Can Yoga Heal Our Trauma and Our Bodies | PathForward

Can Yoga Heal Trauma and Our Bodies As BIPOC?

August 17, 2021 by CJ Johnson
Yoga only requires two ingredients; a few feet of space and you!
Yoga only requires two ingredients; a few feet of space and you!

Wouldn’t you love to find a go-to self-care practice that you can do anytime and almost anywhere that can put your mind, body, and soul at ease in an instant?

For millions, yoga is that go-to self-care practice. Yoga is where you can leave your anxiety, fears, pain, and heartbreak on the mat. It’s an ancient practice with roots in Asian and even African cultures. Ironically (in light of the current dominance of white practitioners in this space) yoga actually belongs to BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color). We are the Forefathers and Foremothers of yogic logic and its physical form.

Unfortunately, owing largely to the duel forces of capitalism and cultural appropriation (even when it's well-intentioned), yoga by and large has gotten away from BIPOC. We have been shut out due to geography (yoga began to rise quickly American suburbia), expensive yoga studio membership fees, costly yoga teacher certifications, and the overall commercial codification of the practice.

Thankfully, in the last few years yogic practice has begun to increase in popularity amongst BIPOC.

This is good news considering that stress is a silent killer and BIPOC people experience life threatening stress at alarming rates. One of the best holistic antidotes for combatting race-based stress and trauma is yoga.

Despite how it has been marketed in the West, yoga only requires two ingredients; you and a few feet of space. You don’t need a $150 a month yoga studio membership or $90 leggings from LuluLemon. We don’t have to continue to allow price and exclusivity to keep us from diving into yoga. It’s time to shatter that socially constructed obstacle!

There are a number of yoga styles (Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga) you can practice in your living room or bedroom in your spare time. A quick YouTube search on your phone or PC can lead you to a number of yoga workouts led by BIPOC yoga teachers such as Kino Yoga, Arianna Elizabeth, and Black Yogi Nico Marie, to name a few.

In her book, Restorative Yoga for Ethnic and Race-Based Stress and Trauma, Gail Parker, Ph.D states that, “It is safe to assume that any person of color walking through the door of a yoga studio or entering into a therapeutic relationship has experienced some form of race-based stress or trauma…”.

Parker further elaborates in her book how BIPOC endure daily race-based stress just by navigating the world. From having fears of driving while Black, to being at the center of insensitivity in the workplace as a person of Asian heritage, eves as far as near erasure from society as an Indigenous person. Our daily experiences can feel like a death by a thousand cuts.

Over time that unique level of stress can wreak havoc on the body (circulatory, digestive, nervous, and endocrine systems), the mind, and the spiritual heart.

The benefits of exploring yoga run deep and wide. Researchers and elder practitioners all agree that yoga can:

  • Drain the lymphatic system (which helps to flush out toxins in the body and fight infections)
  • Lower blood pressure (African Americans tend to have the highest high blood pressure and hypertension diagnosis amongst other racial groups)
  • Regulate adrenal glands (yoga lowers cortisol levels - cortisol spikes when experiencing stress)
  • Lower blood sugar levels (a huge benefit for those with diabetes)
  • Improve respiratory health (the breathing style in yoga is restorative for the lungs)
  • Ease pain such as back pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Increase levels of self-awareness through the mind, body, spirit connection

When you allow those benefits to sink in, as a BIPOC the appeal of yoga may start to authentically grow for you.

I remember when I first started my yoga journey back in 2011. It was in the midst of an ice storm in Texas and I couldn’t go running, or really even leave the house because the city had shut down. In order to combat my cabin fever, I turned to yoga. I found streaming workouts on YouTube and the rest, as they say, is history.

I’ve been a yogi ever since that harsh winter day ten years ago and am eternally grateful for my regular yoga practice. I’ve learned to manage my stress and anxiety with more ease due to yoga - and I’m sure my body would like to thank me for adding in a more gentle exercise besides just running!

I’m in my 40’s and don’t suffer from any joint issues, my blood pressure is stable, and my heart chakra consistently feels activated. I know I owe all of that to yoga. In essence, yoga has helped me heal old wounds, process the micro-aggressions of racism that I experience as a Black woman, and keep myself physically fit.

I firmly believe that it can have a transformative effect on you too.

After the racial unrest we experienced as a collective during the summer of 2020, our minds and bodies are at an all-time high level of burn out. We are still grappling with the lingering effects of that troubling year. Voter suppression and the fight against other civil liberties that will overwhelmingly negatively impact BIPOC is further fueling the race-based stress and trauma that we are experiencing.

Combined with underlying health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or chronic pain, we are in dire need of a holistic alternative to restore our health. Yoga can serve as the foundation for reprogramming your body to optimal health. Adding in other measures such as meditation and a balanced diet can dramatically shift our overall health.

We are so deserving of good health and radical self-care. We have shed tears and blood in the name of liberation. Now is the time to begin saving ourselves so we can pour from a full cup.

To better explore all that your mind, body, and soul needs, just like yoga, I invite you to connect with one of our trusted spiritual psychic advisors. The summer is such a Divine time for self-exploration and gaining answers to the questions that our soul is asking us.

Click HERE to get your first three minutes for free.

Your soul will be so happy that you did!

Let us know if yoga is calling your name :-)

Until next month, take DEEP care!

Sincerely,

CJ Johnson

References:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/yoga-benefits-beyond-the-mat

https://yogatherapy.health/2020/08/27/restorative-yoga-to-support-healing-from-race-based-stress/

CJ Johnson
“I'm a writer with a fascination for plant medicine and a passion for social justice, spirituality, and holistic wellness. Tarot journaling and chocolate donuts keep me balanced. I'm based in Texas and dream of living near a salty ocean with my ancestors to keep me company.”- CJ Johnson

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