Everyone is in love with yoga lately. From Bikram yoga to sponsored public park variations, many affluent Americans are reaping the health benefits of yoga. The ancient practice has been lauded by many in the West as compliment to the highly stressful American work weeks in particular.

As studies illuminate the human health disasters caused by stress, there is new evidence that suggests yoga is one of the best medicines to counteract this “silent killer.”

Many of the effects of stress are due to increased sympathetic nervous system activity, and an outpouring of adrenaline, cortisol, and other stress-related hormones. Consequently, the common manifestations of stress are depression, heart disease, epilepsy, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

But there is help on the horizon if we take heed of it. According to a study published in Medical Hypotheses, yoga tremendously helps patients suffering from any of the aforementioned stress-related dis-eases. Not only does yoga help, but it balances your body, bringing you back to the desired homeostasis.

Most revealing, patients who exhibited low levels gamma amino-butyric acid (GABA) or with decreased parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) responded to pharmacologic agents that increase activity of the GABA system, and show symptom improvement in response to yoga-based interventions.

According to the report, this has far-reaching implications for the integration of yoga-based practices in the treatment of a broad array of disorders exacerbated by stress.

As mentioned earlier, yoga seems to have taken over certain sectors of society while in others — particularly low-income, and/or black and Hispanic communities — yoga is still inauspiciously foreign and absent. Many people point to the lack of yoga studios in minority communities, the expensive classes, or somewhat segregated culture of Western yoga studios.

If you look at the map of Atlanta, you may notice the high concentration of yoga studios is in the North, Northeast, Midtown, and Downtown areas — all areas where you will find blacks and Hispanics, but primarily affluent whites. There a gaping absence of studios in the primarily black communities in West, Southwest, and Southeastern parts of the metro area, irrespective of income.

And I’m not trying to denigrate the Atlanta yoga scene for its not the only city that “obliviously” segregates yoga. Los Angeles, Houston, and Chicago all have somehow isolated yoga from its minority communities. And when one studio opens up in a minority community, because of the lack of awareness and knowledge of yoga, it’s hard to get the residents enthusiastic beyond a free seminar.

Considering that PTSD affects African-American at a rate far higher than any other non-war related group, and considering these proven positive effects of yoga, there needs to be a full-force education-based initiative to make yoga accessible and affordable in minority communities, as soon as possible.

Where do you go to practice yoga? Let your fellow readers know where they can find a yogi in the community!

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41 Comments

  1. I practice at a co-op of community yoga studios here in DC (www.yogadistrict.com). They offer a variety of great classes at all levels for a $10 donation (which is about $8-10 less expensive than all of the other studios in the district) and they won’t turn you away if can’t pay. However, despite all of there outreach and accessibility, you still don’t see very many people of color in class, even when most of there studios are in neighborhoods with large concentrations of people of color.

    I suppose I can only attribute this to the “yoga stigma” and the need to better communicate the benefits of the practice while debunking myths around it being something only for affluent, white hippies/yuppies.

    • @MsMooreinDC: I live in the DC area too and “yoga stigma” is prevalent in our community. I have even been told that yoga is the work of the devil. SMH….

      • @Pamela: I have to agree with your statements. I had a friend who is a jehovas witness and told me that she could not try out yoga because it was the work of the devil. I told her that with Bikram there is no chanting, praying, and what not but she still was still hesitant.
        While the article states that there needs to be more awareness and education put towards minorities, it really puts the studio at a disadvantage (which is why I believe that there are not more in minority neighborhoods) because you will have to continuously engage in outreach efforts while still covering your monthly expenses (rent, salaries, etc). And honestly, giving the state of economic affairs no one is going to open a studio if there is not a measurable level of demand in a given neighborhood.

  2. I live in LA and I there aren’t many yoga studies east of La Brea and south of Venice if you live in LA you know what I mean. There is a wonderful state-of-the-art studio called Crenshaw Yoga on 54th and Crenshaw. Affordable class (less than $3 if sign up for a monthly membership), great instructors, and lots of parking.

