The Black Yogis

The Black Yogis

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Who are the black yogis? This is a question that’s been on my mind for a long time. Several years ago I maintained a subscription to Yoga Journal and was consistently disappointed by the magazines failure to represent people of color in its pages. It was a harsh irony that the publication didn’t do more to connect its content with the creators of the practice let alone other people of color. It was clear that Yoga Journal pandered to the same clientele that frequented the studios. I was disappointed when I considered the magazines failure to use its platform to represent a more diverse body of practitioners.

Having moved to Kenya several months ago, I rediscovered Bikram Yoga Nairobi. Upon returning, I was delighted to observe a diverse group of practitioners and teachers at the studio. Kenyans were definitely in the expected mix of European and American expats during classes. Within my first couple of weeks I met Kent, a Trinidadian teacher who had a fantastic story. Apparently Kent, who had a small frame, weighed over 200 lbs. a few years ago. Then he discovered Bikram Yoga and turned his life around. Side Note: for a long time I resisted Bikram Yoga as a regular practice. There was something about the flashiness and blatant capitalism that the founder Bikram Choudhuroy seemed to embody; what appeared to be a purely physical practice; and an uncertainty about the safety of the instruction. That being said, historically I’m not one to proselytize about the benefits of Bikram yoga BUT having revisited the practice in recent months the personal benefits have been notable. Back to Kent: during his classes I really appreciated Kent’s presence of mind and motivational style. I also liked that he was a black yoga teacher teaching a class filled with Kenyans. This was the moment that Yoga Journal had missed.  I talked with Kent about the two of us doing a photo shoot to represent The Black Yogis. This is a moment I’ve been waiting for for a long time. In the future I’ll do a post on some of the amazing Kenyan yoga teachers that have emerged in recent years, many of them coming through Africa Yoga Project. But for now I start at home. Thank you Kent for being that lamp post (to use a Bikram idiom) and safari njema wherever your travels take you.

photos by Elísabet Cárdenas

@ Bikram Yoga Nairobi, Lavington Green