28 Days Of Black Joy: Connecting Mind, Body and Spirit Through Yoga

Illustration for article titled 28 Days Of Black Joy: Connecting Mind, Body and Spirit Through Yoga
Photo: Terrell J. Starr/The Root

If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know that I love yoga.

I am especially a fan of vinyasa yoga, an aerobic style of yoga that works your core, shoulder and hip joints in ways many of us aren’t used to moving. I do it at least three or four times a week. During the pandemic, my body is very grateful for the exercise and movement. While it is one of the most common styles of yoga practiced and I love it, it is also one of the most intimidating for first-time yogis because, well, it’s harder than it looks. Many yoga instructors I talk to tell me it’s best for first-timers to try something less taxing on the body.


Unlike vinyasa, which moves at a fast pace and requires a certain degree of core strength, hatha focuses more on breathing, the poses are held longer and you tend to do fewer of them in a session. Much of the time is devoted to meditation and centering your thoughts. Being in the present and cleansing your mind and body of impurities that could contaminate your spirit. As Black folk in America, we need all of the spiritual cleansing we can get. No matter where I am, I am in the habit of getting in at least one or two hatha classes per week.

If you want to try out yoga for the first time, I highly recommend you start with hatha.

You’ll thank me later!

My favorite yoga studio that has a great hatha practice is Black-female owned Haji Healing Salon, on the Southside Chicago. I first learned of it several years ago during a work trip and have been hooked since. Back in pre-COVID times, it was one of my favorite yoga spaces because of their location in their mostly Black neighborhood and how accessible they made (and continue to make) their services. For a full month of classes, a private session, access to healers and discounts on their products, Haji only changes $69, which is a great bargain. There are also some other plans that are lower price, if $69 is out of your price range.

Whatever you decide, Aya-Nikole Cook, the founder and owner, would appreciate the support. She runs a great practice and, even during non-pandemic times, I attend her studio virtually from New York while attending my Brooklyn yoga studio because her offerings are so unique.

Tuesday, I did yoga at home with everyone else and we’re doing a more ritualistic class that challenges you to block out the noise and your life and set intentions. It has a vinyasa flow to it, but not too intense like a regular vinyasa class. What I like about these ritualistic classes is that you have to sit in your intentions. Feel those intentions. Accept those intentions without thinking through them. Americans think too much about everything and we never give ourselves time to breathe and embrace what we want without questioning it. For at least 30 minutes, Tuesdays and Thursdays, I get to shut out the noise of the world—the impeachment, insurrectionists, racism, predatory policing, gentrification, white folks—and be in touch with myself.


It is the best gift I can give to myself and my mind and body thanks me for it.

Terrell Jermaine Starr is a senior reporter at The Root. He is currently writing a book proposal that analyzes US-Russia relations from a black perspective.


Pedantic Pontificator

I love it! Thank you for the recommendation.

But! One quibble. Try holding a difficult pose (or even plank) for 5 minutes, like my teacher used to make us do, and then tell me Hatha is easier... 😉