RADICAL SELF CARE: BLACK MEN HEALING
June 3, 2019
Too often, healing conversations omit Black men, and this omission is alarming. As a spiritual yoga and meditation practitioner and teacher, I often find myself surrounded by women, whether in workshops and practices, or the pages of meditation magazines. We can find hundreds of sites on the Internet about Black men being demonized, criminalized, harassed, but when we look for positive healing representation of Black men in the media, we hear crickets. The erasure of Black male healing is toxic for humanity because it implies that Black men don’t — and can’t — heal. It perpetuates an invisibility surrounding Black male healing. We need to make Black men healing a normalized visual.
If you don’t practice yoga, then yoga can easily look like nothing more than people stretching and breathing; but if you come a little closer, you’ll find that yoga is a science and philosophy intended to heal the mind, body, and spirit. The healing yoga gifts to those who practice it has been scientifically proven to work for anyone, which is why inclusivity needs to start living up to its definition and include Black men.
The modern world systemically dehumanizes Black men as villains. In reality, Black men have always been healers, spiritualist, yogis, leaders, and built empires throughout history. There are thousands of Black men across the world taking back their narratives, and providing positive, uplifting experiences for themselves and others. Like every other group, Black men deserve human rights and the right to be represented positively. Black masculinity is NOT toxic; feminine and masculine energy is what balances out the world. Since yoga’s sole intent is to connect those who practice with their highest self — to free them of external impurities, and teach peace, compassion, self-respect and love — we need to see positive images of Black men practicing yoga and meditating, so that the youth can grow up seeing themselves doing the same. In order to inspire more Black men to take advantage of these healing practices, they need to see someone who looks like them doing it. We also need to simply see more positive images of Black men, so anyone truly aiming to dismantle patriarchy should not target Black men.
Black men meditate, watch football, and drink warm cups of tea while listening to jazz. Black men are straight and gay, and encompass many labels that mark their versatility. All Black men have different life experiences. Black men are some of the most exceptional yoga and meditation teachers that one could ever encounter. I want to live in a world where every aspect of Blackness is highlighted. Representing the glory of the entire Black collective is the healing needed for humanity.
So I spoke with several Black yogi entrepreneurs who are not just practicing yoga but making positive impacts through yoga, healing and meditation. I wanted to provide each one of these amazing entrepreneurs with a platform to share their perspectives on visibility as Black men, and to highlight their outstanding work within yoga and healing! Black men ARE doing the work. The next time we talk about diversity and inclusion, let’s make sure to include Black men so that we can get a better glimpse of all of humanity!
Brandon Copeland is the creator of Trap Yoga, model for NIKE YOGA and he also owns a Yoga company called Khepera Wellness
“Yoga and meditation have helped me see a pathway out of the destructive system set up for me that only leads to death, jail, or denial of my purpose and/or community. When I practice yoga and meditation, I’m able to clear my mind of all of the distractions readily provided by our society. Yoga evaporates the need to validate my feelings with aggression, self-harm, anger or feigned apathy. When I practice, I’m able to value myself for simply being and existing. This value is not based on any influence outside of the moment that I’m in. This value honors sadness, anger, and sorrow as a vital part of my existence on par with happiness, joy, and success. These feelings are what make us human. These feelings give me room to be free, honest and effective in navigating life to find and carry out my God-given, self-driven purpose. Yoga and meditation remind me that I am a multifaceted person capable of feeling an array of things. I’m able to see my place in society and make smart decisions to better the life of my family and community. Representation of Black men practicing wellness is important because Black men need self-led anxiety reduction and wellness practices the most. Statistics surrounding Black male incarceration, death, and sickness are alarming. Black men are purposefully ostracized from most portions of society when it comes to wellness. Black men have been targeted as leaders of the Black family since our arrival to this country, so much so that we’ve seen a considerable decline within the nuclear Black family in the past 50 years. America sells Black men the idea that life should be a huge emotional, physical, mental and spiritual challenge; we’re taught that the tougher you are, the more likely you are to survive and the more valuable you are to those around you. The ignorance surrounding Black pain, coupled with the toxic nature of masculinity perpetuated in America, provides little room for Black men to feel comfortable being vulnerable and honest about their pain. This repression leads to negative responses to that pain including but not limited to, ignoring it, displacing it onto others, or pain re-manifestation into mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and rage. Representing wellness in the Black community as a man means that I can share my experience of trauma along with my experience of self-recovery to reshape other Black men’s perception of the Black experience. If more Black men perpetuate more images of Black men as living well, I believe we can lead ourselves into a space of continuous happiness and joy as a group, a community, and a nation.”
