In a recent post, I reflected on the role my circle of sistafriends plays in my overall health and well being. Taking on and accomplishing new health goals feels more attainable knowing that my girls got my back. In this post, I am featuring a conversation with two of my girls who truly inspire me–LaToya and Detra. They inspire me for several reasons. I met LaToya almost five years ago when I first moved to central New York. A wife and a mother of four school-aged children, she was working full-time and juggling the demands of maintaining her household. And, at that time in her life, she was looking for something more so she decided to pursue her doctorate in composition and rhetorical studies. The same year that she began her doctoral studies, she also decided to homeschool her two boys. And, of course, she blames me for convincing her to add this new level of craziness to her already busy life. We’ve bonded over homeschooling our kids, navigating the academic life as Black women, and our fierce pursuit of self-care rituals, including yoga. She is now working on her dissertation, her four children are thriving academically and socially, her partnership with her husband is solid, and most importantly, healthy living is one of her main priorities. Over the years, I have been in awe of LaToya. She is my little sister, and I feel so privileged to witness her journey. She optimizes the notion of getting her life.
I met Detra in 2006 when we were both fellows in a national mentoring program for emerging scholars of color. Ours is a sistahood that has grown over time, to the point that it seems like we’ve known each other since forever. We have a lot in common, especially when it comes to our diets–I’m addicted to Pellegrino and she’s addicted to Coke; she’s looking for a Shake Shack when I want the nearest vegan restaurant; she eats the Reese’s peanut butter cups and I’ll have the darkest chocolate. What I love about our friendship is that we support what makes the other person happy–no judgement, period. Detra is another woman to marvel at–she’s a wife, a mother of three children (one in diapers, one in middle school, and one at college), and an accomplished scholar and teacher educator. Last year, she lost the first love of her life–her father. I witnessed how she cared for her father in his final months and how she lived through his passing with such grace and strength. She is a constant reminder for me that we must focus on what’s most important in life and eliminate the foolishness, as we like to call it.
My girls, Detra and LaToya, are both simply beautiful–in and out. Through life’s ups and downs, they remain grounded, and I imagine that part of this is because they’ve found ways to incorporate a yoga practice into their lives. So, a couple of weeks ago, I had a chance to have a conversation with them both about their thoughts about yoga, what it is, and what it means for them personally. Here’s what they said:
What is yoga?
Detra: Yoga is patience and grace. It’s being patient with yourself–giving yourself grace to deal with your mistakes.
LaToya: It’s a spiritual practice that helps me to connect and be more grounded with myself. It’s physical. It’s an integration of the physical and the mental. I really appreciate that.
Is yoga a religion?
LaToya: That’s a hard question. I see religion as something that is systematic or that has ritual. I guess it depends on how a person practices it. I think it can be a religion for some. I treat my practice like I would treat prayer. For me, I don’t label it but I see how it can be considered that.
Detra: I need to think about what religion means. Is religion a set of doctrines? I don’t know that yoga is a set doctrine. If it’s personal, I’m not sure if it can be a religion. I don’t know. I just think it’s a practice.
Do you think a person has to be vegetarian to practice yoga?
Detra: I never thought about that as being a prerequisite. Maybe there is something that says you honor the life of living things.
LaToya: I practice yoga and I’m not a vegetarian. I think it’s an individual choice. You’re supposed to try to avoid doing harm but I eat meat. Yoga allows you to get more in touch with yourself and pay attention with your whole self. It helps you to be more attentive to what your body needs.
What benefits do you receive from practicing yoga?
Detra: Mental health. Emotional benefits. Social benefits. I feel healthier. I think about what I’m eating. I’m more thoughtful about what I put in my body.
LaToya: There are so many benefits. The main thing it does for me is to help me relieve stress and anxiety. They’re also physical benefits in terms of toning and flexibility and pain relief. I have scoliosis so sometimes I have pain in my shoulders. When I’m consistent with my practice, I don’t have those issues. I think it also has helped me to be more mindful and stay in the present. It helps me to make choices, to grow a lot. It helps me to grow in a good way. I feel more authentic.
Detra: I feel more at peace. I have a higher tolerance for foolish, ridiculous people. I am kinder. I feel more hopeful before and after. I plan for my future in ways that are more thoughtful, and I am always thinking about the positive and possibilities. After a session, I always want more people to have that feeling. I want more people to experience it, and I want to share it with other people.
Namaste, my beautiful sistas.