Only Black Yogi In The Room

By Jess Kimbrough

If there’s a problem, then fix it. When my 4 year old daughter spills water all over herself and starts to whine about being all wet, I tell her, “If there’s a problem, then fix it”. She knows that it is her job to fix the problem. She will then go to her room, change clothes, and return as a dry kid. Not too long after, I start to see early signs of another tantrum taking form once she realizes her cup is now empty (because of the spill just minutes before). Baby girl, if there’s a problem, then fix it. She will then take her cup to the fridge for a refill – problem solved.

I’ve learned that it is easy for me to give this advice to my daughter. I’ve also learned that it is not as easy (but still necessary) for me to follow the same advice. I’ve found myself mouthing these same words to myself time and time again, especially throughout my yoga journey.

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When I first started taking yoga classes, I quickly realized that I was always the only black yogi in the room. It wasn’t long before I’d start to feel a tantrum coming on – an adult tantrum. You know the adult tantrum (perhaps you’ve experienced one before?): they are usually in the form of a question that does not have a real, tangible answer yet. Why am I the only black person in every yoga class? Why can’t I ever have a black yoga teacher…? There was no real answer to any of my questions yet, but I knew that I had to be a part of the solution. Baby girl, if there’s a problem, then fix it. I signed up for yoga teacher training, got certified, and started teaching. Now, there’s a black yoga teacher in every class I’m in – problem solved.

I soon began to feel like an only once again as I was often the token black yoga teacher at all the studios I taught at; and although I would meet another here and there, the black yoga teachers seemed few and far between. Insert yet another adult tantrum: Where are all the black yoga teachers? Do we share any of the same experiences…?

Baby girl, if there’s a problem, then fix it. I created a community for yoga teachers of color to come together and connect. Our monthly gatherings are called, “Yoga Teachers of Color: Go In to Glow Up”. I settled on this name because first we ‘go in’ (in both definitions of the term). We start off with some form of a mindfulness practice to go inward. As yoga teachers, we guide our students through self-work and self-healing, but often neglect to take the time to care on ourselves in the same way. Each mindfulness practice is led by a different teacher within the community to allow the opportunity to experience each other’s vibes and offerings. We’ve been blessed to experience a different mindfulness practice at each meeting (i.e. a voice workshop, sensual yoga class, reiki self-healing meditation).

After we go inward, we ‘go in’ – as in do the work for the glow up. I call this a glow sesh, a panel discussion where everyone in the circle participates as a panelist, moderator, and audience member. Each month’s glow sesh focuses on a different hot topic that is import to yoga teachers of color. We all ask questions, share experiences, and take away something to apply to our own lives.

These sessions are amazing. I remember planning for the first gathering, not even sure how many were going to show up, and to my surprise, a dozen came ready to connect. The energy in the space was so powerful and vulnerable; we were all instantly connected to each other. I look forward to each month’s glow sesh to see these friends and meet new beautiful spirits as the tribe grows – problem solved.

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I love this community that I am a part of now; a community of brothers and sisters that genuinely care for the well-being of each other. Yes, being an only can be powerful and/or lonely, but it is definitely nice to hear the ‘me too’. It replenishes my soul every time.

I knew that I needed to be the change that I wanted to see, so I committed to being a part of the solution. What adult tantrums are you throwing? May I offer a word of advice: Baby girl, if there’s a problem, then fix it.