I began practicing yoga in 2010, and it has had a profound impact on my life. It has been a source of healing from traumas suffered from a variety of causes: lack of positive male role models, lack of emotional intelligence and development, family dysfunction, and racial disparities (particularly in Minneapolis, which has some of the worst racial disparities in our country). Within the first year of practice, I knew that I wanted to share yoga with others so they would have access to its benefits as well. More importantly, I wanted to share it with people who look like me. I’ve been a yoga practitioner for 8 years; I’ve been an African-American man for 33 years. I have attended many yoga classes and workshops and, in this country, it is clear that the vast majority of practitioners, teachers, studio owners, and yoga publications are white. These spaces can be intimidating for both new and experienced practitioners who identify as IPOC (Indigenous People and People of Color). I think its possible to created IPOC-led spaces that are comforting and welcoming to all.
Throughout my K-12 years I attended many schools where I was looked at as the ‘other’ or a token black kid. These experiences taught me how to code switch (go between two cultures) as to not make other people feel unsafe by my presence or the possibility of discussions about race. And still, presently, I experience or sense this discomfort – but after years of practice and personal development I am better equipped to initiate the conversations. Dialogue about race is challenging – whether within your own race, or between races -- but it is urgently needed and I want to promote this exchange, using yoga as a facilitation tool.
I believe my training, paired with my lived experience, makes me uniquely suited for this work.
One of the definitions of yoga is to come together, to unite. One of the purposes and benefits of the practice is to release from the causes of suffering.
After the completion of my teacher training in 2015 I began teaching in schools, community centers, treatment facilities, conferences for educators, IPOC-led wellness events, social service agencies and also facilitating workshops about yoga and race in traditional yoga spaces. Three years later I am now formalizing this curriculum in a concerted effort to use yoga as a tool for healing and racial justice, using all the facets of yoga: philosophy, postures, breath work, mindfulness and meditation. This is how Bridges to Yoga came to life.
James has been practicing yoga for 8 years, having a foundation in Yoga Nidra, Yin and Restorative styles, which progressed to incorporate asana combined with vinyasa, pranayama, meditation and mantra. He completed his 200 hr RYT yoga teacher training at the Himalayan Institute in Honesdale, PA.
James aims to create a safe space to explore yoga with open and accessible classes for students who are diverse in gender, race, religion, age and ability. As an African American male he feels it is important to create access and opportunities for people of color to explore yoga. Yoga has the ability to loosen the hold of trauma, in any form, that prevents us from living our lives to its fullest.
He teaches in the Himalayan tradition, rooted in dynamic and flowing sequences of asanas, a strong emphasis on diaphragmatic breathing, pranayama and systematic relaxation. Over the course of his classes students will cultivate a deeper connection with the breath and the body. You can practice more with James at One Yoga in South Minneapolis and Johnson Street Yoga in Northeast Minneapolis.