As a black yoga student and teacher, I get thrilled when something new comes around. It’s even more meaningful when that “something new” is created for us and by us. Yoga has been hijacked and commercialized by mainstream media. We are shown what it means to be and look like a yogi and that image is a skinny, sexy, flexible and rich white woman.
Unfortunately, the damage is so deep I can’t even begin to cover it in this article. It’s hurtful to the history of the sacred practice, disrespectful to the women who are constantly being overtly sexualized and harmful to anyone who doesn’t fit that mold (due to the color of your skin, how you self-identify, economic status, physical ability and so much more).
When I came across Yoga Green Book, I instantly knew it was something refreshing, something special and sacred. It’s something for the black community. We can claim it as ours and be proud of it and the site is a beautiful representation of who we are. It’s an online community where people of color can go for yoga.
I visit the site often for many reasons:
- To see other people who look like me doing things that I’m interested in.
- The blog is an amazing learning space.
- Of course, the yoga!
Photo: Courtesy of Carla Christine
I had a chance to ask Yoga Green Book founder, Carla Christine, some questions.Her answers made me love the site even more. Check it out below for yourself.
Jasmine Creighton: What inspired you to create YGB?
Carla Christine: Following my first yoga class, I recognized that it had the ability to aid in self-healing. After 10 years working as an electrical engineer, I was empowered to leave my job and follow my passion and purpose to share yoga's transformational power. While teaching yoga at a studio in Chicago, I saw the need to create a healing space for people of color that could improve their physical, mental and emotional health.
I created Yoga Green Book as this healing space for yogis of color to unite and practice yoga in a space dedicated and reflective of their image. I specifically created an online video platform because I feel online yoga is an encouraging entry point for those new to yoga, as well as a means for seasoned practitioners to continue to evolve their practice.
I believe in the power of practicing in a physical space with a teacher and other yogis, but I understand that is not always realistic. True power comes in having a consistent practice and ultimately finding your own personal practice/.
JC: The name is very powerful and carries deep historical roots; can you elaborate more on the name?
CC: The name Yoga Green Book was inspired by The Negro Motorist Green Book, which was a printed guide of businesses that weary segregation-era travelers could trust and safely take refuge in. A segment in Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s documentary The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross detailed The Green Book and sparked my idea to build an online safe space for people of color to practice yoga and reap its benefits.
Photo: Courtesy of Carla Christine
JC: What is the mission of YGB?
CC: To promote healing and holistic wellness for people of color through online yoga studio and community.
JC: What separates you from other websites that offer memberships and access to online yoga?
CC: Our site is dedicated and representative of people of color. I believe there is much to be gained when you are in a space that is racially and culturally-affirming.
JC: What would you say (or have you said) to someone who isn't black but takes offense to a website dedicated to black people?
CC: Until it is the standard for people of color to be included in yoga communities locally and online, I believe sites dedicated to people of color are needed. Seeing teachers of color in the community is another layer of encouragement to practice yoga. Their knowledge and commitment to helping the community heal by sharing tools that they know of or that have worked for them can have an impact on the community.
Being a part of organizations dedicated to people of color (such as my sorority, The National Society of Black Engineers, INROADS, etc.) throughout my life has positively affected me. I believe there is power in seeing our positive images represented in the community and in leadership positions.
JC: How do you find yoga teachers to spotlight and feature on your site?
CC: I find yoga teachers through online research and through word of mouth. Searching for and connecting with other teachers of color is one of my favorite hobbies.
JC: Can you explain the membership and benefits?
CC: The site offers unlimited access to instructional videos ranging in time, level and style. Classes mindfully integrate asanas (postures), pranayama (breath work), and meditation to create an inner journey towards healing and empowerment. First-timers get a 30-day free trial and then membership is $19/month. Members will now have 24-hour support to get any site or yoga questions they have answered via email.
JC: What do you see for the future of YGB?
CC: We aspire to significantly improve the overall wellness of people of color. Our community motivates us so our future offerings, events and technological enhancements will be inspired by their wants and needs.
JC: In one of our previous conversations, you mentioned that YGB has built a user base of over 105 sign-ups in one month in a low-key way, can you touch on that a little more?
CC: We received incredible support from our community and a posting in a Facebook group dedicated to black yogis that went viral. Other sign-ups are contributed to word of mouth and organic traffic from our new and growing Facebook page. Our members are motivating us to keep grinding to share our images and teachings with as many people as possible.
JC: How can we get in contact with you and/or YGB?
CC: email@example.com. We love receiving emails from the community on anything yoga-related and input on what they want to see on our site next. You can also keep up with us on Facebook and Instagram. Our social media communities are new and growing, and we have exciting things brewing for them, so stay tuned.
After my interview with Carla, I didn’t know it was possible to have so much pride in a project that I didn’t personally create. But that’s exactly how I feel about Yoga Green Book. It’s something to be proud of. As a student, I definitely learn from the videos and blogs. And as a teacher, I love to implement what I learn in my classes and personal practice.
My goal is to partner with YGB and create my own videos for the site (once I get over my anxiety of video taping myself).
I hope as a community, we can support this platform. We are too often overlooked and underserved; Yoga Green Book is here to serve us. Let’s not let all their hard work be in vain.