Yoga-ish: Why Yoga Might Be Right for You

(Please note: All events and names of people and/or places in the following text are fictional and used only as “fillers” for the purpose of this column.)

Everything isn’t for everybody. Yet Yoga seems to be a fast-growing exception to the rule. It seems everywhere I go and almost everyone I meet are on their way to a yoga session. There was a time when I believed that no “fad” worth its salt is anything if it wasn’t black-woman approved. Not only does yoga have massive crossover appeal, it is also sister-approved, tried and tested. The tester in me decided to attend a class a friend of mine teaches at Washington, DC’s Anacostia Community Center in the heart of one of the city’s oldest remaining, non-gentrified areas. Translation: Where the black folk live. After purchasing a yoga mat at the neighborhood $5 store (yes they sell yoga mats there now), I headed to the Thursday evening session eager and ready to simply get my stretch on.

The class was not only humming with excitement, it was a full house. Women of all shapes, sizes and complexions unrolled their mats, took their spaces and immediately began their warm-up stretches in preparation. No CP time here. Although the attendees were diverse in their backgrounds and physical appearance, there was a common energy in the room. Every woman there was ready for Yoga. They came expecting a release from their hectic days and a holistic experience they’d come to appreciate and love. This was their sacred space, they were in it and it showed.

The transformative effects of yoga from a physical standpoint are very real and widely known. It increases muscle tone and joint flexibility, reduces hypertension and boosts cardio and lung health. The spiritual effects of yoga are less tangible to measure and are therefore considered anecdotal. However, yoga instructors and dedicated practitioners will gladly share their perspectives on the spiritual effects of being a yogini (female practitioner). The roots of Yoga as a practice are derived from Hindu spiritual beliefs and teachings. Wikipedia aptly describes yogini as a term tantric scholars use to identify women who are “independent” and “outspoken with graceful spirits, without whom Yoga would fail to achieve its full, fruitful purpose.” Yoginis are women who are able to access their spiritual centers through meditation and mastery of the asanas (yoga poses).

Spiritually speaking yoga is far more than just a way to get a good stretch at the end of the day or to get into shape without having to run a mile or two. The fact that its seemingly low impact poses are what calls so many women of color to classes and sessions around the country gives credence to the spiritual manifestation and success of the yoginis’ work over the years. Jeannine Maat, Yogini and instructor at the Anacostia Community Center says, “Once you‘re hooked, you have no choice but to transform spiritually.” She adds, “What better way to achieve spiritual freedom than to not seek it at first and then blossom gradually. It’s so natural, so beautiful, and so liberating for black women to give themselves that gift.” It would seem that the gift was there all along and Yoga provides a light and a key to access the door within.

If you are interested in trying yoga, go online and look for centers in your area or dedicated schools. Most schools offer introductory specials with no obligation. Everything isn’t for everybody, but yoga is certainly worth the try.

Shelly Iyabode is a priestess of Yemoja in the traditional Ifa practice and a Tai Chi Chuan practitioner. She embraces and integrates earth spiritual practices as a way of life. She is a communications professional and senior production manager for a national magazine. Blogging and writing are her outlets for connecting and sharing 'lightweight soul nourishment' for women in the urban world. She lives in Maryland.

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