Examine and challenge your own racial biases, prejudices and conditioning. Identify any bias you may need to unpack and let go of. This is a process and if you are doing it truthfully it will be uncomfortable.
Love in action begins with how you treat yourself. Self-love or becoming inwardly loving to all parts of yourself is critical in expressing love, kindness, and compassion toward others.
White Ally: A Guide to Cultivating a Deeply Spiritual AntiRacism Practice is available now on Amazon.
This is a book about a deepened yoga practice, a spiritual practice, of intense self-inquiry, of examining who you are and your racial identity. Below is a preview from the book.
Healing Internalized Racism
As people of color are targeted, discriminated against, oppressed, or victimized by racism over a period of time, we sometimes internalize it. We develop beliefs, actions, and behaviors that support or collude with racism.
Internalized racism is when members of oppressed or marginalized groups hold an oppressive view toward their own group, or they start to affirm negative stereotypes of themselves. The person may feel a sense of inferiority and turn the experience of oppression inward. It is both a conscious and unconscious acceptance of the racial hierarchy that states whites are superior to people of color.
Internalized racism has its own reality and consequences in communities of color. There is a system that expands the power of white people and at the same time undermines the power of people of color.
Photo of Jean Marie Moore, Co-founder of Anasa Yoga. Photo taken in front of Anasa Yoga Studio in Oakland, California
The Benefits of Yoga for Women of Color:
15 Reasons Why I Practice Yoga
The practice of yoga originated in India with the intention of preparing the body as a foundation for unity with the spirit. Yoga is a system that is much more than practicing asanas or yoga postures. The physical postures are just a small part of the practice. It is a way of living designed to heighten our awareness of how we move through the world, how we interact with others, and to deepen our experience of oneness of mind, body and soul. Yoga teaches us how to live skillfully in the world. You practice the skills to not just survive, but thrive and live fully in the now. Through the practice of yoga, you may begin to deeply heal and transform your life. As you attain deeper states of awareness, you may experience a kind of freedom or wholeness called samadhi or liberation.
Anxiety is the leading psychological challenge for black women in the United States. Many Black women have turned to yoga to improve their over-all health. The practice is used to reduce illness from cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke that plague Black women. International Journal of Yoga and PubMed journals routinely conclude that yoga's health benefits include a decrease in several types of anxiety and depressive conditions. Sisters, Sadie and Bessie Delany, both lived over 100 years; they credited four decades of daily yoga as a main variable in their longevity.
Understanding Race: 20 Things Everyone Should Know About Race and Racism
By now we know that race isn’t real, but it still remains our deepest divide. It is time to take a closer look at race, begin redemptive conversations, cultivate deep healing and choose right or compassionate action.
It is important to understand the difference between racial bias and systemic and institutional racism. Racial bias, whether conscious or unconscious, often results in discrimination and prejudice towards people based on their race or ethnicity. Xenophobia and anti-immigration are examples of prejudice, bias and hate, but systemic racism is something different.
How To Talk To Your Children About Race
Raising Anti-Racist Children
Parents often avoid talking about race or racism to their children because they do not know what to say, or they believe it would be too painful or complicated for them. For many Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) talking about race is not an option, its essential in helping our children move through the world. There is a necessary and important conversation that parents of black children must have with their children about how to talk, dress, and act in the world, such a conversation may be a matter of life and death. ”…as a black person you can be killed for simply being black: no hands in your pockets, no playing music, no sudden movements, no driving your car, no walking at night, no walking in the day, no turning onto this street, no entering this building, no standing your ground, no standing here, no standing there, no talking back, no playing with toy guns, no living while black.” -Claudia Rankine
Racial bias is not learned by talking about race or racism. In fact, conversations about racism will help your child to unlearn racial bias that is systemic in our society. Similarly, talking about the LGBTQ community will not make your child gay. It will teach them love and acceptance.