    But here are the downsides – on both sides of the studio are condemned businesses; it’s next to a ugly gym that looks like a prison facility; and it’s not very well lit. Most of the classes I would go to are during the week are at night and I don’t like the area at night.

    The lack of investment in the surrounding business makes me not want to go so I travel all out the way to Culver City or Marina Del Rey or the Westside because after class I can go to smoothie spot, there are people walking around and visible signs of life. That’s why no one goes to yoga in black neighborhoods.

    • @Tamara: I don’t think that’s true. Many of the health and wellness spots in South L.A. and inglewood have yoga. Most of the major gyms have yoga classes. The Magic Johnson 24hr Fitness gyms have yoga for sure. I’ve lived in South L.A. most of my life and never had a problem finding a yoga class.

  3. I believe we need to educate people of color about the benefits of aerobic classes in general. I am in college and all the aerobic classes are free: yoga, pilates, zumba, kick boxing, and I have taken all of them. Personally I am a pilates person and I have showed some of my friends what I have learned (4 years of
    pilates) and they love it. So I tell them about the classes. But I believe many black women are afraid to go to yoga and pilate classes bc they think its for slim affluent whites, and can be intimidating working out with a bunch of thin white girls. Regardless, I still work out and look forward to getting m certification to teach pilates. What needs to be done is have more instructors of color, educate people about the benefits, and understand that our bodies are different from the average white american woman but we still need to exercise.

    • @blair: I think you’re right. I lead a yoga class on campus at Clark Atlanta University (next to Spelman and Morehouse) and students seem to have a preconceived notion *read white/skinny/female/affluent* of who yoga is for. Yoga is for everyone. That message needs to be consistently ingrained in the consciousness of the Black community. Our religious, economic, and social background play a major role in what educators need to consider when creating outreach efforts. There are so many health disparities within our community that can be addressed with practicing yoga. Educators and health activists need to be a bit more creative and persistent.

  4. I do think part of it, is the cost. When i lived in Philadelphia I frequented one particular studio that was great, but it was expensive even on a per class basis, let alone and 10 class card or monthly or yearly membership. Though, the studio did offer $5 class many of these classes were in the middle of the day when most people would be working. I also think it’s a lack of knowledge of the benefits, and the usual excuses as to why people choose not to workout/do something healthy for themselves.

  5. Checking from ATL. I go to Bikram (hot) yoga at Urban Body Studios and there is only one or two blacks in my classes at any given time. That map is eye opening but not surprising

  6. Yoga is a religion that undercuts the fabric of most God-fearing communities. In the far East, yoga is practiced daily as ritual, part of and an off-shoot of the Hindu religion. No self respecting Christian will let this cult (sorry, but it is) will allow themselves to be brainwashed into a religion through the secular world’s diet and weight-loss fads.

    If blacks suffer from these “stress” related diseases (BTW, why is necessary to separate the word?) why not seek counsel in your pastor or church house, which are in abundance in “our” communities.

    I’m offended by the suggestion that more blacks should lobby on behalf of this cult religion, brought to us by people who don’t even know or understand the black community.

    Only God heals, not the latest pop culture fad

    • I am strongly in favor of blacks using yoga as stress reduction even in the Christian community. It is one of the best ways to reduce stress, increase flexibility, and improve balance. If there is any stigma, it is that of the form of exercise being connected to a cult. While God heals, he also gives us resources on earth to live healthy and whole.

    • @Terry Mac: I’m a yogini practicing in Vancouver, Cananda and I take exception to your comment. YOGA IS NOT A RELIGION, CULT, OR ANY OTHER FORM ORGANIZED RELIGIOUS CEREMONY. The whole point of yoga is to focus on thyself through a wide-range of meditative methods, eliminating all outside forces which will open you to knowledge of thyself, paying the ultimate compliment and giving thanks to one’s creator, whoever that may be. It’s all about love which transcends all earthly boundaries. Namaste

      • @David

        You are not helping by using language like “transcends all earthly boundaries,” you need to practice effective messaging.

