Several years ago I had some really bad back pain and stumbled on some yoga videos on YouTube. As I got older I have always turned to yoga in times of unrest. The two instructors I interviewed – Adri and Sashah – are absolutely amazing and have been hosting grounding practices for BIPOC* folks (which have become so necessary as we deal with the constant ebbing and flowing of our lives). With this short interview, I hope you join one of their “by donation” classes and experience the healing power of this gentle movement.
Adri and Sashah are two really great yoga instructors who have been helping BIPOC* folks heal. In many ways we don’t realize how everyday issues affect us. Yoga is a great way to release, tune into ourselves, and heal.
*BIPOC – Black, Indigenous and people of colour
1. Very important first question, do you prefer cats or dogs?
A: Well, the love of my life is a 9-pound mini greyhound chihuahua mix named Olive, so DOGS.
S: Ok this is so hard because I love all animals BUT grew up with cats, and plan to get one as soon as I can find a decent pet friendly apartment so I think I have to say team cats.
2. Can you recall your first introduction to yoga?
A: When I was in my early 20’s, I retired from international competitive swimming. That’s when I started going to classes more regularly. It kept my need for the physical and mental practice that I missed from training. Little did I know at the time, it would become such an important part of my life.
S: I went to my first yoga class when I was 14! There was a small studio near my house and my friends were going. My goal was to get abs. I had no idea yoga would become the most powerful and constant practices in my life 19 years later.
3. Why did you decide to become a yoga instructor?
A: It was for selfish reasons, to deepen my practice and personal journey of growth. The training gave me many answers and many more questions about life’s purpose and Spirituality. There is this piece of appropriating yoga that I am still grappling with.
S: I also wanted to deepen my practice, and commit concentrated time to a practice that had meant so much to me and be able to share it with others, especially young folks in my past jobs as social worker and counsellor.
4. I have only ever been to one in-person yoga class and it was a little nerve-wracking, other than the fact that nobody looked like me, everyone was so thin and I just felt out of place. Maybe I was just too much in my head, but have you ever experienced something like this?
A: Yes, and it has taken many adult years to know how to protect my energy and boundaries, but I still often fail.
S: Totally. That’s why I’m so passionate about access to yoga for BIPOC. Unfortunately, yoga is definitely appropriated often and now is marketed in a certain way- for and by thin white women. In my opinion, yoga is not meant to be exclusive or for one body type or skin colour. Actually, yoga has really supported me in having gratitude for my body and being in deep connection with it. I hope to see changes in the industry as time goes on.
4a. How do you combat it (this feeling of “exclusion” that people attending a class may feel) in your practice?
A: My personal practice is now very personal. I’ve learned to trust my body and listen to what I need. Something that may sound simple but is hard when the industry of “wellness” often doesn’t let you decide for yourself. I am lucky to have found teachers that have valued self-discovery and individual agency.
S: I’m with Adri. Yoga has helped me foster this connection and trust with my body, my intuition, my self. Now I know that is more important than anything a teacher could offer. When I teach, I try to remind participants that they are always the experts of their own body.
Need a break? Try out this breath and body scan practice led by Sashah
5. While managing feelings about the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and the residual emotions from the racial tension and resulting Black Lives Matter protests, I found your weekly “healing for BIPOC” virtual class as a moment of calm. Why did you decide to start these by donation classes?
A: The intensity after George Floyd’s death was palpable. I experienced and observed a build-up of constant retraumatization. The energy was so complex within me (of sorrow, sadness, anger, and so much more), and my heart knew that others were going through the same and worse. I could not ignore the call for healing. I am the type of human that feels the world, and when I sense something within myself, I know that it is not for me to hold, but to be shared.
The class came from the need for it. A place to find moments to rest individually, and also an important time to find calm as a community. The beauty of the zoom class allows us to be together while keeping our privacy sacred.
Your sense of calm has a tremendous effect on me, as it does for the other attendees in the class. We don’t need to know each other intimately to feel when to heal ourselves is how we heal others.
S: Like Adri, I was feeling a lot. I felt called to use whatever skills I had to offer something to the community, to be of service. I have learned through going through phases of burn out in my life how necessary rest is to sustainability. We need BLM, racial justice, and decolonizing work to be sustainable. We need to rest to power up for revolution. Yoga is how I rejuvenate my spirit, feel my feelings and show up for myself. If I could be a part of creating a space like that for other BIPOC, I had to do it. Adri and I had been planning offerings separately then decided to join forces and build even more community.
6. I’ve definitely seen a change in myself since starting the weekly classes, but I can’t really describe it. I’m turning to you for a bit of assistance here, in what ways would you say yoga is a healing agent?
A: The change that you may be feeling might be is a settling of your central nervous system. When we are in a constant state of feeling threatened, our system is on high alert. This can manifest as stress and difficulty get grounded. Yoga, meditation and the somatic movements that we practice may be offering you moments to embody calm. I believe rest is so important as we are distracted by a world that embraces doing more and being “better”.
S: I love to hear that. I think even noticing a change is part of the change. For me, yoga helps me tune in. Tune into what I’m feeling, my body sensations- I’m more aware and connected to myself. With that awareness we have more choices on how to proceed because we know where we are starting from. More choices, for me that means more freedom.
7. If you could describe your relationship with yoga in one word, what would it be?
8. In your time as an instructor, which myth about yoga have you encountered the most?
A: That the teacher holds power over the student’s body.
S: Yoga is just stretching. It’s so much more than that. Like… so much more.
9. What are you currently doing to be a better version of you?
A: Most recently, I’ve been intentionally noticing the tiny things that make me happy. Really trying to slow down the feeling of joy and content. The other night, I was meditating with the feeling, and then journaled how it felt energetically, emotionally and physically in my chest, heart, body and bones. This helps me feel lighter and helps me see more of that feeling in others and around me.
S: Lately, I’ve been finding regular meditation (the goal is daily) has been so helpful in creating space to meet whatever I’m feeling (I have a lot of feelings, haha) with compassion. This helps me not carry things around under the surface which feels really good and I think saves a lot of people in my life from snarky remarks, lol.
10. Any parting advice on how to be more in tune with ourselves?
A: A reminder to listen to your heart, and to always trust that you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.
S: The wisdom is there within us if we can slow down enough to hear it, and trust ourselves enough to act on it.
Follow Adri on Instagram
Follow Sashah on Instagram