19 Women of Color to Watch in the Yoga World in 2019

19 Women of Color to Watch in the Yoga World in 2019

Back in February , a newer and seemingly progressive online yoga magazine published a list of 19 Yoga and Movement Teachers to Watch in 2019. While every person on that list was totally deserving of recognition, collectively, the list was woefully lacking in diversity. In fact, in a list of 19 people, there was only ONE non-white person.

Like the white (albeit immigrant) creators of the list, you might buy into the stereotype that the yoga and wellness spaces are only filled with able-bodied, thin, young white girls with a few white men sprinkled into the mix. You might be fooled into thinking this space is just not that diverse. That this list just represents the people within the industry. But you’d be wrong.

While media attention and advertising images focus almost entirely on white people doing yoga, people of color are quietly doing some important and amazing work in this industry. They are on the cutting edge of movement science and self-empowerment through body positivity. They are building inclusive communities and spaces that extend the yoga practice into people’s day-to-day lives. They provide healing to marginalized and often forgotten or neglected communities (i.e. the elderly, new moms, the incarcerated, and women of color, just to name a few). They are doing the emotionally taxing work to build bridges in order to educate white people on the true meaning of ahimsa.

Back in February, when the yoga magazine in question was faced with criticism about their list on their Instagram account, their reactionary response was one that is sadly typical of white people in the wellness industry - to act defensively instead of listening.* In particular, this was their response to Sophie Griffiths:

“well... perhaps do something about it instead of complaining and criticizing our list? That’s an idea! 💡”

So that’s what Sophie decided to do. And being the awesome ally that she is, she asked me, a fellow commenter, to collaborate with her on this list. So that’s what we are presenting to you. A list of 19 Women of Color to Watch in the Yoga World in 2019.

Sophie and I both work to support women in our work, and so we’ve kept this list to women this time around. We hope that through this list, we can begin to challenge the status quo, change people’s perception of who yoga and wellness is for and create a truer representation of those already at the forefront of the industry.

* Sidenote: While the magazine eventually issued an apology for the lack of diversity on their list, they have yet to acknowledge their distasteful and possibly even more harmful response to the criticism.

We hope you enjoy this list and we look forward to hearing your feedback!

 

19 Women of Color to Watch in the Yoga World in 2019



1. Shri Devi Diehl

 
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Shri Diehl specializes in holding space for those that might not necessarily feel included in mainstream yoga spaces. She is a “main space holder” for Brown Sugar Yoga, a program dedicated to creating a welcoming, intentional, empowering and healing community space for all people of color. She is the co-founder of In Her Power, a healing collective dedicated to supporting black women (cis, queer or otherwise) tap into their innate self-healing, self-generating and self-learning wisdom. And she is the creator of a workshop called “Yoga for Abundant Bodies,” where she teaches other yogis that yoga need not be exclusive to the smaller-sized crowd.

You can see Shri’s 2019 updates by following her on Facebook.

Brown Sugar Yoga
In Her Power
Yoga for Abundant Bodies

 

2. Tejal Patel

 
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When Tejal first quit her finance job to work in the yoga industry, she was looking to do something great. But she very quickly encountered some massive roadblocks on the so-called path to enlightenment. She decided to use these challenges to empower herself and others.  She started the POC + Allies Collective Yoga, a regularly scheduled mindfulness-based, beginner-friendly, low-cost yoga series that honors inclusivity and diversity. She leads free Yoga for All in The Battery in New York's landmark 25-acre public park. She is the creator of abcdyogi village, an international community for any born conscientious desi yogi of South Asian descent to reclaim the yoga and mindfulness space by sharing their personal stories and practices with the world. And she is the co-creator of Yoga Is Dead, a podcast to expose all the yoga monsters lurking under the mat. This revolutionary podcast launching Summer 2019 is hosted by two Indian-American yoga teachers speaking out on issues of power, privilege, fair pay, harassment, and capitalism, pulling from their experiences and research. 

You can see everything Tejal is up to on her website: www.tejalyoga.com and her Instagram @tejalyoga.

