Walking into my first yoga class was nerve-wracking. I knew skinny white women would surround me, but I was hoping to see at least one woman that looked like me. You know, a woman with brown skin and wide hips with the thighs, ass and belly to match. That didn't happen, but I stepped into that 105-degree room and breathed and cried and stretched and stretched and breathed and cried some more. But there's not enough stretching in the world to make me forget the scarcity of Black faces in the yoga community, so I reached out to Zailene. Her bendable Instagram posts and inspiring tips are enlightening. The work she does to garner black folk and provide an avenue for mental healthcare is exceptional. Zai knows the struggle and created Flood Flow: Yoga for the Culture– to create diversity and educate black and brown people on yoga's benefits. Check out her informative interview below.
My yoga journey started in 2016. I had just begun taking pole fitness classes. I wanted an alternative practice that would help to reinforce posture and flexibility - so why not yoga? I signed up for a yoga class and… I did not enjoy it. I couldn't keep up; I felt like I was doing everything wrong. I felt like I stood out as the only female of color, AND they "Om-ed" at the beginning of class which made me feel awkward. I continued my physical practice via YouTube videos and mimicking IG photos, but I didn't step foot in another class for a year. The age of 30 was right around the corner. I reached a moment of panic in my life. I noticed my peers getting married, buying homes, starting businesses, having multiple children, etc. Although I was a very accomplished individual, I still could not help but notice what I didn't have. This mindset needed to be balanced by deeper self-discovery and acceptance. Again, I turned to yoga - this time for its meditative benefits. I signed up to take a yoga teacher training certification course in early 2019, and the rest was history. I graduated from the program in May 2019. At this time, mental health in the black community was being headlined frequently. I knew how much this practice did for me. I wanted to give back by introducing Yoga as an alternative form of facing mental health in our community - Flood Flow was born in August 2019.
We can change this by educating the black community about the benefits of yoga as a daily practice. There are a lot of misconceptions the steer black individuals away. However, if we knew that yoga does not have a "look" and that it is simply a deep dive into accepting ourselves as we are, we would be more willing to try it - which is always the first step. Another option is to provide classes within communities with a predominantly black demographic so that classrooms are diversified and inviting.
You have to be flexible, and it is only for skinny white women. You have to worship another deity, and you have to listen to zen meditative music. You have to be perfect. These all make me giggle because I used to have some of these misconceptions. Your yoga is what YOU want it to look like; the only thing it asks of you is to be true to yourself and not compare to anyone else. You can be white, black, brown or blue. You can be 5 or 85 years old. You can be the most inflexible person (practice will change that). You can worship whoever your heart desires. You can listen to country, trap or sounds of nature. And you absolutely DO NOT have to be perfect.
Yoga helps to reduce stress and anxiety. It increases feelings of relaxation and positively reinforces other forms of wellness. The combination of these things allows an individual to experience more self-acceptance.
Yoga is very much practice for weight loss. It involves intricate muscle movements. Some forms seem slow-paced, but even then, people do burn a lot of calories. Keeping in mind that everything requires consistency. Ayurveda's practice targets persons well being through the means of diet and lifestyle change - this is huge when the goal is weight loss.
I pray that Flood Flow reaches out to the minority - first in my own community and then beyond. I pray that it touches the hearts and minds of those struggling with mental health or physical ailments that cause depression. I pray that more black individuals come to me and fall in love with the practice - in return, sharing their experience so people like them can try it too. Flood Flow has a target demographic but helps ANY and everyone. With the current times, I do provide virtual consultations, private and open classes. Flood Flow creates a sequence tailored to your individual needs and pairs it with your chosen music genre (trap, afro, Latin, etc.). There is no judgment.
Watching how flexible and balanced Zailene is, you'd never think she started yoga only two years ago. I love her insight and her goals to better her community–her way. But I can't say I'm surprised. She's always made a goal and stuck to it–a truly brilliant person. Right now, she's a vinyasa instructor, meaning each movement is done in one breathe. It's typically fast and upbeat, but as she said, your practice is tailored to you. Hit Flood Flow up for virtual, private and group classes. You won't regret it!