Dear Community,

I heard news this week about an institution that I attended many years ago that cracked my heart wide open. It is being sued by a black faculty member for racial discrimination. The news provoked sorrow and a sense of loss for my young adult self who was courageously beginning to find her voice and use her entire being as a vehicle for self-expression during my drama school years. Many forms of oppression were at work during that time to make showing up as my best self a challenge, including racism, and the toxicity of violent communication. It always blows my mind to realize just how much suffering we carry within us even long after an experience has passed. Yet the grief I actually allowed myself to feel and acknowledge was sobering and triumphant all the same. It reminded that though I am fiercely resilient, surviving is not the same thing as thriving.

Yoga for me has always been a tool to explore obstacles at work within me in order to harness my birthright: to thrive. Ironically, it was during those drama school years that I began practicing yoga in a deeply devotional way. I managed to exceed expectations while in school, and excel once I left my drama school despite three stifling years of study while activated in fight flight mode. Frankly, this is proof that vibranium really does flow through my veins. (Wink wink.) However, several years or so after drama school ended, I was wiped the heck out by the constant compulsion I’d developed during those years to “prove” myself worthy. My love of acting still stirs me, but the “auditioning” to be perceived as valid has died. How does an artist, a person of color balance such needs in a world of white supremacy?  This what I am constant reflection about. I am deeply grateful that I had the wisdom to follow my instinctual impulse to self-soothe during those early years and since, rather than act unskillfully in the face of oppression. But I am still learning, succeeding and fumbling at times along this path.

Many of you know all too well how experiences such as these are why I often create yoga and mindfulness programs that center the experiences of people of color to support us to thrive. Though we all live lives that include suffering, creating safe spaces, free from the fatigue of race-based trauma is a critical need to ensure healing, wellbeing and empowerment for my Black, POC, and indigenous brothers and sisters. This need fuels my commitment to creating and collaborating around such services, and frankly to have way more fun. Though I cried like a baby the other day, releasing that grief gave me an opportunity to reflect more deeply and explicitly about the subtle and overt ways that oppression works on me. It also lightened my load, and clarified my intentions around my work even further. What brings you to the yoga mat, altar, or meditation cushion? What conscious and unconscious experiences of suffering are getting released, breath by breath when you commit to your wellbeing?

My work highlights experiences and services that help us listen, share, heal and cultivate more loving yoga spaces and communities at large so we can all thrive. Some of these events are for POC and others all for all. When they are for POC only, the intention is to ensure our safety, and protect us from unnecessary racial fatigue, racialized insensitivity, or re-triggering from past race-based traumas so that we might truly put the perpetual guard down, and actually heal. If you would like to participate in an event, but can not, consider gifting one of these opportunities to a friend or loved one. Here’s to us all living our lives to the fullest.

With deep love and gratitude,
Crystal