Today's featured Yogi, Kendra McCoy, was in my first Bikram Yoga class I went into this space nervous about if I would see any black people, and there she was. I was amazed by her standing head to knee pose! Each time we practice together, she inspires me! It was fun getting a chance to know more about her practice and capture pictures that showcase her strength and beauty!
Yogini ON the MAt
Preferred Yoga Style: Bikram
City: practice in Alexandria, VA
Food: Pho (Vietnamese noodle soup)
What made you start practicing yoga?
I started practicing in the Fall of 2013 ( a little over three years). A friend, who is a yoga instructor, received a gift card to a Bikram yoga studio. She treated me to a class in order to use the gift card before it expired. I liked the class, so I went back and eventually began practicing daily.
What anchors your practice?
The breath anchors me while I practice. The heat and humidity of the room also motivate me to focus internally and mitigate distractions. There was no major life event which brought me to yoga; however, yoga has helped me to mitigate major life events with more calm and a greater sense of overall peace.
How does yoga impact your life?
I gain focus when I practice yoga. I also gain a great sense of calm.
How your practice impacts other’s lives?
The people I professionally supervise never see me “stress out.” I have a greater view of the big picture as compared to my peers, and I move in greater purpose professionally and personally.
What are some things yoga has taught you about yourself/others?
Yoga has taught me that I don’t have to be perfect. I’m not Superwoman, and my flaws are actually unique and beautiful personal characteristics.
Favorite/ most challenging pose:
Favorite pose: Padangusthasana (big toe pose)
Most challenging pose: Padangusthasana (big toe pose)
Most changing part of your journey:
Scheduling the time to practice while maintaining professional and personal obligations
How does yoga make you feel? ( while practicing, after, and generally)
I typically feel refreshed and motivated after I finish practicing yoga. While practicing, I generally move through three moods: 1) “Let’s do this!” 2) “Why am I doing this?” 3) “I’m grateful to be able to do this.”
Tell a story/experience about something that's happened good, bad, awkward, etc while you have been practicing yoga:
I’ve been struggling with Padangusthasana (big toe pose ) since I started practicing. Initially, I lacked the hamstring flexibility to touch the ground while another leg was in the air. It looks a year to get there. Once I was able to bend over fully, I was unable to balance while seated on one leg. Now, I’m able to balance (sometimes) and align hips and shoulders. I’m constantly working on it.
A quote or phrase that resonates with your practice:
“Integrity is not something you show others. It is how you behave behind their back.” –Author unknown. In order to practice yoga effectively, you have to operate in integrity.
The advice you have for new yogis/long time practitioners:
leave it all on the mat. What you need from the practice will come.
How does yoga influence your mental health?
I’m much more optimistic than I used to be. overall wellness? My resting heart rate is low (~62 bpm), and according to any other medical indicator (blood sugar, BMI), I’m considered healthy
What are a few of the benefits of yoga?
My biggest benefit is the mental clarity. If you can focus on your breath while exercising in a hot, humid room. You can focus on professional and/or personal goals while navigating life’s circumstances.
How can someone alleviate hesitation to yoga?
I don’t know the answer to that one. I think people should try as many types of yoga they can until something sticks. With the variety of yoga styles available, one can find something they like.
Discuss: Black Yogi Stigmas
I don’t think the stigmas surrounding Black yogis these days are being refuted. I think that there’s enough of a presence in both the practitioners and instructors that it’ easier for a black yogi to see themselves represented on mats across the country. I do think that now there’s more of a stigma toward yogis who don’t represent the stereotypical body image of a yogi (thin and fit). Jessamyn Stanley is an example of one who is working very hard to break down body image barriers.
Discuss: Yoga & Black Mental Health & Wellness
I think that Black women have a Superwoman complex. We want to be everything to everyone and will often compromise our health (both mental and physical) to achieve that end. The truth (though cliché) is that we cannot help others unless we help ourselves. Yoga helps me see that. I wish many more Super Black women had a vehicle for self-rejuvenation.