Keith Mitchell is a former All-Pro NFL football player turned internationally renowned Celebrity Yogi & Entrepreneur.
“I think that the biggest reason men tend to stray away from yoga, is due to the propaganda that suggests that yoga is for women. I was fortunate to have an African-American guru, Chinook Wusdhu, a very masculine man with whom I got the opportunity to practice; practicing with Chinook Wusdhu changed my life. You see, the nature of the male is not to articulate his inner emotions and thoughts. The complaint across the board in relationships is that men don’t communicate. There are so many relationships between men and their fathers in which the father is the authoritarian or provider for his son, but he tends not to have the ability to extend a simple ‘I love you,’ or ‘I’m proud of you.’ This often leaves the male wounded and constantly seeking acceptance. This wounded man grows up with insecurities, introversion, and lots of anger, but this doesn’t have to be the case. This is why I focus on the mental or meditating aspects of yoga, because it helps us deal with the epigenetic aspects that, unlike others in our society, our culture has been forced to overcome. That’s why it’s pretty cool to be able to translate yoga and meditation for the black male so that it specifically connects to him and his experience on the planet. We are all one race with different experiences; Yoga is my practice for life, as it not only harnesses me as an individual, but every aspect of human activity.”
Andrew Sealy is the CEO of Eat Thrive Yoga an app that helps people to go deeper within their yoga practice, learn about healthy eating and inspires people to live a healthy life!
Now more than ever, it is essential for black men to be aware of the benefits of yoga and meditation. These mindful practices encourage a more profound sense of self-awareness and provide great ways to cope with stress. I have been in workplaces, neighborhoods, and yoga industry all my life, so I know firsthand what it’s like to be a black man in a predominantly white area. I’ve found that practices like yoga and meditation have brought forth a more clear vision for how I can align with my purpose. Additionally, yoga and meditation are how i cope with the demands of being a conscious black man in a white America. There is a lack of representation of Black Men doing yoga in the media and magazines simply because yoga is seldom practiced in the black community. Most black men see yoga as “soft” due to yoga’s detachment from masculinity. The increasing number of sports teams, athletes, and high-performance celebrities like LeBron James, Ray Lewis, and Shaquille O’Neal who all openly speak on the benefits of yoga to their careers works to challenge this misconception and misrepresentation. I have always had a deep interest in self-healing. From reading X-Men comic books as a kid to studying MicroBiology at Cal Poly, I knew I would always be interested in exploring the depth of the mind and the possibilities of the body. My Yoga journey began after a soccer injury and weeks of inactivity when a girlfriend convinced me to attend a Bikram class as her guest. I figured it would sound good if I told her I finally decided to check out this “Bikram Yoga” thing she had been talking about for so long. After my eye-opening, sweat dripping, body wrenching, absolutely exhilarating first class; I was hooked!
Mario Austin is the founder of MARIO OM, a yoga company that offers an array of services such as private/group yoga sessions, yoga events and counseling.
“As a 30 year-old Black gay man, there are many things that come my way each day. Whether it was institutionalized racism or homophobia, I often found myself in a constant battle being myself. Once I became introduced to yoga, things such as asanas and pranayama (breath control) made me forget about things that didn’t matter. In addition, once I went full throttle with my yoga practice, I noticed that many men became inspired by my journey. Hearing similar stories from other men uplifted me even more, and it encouraged me to continue spreading the word of yoga and meditation. Representation of Black men practicing yoga and meditation is important, because our community needs more images and conversation regarding mental health. In many cases, Black men are taught to be protectors and symbols of strength in the Black community. However, when developing into manhood, many black men have a solid non-emotional wall that does not leave any room to display and share emotions. Yoga allows practitioners to become vulnerable on and off of the mat, and more Black men need the realization that tuning into your mental and physical health makes you an even stronger man. I highly recommend more men of color to look into foundational yoga classes such as Alignment Yoga, Yoga Basics, and Yoga for Athletes. These classes are some of the most helpful intro-sessions when you’re looking to begin your yogic journey. In addition, bringing a friend along with you to classes helps significantly, or joining a men’s group that specifically offers yoga for men works wonders.”
