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Black Folk Don’t Do Yoga

in YD News

My name is Angela Tucker and I am the director/producer of a web series called Black Folk Don’t. First, I am black. You might not know that so let me begin my introduction that way. It might matter to you. It might not. But I thought I’d begin there. Now, before the tongue and cheek title of the series scares you, the point is that black folk DO Everything. However, there is this idea that there are some things that black folk Do and Don’t Do. By asking people this provocative question, a lot of important dialogue takes place.

Our final episode of the season is Black Folk Don’t Do Yoga. I was inspired to do this episode for a few reasons.

I’ve been practicing yoga since high school. Before I even knew it was called yoga, my drama teacher would have us do sun salutations before every rehearsal. Throughout my life I have come back to yoga because, quite simply, I get a lot out of it. Yes it is an incredible workout but being that centered for 45 / 90 / 10 … however many minutes a day has brought an indescribable amount of peace to my life.

When I first started practicing, I hardly ever saw any other black women in my classes. You might ask the question why it matters if other black people who do yoga. It takes a lot of strength to partake in an activity that other people in your racial group do not typically participate in. If you have not had this experience, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

I would talk to my few black friends who practiced yoga and they would tell agree that few black men or women were in their classes. Even in classes taught by black teachers, we were always surprised by the lack of diversity. This was a conversation we would have with one other but never in public. I had a feeling that the ideas brought up in this conversation might be helpful to people of all races so I decided to do an episode of Black Folk Don’t about yoga.

When I did these interviews, I asked people if they agreed with the statement “Black Folk Don’t Do Yoga”. Whether the answer was yes or no, they had to say, “Why?” That is most important question right, “Why?”

This conversation elicited many interesting ideas and responses. Yes, there are plenty of studios, especially in urban areas, filled with diverse clientele but several people mentioned the marketing of yoga as something for upper class, white women, as a reason that may keep people away who could benefit. This is particularly ironic because, as one of our commentators says in the episode, yoga comes from a history of “super accessibility”. Many people mention their love of bikram and their black celebrities that do yoga such as Newark mayor, Cory Booker and hip-hop mogul, Russell Simmons.

Many fascinating ideas are brought up in this episode so check it out. My hope as a media maker is to create dialogue. What happens next is up to you.

If you want to watch the other five episodes of Black Folk Don’t, check them out: blackfolkdont.com/pages/episodes/

Check out Erica Robinson’s studio in Harlem, Asali Yoga: www.asaliyoga.com

Shout out to Kula Yoga Project where we filmed the interviews: www.kulayoga.com

A fascinating article in Clutch Magazine, about yoga in the black community: clutchmagonline.com/2010/08/namaste-yoga-in-the-black-community

Black Folk Don’t on facebook


29 comments… add one
  • Sheila Hall

    I just wanted to say, loved your video and it gave me encouragement to maybe open a yoga studio in a majority black community. I am a Holy Yoga instructor and am trying to bring yoga to the black church. Thank you for this.

    • Chris


      I’m curious, what exactly is Holy Yoga ?

      • Sheila Hall

        It’s practicing the exercise of yoga but our intention is on Christ. Here is our website, http://www.holyyoga.net

        • Chris


          Yoga is an ancient Hindu science.

          So, while doing Yoga, it is customary (and perhaps, befitting too ) to give props to the wise Hindu sage, Patanjali, who compiled the Yoga-Sutras in ancient India.


          Having said that, it is also true that some scholars believe that JC himself a wise Hindu sage. It is said that JC spent his youth in India (the missing years of JC’s life that the Bible won’t talk about), imbibing the ancient Eastern philosophies and Hindu wisdom from learned Hindu sages. Thereafter, having become a self-realized soul (a Maha-Yogi) in India, JC returned to the Middle-East to preach to his people. JC’s preachings are in harmony with Hindu philosophies :

          As you sow, so shall you reap : That’s the Hindu law of Karma.

          Let him throw the first stone who has not sinned : Hindus believe that the soul undergoes several cycles of birth, death and rebirth, until the soul becomes enlightened enough to break free from the cycle of Birth, Life Death and Rebirth.
          Thus, all souls present on earth, are here on earth, because they are still imperfect, and have not yet attained enlightenment.
          In other words, there is none amongst us, who is without sin.

          It is also said that JC survived the Crucifixion, and emigrated to the Kashmir region of India, where he lived to a ripe old age. JC is said to have been buried in Kashmir.

          • Sheila Hall

            Didn’t reply to discus what yoga is or isn’t just liked the concept of blacks don’t do yoga.

            God Bless.

          • The Principal

            “Mr. Madison, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

          • Miville

            It is true, according to the common people of the region, that Jesus may probably have visited Kashmir while he was young. Archeologists have been proving there was a jewish shopkeeping colony quite close by blood to his probable family according to the scriptures. Event though the journey was long and hard, it was more customary for ordinary people than later on to accompany the caravans and help with the cargo. But the same Kashmiri popular tradition reports very clearly that the same Jesus was very angry right from the start against all brahmins, hight-caste persons, and also against Hindu mystics and magicians, as mere shameless exploiters of the populace’s misery and toil (quite in the same way as against his own land’s pharisees). He rather praised the peasants and craftsmen as being the best and kindest in the world, and their handiwork the most beautiful. No matter what the fundamentalist may say, Jesus loved India quite in the same way many idealistic teen-age long-haired travelers loved it later in recent history, but no matter what the new-age pundits may say, he was interested in no hindu exoteric or esoteric initiation whatsoever. A son of God, and even a child of God in a sheer poetic sense of a carefree being knowing how to frolic in nature, needs no such crap as an initiation into a secret society. As for bodily yoga in the modern sense, Jesus had more to teach than to learn as he was a natural healer, especially since hatha yoga was unknown-of in most of India at that time.

