Yoga is a practice that many of us are familiar with, but do you know what the true intentions surrounding yoga are? Sure it’s got poses for you to do to strengthen and relax your body and center your mind, but it’s deeper than that.
The word “Yoga” comes from the Sanskrit word “yuj,” meaning “to unite.” Yoga is used to unite your body and mind through the poses, meditation and various breathing exercises. It’s a calming, peaceful activity — but to fully get that from the practice, it’s important to practice yoga in a safe space. So where is that for you?
For many people of color, popular yoga classes and spaces in North America are filled with largely white bodies, and even more specifically black yogis can feel isolated and alone if they aren’t well-represented in their local classes or in online yogi communities.
That’s where Yoga Green Book comes in.
Carla Christine is the creator of Yoga Green Book, an online community for yogis of color to come together in a healing space to improve their physical, mental and emotional health. We spoke to her about the platform’s growth since its 2016 launch. Check it out below!
The word “Yoga” comes from the Sanskrit word “yuj,” meaning “to unite.” Yoga is used to unite your body and m
21Ninety: When did you create Yoga Green Book?
Carla Christine: It started officially in February of 2016, but at the time it started out as a directory. After watching a documentary on the Negro Motorist Green Book, that sparked an idea to create a directory of yoga teachers that offered a safe space for people to come in and start their practice. After reaching out to other teachers of color and the list growing, a few months later after conversations with teachers, I decided to create an online studio. The first class launched and then membership subscriptions launched in August of 2016.
21N: What has changed with the community since we originally spoke with you a year or so ago?
CC: Since it started, there have been more teachers that have come to the site. Each has a different teaching style and different lengths and focus areas, so we’re continuing to grow in that way. With yoga, it’s easier to connect with certain teachers, styles and certain classes on different focus areas of the body and mind.
21N: How has the community grown?
CC: It’s interesting because looking back at the older article, at that time there were 100 signups referenced. Now there have been more than 1000, and we have three challenges kicking off soon. It’s been great to see the growth.
21N: What have you learned along the way?
CC: I just continue to learn. With yoga, I continue to develop more awareness. Just before I started practicing, I focused on self-medication to feel numb in both body and mind, but yoga has been more about finding awareness to go deeper, self-study, self-heal and determining how to live a happier and healthier life.
It continues to show me tweaks I can make. As far as entrepreneurship, there’s just so much I’ve learned but one thing is to keep pushing forward. There are ups and downs, things that go wrong with tech, things that crash. But ultimately, keep pushing forward. Take time for self-care no matter what’s going on. It’s important for me to maintain stability and sanity which helps YGB continue to grow by coming into it with a peaceful mind.
21N: What would you say to someone who isn’t sure about joining an online community for yoga who has mainly stuck to in-person classes and practices?
CC: Online can be a great supplement to in-person or an alternative depending on the person. Try out some classes and see! For anyone who isn’t sure, I think they should give it a try, even for just a class or two.
21N: What does yoga mean to you?
CC: It’s a way that I can self-study, see where I am and see where my mind goes. I ask myself how I feel when i’m holding a pose and the different emotions that come from that. They can be reflective of what’s going on in other areas of my life, and yoga can help me handle those things off the mat. It helps me breathe through things, whether they are challenging or light and happy.
21N: What would you say to someone who isn’t sure if yoga is for them?
CC: I can completely understand, and I felt that way as a beginner not knowing anything about it. And then I was feeling stiff and flexible. It was intimidating for me to start practicing. Just give it a try, just start — whatever way is easiest for them. Starting online can be a great entry point because you can try it in the comfort of your own home. If it happens that you have a local studio, try it out. But get an intro to yoga and see how it makes you feel physically, mentally and emotionally when you’re done with the class.It can be challenging in the beginning with some of the postures, but I think honoring your body and seeing how you feel after the class can go a long way. Try as many teachers or styles as possible in the beginning.
21N: How do you see people using the practice outside of fitness purposes? For example mediation, anxiety, etc.?
CC: All of the above, there are physical benefits, stress relief and it can provide inner peace in a way of spirituality. With current events, there’s a lot of trauma highlighted, racism in day-to-day life, and we’re seeing more and more racism and trauma showcased in the media. I think yoga can be a great outlet, a great holistic tool that can be used. The way you’re breathing, the movements you take on, the yoga postures, it’s a great relief and outlet for releasing those emotions that can be stored in our bodies. I've seen some of that release being in classes as a student. I've seen it teaching but also experienced it on my mat. It’s that tension that can build in our bodies. Yoga is a great way to release as a community but then move forward with our missions.
21N: Why do you feel it’s so important for people of color to have a designated space for yoga online?
CC: Yoga has been a great tool, it’s great to be on IG and social media and see POC in their rituals. Seeing them practicing can prove it’s for us. It’s not the norm for us to be on the teaching staff or hosting events at local studios. Having a platform that showcases POC, and our image can go a long way. Seeing POC showcased in different industries like beauty, fashion, leadership, all of that can be a powerful thing to see your image reflected and know it’s for you, too, and it’s something you can do.
21N: What is your favorite part of having this community?
CC: The most joy comes from the testimonials of members who were completely new to yoga, but have started to reap the benefits. They talk about the stress relief they’ve experienced and the physical benefits from taking on the challenge or taking a class. Another thing I love is connecting with other teachers of color. When I first started practicing and teaching yoga, I had no idea there were as many teachers of color as there are. There has been power in uniting with yogis.
21N: What do you see in the future for the YGB community? What changes do you have planned or what do you envision happening in the future?
CC: Going forward, the mission is to reach the masses and to share this tool with even more people. I would love to have a local aspect with Yoga Green Book. I love being virtual but would love to come together even once a year for a retreat or an event sponsored by teachers in their city, etc. We are virtual but want to be able to touch local communities too.
If you are feeling out of shape, stressed, or unfulfilled in life, Yoga Green Book was created for you. Unlimited classes, challenges such as the 21-Day Beginner Yoga Challenge and the 5-Day Core Yoga Challenge, and optional one-on-one sessions are all available to free trial and monthly members. Sign up at yogagreenbook.com. And if you’re a yoga instructor looking to get your name listed in the directory, click here!