    • Ignorance is the Shepard that leads the sheep to slaughter and your view will only continue this separation of man and the divine. Yoga is what you say but its also soo much more just as your church may teach differently from another but you both have the same goal/aim. To be one with the creator….ahhh but your religion may not teach this as this will bring you into a place of having your own power of understanding that we all are under the same light and darkness. You are no better than the next man nor is he/she better than you. See this separation of mind/body/spirit in yourself rather than in others for you offer no answers but a notion of what you think GOD is. If you new GOD (in you) than you would not lay such judgement on something you have never allowed yourself to experience as the physical practice alone will stimulate the body enough to see benefits and the spiritual practice is yours to explore in whatever religious context you want to. In short it will bring you closer to your creator and not anyone else, at the end we all pray for the Love to be shared with every being both man and animal…

      • @gump: This type of New Age quackery is what is leading HIS flock from salvation. I’m with Terry Mac. Yoga is a religion point blank period. The shouting and preying at the end turned me off years ago when this little pretty waif-looking lady tried to convert our community in Cincinnati

    • @Terry Mac: Christianity and the church are the cancer of the black community.

    • @Terry Mac: Your comment demonstrates why yoga in black communities is unpopular. Though yoga originated as a religious in India, it doesn’t mean that it must be continued in that vane. There are plenty of versions of yoga that have NOTHING to do with religion, and simply as a way to sweat and relax your mind for an hour. You can talk to your preacher, but you can’t do that everyday, nor can speaking help you grow strength and flexibility, that only comes with exercise. That is why I, a Christian, go to yoga several days a week.

  7. out here in harlem there’s lots of yoga studios but that didn’t happen until bill clinton and the gentrification wrecking crews moved into harlem. i’m not getting it twisted like harlem is just out of norm and investors know this in every black neighborhood. when blacks move into neighborhood, the prices and quality of businesses decline, purposely. they do this so they can move banks and yuppies and desirable minorities into the community at dirt cheap prices, then after this happens it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why all of sudden yoga and coffee shops and dog-walking appears.

  8. I’m a yogi and a Christian and I use the meditation time to reflection on Christian principles and become more spiritually grounded. I practice regularly at YMCA here in NC and I am usually the only or one of a two african americans in the class. I think the reasons why more African Americans don’t practice yoga as much, aside from accessibility, are reasons why so many people choose not to. They don’t believe it’s an invigorating and athletic work out (which is an understatement) and it is a difficult to begin yoga without some knowledge or basic understandings.

  9. I live and work in Harlem and we have a plethora of yoga studios within walking distance. Most are owned by women of color. Yoga has been in Harlem since the ’90s. Some of the older yogis in the area have moved on to bigger and better things. You can find a list of local yoga studios in Harlem by visiting Uptownflavor.com and typing yoga into the search box.

  10. Here in DC, renting space is extremely expensive and most teachers moonlight while balancing a 9-5pm. I teach east of the Anacostia River where 90 percent of us are black. We are just starting to integrate yoga as therapeutic movement practice into our community.

    In general black people don’t spend money on health. Yoga is no different. As we begin to value our health, we will see more businesses catering to the black people who want health services.

  11. Thank you Shane for brining light to this problem. Yoga has it’s roots in Africa. In fact I recently posted an image of an from ancient Kemet (Egypt) of someone doing a yoga pose. We are working hard to bring yoga to Southwest Atlanta at Opare Integrative Health Care to help bring yoga to our community as a part of our whole body healing philosophy.

  12. There are so many factors that I can name as to why there are a lack of yoga studios in black communities. I am not going to add too much to was has already been stated. The challenge is getting more of our people to the mat and I personally feel that It is my responsility as a yoga teacher to educated people on the benefits yoga and also dispell any myths that people may have about yoga. Also more of us needs to gracing these magazines like yoga journal, etc and be out in the forefront as ambassadors to yoga and holistic health in general.

