the Year edition in 2017, which was titled ‘The Silence Breakers,’ she is still not featured on the front cover of the publication.

Consequently, I’ll continue to cultivate my inner strength, uniting it with the strength of my fellow Black women through initiatives such as MyBodyMyPower, and utilizing that strength to exist in a society where I can confidently assert that I have control over my body and my decisions.


Since 2015, Dr. Terry Harris has become a regular practitioner of yoga. Dr. Harris is a 200-hour licensed yoga instructor who teaches both community-based yoga classes and school-based yoga classes in her spare time. Professor Harris incorporates Black history and storytelling into all of his seminars as a way of serving as a constant reminder of the power, courage, and wisdom that have been contributed by Black people throughout history. Dr. Harris uses a variety of therapeutic techniques, including yoga and Restorative Justice/Circles, to create healing environments.

The Beloved Yoga Community: The foundations of racial reconciliation in the yoga tradition

Lakshmi Nair(she/her)

Sitya Yoga Co-op, a BIPOC-owned and run yoga cooperative in Denver, Colorado, was founded by Lakshmi Nair, who is also its founder. A yoga immersion and teacher training for BIPOC students that Lakshmi has been conducting in Denver since 2014 spawned the formation of Satya Yoga Co-op. The workshop “Yoga Is Radical Inclusion and Subversion: Reflections on the Historical Bhakti Movement and Honoring Our Feet” will take place on March 23rd.

Zahabiyah Yamasaki(she/her)

Ms. Yamasaki holds a Master of Education in Education and a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) certification. She is the founder of Transcending Sexual Trauma through Yoga. Over the course of her career, Zabie has trained thousands of yoga instructors and mental health professionals. Her trauma-informed yoga program and curriculum for survivors is now being implemented at more than 25 colleges and agencies, including the University of California (UC) system, Stanford, the University of Notre Dame, and Johns Hopkins University, among many others.

Her work has been featured on CNN, NBC, and The Huffington Post, among other media outlets.


Yoga Workshop |

Mary Medellin-Sims(she/her)

Ms. Yamasaki holds a Master of Education in Education and a Registered Yoga Teacher certification. She is the founder of Transcending Sexual Trauma through Yoga. Over the course of her career, Zabie has trained thousands of yoga instructors and mental health professionals. Her trauma-informed yoga program and curriculum for survivors is now being implemented at more than 25 colleges and agencies, including the University of California (UC) system, Stanford, the University of Notre Dame, and the Johns Hopkins University, among others.

Her work has been featured on CNN, NBC, and The Huffington Post, among other news outlets and publications.

She is now working on a book titled Trauma-Informed Yoga for Survivors of Sexual Assault, which will be published by W. W. Norton & Company in 2021 and is expected to be available in bookstores then. Transcending Sexual Trauma Through Yoga | Workshop |

M Camellia(they/them)

Melanie “M” Camellia(they/them) is a fat, queer, non-binary, neuro-emergent yoga teacher and advocate who is called to create profoundly accessible spaces for self-inquiry by integrating mindfulness and adaptive movement practices with the spirit of social justice. Melanie “M” Camellia(they/them) is a fat, queer, non-binary, neuro-emergent yoga teacher and advocate who is called to create profoundly accessible spaces for self-in They think that the ultimate purpose of yoga, as well as the ultimate goal of life, is communal emancipation, and they encourage modern yoga practitioners to demolish the institutions and ideas that keep us all back.

  • They educate teachers in trauma-informed practices, the development of a culture of consent, trans and queer inclusion, and the provision of accessible learning environments for students with impairments and bigger body structures.
  • As described by DC Refined, they are a “tour de force when it comes to supporting radical self-love,” and they are included among the “top thinkers and campaigners in the field of body positivity” (OmStars).
  • Workshop |
  • Trans Yoga Project: Creating Accessible Yoga Spaces for TransNon-Binary Practitioners |

Mei Lai Swan(she/her)

Mei Lai Swan has been dedicated to the pathways of yoga, meditation, and community for more than two decades. She teaches a fully embodied and inclusive style of yoga that has a strong commitment to social justice at its core. Mei Lai is the founder of Yoga for Humankind, a global social business yoga school that specializes in embodied trauma-informed and social justice teaching, as well as nada yoga (sound, mantra and meditation). With a breadth of professional and creative experience as a somatic yoga trainer, social worker, body-focused therapist, musician, doula, and non-profit leader, she brings a lot of knowledge and skills to this work.

Every body, heart, and mind may benefit from the teachings and practices of yoga, and Mei Lai is devoted to honoring and making the richness and depth of the yoga teachings and practices accessible, relevant, and powerful for everyone.

