The African’s Yoga Mat: 10 Benefits of Practice

Halle Berry, Russell Simmons, LeBron James, Kerry Washington and Beyonce all practice yoga as part of their healthy lifestyle.

Yoga is an ancient form of exercising the body with holding postures, movements and bringing peace to mind through focusing on strength, self-control,  balance, flexibility and breathing. It is said to be originated 5,000 years ago in India.

I know the usual image of the yoga practice in the West is for the white, young and middle class. However the African (Black people) yogi community is growing and enjoying its benefits. There is even  Afrikan Yoga which is derived from Kemetic Yoga, Egyptian Yoga, Smai Taui, Tamare Smai Tawi, founded by Pablo Menfesawe-Imani, which incorporates rhythmic movements to African drums. Yoga is becoming universal and for good reasons. There is also Trap Yoga, where you do yoga to rap lyrics that encourages spirituality, founded by  Brandon Copeland.

Before my first time of entering into a yoga studio, I fantasied that there would be a few brothers and sisters sitting on mats gracefully and the white people that go are open and loving. I imagined incense, sitar music and chanting. On the contrary, I was the only Black person in a sea of white stares and a patronising teacher that liked to spend a lot of time correcting me more than the other beginners. I was frustrated and disappointed at my first experience. I packed away my mat and thought, “this is obviously just for white people. Prejudice hypocrites!” I took out my mat again a few months later when I discovered Black yogis in all sizes and personalities. I followed them on Instagram and YouTube and I started practising several times a week. I was empowered and embracing yoga again.

I knew after a few weeks of practice that I needed a more hands-on teaching approach to make sure my postures and transition was to the best of my ability. I started a job that offered free yoga sessions at lunchtimes. I was sceptical as I was already the only Black girl in my office and I had flashbacks of those staring eyes from my first yoga class. I said, “screw it. I am doing for me” and signed up. I entered into the class and yes I was the only Black person but I saw all shapes, sizes and smiles. I soon began accelerating in my yoga journey and my teacher helped me without any condemnation in  her voice. My thick thighs, big boobs, and wide hips was as gracefully submitting to the poses as my white petite counterparts.

With continuous practice without any judgements (from myself and others), I started seeing amazing benefits with my flexibility, breathing and body transformation. I found Yoga did the following:

  1. It improves physical health such as high blood pressure, heart disease, aches and pains including lower back pain; as well as depression and stress.

  2. Relaxation of the mind – A great release of energy at the end of each practice that leaves you zoned out. Your mind and body connects which helps you to slow down your thoughts, regulate your emotions, and focus on the here and now.

  3. It promotes self-care. Taking time out to inhale and exhale allows you to shift how you see and treat yourself. You learn not to judge your body and thoughts but let it be. It teaches you that you are enough.

  4. It boosts your sexual life as it improves your sexual desire, arousal, confidence, orgasm and performance. Yoga increases your blood flow into the genital area, strengthens the pelvic floor muscles (stronger orgasms), increased stamina to hold positions, increased mental control to prevent orgasming too quickly and allows you to be ever present which increases intimacy.

  5. Physical strength and tone- Yoga is not explosive but enduring so you build lasting strength not only in your muscles but your joints and core which is needed for everyday living.

  6. You become increasingly flexible that fights arthritis and stiffness. Also an increased range of flexibility opens up your movement range that is great for dancing, stretching, martial arts, athletics and sex.

  7. Weight reduction – Yoga involves cardio which helps burn calories that promotes weight loss.

  8. Better sleep. You can do night-time yoga to induce sleep if trouble sleeping. It is the controlled proper breathing that helps slow down your mind to be conducive t relax and fall asleep.

  9. Gives you inner strength – It helps with stopping or cutting down on bad habits like smoking, over eating, exercise more and eating better.

  10. It reminds you that you are a human being having a spiritual experience.

I hope this encourages you to take out your mat and start practising. Yoga is not a white thing but a health thing.

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