There are many wonderful things about the holiday season: family, parties, food and pumpkin spice. But add schedule interruptions and a list of “should do’s” to daily hassles, financial difficulties or family problems, and you don’t always get merrymaking. In fact, the extra hustle and bustle produces stress if it goes unchecked. In communities of color especially, those extra burdens can affect our minds, bodies and spirits.
Although “black don’t crack” on the outside, as the saying goes, our life experiences affect our internal health. The “Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation” found that… ”ages 49-55, black women are 7.5 years biologically ‘older’ than white women. Indicators of perceived stress and poverty account for 27% of this difference.”
‘Tis the season to be intentional about incorporating self-care as a regular part of our existence.
Yoga, a practice of intentional movement, breathing techniques and meditation, is one way to de-stress. But this Indian tradition is largely white-dominated in the Western world, leaving few spaces where people of color feel welcome. This holds true in Colorado Springs, too, where white people make up close to 80 percent of the population.
Local yoga instructor Sammi Blaque is the founder of The Venus Collective, a holistic health and wellness concept that includes yoga, mindfulness, essential oil instruction and life-skills coaching. She hopes to bring people together to move, feel joy and dance, while holding intentional space for people of color. Her vision is a retreat-style studio, where self-care is interwoven with community care. Blaque trained at Cambio Yoga, a local donation-based studio, and says Cambio was intentional about teaching the roots of yoga and creating inclusionary spaces.[pullquote-1]
Blaque, a Southeast Colorado Springs resident and theColorado Springs Business Journal’s 2019 Business Plan contest winner, says she’s been on a life-changing journey since trying yoga for the first time after a car accident six years ago, and she would like more people of color to join her. A natural creative, Blaque has shaken up what we know in the U.S. as a traditional yoga studio.
“Trap yoga is a good introductory space,” she says, referring to trap music, a heavy, Atlanta-based genre that yoga instructors say helps them meditate. ”I get so many people [who say] ‘this is my first time ever,’ or ‘I’ve never done yoga before.’ But they’ve wanted to come. They’re like, ‘OK, I see you. You’re black and you’re speaking my language, I feel safe.’” Blaque says she’s all about leading a movement through movement. One of love and beauty. She believes that these two attributes are healing, especially to people of color.
“Black women in particular — we have this superhero syndrome where we want to be able to save everyone, where we have to do the most and work the hardest, and I believe there’s so much magic in beauty, rest and love, and being in tune with your body,” she says. “Venus represents love and beauty, and I want us to collect. I don’t want to feel like I’m this leader. I want it to be a circle and not a pyramid.”
She also practices trauma-informed care. While it may be the norm to offer hands-on adjustments, instructors have to be mindful of people’s space and consent so they don’t re-traumatize or trigger them. “It’s my duty as a teacher to continually learn so that I can hold people better,” she says. “If you’re going to be a skillful teacher, you have to be mindful of the things that people are carrying they might not even say.”
A firm believer in the power of this healing practice, Blaque says yoga has not just relieved her physical pain but has also brought clarity to her thoughts and emotions. She’s a little ways out from opening her own studio, but is eyeing this time next year. In the meantime, she’s mobile, and books classes through her website. She recommends that anyone experiencing the holiday blues this season should take some time for love and beauty.