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Yeah I know. I know some people will be here for gossip. That is not what this post is about. This post is about sharing my experience with Holy Yoga and my decision to not only leave but make a public announcement.
I received my 200hr Yoga Certification in 2019 from a local studio in Houston, TX. I knew before I began training to be a certified yoga instructor that I wanted to bring this practice to African American/Black Christians. Throughout my entire training I noted parallels between Yoga Philosophy and the Word of God. My business plan included pitching to Christian Conferences to teach yoga and I felt like I needed to have a specific certification for Christ-Based Yoga (I am working through my thought process of feeling like I needed this verification).
Very soon after receiving my 200hr Yoga Certification I enrolled in the Holy Yoga 100hr Certification. I was one of 2 black women among over 200 white women enrolled in that Holy Yoga certification cohort. Despite many microaggression encounters (like the lady randomly interrupting my peaceful lunch by the water to tell me that her brother married an African woman and they had an african wedding, or everyone wanting me to meet their black friends) I was loved. There were moments when I wondered if I was loved because I was the “cool” black woman, but I accepted it and was able to build a genuine relationship with many women in their Leadership and Shepherds team. I always say they didn’t know I was “black power black” when they decided to love me lol. Since receiving my 100hr Certification, I have joined (and paid for) many additional trainings, small group sessions, bible studies, etc.
Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd. 2020 was the year we watched black body after black body murdered by the hands of the police and people who felt like they were empowered by the police. It honestly wasn’t a year much different than other years for the black community. The difference, we were (and we still are) in the middle of a pandemic that forced us all to sit down somewhere, be still, and pay attention to the world outside of our personal bubbles.
But one thing remained the same. The silence of white people or even worst, racist comments from white people. Every single white person I unfollowed on social media was someone I met from Holy Yoga, so a white Christian. I normally don’t care about white silence during racial unrest but I’ve gained many new white friends from now being a part of the Yoga Teacher Community (you know because yoga has become so white-washed). Specifically the Christian Yoga Teacher Community. And this time it hurt. It hurt that so many people who claimed to love me (No seriously, so many people told me they loved me and that is not a comfortable word for me) but based on their response, or lack thereof, to violence to the black community, I didn’t feel like they really loved all of me. The black me. The me that mourns year after year after year as this country continues to oppress my community. So I openly expressed my concerns. Because that’s what I do.
Because God is amazing, He prompted me to journal my experience of the many meetings I had as I shared my concerns, and suggestions about Holy Yoga’s lack of response to social justice. Enjoy my personal journal with receipts (screenshots).
One of my HY Shepards & Mentors called me to check to see how I was feeling. It was the first time I openly expressed my pain and disappointment in the lack of support for the black community from Holy Yoga. Of course she couldn’t answer for them as an org (and I don’t expect her to) but it felt good to actually say the words out loud.
The next day HY posted a pic of three cartoon hands with a scripture about unity then a black square. I am not impressed or entertained.
I was honored to record a Take Up Your Mat podcast episode with some of the Holy Yoga Shepherds and Leaderships. (Take Up Your Mat is not a HY podcast). After the recording I had the opportunity to share my disappointment and hurt with HY silence with a wider audience. Everyone seemed to be supportive and listened to my heart and suggestions. And I was not gentle. My hurt was fresh so my words were probably harsh. A leader did tell me Holy Yoga is preparing a response video regarding Black Lives Matter. We shall see.
Some of the HY leaders are urging me to become a HY Ambassador, which is their official volunteer program. The Ambassador Coordinator emailed me about joining the Ambassador program, and I responded back that it’s important for me to understand HY stance on BLM and social justice.