POC + Allies Collective Yoga
Yoga in the Battery
abcd yogi village (Instagram)
Yoga is Dead (Instagram)

 

3. Dr. Chelsea Jackson Roberts

 
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Chelsea’s work can be summed up in three words: community, inclusivity and leadership. She is the founder of Red Clay Yoga, a community outreach and training program that is dedicated to using yoga as a tool for education and that focuses primarily on youth, marginalized communities and their allies. Under the Red Clay umbrella, she is the creator and co-director of the Yoga, Literature and Art Camp for Teen Girls, which she developed in response to her literacy research that began when she was a classroom teacher and later developed as she completed her PhD in Educational Studies. She dives deeper into what it means to be a leader through her diversity and social justice trainings, as well as an online inclusivity training that she’s offering in partnership with Yoga Journal called Inclusivity for Yoga: Building Community with Compassion. She is also working with Off the Mat Into the World to offer Revolution Through Love: Race, Reclamation & Liberation, a workshop exploring how yoga and contemplative practices can support moving towards a world where racism and other -isms no longer exist. This year, you can also find Chelsea at Wanderlust Asheville and Squaw Valley as well as at Asheville Yoga Festival.

Get all of Chelsea’s up-to-date information: https://linktr.ee/chelsealovesyoga

Support the Yoga, Literature and Art Camp for Teen Girls
Revolution Through Love: Race, Reclamation & Liberation
Inclusivity for Yoga: Building Community with Compassion
Asheville Yoga Festival

 

4. Alia Bisat

 
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Alia is right on the vanguard of a new campaign of yoga teachers that wants to push mindful movement into the 21st century. Alia brings research-backed functional movements into her classes as a way to teach her students to move better, move stronger and move more in their daily lives. She empowers her students to understand their own bodies (as opposed to telling them what their body should look like) and make the choices that will lead them to effortless, pain-free and healthy movement patterns.  While her classes are founded on cutting edge information about how the body works, she is also leading her students on a personal journey of the self whereby exploring their relationship to their body and how they move, they can confront discomfort, seek growth and cultivate compassion. In her upcoming retreat, Move Like a Warrior – a Functional Yoga Retreat, Alia will show how her students how to use warrior poses in a way that might serve them better in their yoga practices and in their lives – all while inviting curiosity and play.

Get moving with Alia: https://linktr.ee/aliabisat
Move Like a Warrior - a Functional Yoga Retreat

 

5. Ngone Mbaye

 
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In Ngone’s words: “I decided to be a yoga teacher because I wanted to share it with all the people like me who didn't think yoga was for them. Because they were not skinny or weren’t flexible or every other excuses that people give me. I wanted to show them that you don't need to be flexible. You don't need to have a certain color. You don't need the “background” or expensive outfits. Just go and do yoga, that was my mission.”

Ngone takes her mission to the next level at Greene Moments Studio, a yoga, dance and fitness space that she co-founded. Greene Moments is a haven for yoga teachers and members of the neighboring community. She employs a diverse staff, giving a platform to teachers that don’t normally get the spotlight. And she invites adults and kids alike to experience a yoga practice with an array of teachers that are reflective of the students. When she’s not busy at the studio, Ngone teaches yoga to the incarcerated women on Riker’s Island and she holds international retreats. The destination for 2020: Senegal.

You can find Ngone on Instagram @gooneybeeyogi

Greene Moments Studio
Senegal Yoga Retreat

 

6. Susanna Barkataki

 
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Susanna is on a mission to spread inclusion and diversity by way of the yoga lifestyle. She is the creator of the Honor {Don’t Appropriate} Yoga Summit, a free online event dedicated to helping modern yogis ignite their integrity, challenge norms, celebrate diversity and embody yogic leadership. She is the founder of Ignite Yoga and Wellness Institute, which is aimed coaching yoga teachers, studios, nonprofits and businesses on how to be inclusive, accessible and welcoming while honoring the roots of yoga. Upcoming, Susanna is speaking at the Accessible Yoga Conference in St. Louis as well as well as running an online course with Off the Mat and Into the World on Cultural Appropriation and Honoring Yoga.

