When you Google images of “yoga student,” or “yoga teacher,” the first few scrolls are images of mainly petite, white women practicing and teaching yoga, with the exception of maybe one or two images of a person of color taking in the beautiful practice.
When I first began practicing yoga myself, I was usually the only Black student in class and now that I teach yoga, I’m typically still the only Black yogi in class. While there’s nothing wrong with yoga being practiced by a specific group, there is something wrong when it’s represented in the media that there’s only one type of yoga student.
Contrary to what many have been taught to believe, the earliest practice of yoga spans back to over 10,000 years ago in ancient Egypt where the Egyptian civilization began the ancient and sacred practice. Referred to as Kemetic Yoga, yoga asanas that are practiced today can be seen on the temple walls in Egypt, as well as other paintings, engravings and murals.
Knowing that yoga began in Africa, it’s unfortunate that it doesn’t receive that credit, especially if you’re looking through Google images or reading in books on how it was founded in India 5,000 years ago.
I think it’s safe to say that it’s time to decolonize yoga. And Yoga Green Book is here to help do that.
With so many classes to choose from, whether you’re brand new to yoga or want to switch up your current yoga routine, Yoga Green Book is a refreshing online community where people of color can go to learn yoga, pranayama (breath work), pose demos and meditation from other people of color.
For all of the yogis out there looking to start a practice, Yoga Green Book has a free 30-day trial for you to try out all of their classes and get a feel for which courses work best for you. After the trial period, membership is only $19/month and includes one-on-one consultations with the Yoga Green Book founder, Carla Christine, and access to unlimited videos and exclusive resources.
I had the opportunity to chat with Christine to discuss wellness and the creation of Yoga Green Book and how it’s here to help yogis of color everywhere.
BlackDoctor.org (BDO): How did you get started in yoga?
Carla Christine (CC): I started yoga when I was living in Atlanta working a little over five years in my career as an electrical engineer. I started having really intense anxiety to the point that it was affecting my personal and professional life. I went to a doctor and he had some anti-depressant medication in his office that he recommended for me after a quick office visit. When I told my friend about it, she was a little concerned because it was such a quick office visit without any type of evaluation and she recommended I try yoga to see if there was any natural remedy before taking the prescribed medication. I was a little hesitant [to try yoga] because I didn’t know what to expect or what yoga was, but once I started, I started having so many amazing benefits from it. First [I gained] flexibility and I started noticing my anxiety started to reduce the more I was going to yoga and practicing different breathing techniques. Yoga was helping me with the healing process and [I knew] it was a long term thing with me to continue to practice yoga.
BDO: What inspired you to start Yoga Green Book?
CC: After moving to Chicago and finishing my [yoga] certification, I was teaching yoga when I noticed that my family and friends were still very hesitant to practice yoga and felt intimidated for one reason or another, whether feeling like it wasn’t for them based on what they were seeing in the media or not seeing their image reflected; or just being intimidated with going to a studio in general just feeling like they weren’t flexible enough. That really prompted me to think of ways that I could connect my family and friends to it. I think within our community and within my family, there are different things that are affecting [our community] from obesity to arthritis to type-2 diabetes and just wanting to connect my family and friends [to yoga]. I was watching the Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s documentary ‘The African Americans’ and there was a part that talked about the “Negro Motorists Green Book” and when he said that, it actually had me thinking about the purpose and how back during the segregation era, there was a directory that was used to link Black travelers with safe spaces along their travels. It was a powerful thought because I wanted my family and friends [to know] that there were safe spaces where they can practice and come how they [are] and celebrate how they are without needing to be flexible or really needing anything. Once I saw that, I started reaching out to other teachers of color and [discussing] how their experiences were, if it’s something they can relate to as a student but also as a teacher. Connecting with other teachers, we all were on the same page of wanting to come together and have a directory that could create safe spaces, but that [idea] morphed into an online studio so that we can reach even more people…and be accessible to everybody online.