From the time I can remember I’ve always been exposed to the idea that we as human beings have the power to create the world we want. When I first began learning yoga, I experienced a huge version of that in my body. It felt like I had the power with in to be present, aware about my body, my mind, my breath, and my whole experience of my life. While I was having this huge transformational experience on and off the mat, I was still experiencing a sense of not belonging.

Even with in the yoga community after 10 years of taking classes in NY, New Orleans, and TX, I hadn’t met one instructor that wasn’t white, able bodied, and affluent. This was a huge problem because not only was there a lack of representation but there was an underlining, unsaid, and reoccurring message that made me feel unwelcome to that world.

When I made the choice to become a yoga instructor it was a major decision that went beyond the surface of having a job. This was a role that directly pushed up against the feelings I had of what my place in society was, what I had access to, what was available to me as a woman of color, and as a person that comes from a very working class/raised poor background.

As I connected to my own truth and became more clear around what was possible for me I knew that I had to take the next step and get certified so that I could get this powerful tool into the hands of people of color, people without financial access, and all beings who’s birth right it is to be connected to their own human experience.

The reconnection with my own powerful thinking led me to start Soulshine Yoga. I wanted to be able to offer yoga as more than an exercise and on my own terms. For me yoga is about liberation. Through yoga I was able to free myself from the restraints that made me feel small, unworthy, distracted, and constantly questioning my thinking. I realized this was bigger than my own individual freedom. Yoga is a form of social activism. As people of the Global Majority (an empowering term for people of color) we are constantly being denied equal access and equity to our world through the systematic oppression of racism which actively works to strip people of their power and hold them down. The creation of Soulshine Yoga is more than a business it’s a resistance to the oppression. It has been empowering for me to step into this role and redefine what ownership looks like.

I practice yoga every day to reconnect to my power. By uplifting my voice as a teacher and entrepreneur, offering the tools of yoga, and creating inclusive spaces for others to connect to their power directly pushes up against racism. Sometimes it’s hard to feel like what I’m doing is making a difference, but I think that’s part of the oppression, to keep us thinking and feeling small as if we don’t have the power to change things. The truth is, with every breath that we take with awareness we are deciding to take part in our own liberation by acknowledging the importance of our own existence. Our value lies in more than what we consume, more than our jobs, and more than the likes we get on social media. Our value is found in being the powerful, brilliant, and loving human beings that we are.

For non-Black people who want to actively support BLM.

  • Act in the interest of Black people every day, in every action, in every breath, and even when no one is watching.
  • Look at the way’s racism has landed on YOU and actively work towards YOU dismantling racism within YOUR body and YOUR mind.
  • Support the efforts of Black people already doing the work. Through donation, participation, education, and the backing of all Black owned businesses.
  • Call out racism everywhere, every day, and in everybody.
  • Actively show your support, by posting signs where you live, in your workplaces, and other places you gather.
  • Don’t go silent, don’t give up, stay in the fight for black people everywhere!
By Raina Gradford