  13. I live in Atlanta and I practice yoga at Nirvana Yoga. They have classes for as low as $5.00. Finding the right studio does take some time and effort but the benefits are well worth it. I think finding a yoga practice buddy helps because you can motivate each other to attend classes. Having a yoga practice buddy is also beneficial because you can encourage each other to take what you’ve learned in class off the mat and incorporate it into your everyday lives.

  14. what in the ignorant hell? Yoga is not a religion nor a pop culture fad. It’s been around for thousands of years. Yes there are many Hindi Indians and it’s practiced in India but that’s as far as it goes. It’s a spiritual workout to be sure but only because it gives you a set of poses and the time to clear your head and heal your body. If chanting bothers you, there are PLENTY of classes without it, and even that is not religious, if anything it’s part of meditative practices.

    That idiot above must be part of the reason why black folks don’t go to yoga. I see very few in my classes as well. It could also be that if you are plus-size some poses are challenging. But that’s no reason not to go. There are different kinds of yoga and a plethora of studios that offer it. I personally think if we had more black yoga teachers that would help, but sadly they are few and far between.

    On the East Coast yoga studios are plentiful and they don’t necessarily have to always be in a black neighborhood. People work outside of their neighborhood. We make so many dumb excuses for black people and assume so much. At the bottom line, people probably just need more exposure and more time. Affluent white women and college girls are big yoga practitioners because they have TIME and flexible schedules.

  15. This has definitely been a concern of mine. As a Black yoga instructor in Atlanta, Georgia I have taught in many communities of color whether it is a public school, university, or community center. Right now I am teaching in Candler Park at Kashi Atlanta Urban Ashram. I have been there for about five years and our community is quite diverse. We have about five yoga teachers of Color who have established classes. Kashi’s teacher trainings attract a lot of folks of color. I think the reason for this is, is visibility. It seems like year after year the teacher training continues to become more diverse. I have attended other classes around the city and country and seldom encounter diversity to that degree. I do agree that overall the numbers are disproportionate. As far as Black owned yoga studios in Atlanta, not so many. In terms of Black owned establishments that offer yoga, there are handful (Opare Integrative Health Care comes to mind, beautiful space!). I have also thought about the systemic factors that contribute to invisibility. I think of the lack of diversity when it comes to the presence of Black and Brown people in yoga magazines. I think of economic disparities and the lack of accessibility in terms of fees, locations, transportation, etc. With something as so complex as trying to figure out why something happens, or doesn’t happen involves a combination of multiple factors. In that light, we have to begin somewhere and that is why I love forums like these that think critically about community concerns. I also have a blog: http://www.chelsealovesyoga.com where I highlight yogis of Color who practice yoga, or embody aspects of yoga like service and truth through activism. If you would like to share your story and continue to illuminate our voices please check it out. Peace, Love, and Power
    Chelsea

  16. Because of religious reasons, cultural influence. My reasoning is based on work experience, see below.

    I work in the mental health field and my clients who are black AND religious are strongly opposed to anything pertaining to yoga from the breathing, relaxation/de-stress benefits, etc. My black clients who are not religious are generally open minded but still a bit reserved. Most of my clients of other diverse backgrounds including white are more open to yoga and many of them practice it. I do have some devoutly religious white clients who are opposed to yoga and all things related to it for religious reasons.

  17. Yoga classes are a dime a dozen where I live. It is pilates reformer classes that are hard to find and located in affluent areas. What kills me is that you have to convince black women to try anything when it comes to fitness. Why is that? And why are we so quick to have to educate, educate and educate some more. Are there educational weave campaigns? No, yet you don’t have to convince people of the good/bad benefits. Then they are intimidated by the skinny white chicks but quick to pass judgment on skinny black chicks. It seems to be a very mentally sick cycle that gets passed down from generation to generation. This is a rant but it also a plea for us to stop pacifying wilful ingnorance. It is waaay to easy to google stuff. And if you don’t like to read….Youtube the subject to see what it is about. I’m really tired of being the only black chick getting my sweat on.