You can get her 15 concrete ways to Honor Yoga as part of Susanna's Yoga Manifesto for free at www.susannabarkataki.com.

Honor {Don’t Appropriate} Yoga Summit
Ignite Yoga & Wellness Institute
Accessible Yoga Conference
Appropriation and Honoring Yoga Online Course

 

7. Samantha Faulhaber

 
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Though Samantha has never taken a yoga teacher training, her way of moving, teaching, looking at the world and living could certainly be described as yogic. So much so, that you can find some of her online classes as part of this online yoga library. Her mission is to help people connect to themselves free from self-judgment, and embrace who they are so that they have the most energy to show up for others.  Through her Listen Up program, she coaches those that feel like their whole lives have been lived in the pursuit of helping others at the cost of themselves find their best selves through self-respect, joy and through resolving their fears. Recognizing that men often need more support on this path, she’s created the Clearing Mental Fog and Anxiety private Facebook group as a safe space for men to share their anxieties and stress around self-care.

Samantha has a lot to offer to the yoga and wellness communities and you can get it all here: https://movewellphilly.com/

Share your anxiety and stress with Samantha via a one-on-one call
Clearing Mental Fog and Anxiety Facebook group

 

8. Crystal McCreary

 
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Crystal knows that for people of color, real healing and self-care often require a break from the innumerable daily stressors of life. That’s why she specializes in creating immersive wellness experiences as a radical form of activism. This year, she has two unique experiences on offer for women of color: her Pause + Press Play weekend retreat and her weeklong Souljourn retreat to the France. She is also leading a two-day mindfulness immersion for kids, called Yoga + Mindfulness Tools to Boost Resilience in Our Kids.

Get access to all of Crystal’s events and updates: https://linktr.ee/cmccrearyyoga

Pause + Press Play
Souljourn to France
Yoga + Mindfulness Tools to Boost Resilience in Our Kids

 

9. Krishna Dholakia

 
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For most people Krishna sees, trying to live a healthy life requires a tough balancing act. She supports her clients and students in finding this balance through a combination of nutrition, Ayurveda, diabetes education and yoga. She shows people how to make realistic, non-judgmental lifestyle changes that will steer them towards the health they want in a way that is in harmony with the rest of their life. In 2019, she has created an array or workshops aimed supporting the balancing act including two Mindfulness & Self-care Retreats: Connecting to the Roots of Wellness, a Yoga and Fascia Release Workshop, a Chakra workshop, and an Ayurveda workshop.

See all of Krishna’s offering on her website at http://www.omnspice.com/

Mindfulness & Selfcare Retreat: Connecting to the Roots of Wellness
Yoga and Fascia Release Workshop
Chakra Workshop for Teachers and Students
Ayurveda Workshop for Teachers and Students

 

10. Blyss Buitrago

 
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The sole reason Blyss decided to teach movement was to combat the spiritual, mental and medical weathering of black bodies due to micro-aggressions like stress, oppression, and ancestral trauma. Blyss is leaning into her meditation practice, spiritual work, body exploration, and strength building. Lately she’s been steering away from traditional yoga, even using the word "yoga" less to describe her practice.

“What's important to me now is movement of the body in a way that creates space for individuals to go through their days with more comfort and calmness and have opportunities to explore how their body works and what it's capable of. The challenges plaguing womyn of color have become so insurmountable that maternal childbirth, reproductive health, and mental health awareness and healing are now main threads in my work."

You can book one to one sessions with Blyss or catch her community classes here: www.blyssfulyoga.com

 

11. Octavia Raheem

 
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Octavia knows we can access our deepest power in stillness, in quiet. She is the co-owner of Sacred Chill {West}, a dynamic and revolutionary yoga and meditation studio based in Atlanta where she co-leads 200-hour trainings, a mentorship program and where she is about to immerse students in a restorative yoga experience that explores the Power of Rest. She also created Starshine & Clay Yoga Retreat for Women of Color, where WOC are invited to celebrate, rest, love, and honor ourselves and sisterhood. Octavia gives back to her community as a proud supporter of Red Clay Yoga in Atlanta, former co-director, and teacher of the Yoga, Literature and Art Camp for Teen Girls program.

