Master yoga practitioners encourage us to go within to remain strong and fortified as the universe shifts.
For the past seven years, Kali Alexander has offered a free yoga class at Crenshaw-Baldwin Hills Plaza on Saturday mornings. The plaza sits in one of the last African American enclaves in the Los Angeles Crenshaw district, but has been a hotbed for gentrification.
At the weekly sessions, her clients are a range of Black women and men, who stretch and maneuver their bodies in asanas or poses, over delicious funk-soul-hip-hop mixes. On any given Saturday, there are easily 100 people with mats sprawled across every inch of the space. Currently, it is the only public gathering in a Black community providing free yoga and has such a consistent and wide response.
Now, as the city shutters with a shelter-at-home mandate, Alexander has taken her Crenshaw class, and a special series called, Chocolate Twist, online. “This is such a good time to get into a yoga practice,” says Alexander who is offering a class called, “My neck, my back, my shoulders too.”
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“My classes target certain areas. Breath work is weaved throughout all of the classes, but understand that yoga is a mirror of who we are throughout life. [Now] is a perfect time to refine our approach through life while at our homes.”
For Alexander, her work is about “speaking to ancestors and staying connected to ancestors and the path they’ve laid.” One of the few Black yoga instructors who hosts trips to Thailand and Jamaica, she also focuses on sculpting a practice for Black women and their experiences.
“I’ve been in [yoga] classes where I’ve had to edit out an instructor. But in yoga, you’ve got to be present, so I focus on creating healing spaces for Black women. I’m a firm believer that when we speak to the souls of Black women, everyone benefits.”
Fortify your soul
On the other side of the country, Faith Hunter’s thriving yoga study, Embrace Yoga DC runs popular classes in the Adam’s Morgan district, a once vibranT African American neighborhood. It has already been gentrified. Her yoga study remains, and like Alexander, has also moved to live streaming classes. Included, Hunter offers a daily free class from her site, Embrace OM, which gives you an intimate experience into her practice.
In a Facebook post, Hunter says, “as we navigate this current life, it is essential to drop into the ancient tools that fortify the body, mind and soul. modern times require us to take hold of what keeps us strong, healthy and steady.”
Both Alexander and Hunter continue to push for their presence and their approaches to practice even during a pandemic. “This is a positive space and therapeutic. That’s where we need to be,” emphasizes Alexander.
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