So on July 15th we talked for 2 hrs about what HY can do better to join the fight of social justice as a Christian yoga business. She was NOT ready for that conversation, mainly because she couldn’t answer any of my questions. She basically read the mission statement off the website. My mom said I made some very valid points but it was a tiring conversation. Like I don’t understand why it’s a needed conversation. If you claim to be a Christian organization and follow the teachings of Jesus then you stand up for the oppression just like Jesus did. I let her know that I do not plan to commit to the Ambassador program until I had more information about HY stance on injustice of black people in this country.
It was recommended that I speak to the COO. I think they thought since she is Asian I could relate to her.
So immediately after my meeting with the Ambassador Coordinator I met with 2 HY Shepherds. They reached out to me after the Take Up Your Mat Podcast recording and are interested in creating a Bible Study about social justice and why Christians should be involved in the healing of the oppressed and marginalized because you know…What would Jesus Do? We left the meeting with the homework of outlining a bible study called “Carry Each Other’s Burdens” focusing on Galatians 6: 1-10.
Met with HY Shepherds to review our outline and brainstorming from last week. Ok I am excited about this. We split up the bible study and are responsible for a section. I was responsible for Week 1 where we will introduce the concept of Carry Each Other’s Burdens and Social Justice from a Christian lens.
They tried and failed. No for real. This is the epitome of Spiritual Bypassing. Your answer is pointing people to Jesus through posting scripture and HOPING they have a revelation to change systemic racism? I can guarantee over half of the audience for Holy Yoga don’t even understand (or beleive in) systemic racism.
This is the video that they were working on for a month. This is what they have been praying about. Go back to the upper room. We are called to be the HANDS and FEET of Jesus. To DO justice (Micah 6:8).
*Takes a break from writing blog because I am super triggered.*
Our final meeting before we submit our bible study proposal to HY Leadership. We are asking that the study be implemented at the beginning of 2021. I made a decision that if the answer is no, I am leaving HY.
Bible Study Outline
* The letter was submitted! Leadership responded with a request for a meeting.
Here I was minding my business and I received an email from HY asking if I saw the response to BLM. So now I have to explain Spiritual Bypassing and how they missed the mark. There are two organizations that I believe HY should partner with for guidance on Christianity and Social Justice, Faith and Prejudice and Be The Bridge.
Well this conversation did not go well at all. Everyone has urged me to speak with the HY COO (I seriously think it’s because she’s Asian).
After expressing my concerns (again), she basically said that HY does not want to make anyone feel uncomfortable and is a place of love. I expressed my dissatisfaction and how love is an ACTION. I was told that their stance would not change.
She also named the 5 black ppl in HY as if “Look we have black people”. I was fuming after this meeting. That’s an understatement. I was pissed.
The HY Shepherds and I met with HY Leadership to talk in more detail about the Bible Study. It was a promising meeting. We decided that a Bible Study is not the right path as those studies are a one time thing and this is a topic that should be ongoing. We discussed using parts of the study to include into the Leadership Development training. This prompted me to think about owning the study and contracting parts of it to HY and other christian organizations. I’m currently in a few coaching programs that are geared around creating online courses. This would be a great online course. The wheels are turning.
Whew chile! The Ambassador Coordinator and another HY Leader joined our session for the first 20 mins. It was extremely awkward. You could tell they didn’t agree with the idea of integrating Social Justice into their curriculum. We had to reset the whole mood before starting our proposal meeting.
We decided to record a podcast for the Leadership Development training. This would replace the outdated podcast that they have in the curriculum. So for the next few weeks we will meet to flesh out our bible study alongside the Leadership Development Curriculum so the topics of the podcast and curriculum are aligned in theory. The next Leadership Development training is in January so we have a lot of work to do in a little amount of time.
What does the Carry Each Other’s Burden bible study look like outside of HY. Can we package this into an online course for Christian Orgs? The wheels keep turning. We’re taking a much needed break before we continue to meet with the HY Leaders.
First meeting fleshing out the Podcast. We are walking through each week of the Leadership Development curriculum to align the bible study topics with each week. I want to start with definitions like Spiritual Bypassing and Tone Policing but they say that may be too much too soon lol. There is a verse in our study regarding gentleness.
Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. – Galatians 6:1
I’ve been working on this. Or I should say God has been working on me. Gentleness creates space for emotional healing. Gentleness is not a “safe space” where you will not be challenged or uncomfortable. So while I am ready to tackle these touch conversations I don’t want to run anyone off. I also don’t want anyone to confuse this with tone policing me. Because righteous anger is valid.
From my Bible study notes. My sis said I cant quote this during the podcast recording. She is a hater.
This is a lot. In the midst of working on this project, I am also planning a summit for yoga and social justice as well as immersing myself in all things social justice. My soul is heavy. One of the HY leaders asked if I wanted to reach out to someone to join me in the podcast because I will essentially be the only black voice with 4 white women. I decided to not bring someone in but to find an outlet for prayer and strength to fill my soul.
But today’s planning meeting was productive. We are starting to dissect the church’s role in racism and focusing on how factors such as how you were raised can contribute to the oppression of others. Good, heavy, holy topics.
We selected the dates to record the podcast. We will begin recording next month! This is exciting.
One of the HY leaders mentioned me being a HY Ambassador to be able to join the Leadership Development Training as a small group leader. While I would love to do so I am just not ready to commit to HY anymore than I have right now.
So I was just notified via email that I have to be an official volunteer in order to move forward with recording the podcast. Yes the podcast that we are scheduled to record next week. Yes the recording that we have been working on each week for months.
I’m annoyed. First I had no intention of actually being a volunteer until after this process. Signing up for the HY Ambassador program is 1 yr commitment and I just wasn’t ready to make this type of commitment to HY but will do so in order to record the podcast. Because I have given my energy, ideas, and time to this project and I would like to see it to fruition.
I’m still annoyed.
So the podcast has been postponed until I am officially onboarded as a HY Ambassador (Volunteer). I feel bamboozled. I don’t understand why they would wait until a week before we were scheduled to record to make this decision.
I have submitted my application and my Shepherd recommendation letters. Now I wait for my interview with the coordinator. Yes the same one I spoke to in July.
Well we are still meeting as if the podcast will be recorded this year to prepare for the January Leadership Development Training. We have selected new dates for the recordings in hopes that I will be onboarded as a HY Ambassador soon.
All of the meetings with HY are in the middle of the day. (I shared with them this, unintentional or not, is contributing to their lack of diversity in the organization. All of their offerings are in the middle of the day which markets to a certain demographic.) I have to take my lunch break at the time of the meeting because I work a full time job. I planned on taking PTO for the podcast but Kendra asked if we would like to meet on Saturday so I don’t have to take PTO. I appreciate that.
Today I met with the HY Ambassador Coordinator for my interview. Listen…this meeting was beyond ridiculous. The first half we talked about the Ambassador program and all her questions were related to that. We talked about my interest, what areas I would like to volunteer in and how I can help serve Holy Yoga.
Oh but the next hour. The next hour was about my concern with Holy Yoga and their lack of concern regarding social justice. I shared that I have been working with the leaders for months and hope that the podcast that we will record to go along side the Leadership Development Training will create some conversation and impact within the organization. She then explains how she doesn’t understand how social justice fits into the business of Holy Yoga because it’s a business at the end of the day. I’m sorry..what? Are you not a Christian business? Did Jesus not call us to care for the oppressed? Her response was “Well we are technically a yoga teacher training that use Christian principles”. Oh well I can talk about yoga and social justice if we want to go that route.
Yall. I promise this was the longest hour of my life. I even started to cry (which is beyond rare) because I am TIRED of explaining social justice to white people, to white Christians. Here are the rest of the racist comments she made;
I am FUMING! She also dropped in there that she doesn’t know when they would do onboarding because they are in the middle of an org restructure. So all of these meetings for months were all a waste of my time and energy?
