• Grace Yeboah-Kodie

Black Girls Do Yoga, Too


Yoga is a great way to get your stretching in for the day. Whether inside or outside, whether following a leader or being self-led, whether by yourself or in a group, the practice of yoga can help you reap the benefits of increased flexibility, mobility, and mindfulness (click here to learn more about why stretching is so good for you).

However, yoga may seem to be a community exclusively for white women, due to a lack of representation of black yogis. Black women may feel uncomfortable if they are the only person of color in a yoga class, or hold the assumption that the other attendees already know what to do because it is a space well-known and comfortable to them. One misconception about yoga is that it is very spiritual or strictly rooted in its Indian tradition. But today, yoga routines of all types can be found and practiced.


Yoga doesn't have to look like this...

https://youtu.be/_ckvBL-erGU





...It can also look like this!

https://youtu.be/ck_hqmxKkWc






Some women prefer to work on yoga routine alone, such as in the morning or at night like suggested above, while others enjoy doing yoga with a community. Forming a group can be very helpful when working toward building a stretching habit, and getting together a group of friends to dedicate time to stretching- and to preserving your mental and physical health- can be very empowering. I even recommend seeking out yoga and flexibility enthusiasts in your community to inspire you. If more black women can get interested in yoga, or even just in general stretching, we can combat the narrative that says black women aren't into yoga or the health benefits it can provide.


So, where to begin? Try this video featuring the daily stretch sequence of Isa Welly, a black pilates and wellness expert. Additionally, you can check out Jessamyn Stanley’s self-love yoga routine.



More Yoga Routines

The above are examples of just one way to get your stretching in for the day. Quick, five to twenty minute routines can be easy to fit into busy schedules. A popular option is performing a stretching routine upon waking up and before going to sleep at night, though it is important to choose a time of day that makes sense for you. For instance, if you find that you frequently wake up feeling stiff, it is likely that you would benefit from stretching in the morning, before your day begins.


Though the Sun Salutation routine pictured below is generally practiced in the morning, it can also be used at nighttime. Following a set routine every night before bed can help you train your body to know when it is time to get ready to sleep, and this will improve your sleep hygiene. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep hygiene is “a variety of different practices and habits that are necessary to have good nighttime sleep quality and full daytime alertness.” Implementing a yoga routine at the same time every night will signal to your body that it is time to wind down and prepare for a restful and restorative sleep.




Quick Tips

Finally, I'll leave you with some tips for stretching and yoga:

  • Find routines that work for you, and find a time of day that you can try to commit to setting aside as your stretching tip

  • When holding a stretch or a yoga pose, don't bounce or stretch to the point of pain

  • Try practicing mindfulness as you stretch- focus on the present and how your body and mind feel, acknowledge your feelings and thoughts

  • Focus on breathing normally and holding your pose for 30 to 60 seconds

  • If you find yourself having difficulty with your balance, you can hold onto a chair as you perform your stretches in whatever way feels most comfortable to you


Go forth and get flexible!



Sources:

https://unladylike.co/episodes/03/yogabody (cover image)

Community Conversations: Sister to Sister, a women's health initiative, is an an ongoing, open forum to explore health issues of particular relevance to Black women and their families. 

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