It’s not yoga, until it is.

It’s not yoga, until it is.

…big, deep breath in…an accepting exhale out…

And now, I will be the first to admit that I have been flexible all my life (after gymnastics through my childhood, I turned to ballet during adolescence and young adulthood), and I had to reckon with myself a while back that I’m not “just flexible;” I have had to continue to work to remain flexible. But with that said, I am coming to a new reckoning, one of which I am far less proud. Okay, I am going to say it now…I’ve been using yoga as a means to an end and then, simultaneously, wondering why I am not feeling satisfied with “yoga,” in general, and honestly, I have come to an awareness that is bringing up a lot of things for me, namely: frustration, anger, confusion, bitterness, jealousy, rejection, etc., etc., etc., and the only happy thing I used to feel about yoga was my “progress”…my physical progress. Especially since I have never been a fan of the “spiritual” realm of yoga, I find now that the spiritual is unavoidable.  

For starters, my entire relationship with yoga was stretching every day so that I could reach the “heights” of those crazy contortionist “poses,” and with the proliferation of yogis on social media, my approach seemed like the point—when following westerners who perform yoga. Even the yogi whom I followed for years preached a simple lesson through her social media that seemed to say something akin to … stretch, stretch, stretch, work, work, work, and you will become flexible, better, more capable simply by stretching. Now, I know this is completely the wrong focus. Yes, I could easily blame the yogis who proliferate a bastardization of yoga. Yes, I could easily dismiss the situation entirely and delude myself into believing that I had it all right, and so, it doesn’t matter that I used to do yoga the “wrong way.” But what I’m realizing now is that I had it all wrong from the beginning. 

Toward the end of my university days, I began taking yoga classes to stay limber (dancing full-time no longer challenged me intellectually enough), and I hated them all, and the classes birthed within me a sheer annoyance at the whole system, the whole process. It always felt so fake, so contrived. So, I moved online. I watched a few YouTube videos and meandered through the IG yoga community trying to figure out not only what yoga is but also, what yoga can be to me. Ten years later, I am finally beginning to figure it out, with the help of my newly-discovered yoga light, Angelica Marie Wilson. Of course, I had no idea Angelica existed a mere two weeks ago.

After the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, which is now a new lifestyle for me, I scrambled to ditch the white yogi who made no effort to amplify the voices of her fellow yogis in need. Unfortunately (in my mind at the time), Kino MacGregor, a yogi at the top of the online yogi-sphere, about whom I have had a lot of opinions, did her duty and amplified about half-a-dozen black yogis she thought appropriate for her followers to follow (she could still do more promoting, imho, but I understand that she feels she does enough simply by being herself, and I am beginning to agree). Thus, Angelica

And then, I did the thing I thought I’d never do…sign up for (a free thirty-day to test out the process) membership to Kino’s online yoga site, Omstars. Obviously, I’ve known about the site for years, but it’s Kino, and I am not a fan, thereby, not a supporter. She has always felt a bit opportunistic, enterprising, insincere, as if yoga were a means to a wealthy end. But what’s wrong with that? I’m opportunistic and enterprising and probably insincere at times, but it’s yoga, and yoga is supposed to be…what?…exactly. 

After two classes with Angelica, I am beginning to open in a way that I have not really connected to through yoga and through my interaction with black yogis on social media. I am about to paint with a broad brush here (and I am no expert in anything, not yoga, not nothing), and I hope that it doesn’t tinge too brightly of racism, but I feel I must say it, even if I’m wrong right now, in this moment—white yogis focus on results—black yogis focus on process. As superficial as this observation may seem, it is only that, a mere observation, as I do not know any of the yogis I follow online, personally, but I can see it in the pictures they (both white and black alike) post, the types of photos they take, the image that they contrive or convey, the postures they choose and the lighting that goes optimally with each. 

And so, I suppose I do not really know what to say except, “Thank you.” Thank you to you, Kino, for being the way that you are because who you are is one who builds, and upon that platform, you’ve built more opportunities for yoga. I do not have to understand you, nor do I have to believe you or even like you, but it is my choice to have faith that you teach for the reasons that you say, and that you do what you do out of the goodness of your heart, for you truly know that yoga can change a life. But mostly, thank you, Angelica, for being the light that you are. Two classes in, and you’ve transformed my yoga practice and by extension, my life. I cannot hope to come to any further awareness or insight than I have today (in the “Crystal Ball of the Present” —AMW), but I am aware of my gratitude for the yogis who are here to guide me through life through light and a focus on all that is meaningful…through the process, with each posture a mere reflection of the work I’ve done on my mat. Thank you.