Working Together to Transform Trauma | Yoga, Social Justice and Trauma-Informed Practices Spirit

Anjali Rao(she/her)

Anjali Rao began practicing yoga when she was over 40 years old, after undergoing surgery for breast cancer. As a child growing up in Bangalore, India, Karma and Bhakti Yoga were ingrained in me. She researches, teaches, and writes on Yoga philosophy and history from a socio-political viewpoint, and she is particularly interested in the intersectionality of race, culture, gender, and the accessibility of Yoga practices. She is a member of the Yoga Alliance. Throughout her multiple teacher trainings at Bay Area studios, she strives to make the practice of Yoga beneficial and pleasurable to individuals of all ages, genders, and abilities on and off the mat.

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Workshop |

Anusha Wijeyakumar(she/her)

Anusha is the daughter of Sri Lankan immigrants who came to the United States as children. She has extensive understanding in both Hinduism and Buddhism, having been reared in the philosophy of Sanatana Dharma and having been a lifetime student of both religions. Additionally, Anusha is well-versed in the fields of meditation, pranayama, mantra, and the philosophy related with yoga, among other things. Educating others about the necessity of decolonizing these practices and honoring the roots of yoga are two things that Anusha is really passionate about.

  1. The Wellness Consultant for Hoag Hospital in Orange County, CA, Anusha is actively involved in advocating for mindfulness and meditation practices in maternal mental health programs, early risk assessment for breastovarian cancer prevention programs, and breast cancer survivor programs.
  2. Anusha was one of the first persons to develop a meditation program that was later employed in clinical testing at Hoag Hospital, and she is still working on it now.
  3. Anusha is deeply committed to the health and social justice of women and girls, and this is reflected in all she does.
  4. Anusha is a co-founder of the movement Womxn of Color + Health, which is dedicated to decolonizing yoga and making wellness more equitable, accessible, diverse, and inclusive for all women of color.

Anusha’s first book, Meditation With Intention: QuickEasy Ways to Create Lasting Peace, will be published by Llewellyn Worldwide in January 2021. She has a Ph.D. in psychology. Workshop | Women of Color Speak Out: Why Representation in Publishing Is Important

Ryan McGraw(he/him)

Ryan McGraw conducts every yoga lesson with the conviction that anybody can learn to practice yoga. With 15 years of yoga experience under his belt, Ryan is well aware that yoga postures may be modified to fit the requirements of students of all abilities. Ryan received his 200-hour yoga teaching credential from Matthew Sanford in 2011 and has since completed two adaptive yoga teacher training programs with him. After graduating with a Master’s degree in Disability and Human Development from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2013, Ryan began working in the field.

It was in Yoga and Body Image, a collection of articles from people who are not your typical yoga practitioners, that he wrote about his yoga experience.

A member of the disability community who has worked in the disability advocacy area for the past 12 years, Ryan is an advocate for the full inclusion of persons with disabilities in all parts of society, including the workplace.

Kyla Pearce(she/her)

She is the Senior Director of Programs at the LoveYourBrain Foundation, where she is responsible for the design, implementation and evaluation of yoga and mindfulness programs throughout the United States and Canada. Kyla has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. Kyla thinks that by looking inside via yoga, we may learn to live as our entire selves with more clarity and compassion, which she believes is essential to our well-being and to inspiring constructive social change in the world.

Kyla is also a certified yoga and mindfulness practitioner.

Besides that, she is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Dartmouth College, where she is exploring the effectiveness of yoga and meditation therapies for persons suffering from neurological diseases.

LoveYourBrain Yoga for the Brain Injury Community |

Hala Khouri(she/her)

She has been teaching yoga and movement for over 25 years and has been involved in clinical work and trainings for 15 years. Hala Khouri is an M.A., SEP, E-RYT who lives in New York City. She is originally from Beirut, Lebanon, and has devoted her life to the study of trauma, justice, and the development of resilience in others. Her undergraduate degree in psychology was obtained from Columbia University, and she went on to receive two master’s degrees, one in counseling psychology and one in community psychology, from Pacifica Graduate Institute.

Into the World, Off the Mat, Into the World is a training organization that integrates yoga and activism within a social justice framework, which Hala co-founded with her husband.

Also working with A Thousand Joys, Hala teaches trauma aware and culturally sensitive practices to direct service providers, educators, and other community members.