Help your children develop respect, acceptance and appreciation for others from different backgrounds. Guide them in cultivating pride in their own identity and teach them how to combat injustices when they witness it. Expand the conversation beyond their own identity, so the conversation becomes about compassion and mutual respect for others. Teach them how to become a “we” community and not an “I” community.
If you wait too long to talk to your children, it just might be too late. The conversations are already happening. My 6 year old daughter has already experienced one of her peers at school telling her that she is ugly, her hair looks weird and her locs look like black cheetos. My 9 year old son was disappointed and hurt when one of his friends at school told him that his Golden State Warriors NBA basketball jersey that said, “The Town” on it, should say, “The Hood” because he is black.
We don’t want our children to internalize the messages that some people are more valuable than others.
Photo by Samuel Austin on Unsplash
10 WAYS TO PRACTICE ANTI-RACISM
Awaken . Analyze . Action .
“In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist -- we must be anti-racist.”
We live in a profoundly separate and unequal world. White supremacy is built into the foundation of this country, as well as the world. It’s not enough to be non-racist, white supremacy will continue even without individual racists. To overcome oppression and create a more just world, there needs to be mass participation in transforming basic systems in ways that will distribute power differently. However, there is important individual healing work to be done before many are able to contribute to an anti-racist movement. Integrating anti-racism practice into our yoga practice is an essential component for achieving equality, justice and liberation.
Photo by Hunter Newton on Unsplash
DISMANTLING WHITE SUPREMACY CULTURE
Unless you have been living under a rock, by now you have probably heard about the Covington Catholic High School students raucous behavior and one student smirking at a Native American elder. There have been several articles circulating such as, Don't Doubt What You Saw With Your Own Eyes, Media Rushes to Excuse Covington Catholic Students, or I Failed the Covington Catholic Test.
Is this what is still happening in 2019, minimizing and justifying racist behavior and scapegoating black men?
Yes, You’re A Little Bit Racist
I have been moved to write about what I consider a blatantly sexist, racist fiasco because I have seen so many yoga teachers (and non-yoga teachers) post and comment in support of the Covington Catholic High School students. And the media couldn’t make up its mind about what story to tell. Below are a few of the comments from yoga teachers in the Bay Area.
Photo by Sonia RobertsAKWAABA“Year of Return, Ghana 2019”A Photo Blog: Yoga in Ghana, 2003
2019 is a landmark year. It’s been 400 years since the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in the United States. 1619 is widely recognized as the start of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade where millions of Africans were kidnapped and brought to America as free labor.
In November of 2003, I had the opportunity to travel with Krishna Kaur and the International Association of Black Yoga Teachers to Ghana. It was called Yoga in Ghana: “A Celebration of Health and Human Spirit.”
Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash
“Blossom Your Buttocks”
Listen, Reflect and Transform From the Inside Out
“Blossom your buttocks, like an African dancer,” instructed the white yoga teacher trainer, as I stood in one of my first yoga teacher trainings. The yoga room full of mostly white students, rotated their inner thighs back, and stuck out their butts. I was in a classroom of 30 students, mostly white women and no other Black students. When I heard this instruction, I froze and stopped breathing. I was in shock. I could not speak.
To the Yoga Community: Let’s talk about systems of power, privilege, and oppression on our pathway to compassionate action and loving kindness.
Yoga and Social Justice: Building a Conscious Community
In the United States, yoga has largely become commodified, often narrowly focused on mastering asanas or physical postures, weight loss and burning calories, and achieving a tight little yoga butt. I, myself, also enjoy practicing advanced yoga poses, like handstands, king pigeon pose and backbends. However, what keeps people coming back to yoga is how the practice steadily begins to transform the human spirit. Yoga practice is more about transforming the human spirit than the human body. But first, you must prepare the body, go through the body, to connect to spirit. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, are intended to transform the human spirit, increasing our awareness of how we move through the world and how we interact with others. The practice of yoga can be a spiritual foundation for social action.