Me as a Black Woman in the Yoga and Wellness Industries

What do you think of when it’s February? Some think of Valentine’s Day. Some think of the Super Bowl. Some think of Black History Month. Some think of them all. 

Me? I'm thinking of Black History Month. As a black woman, I’ve felt closer than ever to my ethnicity and identity. I’ve also been more cognizant of them both in spaces where I’m usually the minority. 

 Photo by Diana Davis Creative

Photo by Diana Davis Creative

Lately I find myself very reflective on inclusivity and diversity. As the first Sunday Soulday of February, I’d like to discuss being a black woman in industries I’m closely tied to: yoga and wellness. 

This past week, I posted on Instagram about my experience at SELF's Race and Wellness Panel. Each panel member was a professional and woman of color navigating their own industries, from fitness to medical to nutrition. It made me reflect on my own experiences with yoga and wellness. 

I often feel excluded in representation within the yoga and wellness industries. Overall, yoga as a lifestyle has become synonymous with a white, affluent woman. Wellness as a lifestyle has also become popular for a smoothie, Whole Foods universe. Neither of those I am nor resonate with. 

When I first started my yoga journey around eight years ago, I felt like I wasn’t included. My economic status was not so affluent and my wellness was not so popular. At the time, what I could afford was a yoga app on my cellphone and a bag of premade salad from my local grocery store.

Today, I still find it hard to find inclusion but have recently found other ways around that lack. 

I gravitate toward black-centric tags, black Instagram accounts, and black-owned publications. When I first started yoga eight years ago, I struggled to find women who looked like me. Either in publications, billboards, or commercials, most of the marketing of yoga and wellness was geared toward white women and a specific culture of eating. 

Once I became active on Instagram a few years ago, I discovered a few tags like #blackgirlyoga and #colorsofohm. I loved looking at these tags where I could see and engage with my fellow black girls flowing on their mat. I also loved reading the captions to discover their journey in yoga, along with versatile options to wellness.

It was the same for when I became a vegetarian around five years ago. Most of the options that I was sold were smoothies and salads. 

Again Instagram allowed me to scour #wellness and finding the occasional soul food recipe with a healthy twist or a post about balancing wellness in a way that wasn't limiting to my love of Jamaican cuisine and the occasional McDonald's run. 

Eventually, I was also led to black influencers in the yoga and wellness industries from these tags. A few of them being Dr. Chelsea Jackson Roberts, Latham ThomasKoya Webb, and Alex Elle. Then I also found peers who were just like me navigating wellness and yoga, who I could directly message (DM) about inclusivity. 

I remember screaming Hallelujah when I stumbled upon Black Girl in Om, founded by Lauren Ash. If you haven't heard of Black Girl in Om, it's a publication, podcast, and community that "promotes holistic wellness and inner beauty for women of color." This community made me feel at home and validate my identity. I got to see beautiful brown women living their life well and woke. 

It also led me to realize that I also need to support places that are getting it right too. I got to see Lauren, the founder, be featured in many places and I began to notice that there is further movement. 

I support larger brands and corporations that are not black-owned or black-centric, but that make efforts to being inclusive. As a current Athleta brand ambassador, I must say that I love the brand for its inclusivity. If it wasn't, there was no way I would be affiliated with them. Outdoor Voices is another brand that has been growing on me lately. 

On the publication side, Yoga Journal has featured many black girls on their magazine covers, and it continuously makes me giddy. SELF has also been one of my favorites for months because they just get it! Mindbodygreen is another publication that I'm happy to support as they expand on inclusion and diversity. 

That said, not everyone is in the wave. So what do I do? 

I refuse to spend money or spread support in brands and corporations that are not inclusive. Investing money and spreading word-of-mouth to places that don't include me is not an option for me.

There are many yoga brands that I refuse to buy my yoga wear with, including Alo Yoga and Spiritual Gangster. When browsing their social media and shop websites, one must scour their site for one woman of color. I challenge you to look at both of their marketing materials and report back.

I will keep Alo Yoga and Spiritual Gangster as the examples for now, in efforts to not deter from the main intent of this post. My intent is to highlight my experience as a black woman and my recognition that more work still needs to be done in these spaces. This is not to slam or bring further attention brands that lack inclusivity. 

All of that aside, if I’m not being included, no brand, corporation, or publication will be funded by my wallet or promoted on my feed. But I aspire to do more on a larger scale. 

I aim to start advocating for more inclusion in the yoga and wellness industries by showing up, speaking on it, and doing something about it. Being a yoga teacher, I aspire to teach classes that are financially and physically accessible to black women. Being a community founder, I aspire to hold open and safe spaces for all cultures, including black women. Being a "microinfluencer" I aspire to highlight experiences that are had by black women in the yoga and wellness industries. 

Ultimately, I want you all to see my color. It exists and it is here. I'm a black woman who is a yoga practitioner, yoga teacher, and wellness blogger. I would love you all to recognize that my identity as a black woman is often not included, promoted nor marketed.  

This February, let's think of Black History Month, even if we usually don't. Then brainstorm how we can be an advocate of inclusivity and diversity in our current industries. Trust, I'm still working on it myself. 

-ST