Kamean Daniels is the founder and CEO of Kemetic Yogi, a wellness company dedicated to healing men and women globally.
“When I first started my Yoga journey fifteen years ago, I hardly saw any Black representation in the Yoga community. As time went on, I finally started seeing more and more Black women being represented. However, to this day, it’s challenging to find Black male yogis represented in the media or magazines. This exclusion raises a red flag because it is far from the truth! In my travels around the world, I have discovered so many other Black men like myself finding their way back to a Yoga lifestyle. In fact, if you go on social media you can find thousands of accounts of Black male Yogis like myself who are not only doing yoga and meditation themselves, but also creating spaces in the form of retreats, workshops, and events around the world! With all these Black men doing Yoga one would have to ask: why aren’t we being adequately represented in the media? It is because the same system of white supremacy that created Black male stress designed to overwhelm, break, weaken, and ultimately destroy the black man, is ultimately the same media in which we expect to be represented. The white media platforms don’t want people seeing Black men working on ourselves, controlling and directing our internal fire, or connecting our minds with our breath. Fortunately, we live in a day and age where we don’t even need to rely on those traditional media outlets anymore. Media outlets strive to maintain the age-old narrative of Black men and ensure that black men remain as they have always appeared in western media. They definitely don’t want us to become relatable in Eurocentric minds because that would dismantle the whole purpose of white supremacy— to suppress the innate inner power of the Black man and his family. I would advise any Black man who is interested in Yoga first to set an intention for his Yoga journey. Whether it’s to gain flexibility, have a deeper connection with his body, to strengthen his mind and mental focus, or to explore his inner spiritual realm deeply, he should have an intention. It is our responsibility, especially as Black Male Yogis, to be creative in how we show the world how we want to be represented. Yoga is truly a game changer!”
Adric Samuel is the founder of Huda Guru, a yogic company that provides services for Senior Centers, Schools and Physical Therapy offices.
“I believe it is important to see Black men practicing yoga, because those of the African diaspora have experienced trauma on a multitude of levels. Those traumas have resulted in us directing our energy towards vices such as drinking. If we had better outlets for mental, emotional, and physical situations, we’d be better suited to handle life stressors when they come about. Since I have incorporated yoga and meditation into my life, my reactions and responses to situations have become more balanced. When conflict arises, I never sweat the small stuff. As I became more immersed into my meditation practices, I found that everything I manifested came to fruition. This has incited an increased consistency and dedication to my practice. The law of attraction is everything; it is evidence of a divine presence. I want to tell black men: don’t knock yoga before you try it, Understand its benefits. ‘Longevity til’ [we] 70’ – Jay Z.”
Ahmed is the founder of Ahmed The Yogi, a yogic company hosting retreats, workshops and events worldwide.
“We NEED yoga and Meditation in our communities. With all the mayhem going on in life, the focus that comes through the practice helps bring balance and a sense of center from within. The best part about yoga and meditation is that you can do it anywhere and anytime! It is my belief that black men remain omitted from discussions regarding yoga and meditation, because the media loves to show black men in a negative light. As we continue to be a force in our communities, there will be NO other option to place Black men in front where we belong. Yoga and Meditation has transformed my life by helping find true focus and balance. I used to be a hot head and a very bad drinker!! Learning to understand breath work and learning how to center my energy has assisted me in so MANY ways!! I enjoy teaching multi-level classes, because I like to instill a strong foundation with students and encourage them to progress. I focus on teaching strong foundational skills and challenge even the most experienced students to push themselves to the next level. My advice for any black men that wants to try yoga, is to get started TODAY!! Yoga Is for Everyone, and we should show up and show out!! I have a wonderful relationship with yoga, and I know you will too.”
Danny Fluker Jr is the Founder and CEO of Black Boys OM, a non-profit dedicated to healing Black boys and men through the practice of yoga and meditation.
“It is important for Black Boys and Black Men to see themselves represented in spaces where yoga and meditation are facilitated, because it sheds light on the reality that these wellness practices are for them too. Accessibility proceeds representation.The narratives surrounding yoga in the West still largely belong to White women, so that may be one reason for black male exclusion. We are out here. I just did a google search for Black men in the news, and the results engendered a mixed bag of projects from media plans, to prostate cancer, local homicides. Wellness has probed a medium for a deeper connection with myself and my relationship with my reality and existence. Wellness has shown me a greater way to move, breathe, and show up in the world, and it has complimented my journey toward the Divine.”