Who’s Afraid of the Big, Black, Male Yoga Instructor?

 

Dancing Mind Pic 2
Teacher Training Fall 2014.

A few weeks ago I auditioned for a yoga instructor position at a fitness center that will remain nameless.  The experience left a pretty bad taste in my mouth (not about yoga, mind you), and it begs the question,

Would white women feel threatened by a big, black man as their yoga instructor?

Of course, such a question sounds upsurd in this day and age and given yoga’s true meaning.  Needless to say, that question lingered in my mind for a long time after my audition at this health club, and had me unrolling my yoga mat to release the anger that had slowly built up.  Even before the audition started, I had a funny feeling about how things would go.  At the end, that feeling was confirmed.

As I’m being interviewed by the health club’s fitness director in charge of hiring new instructors, she tells me about its clientele who practice yoga regularly; namely, upper middle-class petite white and Asian women.  As we’re going through the flow and I’m demonstrating the verbal cues and hands-on assists in which I am trained (shout out to Baptiste Yoga), she stops me repeatedly, says that hands on assists wouldn’t be appropriate, and then demonstrates her own form of assists and adjustments, which not only ran counter to everything that I had been trained in as a yoga instructor, but felt more like she was tickling me, instead of adjusting me.

Then, toward the end of my audition, and in the nicest, most diplomatic way possible, she basically told me that, at their club, their yoga clientele would feel “threatened” by someone my size in their space (because, as she kept repeating ad nauseum, “You’re not a petite Asian lady.”)  She also sent me the not-so-subtle message that I should probably consider a “less strenuous” form of yoga combined with some cardio to lose some weight.

In other words, having a big, black 260 lbs man in their face as their yoga instructor would scare the shit out of the club’s members, so come back in six months after you’ve lost 50 pounds or so.

As I replayed the audition in my mind after calming down, I decided to deconstruct the entire episode more objectively.  Afterwards, I realized that (a) There’s absolutely nothing wrong with me, and (b) I’m so glad I didn’t get a call back from that health club.

Firstly, as a Baptiste trained yoga instructor, I was taught that hands-on assists and adjustments be firm, to the point, have adequate pressure, and be intentional (i.e. focused on enabling the students to do deeper into a pose in a way that’s comfortable for him or her, if that’s what their body needs).  For example, as opposed to placing one’s fingers bunched together on the base of a student’s neck and then “spreading them” (again, more like tickling than adjusting) to get the student to lengthen their spine in child’s pose, I was taught to place the palm (not the fingers!) of one hand on the base of a student’s spine while in child’s pose, then taking the other palm (again, not the fingers!) and gently yet firmly running it up the spine all the way to the neckthat gets the student to lengthen their spine properly and mindfully!  This was just one of several adjustment examples where, well, let’s just say we didn’t see eye to eye.

Secondly, I have been teaching yoga for almost a year.  My students have spanned the socioeconomic spectrum, both genders, and are of every race, color and creed you can think of.  Not once have I ever been told by a student, directly or indirectly, that he or she felt “threatened” by me (i.e. a big, black man) as their instructor, or that my hands-on adjustments were inappropriate in any way.  In fact, the main feedback nugget that I receive is women, who tell me after class, “Great class, Dutch, but please, more pressure on your assists in child’s pose, paschimottonasana, downward facing dog, etc.  I like more pressure.” (Being a big guy who used to lift weights, I’m always mindful about how much pressure I use in grounding assists.)

I’m over it. I continue to teach and practice.  My students appreciate who I am and what I bring to their yoga practice as their instructor, and I definitely appreciate what they give me in return.  That’s the beauty of yoga: START where you are, BE who you are.

Namasté

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Published by: Black Crow

I'm a certified yoga instructor, avid reader, public speaker-in-training, devoted family man, lover of blues music, the harmonica - oh, and I have a foot fetish. I blog about all things, yoga, nutrition, healthy living, meditation, personal development, and harnessing the God-given power of our subconscious mind to change our lives. To sign up for yoga classes or to get more information about my yoga classes, email me at damartin1906@gmail.com.

Categories Blog Posts5 Comments

5 thoughts on “Who’s Afraid of the Big, Black, Male Yoga Instructor?”

  1. I am glad that you did not lose your cool, it comes with the territory of being a black male.
    I will be taking teacher training in July of this year. I am 290lbs and darker than a paper bag.
    I look forward to my upcoming training and and wish you the best. Love the name Black Crow….

      1. I can’t figure out why, but for some reason chicks that are into Yoga just flock to me (Hopefully that doesn’t sound like I’m bragging. And I’ve met many Yoga practitioners but I’ve never met a 260 lb male one before Black or otherwise.

        Not even really into Yoga myself either, found it a little too slow for my liking, but maybe I haven’t found the right type for me?

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