In support of the BIPOC community, My Vinyasa Practice partnered with Yoga Pose to offer the Yoga Teacher Scholarship in Support of Black Wellness. As a result, over 7,500 BIPOC were gifted access to our 200hr yoga teacher training for free. Here, we invite you to meet two of the recipients working to bring awareness to diversity and inclusivity in yoga.
Milly (pictured above) is a vibrant, soulful personal trainer and student-teacher living in Houston, TX. Originally from Saint Croix, United States Virgin Islands, yoga found her early on in life.
“Meditation and the Vedas were my first glimpse into the practice of yoga, what opened me. It’s always been with me on and off, in this season of my life it’s been a few months since I’ve reconnected with it, and I am so grateful l have,” she says.
Living in Philadelphia, it was hard for her to find an authentic place to practice, “I tried a few studios, but it felt like people were putting on a show. ‘Look at my headstand and my cool yoga clothes’, you know?”
She was hesitant to enroll in the training as she couldn’t believe MVP was giving it away for free.
“I try my best to go into things open-minded,” she says. “The way Michelle and the team have put everything together, it just clicks with me and as I started going through it, I realized, this information is for everybody!”
She continues to sing the praises of the authenticity and acceptance she feels.
“I’m happy to be a part of it and excited to help it move forward,” she says.
Milly has a plan to diversify yoga working with MVP and has a plan to help boost inclusivity from within.
“I want to make sure everyone feels well represented. Not just in the Black community, but any ethnicity. I want everyone to be heard,” she says. “I’m really looking forward to those that look like me, and those that connect with me to realize ‘oh, she’s doing that so I can do that, too’. ”
Desi lives in the suburbs of Ohio. She’s thoughtful, artistic, and cool as a cucumber. She has a generous smile and kind eyes.
“Even going to the local studios, I was the only person of color in the class,” she says. “I felt like some teachers didn’t even want to approach me, in a way. It hurt.”
Stepping into the role of a student in teacher training has opened Desi’s eyes to what’s possible when you’re welcomed into the right environment.
“There are so many people in the program. So many different outlooks, different bodies, some people just beginning and some more seasoned,” she says. “It’s definitely good to see the equal representation.”
It’s so important everybody feels like someone can guide them. Because Desi lives in the suburbs, she says she has lived the experience of being seen as an outsider.
“You know, I live down the street from a studio, but it’s a predominately white, upper middle class area. I want to get my practice in, but I also feel like I want to retreat in the corner and hide.”
This brings up an interesting point. How many times have you walked into a yoga studio and it feels like the air has been sucked from the room? Everyone on their mat, in their own space, closed off. What if we were to look around the room to see who might be feeling left out? As teachers, it’s important we create an environment where everyone feels seen. The more people we can welcome into the fold, the more exposure they have to being with things as they truly are. The message isn’t that we want to change people’s minds, rather, we’d love to help people open up to the idea that their perception, their experience, isn’t the only one.
“People of color are traumatized. Yoga is definitely something that can help them. I recently put myself out there and taught at the BIPOC women’s co-op here,” Desi says. “It was such a refreshing feeling to be able to teach a class with people who looked like me and had similar life experiences.”
Our perceptions about reality and the stories we tell ourselves are not universally true. Learning to acknowledge this makes room for us to uplift and include one another. If we don’t address these issues in the studio we’re inadvertently participating in the silence that’s part of the problem.
With the help of Milly, Desi, and a team of students dedicated to change, we’re rolling out MVP diversity chapters in the fall. Alumni representatives across the nation will go out into the community and hold events to help lift the veil of exclusion in yoga so that more people feel welcome.
We recently held a virtual weekend lecture on advanced sequencing where inclusivity and diversity landed front and center of the conversation. The discussion was raw, and unfiltered, heartfelt, and true. After listening to a Black woman explain the overwhelming sadness she feels at the end of the day because she can’t take off her skin, Michelle takes a moment to validate and hold space for her. Everyone in the chat cheered this woman on, applauding her bravery, and sending her love. Michelle takes a breath, and looking directly into the camera said, “Until we all feel like we are one, we have work to do.”
We, as a community agree. And we’re here for it.
To learn more about My Vinyasa Practice, visit their website here.