After the meeting, I had to go back to work because once again the meeting was in the middle of the day. I actually ended up leaving work early because my soul just couldn’t.
I took some days to collect my emotions (including rage) before sharing my racist interview experience with the HY Shepherds. (I said what I said.) First I would like to acknowledge my growth. Queen 2 years ago would have probably cursed her out and said to hell with this.
They were horrified. There were tears (from them) and apologies. Unfortunately yet fortunately, I don’t have the liberty to linger on how upset this made me feel. Because if I cried for every ignorant and racist encounter I had I wouldn’t get anything done.
I explained that I understand that her comments were her own and not necessarily a “representation of Holy Yoga” but in that interview she was representing Holy Yoga. They agreed and decided to speak to the HY Leader that we have been working with regarding the podcast.
I met with the HY primary Leader to discuss the racist interview experience (I said what I said.) and she was horrified as well. There were more apologies and tears. She let me know that she actually had been asking the Ambassador Coordinator since the beginning of our meetings in October to reach out to me to be onboarded into the Ambassador program. Wow. So this woman deliberately roadblocked me from doing this project. For months.
I did share that I felt bamboozled. I don’t understand why it wasn’t stressed more that I had to be an Ambassador. I thought it was a suggestion. I also shared that Holy Yoga needs to look into anti-racism and diversity training before continuing in their efforts to find black yogis to join their trainings. There are Black D&I Consultants who work with churches that they should reach out to. They first need to see why they have a lack of diversity and get to the root of those issues first before attempting to bringing people into a toxic environment. (I said what I said.)
Well the HY primary Leader sent an email canceling the podcast recordings.
This is some bullshit.
I will not be defeated. God will not be defeated. While the podcast with Holy Yoga was canceled, the issues within the org was exposed to the leaders. Now the ball is in their court to addresses them. You know the crazy part? I have been explaining the different types of racism to them since July. But they had to see it with their own eyes, at my soul’s expense, in order to truly believe that there was a problem with their org. Instead of “why don’t we have diversity” they truly need to focus on “why don’t we already have diversity”. But that’s not my ministry.
Again God won’t be defeated. The two HY Shepherds that I started working with in July and I recorded the “Carry Each Other’s Burdens” podcast for the Take Up Your Mat platform. Because God won’t be defeated.
My prayer since the beginning of this project was for strength to keep moving forward but also to be sensitive to God’s prompting to move on. I truly believe God placed me in Holy Yoga for a reason, but I also know he would tell me if my time was up.
In January I began recording interviews for the Flow in Solidarity Virtual Summit. During a meditation with the beautiful Ekta Hattangady on 2/5/2021, she guided me to ask myself “What do I need to accept?”, “Where do I need to take a step back?” and “How can I move forward?”. In that stillness, I heard God say “You have done enough, it is time to move on from Holy Yoga. Your time is up now.”
I planned to let the HY Leaders who have become my friends and mentors know that I was leaving Holy Yoga and go on about my business. But after being introduced multiple times as “Queen who does Holy Yoga” or “Queen from Holy Yoga” I realized how connected I, as well as my brand, is connected to Holy Yoga.
I am not here to tell anyone to leave Holy Yoga or to not join Holy Yoga. But I am here to encourage you to hold them accountable to being ACTIVELY involved in social justice. If social justice is important to you (and God I hope it is) then I ask that you take a look at the businesses that you support with your time, talent, and treasure to see if they share your values.
Holy Yoga’s CHOICE to be silent, neutral, and ignore the issues of social justice in this world does not align with my values (or God’s word), therefore I am no longer associated with them as a student or trainer.
So what does this mean for my yoga business? It means that my Christ-centered yoga offerings will be called “Sacred Yoga”. That’s it! I will still honor God in my practice and you still have the opportunity to practice with me. Follow me on IG at @sacredspacesyoga to stay updated on my current and future offerings. I have some great things coming up!
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