When the word yoga comes to mind, many may not think of live African music and getting in touch with our roots, but that’s exactly what Leslie Salmon Jones and her husband, Jeff Jones, wanted to change with the inception of Afro Flow Yoga. Afro Flow Yoga is a yoga class that fuses Vinyasa yoga sequences with live African music and dance with an aim to heal while connecting to our ancestors through the sounds of live drumming.
We got the chance to sit down with Leslie Jones herself and hear more about her journey of creating Afro Flow Yoga, as well as making it accessible and teachable in order to spread awareness, healing and connection.
On creating Afro Flow Yoga
"Afro Flow Yoga is a practice that invites you back to your heart. As someone with Jamaican ancestry that grew up in Toronto, entering the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater allowed me to find and be open with myself. While training within the theater in the '90s, it was required (as a part of training) to take yoga.
After graduating, I continued to dance and was invited to Sedona, Arizona to teach Caribbean dance and yoga — the thought of the two fusing together came to me then — and I realized I had a clear vision of this practice through my meditation. They were both so similar in their connection to ancestry and they both connected me to the earth.
Afro Flow Yoga provides a no-judgement dance and meditation zone without the strictness of ballet and with the comforting and meditative function of a yoga class."
A look into the class
"The classes begin in a slow, steady and meditative pace, which then picks up while focusing on the breath and allowing the movement to take over. Towards the very beginning of the class, everyone sits in a circle — displaying and representing community and trust. The classes are often led with allowing the members to dedicate the class to whatever they’d like to set their intention for, while oftentimes, I’ll dedicate the class to a person or situation that’s happening around the world — one that might need this directed, positive energy.
While the class is Afro Flow Yoga, there isn’t a restriction on who is allowed to attend. I do love to see a yoga class filled with people of color — especially in a world where now yoga is seemingly only associated with non-people color — it definitely adds to the dynamic to have a diverse crowd. We do get to break the ice with each other, which allows for a more open and intimate space (among) one another and can lead to acceptance towards someone you may have judged prior to getting to know them."
The Afro Flow Inspiration
"I find myself connecting to my ancestors a lot, and I hope to inspire and teach others to feel as connected as I do. I make an effort to show up to class as a facilitator with the best intentions and allow everything to come full circle to ensure everyone gets what they’re in need of. I see Afro Flow as a drop in the ocean — that drop forms a ring around it which causes a ripple effect, slowly but surely affecting the rest of the ocean. I feel that if we’re touched by love, we can let it touch other people, friends, community members, partners and family."
Motivation on a tough day
"I’ve been married for 22 years with my husband and we’ve been doing Afro Flow Yoga together for ten years. In an interesting way, having to do yoga together — I’m dancing as he plays the drums — we realized that no matter what’s going on outside of this class, whether in the world or our relationship, we need to set it aside and be the best facilitators that we can be. He and I need to feel each other in every class to continue to collaborate and work well with one another — we’re in sync, we’re a team. Aside from that, it’s really just the work — I love the work, I love to heal, to bridge, to teach, to spread love and reach everyone."
Expanding the practice
"In the yoga world, I was the original creator of Afro Flow Yoga, which allotted me some credit within the yogis. I began to speak more and more about this form of yoga that was meditative but also provided a connection, and as the love around this practice grew, I felt more and more that it needed to be spread far and wide. I began creating an online course which is available to anyone who’d be interested in it online.
For those who would like to gain all the necessary knowledge to open their own practice — there’s an application process which requires the online classes, tests and quizzes, a study on anatomy and a certain number of hours practicing Afro Flow Yoga.
When it comes to the application process, I tend to be thoughtful about who I’m (in a sense) passing this light onto. I try to ensure I stick to the original mission behind this: To connect with our roots and our ancestors. I have hopes of the practice continuing to make its way around the world to inspire other people of color to exercise while also connecting to a deeper part of themselves."
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