March is National Women’s History Month. This is the perfect time to remind ourselves as black women to reflect and celebrate! We have contributed so much to our nation. With inspiring women like Oprah Winfrey, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou and Michelle Obama, we should be proud and take this time to commemorate our own achievements. So often we are dedicated just to taking care of our families; why not use this month to focus on us? For health’s sake, let’s try something different.
We all know that heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes are prevalent in our communities. We also know that eating right and exercise are the keys to alleviating these conditions. But how do we put this knowledge into practical use in our everyday lives? Many of us can’t just start running seven miles. So what are the alternatives?
One viable choice is yoga. It’s easy on the joints and muscles. It’s great for beginners as well as seasoned practitioners. But some of you may be thinking, black people and yoga: seriously? We don’t do yoga.
Yes we do. Yoga as a form of exercise promotes physical and mental wellness. It improves flexibility, strength, posture, and reduces stress. Kerry Washington does it. Russell Simmons is an avid practitioner. LeBron James is a yogi. After we get past the stereotypes and stigmas rooted in misconceptions – yoga is devil worship, it is a religion, it’s just for skinny white women – then we can begin to see and truly experience its benefits as they relate to our health. In fact, studies show that yoga can help with obesity, diabetes and lowering high blood pressure.
Groups like the Africa Yoga Project and the Give Back Yoga Foundation are reaching out to underserved and under-represented communities. They are committed to projects in our inner cities, rural areas, abroad, within our military and veteran communities and in prisons. More gyms and community centers are beginning to offer yoga classes and a more diverse group of people are signing up.
Yoga teaches us about openness, devotion and compassion. It can also serve to deepen a spiritual practice.
A black Seventh Day Adventist colleague described yoga’s benefits to me like this, “it helps me to prepare my mind, body and heart to pray.” Yoga invites us to expand our minds and our hearts through non-judgmental action. It allows us to wind down from a stressful day. And yoga happens to be good for the body too.
Still, some of us do not want to take the time or do the work to change our health. We are resigned to believing and accepting the generational curse, that diabetes, heart disease and obesity run in our families. Choices, however difficult, however big or small, can be made. Yoga is one small choice that can make a big difference. Yoga is a discipline that asks us to take a moment out of our busy lives to breathe the vitality of life into our bodies, minds and spirits.