“Maybe black girls do yoga” | Research Findings

blackgirlsdoyoga

A few weeks ago I was hired to write some content on the research on meditation.

As I was digging through the literature, I came across so many interesting research papers on yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and holistic therapies.

It’s sitting in these scientific literature libraries. Not making its way to the people that teach yoga, or the people practicing yoga. It is not reaching the community.

As a public health professional, I realized this is where I come in.

It is my duty to disseminate some of this information so that yoga teachers are better equipped to teach in their communities.

To read the literature out there and inform the public about what science is telling us on yoga, meditation, and mindfulness.

And as a yoga teacher to continue to learn about this practice, from all angles.

Most of the time these two worlds of mine conflict. One is based on science and analytics, the other is based on practice and philosophy. There are moments when I get to share both!

“Maybe Black Girls Do Yoga”: A Focus Group Study with predominately low-income African-American women

I found the title of this published paper eye-catching “Maybe Black Girls Do Yoga.”

As a WOC working in the yoga and wellness industry which is an industry known to not represent women that look like me (I will add that the conversations and representation are getting better), I was intrigued by what the findings could be.

“Being able to zone out and be by yourself in a room full of people, damn, that’s something amazing” (age 18-35)

Key Take-Aways:

  • Regardless of age, many women in the group (all were African-American) had limited information about yoga/mindfulness and did not understand how these practices were used and had minimal experience with the practices
  • There was a strong belief that yoga and mindfulness should be disconnected from spirituality, primarily in the older group
  • Regardless of age, they all suggested changing the image of yoga and mindfulness
  • Women seeking a sense of belonging and representation within the yoga and mindfulness communities

My Recommendations:

Explain the “why”. A quote found within the study, “The mind-body connection…I don’t know what that means.” 

I came out of teacher training and taught that exact way. This is perfectly normal- we need templates and examples to go off for anything in life! Similarly, for many of us, we have a personal connection to the “why” of things. Why we practice. Or say mind-body. The why we need a strap to practice reclined hand-toe pose. We all need a reminder of the why, how, and what’s the point.  

Inquire to oneself: How am I being inclusive? How am I being exclusive?

The practice is special to so many teachers and practitioners. How can we make this an inclusive practice, instead of exclusive to those that already practice? Something as simple as the words we use (i.e Sanskrit or Ayurveda) without proper explanation can feel foreign to people. This can exclude them in feeling like they belong.

Be an advocate for increasing variety of people in the wellness scene on social media

I’ll admit this is hard for me. Why? Because it almost feels out of my control. And of course, it is lol I can’t control anything. But the fact that I could put effort into something and then get shot down or not make any changes hurts my ego. My identity. Little by little I hope to be an advocate. This is one step toward that.

“When women do not recognize themselves in the representation of yoga or mindfulness, it can be a barrier to making it their own.”

They started off by explaining how yoga and mindfulness are known to reduce stress and improve health.

“Mind-body therapies, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and yoga, have been shown to reduce chronic stress, decrease inflammation and improve overall well-being”

I found this helpful because it is a common ground where we can all start the practice.

From what all the participants said stress was a recurrent theme in their lives (as it is in my life too). Afterward, they started talking about yoga and meditation. Most women did not understand how these practices were used and had minimal experience with the practices.
blackgirlsdoyoga

How are these practices used?

Why are these practices used?

This is just one study and it’s not true to the T. But I can see there is a gap in accessibility. How can we fill in that gap as a yoga community?

They all expressed being curious about yoga! Yet it’s still not accessible, approachable, and/or untouchable to some. The chart above shows some of the main themes with some recommendations.

If you’re interested in reading the rest of the article, the PDF version can be found here.

If you want to collaborate and brainstorm how we can fill in some of these gaps- please reach out!

2018-10-22T03:57:38+00:00

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