I remember the first time I heard about yoga, I immediately thought of two things: Black people don’t do yoga, and everyone in the classroom would laugh at me. Though things such as stress, anxiety, and mental health are all issues that seemingly is increasing in conversation (especially the Black community), it’s hard sometimes to think of alternative practices as being equally beneficial as an anti-depressant. But then you learn about Yoga Green Book, an online safe space offering yoga and meditation classes with a specific focus for people of color, and then you are left to question what you thought you knew.
TheBlondeMisfit had the opportunity to chat with Carla Christine, founder of Yoga Green Book, on wellness, creating a holistic safe space for people of color, and her advice for anyone trying to do the same. For all my misfits out there, Yoga Green Book has a free 30-day trial for you to try out and feel out the courses. After that, membership is $19/month and that includes unlimited videos, one-on-one consultations, and exclusive resources. The best part? With every YGB membership, Carla donates a portion of each sale to individuals and organizations committed to providing yoga and wellness resources to underserved communities.
Tell us about yourself and how you got started in yoga.
I grew up in Charleston, South Carolina. True military brat. Stayed there for school and went to college at Clemson. There, I studied in the School of Engineering, and honestly, I had my whole life planed. I was going to graduate, start working, and really started putting that into motion while in school. But with that set plan, I started to experience a lot of anxiety. I was eight years into my career and was looking for a natural remedy to help me with my anxiety, so eventually, it led me to yoga.
Right when I started yoga, I had a prescription for antidepressants.
From the recommendation of a friend, I moved to Chicago and the anxiety was getting worse as I was getting deeper in my career. Eventually I quite my job and decided to teach the benefits of yoga; I can honestly say it saved me from a path of self-deprecating and self-remedies to solve my anxiety. I found another path that worked for me without the prescriptions. I’m just thankful for venturing into an alternative path that worked for me. All of this eventually led to the creation of Yoga Green Book.
From there, how did the formulation of YGB happen?
There are tools that can benefit the community and bring awareness to yoga and what it does. Starting with the idea, I was a certified yoga teacher in Chicago. I was watching a documentary on the green book that was used during segregation areas and Jim Crow laws that told black people where they could get service and businesses (Negro Motorist Green Book). So, we based Yoga Green Book off the name, because I wanted to know how to practice yoga. I wanted to connect with other yoga teachers and have that connection of experience. Even being in Atlanta with a larger black community, it was not accepted. So I was looking for that unity and to go deeper in my wellness journey.
After a few months, there was a lot of teachers who wanted to be in the directory to get listed . We saw that even in large cities like Chicago or Atlanta, it felt like a yoga desert. There are just studios in certain areas of the city, but it’s not always accessible for everyone. It became a virtual platform in May 2016 just to reach the masses so everyone had accessibility to it. Even the people who are intimidated to go to the studio, they had the opportunity to connect.
What are some of the benefits to yoga?
With yoga, ther are so many benefits that are physical, but also emotional and spiritual. Depending on the style, there’s different classes you can take for different benefits. It can help strengthen your body, decrease stress, and even be something that helps with the spiritual connection. It can be really intense at the beginning, the ‘yoga high’ you experience. You’re moving your body differently than you do throughout the day–it can be really refreshing and relaxing but also a work out because you’re stretching out your muscles. Within our community, issues like racism and trauma and help and physical and mental illnesses disproportionally affect our communities; so the tools and benefits of yoga can really help our community. In recent years, there’s been a stigma about mental health that’s starting to get broken down.
Do you ever get push back from your community?
There’s still push back, especially on social media within the comments. Sometimes there’s a post, and comments can be nasty, questioning why we’re segregating yoga. Ultimately, I think there’s power in this representation, so even in the comments, you want to push forward for everyone else who depends on the videos, the social media posts, and everything else that has made a difference in their lives. I do believe yoga is for all, but there is so much power in seeing your image reflected in it. It’s not just for younger, white women as the media sometimes portrays. That’s not our narrative, and there are so many black yoga teachers in our directory.
I still get excited whenever I connect with other yoga instructors. It’s just amazing to connect with other people who want to do amazing work.
What does the future hold for Yoga Green Book?
In the future, I would like to be in the community more, with teachers spread throughout the nation. And we can have more of a community vibe and get to meet members. I do believe virtual is the way of the future, but there’s just something so powerful in everyone being in the same space to have that connection. I want to grow in all aspects of video, getting to talk about things like nutrition or even veganism.
For me, a hard part about yoga is dealing with perfectionism or the people on social media doing the absolute most. What do you say to people who are intimidated to try out of fear of being judged?
We’re all forever beginners; there’s always something to be learned in yoga. I’m always reminding myself or others that wherever you are is perfect. Be happy with where you are. I can look on Instagram and see someone doing something interesting, but it’s important to follow your own journey and be in your own moment.
What advice would you give to an entrepreneur whose also trying to create something for their community?
Do what feels right for you. I say that because I personally feel that it’s so easy to just get caught up in societal expectations and doing something for reasons outside of reasons you want. Follow your choices with any business ventures you start or even just how you choose to live your life. Following societal expectations can be the quickest way to be unhappy. Also remember, the road doesn’t come easy. And be open to asking for help.
Lastly, what makes you a misfit?
I’m a misfit because I’m unapologetically serving the black community. I’m not against inclusion, but I am rooting for us creating our own, and openly saying we’re promoting holistic health for the black community.