The Only Black Yogi In the Room. ~ Alexandra Hernandez

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Talk about awkward.

It’s something that I’m way more familiar with now but a few years ago it was a real fear of mine—we’ve all been there.

The day I decided to take my first yoga class—I snagged a spot in the back and sat there checking, watching the people around me, thinking about how much I need to buy new work-out clothes. I watched some sculpted bodies walk in and roll out their thick mats along the front of the room.

(I didn’t even know yoga mats could look like that.)

Imagine having all of those nerves—and also being the only dark person there.

Yep, that was me—that is me. Just me and my curly fro, waiting for class to start. Being darker than everyone else was a huge distraction for me in class. Yes, I got smiles and waves like everyone else in the studio, but I still felt like “The black girl.”

It’s not that I think yoga is anti-black people—I just think that it’s intimidating for us to get involved, even more so than for other folks. It’s kind of sad, really.

Do you know how many black girlfriends of mine want to come to yoga or learn more about it but shy away for the specific reason of being black?!

“It looks fun, but it’s a white girl thing.”

“Yeah, I’d go but, I feel like everyone is watching me.”

It’s because of these uncomfortable “I don’t belong here” feelings which gather inside and prevent us from experiencing what I’m sure many can agree to be one of the most potentially transformative things in our lives.

So what kept me coming back?

Despite my feelings of awkwardness, I was developing a strong appreciation for my practice and my body. The (sometimes cheesy) openings to class that spoke about embracing and accepting yourself started to penetrate through my self-sabotaging mind.

Over time, I began to understand that yoga was not a competition; it was not to see who could hold crow the longest.

It took some time after that before I started to promise to focus on myself—and it was a big (yogi) wake up call.

“Now I get why people go gaa-gaa for this stuff.”

I trained myself to not worry what others thought about me, or how much I wobbled in tree. When I turned my focus inward, it was so rewarding and refreshing, how could I not return to my mat? My confidence was boosting. It went from feeling weird about being the only black girl, to “Yeah that’s right, I’m the only black girl up in here. Look if you want to!”

I saw the impression I was making on my friends and family as they witnessed me transform and learn sanskrit and chakra clearing.

I remember handing a business card to a fellow sister—and as she glanced through my various titles she gasps: “Oh crap! You do yoga?! I love finding other black yogis!”

It was great.

So if you can relate to this, what can you do?

Show up—if we start showing our black and brown faces, we’ll encourage other curious beings to show up, too.

We can all agree to that…right? 

So, I write this not only for the black yogis—not only for the black potential yogis—but for all yogis: be supportive of each other.

Next time you’re in samastitihi be aware that most people that have shown up that day did so with a lot of courage.

 

Relephant Bonus:

Yoga: Not just for Young, Skinny, White Girls.

 

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Alexandra Hernandez

Alexandra Hernandez is a Holistic Health Counselor, Blogger and Yoga Instructor. After losing 50 pounds, she turned into a health nut and decided to share her opinions with the world. In her spare time she produces awesome YouTube videos, makes a mess in her kitchen and spends hours watching TED talks. Follow her on TwitterInstagram or check out her website for more information.

Comments

15 Responses to “The Only Black Yogi In the Room. ~ Alexandra Hernandez”

  1. wanda bunton says:

    Thanks for this wonderful article. I feel fortunate to have been exposed to yoga. I am usually the only black person in class, but the benefits I have gotten from the practice is such a blessing in my life. I will continue to practice and share with all. Thanks again.

  2. elephantjournal says:

    Love this and thank you for sharing and being brave. Following you on instagram, now! ~ Waylon ( @waylonlewis )

  3. yogibattle says:

    Nice response to the Jen Polachek piece. I prefer your perspective.

  4. Brian Smith says:

    I kinda have to say men joining a yoga class for the first time ever, we have the same feeling. It really is a middle class white woman's thing where I come from and it was so daunting. I was just as scared that people were looking at me, and scared that if I look up and caught site of someone's rear I would be thrown out for perving! I wasn't…all the time :O

    Took me a long time to get a regular practice.

    Thanks for sharing 😀

  5. Alan Lind says:

    I'm with Brian. I can relate very well to this article being the only guy in class most of the time. Always good to have another brother in class, but I'm getting used to being the only one. It takes a while but eventually, you stop thinking about it.

    Good article!

  6. Roxie Katz says:

    Try not to worry about being the "only" anything in a group. Everybody there is the "only" something — the only guy, the only left-hander, the only deaf person. I've been the only black person in a place so many times I don't even notice any more. If I worried about being the "only", I'd never go anywhere. If, on the other hand, you find yourself in a group with an unwelcome vibe, leave. You are there for your practice, not their approval. Namaste.

  7. Mandy says:

    I used to think I was too poor to do yoga. I was self-concoius of my pilled second-hand workout clothes and un-pedicured feet. We all have our hang-ups. And it is amazing how a regular practise can help you get past that shit.

  8. Joe Sparks says:

    Thank You! Enjoyed hearing your perspective! I agree it takes a lot of courage to show up to a yoga class, no matter what your race, gender, age, politics, abilities or religion. Unity in Diversity.

  9. @DrPamYoung says:

    When I started yoga, I was the only poor woman in the class. I had a carry-on for two months of classes! That was over twenty years ago and I' offer gratitude every single day for my practice. Best wishes!

  10. Cassanie says:

    Hi Alexandra,
    Thanks much for this…I am a black yoga instructor teaching and living in Jamaica. Teaching or taking class, at home or in the Us' I'm often the only black person. In teacher training, 60 students, me, only black person. I've definitely come a long way since then. It was such a mental distraction but you get over that quickly by continuing to show up and allow the beauty of the practice to be bigger than personal hang ups….yoga for everyone
    Blessings to you

  11. Tr!na (@AmorVsDinero) says:

    Thanks for sharing. I'm black myself and didn't know this stigma was so prevalent. I don't take much of any notice to being the only black person in a room but that may stem from being raised in the burbs. I do however take notice to my extreme lack of flexibility compared to others and often feel like I'm not good enough for yoga.

  12. fifi says:

    Great article. As a Black yogi I often feel the stares whenever I walk into a new studio, so I just keep my practice at home. It's nice to read articles from our perspective, Bless.

  13. Jk says:

    Interesting to hear your perspective as I never really have thought about it. Strange that people have come to stereotype it as a “white girl thing” when it came from the east, where people are not so white,

  14. Jk says:

    Or necessarily women for that matter. Glad you are encouraging others to demystify it a little bit!!

  15. Smw says:

    What a great article thank you for sharing your experience! Do you have a FB or Instagram page to follow?

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