YOLO, Mom: A Kripalu Yoga Teacher Shares Her Story

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It seems almost by accident that your earliest yoga teachers in Springfield were Kripalu-trained. How has Kripalu Yoga been important to your growth, and your ability to serve?

When you go to school you're taught reading, writing, arithmetic. Somewhere self-care, self-love, and self-actualization get lost. For me, the Kripalu-trained teachers brought a level of education that I never found in a classroom but discovered on a yoga mat. As a nurse, the nature of the profession is that empathy is reserved for patients in turmoil, never for your own inner turmoil. My yoga practice has been instrumental in allowing me to provide my patients with the best version of me instead of what's left of me.

The cliche holds that in the United States, yoga is for “skinny white girls.” That’s not how you identify. How has this affected and shaped your yoga journey?

As a pleasantly plump woman of color residing in New England, both unfortunately and fortunately, this cliche of U.S. yoga being primarily focused on one demographic rings true. Unfortunately, because the judgment of brown bodies in territorial white spaces is still very real in the yoga world. Fortunately, because it lights the way for necessary thoughtful change. I'm with the church of “yoga is for everybody.” It doesn't matter if I'm the only “thick black woman” in the room. My frame deserves to flow with freedom and grace without restrictions based on my size or my melanin.

Kripalu aims to be a true place of belonging for all people. Would you like to share any experiences that speak to this idea, either positively or negatively?

Okay, time for the elephant in the room. One only has to stay at Kripalu for one night to notice that almost all of the staff at the guest relations or faculty level are one demographic and those in the hospitality sector are another demographic. Regarding positive experiences, the Women of Color Retreat with Maya Breuer provided a unique experience in which I found my face reflected in a sea of women that looked like me. For that moment Kripalu truly felt like a place where all people could belong.

You found the online learning experience to be positive. Is there anything you’d like to share with the Kripalu community about online programming, especially your 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training?

For years, I had looked at Kripalu catalogs, waiting for the right moment to join a Yoga Teacher Training. As a mother, working full-time in a busy healthcare industry, on-campus living for a 200-hour program seemed like an impossible feat. It was in January 2021, three days before the start of a new online session, that my daughter in all her little wisdom spoke these words to me: “Mom, how many times are you going to look at that catalog? YOLO! You only live once.” Throughout the training, all 40 students interacted on a level that couldn't be replicated in a campus experience. We weren't able to separate or form cliques that are commonly seen in a physical setting. The direct human exchanges that are often taken for granted become cherished sacred experiences in a remote platform. 

What are your plans for your Yoga Teacher Training certification?

I recently started Rock Shimmies Yoga Wellness. From an emotional perspective, I like to think of Kripalu as the yoga of self-acceptance. Life is hard enough, so offering a yoga practice for people to know that they are more than enough has been my focus as a yoga teacher. I’m inspired to expand services in the areas of wellness consulting for the community as well as stress management education for healthcare workers. My hope is to provide support in self-care to those who are often selfless. 

If you were to bring your daughter to Kripalu in ten years, what would you hope she would see, learn, and experience?

As my daughter moves from young girl to young woman I would hope she would see all the beauty life has to offer reflected in faces that resemble her own. I want her to learn her worth in her heart, and experience being valued in her own body. 

What do you think your life–and your impact on your patients and broader community—would be like if Kripalu didn’t exist?

Kripalu has allowed me to develop in a way that is in alignment with my life's purpose. For me, yoga is that shimmer-of-light sunray on a gloomy day. Within it, there often lie opportunities for growth, insight, and understanding as an individual as well as a collective. It's that subtle introspection without the active pursuit of perfection that has kept me on my mat practicing Kripalu Yoga for more than 18 years.