In no unclear terms, I love yoga. I love the practice of yoga, and when I say yoga, I mean a way of living your life in connection with now that sometimes is and sometimes isn’t connected to physical postures. I also love the physical practice of yoga, though that only scratches the surface. I love yoga for what it brings to my life, and I share it for all I believe it can bring to others. I love yoga, in spite of the fact that marketing might lead you to believe that yoga is not for me. I teach yoga, in spite of the fact that it’s rare to meet a student who looks like me. In case you’re wondering, when I say this, I mean that I am not a thin white woman in her early 20’s.
I’m a big, burly, gay black man. I probably have the strength to force my foot behind my head, but in no way would I have a functional hip after doing it. When I walk into yoga spaces, I’m often the only person of color, the biggest person, and even with the best of intentions, many teachers stereotype what I can and can’t do, and no, it doesn’t feel good. As a teacher, I’m seeing the best and worst of it; both being humbled by how people from such different walks of life can have so much in common with me, and saddened when people dismiss me because they assume I have nothing to offer based on looking at me.
After trying to yoga every damn day, to meditate for hours, to find meaning in being upside down, I’ve found power in consistency and simplicity. I don’t believe or argue that yoga is the ultimate workout, or something everyone should do. It’s something that everyone who wants to do, should be able to do. And while I’ve had experiences that have pushed me away both as student and teacher, I couldn’t imagine my life without yoga practice anymore than I could without hygiene. In a way I’ve found nowhere else, yoga has given me a space where I can completely be myself. How can that possibly be when I stand out like a sore thumb, or often, like a bull in a china shop? Because yoga reminds me of all that I am, at a deeper level than how I look, in a culture and time when I see so few reminders of it. Yoga allows me to go inward, on nobody’s terms other than my own.
When I say that, I don’t mean that we’re all sparkly fairy dust and love. I’m an atheist. I’m struggling a lot with the idea that all of us humans want the same things, because I see so little evidence of that. I mean that yoga reminds me of what’s under the labels we hold socially. When I practice, when my mind gets quiet, and I can listen instead of labeling, I forget that I am a gay, biracial man in a world that defines me by those. It isn’t that I arrive in a world where I can pretend those things don’t matter, because they do. Rather, I come to a place where I am reminded of my humanity, and the humanity of others who cross my path.
You can call it magic, you can call it mystery. I call it amazing, because that’s what it is to me. And because my life is consistently better with it than without it, I yoga. I yoga because I’ve learned to pause, even for half a second before saying things I'd regret. I yoga because I’m reminded I wasn’t born just to pay bills and die, or to deny my own worth to please others. I yoga because in times like these, I want to show up for others as someone with a calm mind who takes care of himself. But most of all, I yoga because I want to.