• Grace Gavilanes

2 Black Yogis On Why They Practice Yoga

Yoga is sometimes viewed as a “white people thing” – at least that’s how it was described during a recent conversation with my fellow Latinx and Black friends. And as a Latina who previously shied away from yoga because of this stereotype, I could see why they were quick to dismiss it.

Mainstream images of the practice have shown off a one-dimensional view of “what yoga is,” but its origin story is so much richer than that. Having originated 400 years ago in India, yoga is practiced by people of many backgrounds today, whether you see them depicted or not.

Keep reading for Yoga Wake Up’s Q&A with Magalie René and Essence Shavon Wall, two Black yogis who are here to share their love of the centuries-old practice.



Magalie René, @magalie_rene

When did you start and why do you practice yoga?

I started 10 years ago. My daily meditation practice is way more consistent than my yoga practice but when I’m in the flow, I practice about 4 times per week.

Many people view yoga as a “white people thing” – what is your response to those claims?

I’d say this myth is exactly why representation matters. Yoga is a human thing and a blessing I’m grateful to have received from India’s rich culture. It, along with Aryuveda, have been game changers.

How are you getting the “yoga is for everyone” message across?

I’ve never consciously set out with that intention but like much else in this 3-D world with its damaging racial constructs, I find that everything I do as a black woman – especially my choice to thrive is in many ways an act of revolution. So, I believe my choice to practice yoga gets that message across by default.

We have to ask: Do you have a favorite Yoga Wake Up audio-guided session?

Honestly, I’m going to shout myself out and say, my own. I recorded the meditations because I couldn’t find guided meditations that spoke specifically to my struggles as an entrepreneur. I find the topics so healing!


Essence Shavon Wall, @shErOcksYoga

When did you start and why do you practice yoga?

I started my practice 20 years ago through Kundalini Yoga and right away I fell in love. The dance with the Divine feels so pure when I practice. I could not imagine my life without it. I practice almost daily. It varies depending on how life shifts, but usually at least 5 days a week.

Many people view yoga as a “white people thing” – what is your response to those claims?

My response to that is unfortunately white people steal and appropriate everything. Yoga belongs to, was created by and comes from black and brown people. If white people weren’t such masters at thievery, the lineage of the yoga practice would be respected and honored as it should be.

How are you getting the “yoga is for everyone” message across?

I’m not so sure that my focus is that “yoga is for everyone” because currently my black, brown, LGBTQ+ and non-binary people are the primary people feeling unseen and unheard in the yoga community. My mission is to be a reflection of those who don’t see themselves in this powerful and healthy journey in wellness, so they feel safe to show up and heal.

We have to ask: Do you have a favorite Yoga Wake Up audio-guided session?

I would be lying if I said yes because I’ve been in the middle of moving and uprooting my whole life and just barely started my connection with Yoga Wake Up, but I look forward to checking out the offerings soon.

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