DALLAS — The next time you go to a yoga class, pay attention to what the class looks like. Despite the long recorded history of Black individuals who practice yoga, a typical class sometimes does not reflect that.
Black people continue to break down racial barriers — big and small. The fight to be seen, heard, and respect within the yoga community is a testament to that.
To better understand the history of yoga, you must know that the bending, twisting, and stretching of the body is one of the oldest forms of meditation that was originally connected to religion.
“The practice of yoga is ancient. Like the practice of yoga goes back to ancient Egypt. They use bending and stretching and exercise to get closer to God,” said Antonio McDonald, a Black man who has been on a yoga journey since he was a teenager.
McDonald says his journey is a spiritual one. He’s been at it since he was 14 years old and now in his 20s, he travels throughout the Dallas area teaching kids and adults different poses and breathing techniques. As a Black man in the world of yoga, he is considered a rarity.
Do an internet search for the word “yoga” and you’ll find that a lot of the images that pop up are people who don’t look like McDonald.
“It has been publicized and proliferated with nothing but whiteness. Truly, if I can get blunt, yoga today is white,” McDonald said.
McDonald says he would appreciate it if more spaces are developed so it’s not unusual to see more than one or two Black people take up space on a mat in a yoga class. The lack of diversity is why Georgette Dunn is in the process of opening her yoga studio in Dallas. Her goal is to help people find their way through trauma, gain healing, and see the worth in their existence through thoughts and movements.
“I want a family vibe and my hope is that people come there to feel better: mind, body, and spirit,” said Dunn.
She says it’s one thing to have more Black students in a yoga class, but it’s an even greater statement to be a Black yoga instructor who owns the place. This goes back to the idea of representation matters.
“Because they’re seeing themselves in their instructors, but for a long time that was just not the case,” she added.
No matter what kind of yoga journey you’re on whether it be religious or fitness, Dunn says there should be room for all members so anyone knows they have a place of belonging.