It is scheduled to be published in April 2021 with the title Peace from Anxiety: Get Grounded, Build Resilience, and Stay Connected Amidst the Chaos. | Trauma Informed Yoga and Neurodiversity: A Workshop (with Laura Sharkey)

Laura Sharkey(they/them)

Laura retired from the corporate sector in 2011 due to health concerns, and the couple utilized the difficulty of chronic disease as a chance to refocus their attention on their lifelong interest in social justice and equality. In addition to teaching meditation, they have taken part in a number of campaigns sponsored by the Yoga and Body Image Coalition, including a feature in the “”This is What a Yogi Looks Like”” series produced by YBIC and Yoga International, as well as Mantra Yoga + Health’s “”Everybody is a Yoga Body”” campaign.


Pamela Stokes Eggleston(she/her)

Laura had to leave the corporate sector in 2011 due to health issues, and she and her husband utilized the challenge of chronic disease as a chance to devote their time and energy to their lifelong passion for social justice. In addition to teaching meditation, they have taken part in a number of campaigns sponsored by the Yoga and Body Image Coalition, including a feature in the “”This is What a Yogi Looks Like”” series produced by YBIC and Yoga International and a feature in Mantra Yoga + Health’s “”Everybody is a Yoga Body”” series.

Neurodiversity and Trauma Informed Yoga: A Workshop (with Hala Khouri)

Amina Naru(she/her)

With Pamela Stokes Eggleston, Amina Naru is co-founder of Retreat to Spirit, and she formerly served as Co-Executive Director of the Yoga Service Council. She also serves on the Accessible Yoga Foundation’s board of directors. Pamela works with veterans, military members, and their families and caregivers via Yoga2Sleep, while Amina works with jail and prison populations through POSH Yoga. Both are deeply rooted in trauma-informed yoga. In their joint work with Retreat to Spirit, Amina and Pamela are particularly interested in the subtle, energetic, and soul-inspired components of yoga, connection, leadership, and wellness, as well as the spiritual dimensions of these practices.

Retreat to Spirit, Expand into Service and Leadership in a One-Day Workshop (with Pamela Stokes Eggleston)

Sarah Garden(she/her)

Sarah Garden, C-IAYT, ERYT-500, has worked as a yoga therapist for almost two decades, earning her certifications in both. Throughout her professional life, she has established a strong local yoga therapy practice and has educated hundreds of yoga instructors both locally and regionally, as well as globally and internationally. Sarah presents at medical conferences on a regular basis on the benefits of therapeutic yoga as a whole-person modality that may be used to complement conventional treatment or to treat patients when conventional treatment fails.

She has developed ties with a large number of physicians, physiotherapists, massage therapists, and other health professionals in order to work together to improve the health of students.

She is a certified yoga instructor.

Sarah thinks that in order to address the requirements of students, the practice must be co-created with them. Working Group | The Art and Science of Making Relaxation Easily Achievable for Everyone

Tejal Patel(she/her)

A first-generation Indian American woman, Tejal (she/her/hers) is a yoga instructor, social justice educator and community activist who grew up in New York City. She is one of the co-hosts of the Yoga is Dead podcast and the founder of the abcdyogi village, a venue where South Asian instructors reclaim the yoga and mindfulness space in the United States. Individuals and communities all around the world benefit from her social justice yoga sessions, which she hopes will educate and empower them.

Yoga is Dead is produced by Yoga is Dead.

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Jesal Parikh(she/her)

The yoga teacher and movement educator Jesal (also spelled with a’s’) is a podcaster, author, and social disruptor who is working on innovative solutions for equity in yoga. As a co-host of the Yoga is Dead podcast and the Co-Director of the Yoga Teachers of Color organization, she is well-known. Jesal’s aim is to raise those of us who feel excluded and ostracized by the yoga business, and to do it in a positive way. Yoga is Dead is a revolutionary podcast that delves into the topics of power, privilege, fair pay, harassment, race, cultural appropriation, and capitalism in the yoga and wellness communities.

Join Indian-American hosts Tejal and Jesal as they unveil all of the creatures that lie under the surface of the yoga mat.

Yoga Is No Longer Alive (with Tejal Patel)

Kallie Schut(she/her)

Having been a yoga teacher with Indian ancestry and yoga sadhana for 35 years, Kallie Schut aspires to infuse the practice of yoga taught in public settings with the depth of wisdom tradition and philosophy. She teaches and practices a variety of yoga styles, including hatha, yin, trauma informed restorative, and yoga nidra. She also holds certifications as a gong practitioner and a sound healer. Kallie has been a social justice activist for the most of her life, campaigning for people who do not have a voice or a presence in positions of power and privilege.

She is a founding member of the Yoga Teachers Union of the United Kingdom, as well as the creator of the Rebel YogaTribe YouTube channel and the Radical Yogi book club, among other things.

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