Sacred Chill {West}
CHILLshop® yoga
Power of Rest: A Restorative Yoga Immersion
Starshine & Clay Fall 2019 Retreat:
Red Clay Yoga
Yoga, Literature and Art Camp for Teen Girls

 

12. Suzanne Ko

 
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Suzanne describes herself as a movement coach specializing in postnatal fitness, as a pregnancy & postpartum athleticism coach, as a sustainable food advocate and as a mama. But Suzanne is much more than that. She’s is a warrior for women’s health. She knows that when it comes to the bodies of pre- and post-natal women, the fitness and medical industries have fallen woefully short of providing the necessary tools for preparation, assessment and healing. And she is all too aware of how our current social model wants women to conform to an extremely narrowly defined ideal, that all but erases their personal identities. She is working to help change that. Her social media accounts are a library of information, education and resources aimed at helping women own their own bodies at any stage of life and provide a wonderful first stop for any woman, fitness professional, trainer or movement therapist looking to help mothers take control of their own bodies.

Suzanne’s Instagram
Suzanne’s Facebook
Suzanne’s Twitter:

 

13. Ona Hawk

 
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Ona knows that to understand the present, and to take care of our future, we have to look to our past. She has traveled the world in search of ancient self-healing wisdom and is bringing back the most potent of that wisdom to her community in Atlanta. Her work bridges that ancient wisdom with modern practices to create a system of stress-reduction and healing for everyday living. She uses food and yoga as a means to deliver that system and provide people of color a conscious and culturally aware space in which to do the healing. Though Ona has studied various cultures, she feels especially passionate about her African roots and specializes in Kemetic Yoga and African herbalism and holistic health.

Ona is the founder and owner of Firehawk Yoga Studio and a faculty member of the Yoga, Literature and Arts Camp for Teen Girls. If you can’t practice with her in person or in her group classes at Sacred Chill {West} yoga studio, you can follow along to one of her many online classes.

Firehawk Yoga Studio
Yoga Literature and Arts Camp for Teen Girls
Online Classes

 

14. Dr. Andreka Peat

 
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Dr. Andreka Peat specializes in women’s mental health and is working to change the stigma that women (especially women of color) experience when it comes to getting help. She is the owner of Women’s Wellness Atlanta, where she works to serve other women, letting them know that they are not alone and try to provide them with “a breathing space.” Her clinical psychology practice focuses on maternal mental health (postpartum mood and anxiety disorders), fertility challenges, grief and loss, and relationship concerns. In 2019, she plans to bring her expertise into the yoga world through women’s health therapeutic yoga offerings.  

Women’s Wellness Atlanta (Instagram)
Dr. Peat’s Facebook
Dr. Peat’s Instagram

 

15. Nadine McNeil

 
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Nadine is a transformation coach, yoga teacher, writer and humanitarian. Her main focus is of Consciousness Rising – the act of stepping boldly into the fullest expression of self, thereby becoming a catalyst for collective change and her quest for the Democratization of Yoga – the removal of the illusion of elitism attached to the practice in modern times.

Her brand, Universal Empress, is an embodiment of these ideas. “One of my most important 'assignments' is holding women's circles. We are the givers of life, the 'creatrixes' which means that any re-birth taking place must involve us at a core and pivotal level.  It is up to us to claim our destined place and be a stand for all beings on this planet. When one of us suffers, we all suffer. When one of us heals, we all heal.”

Upcoming, Nadine will be leading her Badasana Immersive Training Series that combines yoga with free weights. She will also be presenting at Bali Spirit Festival.

