How did your yoga journey begin?
MEL DOUGLAS: Three years ago, I got bored of working out alone at my gym and decided to try the Vinyasa flow class the gym offered. I fell in love with the movements and soon cancelled my gym membership, began practising at yoga studios and decided to pursue certification to teach. I started BWYC after feeling like I couldn’t find a community that looked like me as I began developing my yoga practice.
DREW MUSE: Ten years ago, I was diagnosed with scoliosis and was told that I was going to need surgery, a brace, or be in chronic pain for the rest of my life. I heard about the benefits of yoga and tried it out with a yoga DVD I got from Mcdonalds.
Soon after, I started going to a studio that offered free classes, and I hardly remember life without yoga ever since.
SHAELLE ETIENNE: The company I worked for went through budget cuts, and I was laid off because of it. At that time, I had nothing to do but cry and put all of my intentions into something else. Yoga was that thing. Two classes in and I was hooked. Every teacher was my therapist, whether they knew it or not!
BIANCA WILES: I feel like I’m still in the beginning stages. I started practising yoga as a workout but soon found out that it’s so much more. Since I started, I feel that I’ve gained much more clarity and peace of mind.
Tell us something you love about practising yoga?
MEL: I love how simple practising yoga is. There’s just something about knowing all I need is my body to practice that makes me feel more grounded. Yoga has shown me how strong and capable I am of choosing well for myself in each moment.
DREW: The whole practice of yoga is about bringing yourself fully into the presence of life. When I practice and tap into my higher self I start flowing and my thoughts clear and I can only describe it by being as close to God/Being/ Universe as I will experience in this life.
SHAELLE: I love that every day with yoga is different. Some days I can easily do a split, other days I can barely do corpse pose. It mirrors life! Yin and yang, light and dark. You know, balance! I love that yoga reminds me of life’s sweet balance.
BIANCA: Practising yoga to me is like saying “thank you” to my body for everything it does. Sitting in my stillness is a mini-detox for my overthinking brain, like “hey brain, just chill out and let’s enjoy the present moment”.
In what ways do you feel empowered by yoga?
MEL: Yoga has helped me feel empowered by allowing me to see how capable I am — to do things that are physically hard but also mentally and emotionally challenging. It’s helped me gain a sense of clarity that I didn’t have before.
DREW: I feel empowered by knowing myself, I feel like yoga helps me access my higher self, and that is very empowering. The poses and breath, it’s very empowering to take up and take in space.
SHAELLE: I don’t know how to explain it, but every time I practice, I get answers to my most profound questions. The fact that I don’t have to do anything but just “be” to get answers is so powerful!
BIANCA: Having the ability to control my thoughts is one way. When I’m on the mat, I just let my thoughts pull up and pass by without focusing too much on any one of them. I’m grateful for the BWYC for affirming and empowering me every time I decide to show up in my essence.
A literal translation of yoga is unity. How does this manifest within the Black Women’s Yoga Collective?
MEL: BWYC is a community first, so that means showing up for each other however we can. We take steps to ensure that our community is connected, supported, and safe for all.
DREW: We all came together organically. Everything felt very natural and easy. Like it was meant to be. We support each other as a community, as friends and as human beings. Unity is how we reach our highest potential.
SHAELLE: Unity is essential to BWYC. Every infographic shared, event hosted, or yoga class taught is aimed to bring women of colour together.
BIANCA: These ladies are the literal definition of unity! Most of the yoga classes I’ve attended before were full of non-POC and made me feel like I wasn’t supposed to be there. The BWYC accepts anyone who wants to join and uplifts you in every aspect that you allow.
What’s your advice to someone curious (and a little overwhelmed) about yoga?
MEL: Allow yourself to try different things and let it be fun. Sometimes we approach yoga like a very serious thing, and it is, but we’re also making tree and aeroplane shapes with our bodies as adults! Allow getting started to be fun, and it will flow so much better.
DREW: Everything is overwhelming until it’s not. Try new things, get uncomfortable. You will never find anything new doing the things you already know.
SHAELLE: Do it! Lean into those nerves because it means you’re vulnerable and vulnerability is the state in which you grow.
BIANCA: My advice would be joining a community that’s welcoming to you and your needs. Being with the BWYC has helped me be more consistent with my practice. I’m a beginner, so of course, I’m wobbling all over the place! Don’t be afraid to fall, because your community will lift you back up.
Please complete this sentence: Yoga is more than a series of specific movements, yoga is...
MEL: An access point to a new way of being.
BIANCA: A choice to better your mind, body, & soul.