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21 Jun

ASHLEY NICOLE PHOTOGRAPHY

Exactly 247 people came to practice yoga with me today. Why is that such a big deal? Well, it means that I’m a badass. But to fully understand, you have to learn more about me and my community.

The practice of yoga powerfully changed my life. I went from being an alcoholic, Xanax-poppin’ college dropout to traveling the world to inspire others to be the greatest versions of themselves.

I was born and raised in Dallas, and was eight-years-old the first time I was sexually abused by my neighbor. That year I was also sentenced to my first in-house suspension. I didn’t have the tools to cope with the trauma, and I was punished for it. I became a menace in my elementary school. Teachers didn’t want me in class, so they placed me in an ESL class instead (English is my first language). The ESL teacher drank cold coffee all day. She spoke in Spanish (which I didn’t understand) and seated me in a cubicle I couldn’t see over or around. Needless to say, I didn’t learn anything that year. I grew more disenchanted with school. Nobody asked what was going on with me.

My dysfunction bled into adulthood. By the time I was 29, I was an alcoholic, married to a man I didn’t really know, and detached from myself. Then I found out I was pregnant. I told my then-husband, and I haven’t seen him since. Watching a Ricki Lake documentary called The Business of Being Born (who doesn’t love Ricki Lake?) inspired me to have a natural childbirth. I found a doula, and the first thing she advised me to do was to start practicing yoga.

My first thought was, “Yoga? Black people don’t do yoga.” But I found a yoga studio, and it went something like this: I’m nervous as fuck wearing too-little yoga pants (of course, people don’t make yoga pants for my kind of super sexiness). The white woman behind the counter actually said, “This is a yoga studio, mama.” No kidding, I’m here to buy donuts, I wanted to say. When I explained that I was there to practice, she told me to pick a beginner class because I was plus-size. This was my first interaction with the world of yoga, at the closest studio to my home, and I had to travel 24 miles to get there.

Despite it all, the first time I stepped on the mat I was introduced to myself. As I practiced more and more, I gained the power to cultivate my life. I also quickly learned that yoga was expensive, so I found a studio that would let me clean up in exchange for free classes. I didn’t understand how a practice that empowers people to heal themselves was so inaccessible.


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