Universal Empress
Badasana Series
Bali Spirit Festival

 

16. Kelley Carboni-Woods

 
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Kelley is passionate about making the practice accessible and making the connections between yoga, mindfulness and motherhood. For Kelley, that connection builds pathways to liberation, individually and collectively. Kelley’s work focuses on how we can free ourselves from oppressive systems and ways of thinking as well as raising free and liberated children. “As parents we are space holders who have the power to shift narratives and culture if we chose to. I think yoga and it's tools offer gateways to that.”

This year Kelley is taking her offerings around motherhood and mindfulness into the world in larger ways. Check out her monthly Peace Filled Parenting webinars, monthly Women’s Dinner Circle featuring a unique vegan dining experience, two offerings for entrepreneurs entitled Self-care for Artists and Fearless Creators Online Series, a meditation, cbd and calming tea event called Daily Meds, a Peace Filled Mama Weekend retreat at the Yogaville Ashram and a presentation at the Accessible Yoga Conference in St. Louis. Kelley is also a co-founder of Sanctuary in the City, a nonprofit whose mission is to provide an accessible, safe, and affirming space for individuals and families of color to gather locally to promote transformation on social, community, professional and environmental levels.

Check out all Kelley has to offer here: https://linktr.ee/peacefilledmama

Peace Filled Parenting Webinar
Bloom: A Women’s Dinner Circle
Self-care for Artists
Fearless Creators Online Series
Daily Meds
Peace Filled Mama Weekend
Accessible Yoga Conference
Sanctuary in the City

 

17. Michelle Johnson

 
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Michelle is an author, yoga teacher, social justice activist, licensed clinical social worker and Dismantling Racism trainer. She approaches her life and work from a place of empowerment, embodiment and integration. With a deep understanding of trauma and the impact that it has on the mind, body, spirit and heart, much of her work focuses on helping people better understand how power and privilege operate in their life. She explores how privilege, power and oppression affects the physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and energy body.

Michelle is the creator of Skill in Action, a 200hr teacher training program focused on the intersection of yoga and social justice. In  2019, she will also be presenting at the Accessible Yoga Conference in St. Louis, leading a Healing Retreat for People of Color called Healing is an Art, offering an online workshop in partnership with Off the Mat and Into the World on Dismantling Racism, and participating in Yoga International’s Climate Awake action-oriented challenge conversation on community.

Skill in Action Teacher Training
Accessible Yoga Conference
Healing is an Art - Healing Retreat for People of Color
Climate Awake with Yoga International
Dismantling Racism Online Course with Off the Mat

 

18. Davina Davidson

 
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With a background in formal education, Davina knows how to give teachers the building blocks to master their potential. She is a lead trainer for Yogawork’s Houston’s 200-hour Teacher Training, for a 300-hour training under her own brand, Evolve the Connect, and for Melanin Yoga Project’s 200-hour training. She offers an ongoing Mentorship Program and Yoga Intensives as well as two online classes: The Art of Teaching Yoga as an Independent Contractor and a communication course called Authentic Conversations.

Davina is the Founder and President of Melanin Yoga Project, which is a non-profit that focuses on educating people of color of the benefits of yoga via yoga in schools programming, community outreach, yoga events and so much more.

To see all of Davina’s upcoming workshops and trainings, visit her website: https://www.yogawithdavina.com/

Yogaworks Houston 200-hr Training
Evolve the Connect
Davina’s Mentorship Program
Yoga Intensives
The Art of Teaching Yoga as an Independent Contractor & Authentic Conversations
Melanin Yoga Project

 

19. Alex van Frank

 
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Alex Van Frank is an international yoga teacher and yoga therapist currently living in San Diego, California. Born in Greece from Native American and Dutch parents, she got an early start in seeing the world in a wider lens. When Alex teaches yoga she emphasizes the cross-cultural accessibility of yoga for all body shapes and mindsets regardless of limitations. She is also a member of the International Association of Yoga Therapists. You can access her online at Glo.com or better yet join her in Italy (where she once lived) for her Italy Pleasures and Delights Yoga Retreat.

Italy Pleasures and Delights Yoga Retreat
Alex’s Glo.com Classes

What is Health? (Part 2)

What is Health? (Part 2)

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