Just so we’re clear, it is not uncommon for me to transform instantly from a composed and graceful woman into a wet sobbing mess. Today was one of those days. Granted, I was at a wedding, so tears, even watersheds are common from wedding guests and friends and family of the bride and groom. But on the contrary, my tears were stirred by the mother of the bride. Her name is Hilerine.

I write today to give thanks. I am thankful for yoga and all its incredible health benefits and the innumerable gifts it has given my life. I am thankful for all my teachers, both on and off the mat that have revealed the true meaning of yoga to me (union), particularly when it was through experience of a non-yogic example. I am especially grateful to the friends and family that have trusted me as a guide onto the yoga mat for the first time. It is

"I think I can, I think I can." Hilerine practicing a modified Chaturanga in a home private.

“I think I can, I think I can.” Hilerine practicing a modified Chaturanga in a home private.

for them that I teach. This is why I am so moved today. Just two short months ago, my friend’s mother was too weak from her battle with cancer to walk without assistance to my class at Harlem Wellness Center. By the end of that week, she had purchased a pack of 10 yoga privates, fiercely determined to be well enough to walk her daughter down the aisle on her big day. Because I can remember a time not long ago when it seemed impossible to find yoga teachers who could make students like Hilerine feel safe and welcome in their classes, and even more impossible to find any such class in Harlem, I took up a mentor’s suggestion to learn to teach yoga. The consistent, inexcusable void in yoga offerings that might make yoga accessible for a 60+ year old, non-athletic, plus-sized woman of color was a key factor in convincing me to find a few thousand bucks to spend on a yoga teacher training.

Carmen brings her and sister to class. And my sister came that day, too!

Carmen brings her dad and sister to class. And my sister came that day, too!

I get all lit up when I experience proof that I am realizing my yoga intention: to share the possibility of vitality and serenity through accessible yoga classes in my community.  We deserve to be well, too. Sometimes when I’m walking around Harlem, the overwhelming evidence of illness among my people either breaks my heart, or really pisses me off. There is illness downtown, too, but well, it’s not as glaringly apparent, and perhaps takes on a variety of subtler forms. In my view, the high rates of obesity, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes that you find in my neighborhood is the result of extreme toxic stress.  When you are burnt out, it’s damn near impossible to perceive healthy choices as possible options. What single parent with multiple jobs has time to keep up with the latest healthy living online magazine, schedule her week around a trip to the farmer’s market (or even dream of affording groceries from the more accessible Whole Foods) that might have low cost organic foods, AND cook three balanced meals per day for his/her family? I can hardly do it, and I’m single with no children! Choosing to be well is a lifestyle. One of my teachers quoted another teacher years ago, offering this advice to us as students: If you can’t make time in your life to do yoga regularly, change your life. Some of us can do that, as Hilerine did. As I did. But a lot of the people I know and teach may not have this luxury.

It's a family affair! Sophia brings her mom and sister to class at Harlem Wellness Center.

It’s a family affair! Sophia brings her mom and sister to class at Harlem Wellness Center.

And these are the reasons why I teach. It also explains why I teach where I teach. Further, it explains how I teach. Nothing brings me more joy then when a student entrusts me with a loved one, bringing them to my yoga class for the first time. Or even better, when a student brings their whole family to my class! It’s an honor to introduce members of my community to yoga for the first time. My teaching practice is sacred to me because I get to give people themselves. Once practitioners experience who they are, it’s even more moving to watch them show up for themselves, make healthy and empowering choices week after week in yoga classes; making yoga and wellness a lifestyle, an act of self-realization, the choice around which all other life choices begin to revolve. Sometimes I like to imagine a world view that nixed the paradigm of money or fame as God, and instead, one that embraces the principle of vital life. Might just be the best place on Earth. In that place, I might just have the best job in the world.