  18. Why is this even a color issue? It’s clearly a cultural issue where people are resistant to a spiritual and physical discipline practice that is NOT a religion. You think white country folk in Appalachia get yoga, too? Or Latina women in inner cities?

    Also, let’s not forget this is about how a practice has penetrated our country (in less than 200 years) and that running a yoga studio is a a business. You’re not going to open up shop in a neighborhood where your clients are going to resist your idea. And that’s true of any business, really.

    As well, yoga comes from India. Hello? that’s a caste society which in many cases discriminates against women and the ‘lower’ classes. Only rich people or disciples or ‘brahmans’ could read the several tomes that are the ancient foundation of yoga. As a matter of fact, quite possibly the most democratic and free spread of yoga has been in our own country when BKS Iyengar came as a yoga ambassador, as well as other leaders in the field. It’s no longer a practice for skinny 12 year old Indian boys who have no future.

    Here in Miami we’ve even had yoga teachers going to prisons, ymca’s, women’s centers in underserved neighborhoods and so on to help spread the practice. We also have plenty of studios in/near ‘black’ neighborhoods that have affordable community classes. And we also have the Free Yoga Foundation.

    As a certified yoga instructor, yes, I agree, yoga does reduce stress, but I don’t believe it’s something just for affluent white women and I know plenty of people of color who practice. Sorry this is the situation for Atlanta, but it’s different in Miami. Access is there. I think it’s a culture/education thing, not a color issue.

    • @vicequeenmaria: You sound ludicrous in your assertion that the absence has nothing to do with race. First of all if a large amount of black people, whatever the ‘class’ status is, the property value will go down which will lead to less business investment outside of large chain brands who will sell in any place it can make a buck. Furthermore most yoga centers are intimate places where the owners interact with their customers, which is why you rarely see whites in the middle of a black neighborhood with ANY business unless they were established in that area before the influx of black faces. It’s funny how you equated a black area with prisons but whatever. You can have whites move into underprivileged black spaces for a second but they do not set up shop. We know you don’t see race because as white girl you are invisible in our society. You don’t have to think about race and you think blacks don’t see you. Wake up and burst your white bubble.

  19. I also want to point out the amazing AFRICA YOGA PROJECT: http://www.africayogaproject.org/

  20. Some of my comment got cut off… If you read the African Unconscious, by Edward Bruce Bynum, you will come to realize that “yoga” originated from Egypt as did much of Christianity. There is much research to support this…Knowledge is power and we must become educated to these facts if we are to demystify the roots of yoga and liberate ourselves to its true benefits.

    If you run a ‘yoga’ business, you run a business like any other that must make a profit to keep its doors open. To make a business sustainable, you must offer a true value to your customer, they must have a need for what you offer. “Stress” creates health problems, affecting the body, mind and spirit, yoga provides a solution, yoga becomes valuable when people recognize this.

  21. I’m proud to say that I have owned a yoga studio in Atlanta for almost three years and my goal is to create a community of diverse yogis to share this wonderful practice! My classes are filled with people from all walks of life and fees are very affordable so that everyone can have the opportunity to practice yoga. If we continue to promote the health benefits of yoga and encourage everyone we know to at least try it once, it’s my belief that more and more African Americans will be introduced to the philosophy and practice of yoga.

    If you live in Atlanta, I welcome you to come by our studio and see what we have to offer. Your first class is free and we offer at least 3 sessions for just $7 each.

  22. Yoga was created by Black Africans in Africa. Do some truth-based historical research to verify this fact for yourself. When we Africans (all Black people) practice yoga, we are embracing what already belongs to us.

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