  • candace

    hi! My name is Candace and I’m a black yogi! Love it! I also love Yoga dork. My question is, how do people wearing glasses do yoga? Kidding. I just saw the girl in the picture and imagined that she might have a hard time doing downward facing dog with that awesome face jewelry on. Thanks for the awesome post!

    • Joyce

      I wear glasses while doing yoga…sometimes its distracting if I forgot my lighter, tighter-fitting glasses. They can slip in downward dog……anyway, I’ve also tried doing yoga without my glasses. It was a very interesting experience since I couldn’t see anything clearly and had to really concentrate on the verbal instructions. On the plus side, I never compared myself to anyone else since everyone else looked like fuzzy swipes of color!

  • Marce

    I just went to a 10-day meditation retreat and counted 7! black women there, and lots of brown women also – at least half of the women were of colour. This was definitely worth noting for me, since I’m usually the only brown person in the room (ironic, since yoga began in India in the first place!)

    Of course, this retreat took place in the greater Toronto area, where visible minorities are quickly becoming the majority. Still, I’ve been to yoga classes in Toronto and they’re never that diverse . . . maybe because this wasn’t a trendy downtown yoga class with everyone wearing expensive yoga clothes but more of an old-school Indian retreat? (Also, it was “pay-what-you-can” ie. free if you couldn’t afford a donation). Whatever the reason, it was really powerful to sit with women from completely different backgrounds (Jamaican, Somali, West African, South African, Guyanese, Indian, etc . . .) all there for the same reason.

  • I WANT all colors and sizes and ages and economic groups in my yoga studio. I plan to “invite” that by having images of people in my advertising that doesn’t include skinny rich white women. Skinny rich white women WILL show up in yoga, of course they will, and, in my studio I know that to go beyond that I will need to help create flow of “different” people, black people, brown people, old people, fat people, into my yoga studio by allowing them to imagine they are welcome with images and words that speak to their experiences. All are welcome.

  • kelley

    I got one for you…
    BLACK FOLK DON’T smell like wet dogs when they come in from the rain.


  • Nichole

    As long time black yogi, thank you for having this conversation out loud. Yoga is healing and we need more than we know! OM!

  • Vedanta

    What ever colour you are just watch your own dhristi and do ‘YOUR’ practice and will be coming ommmmm

  • Vedanta

    What ever colour you are just watch your own dhristi and do ‘YOUR’ practice and all will be coming ommmmm

  • Brittany Artis

    I’m black and I take yoga classes twice a week. There’s not much diversity in my classes either. Usually some black people will come and try a few classes, but no regulars

  • Tadeo

    Black folk don’t do yoga??

  • Black person who does yoga here! Sure my friends were confused at first, but as soon as they saw the tangible benefits in my life, they were on board. I just moved to Harlem, but I lived in DC for the past 4 years; where depending on the neighborhood I was either Black America’s Ambassador to yoga, or I was among a diverse array of many ethnicities. Lots of factors matter, but I’d venture to say the main ones are as follows; the cost, the progressiveness of the area/people, and (for all too many Black women) the sweat-to-hairstyle-maintenance ratio.

  • Sheila: I am glad you were encouraged to open a studio. Yeah!

    Thanks everyone for reading! This is the kind of dialogue I was hoping for 🙂

  • I have been the only black woman in several Yoga studios – sometimes even here in my own country Jamaica. So this issue has definitely been at the forefront of my mind. Thank you for bringing it out in the open!

  • THIS!!! Whatta ‘wholistic’ dialogue about blacks and yoga ; ) As a black yogini and instructor, with several classes outside of the typical yoga studio (in black homes, black churches, black hair salons, etc.), I sincerely thank you soo much, Angela. Your art/passion and commitment to “Black Folk Dont…” have brought us one step closer to CHANGE! Namaste ; )

  • thanks for retweeting this link. I’m also a black yogini who teaches. I live in Mississippi, so I’m quite a rarity. in my time I’ve only encountered another black teacher…we teach together.

    I’ve always done my best to encourage my community that they should embrace the power and beauty of yoga. I’ve taught only a few black students in my years of teaching. and I’ve always only been one of the handful of black folk attending workshops.

    for those black folk who I do know that practice, not all have a studio where they visit. they’re more of a home yogi, which I was for 2 years before I found my studio home.

  • Yes, we do yoga too…http://blackyogis.tumblr.com

  • The DC ( Chocolate City) Yoga scene is exploding. Lots of yogis of all flavors, black owned studios, workshops etc. This is just the beginning and it is only getting bigger. Great place for multicultural holistic health businesses and ventures.


  • hello, this is an great post.

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