Who is she? In short: Mikela is a part-time teacher, full-time AcroYogi, tea enthusiast, acupuncture believer, and crafter.
Yogini on the MAt
Preferred Yoga Style
I am an AcroyYoga addict. I prefer a Rocket inspired class when I’m in the mood to flow.
Random fact/favorite movie or book or word, food etc.
I love vegetarian nachos. Not with real cheese, but with the liquidy nacho cheese.
I’m a west coast girl living in DC.
What made you start practicing yoga? what brought you to it?
About two years ago, I was in an accident which left me with severe TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder) and resulted in a lot of pain. After months of physical therapy, I found my local gym was offering yoga classes. I had taken yoga before but did not know much about the practice or lifestyle. A week of yoga classes later, I was hooked. Yoga not only helped me with my pain management, but it made me feel strong and confident.
What anchors your practice? Do you set an intention for yourself before you practice?
I strive to set an intention at the beginning of each class to serve as a guide throughout my practice. I start with a reflection on my day to evaluate which chakra needs a little more attention. I think of an affirmation and come back to it whenever I feel my mind begin to wander. I start with a positive statement about myself and go with that. It can be as simple as “I am good.” to “ My heart is open and I am balanced.” It’s whatever I’m feeling at that moment. My practice is about me, so I always dedicate my practice to a quality within myself either that I have a surplus of or am lacking.
Tell me about your practice? any aspects you'd like to share
My practice is constantly growing. I’m not the strongest or the most flexible and relatively, I haven’t been practicing for a long time, but I know how my practice makes me feel. That’s what I always come back to if I’m feeling discouraged or down.
How yoga impacts your life? Both on and off the mat
AcroYoga has pretty much consumed my life. I’m always traveling to workshops or conventions or jamming out locally with other acro yogis. Meeting so many acro yogis across DC and the east coast has really made me feel like I have another family. There is such a community bond of love and trust that is irreplaceable in my life. Having such a supportive group around me has not only helped me physically but emotionally grow and develop. That first gym yoga class I took was the catalyst that spiraled me down this yogic lifestyle. I’m sure my non-yoga friends get annoyed with how much I talk about yoga. Unfortunately for them, I have become so committed to this lifestyle that I’ve decided to begin my yoga teacher training so that I can fully embrace the yoga philosophy and share it with others.
What challenges have you faced while practicing Yoga?
Financial uncertainty has probably been the most challenging aspect of my practice. Let’s be real—yoga is expensive, especially if you join a studio. But, where there is a will, there is a way. Many studios offer “karma yogi” programs where students can receive free or discounted classes in exchange for volunteering. This opportunity has allowed me to practice yoga without being overly concerned with money.
As for a more personal challenge, I think my own negative mindset prevented a lot of growth. When I first began yoga I wasn’t where I thought I should be financially, physically, socially, etc. This left me feeling depressed and anxious and in turn left me with an “I can’t do it” attitude. Yoga helped me realize that yes, I can do it. I have achieved more than I ever thought possible and I’m just getting started.
How does Yoga make you feel?
Yoga makes me feel calm, confident and strong. I can do anything when I practice.
A quote or phrase resonates with you and your practice
“And I said to my body. Softly. ‘I want to be your friend.’ It took a long breath. And replied, ‘I have been waiting my whole life for this.” - Nayyirah Waheed
The advice you have for new yogis/long time practitioners
Let go of what you think you can or cannot be. Just be in the moment of your practice and accept yourself for who you are now.
How can someone alleviate hesitation to yoga
Just do it! Yoga is free of judgment. Come as you are, breath and get your yoga on. There is nothing to be hesitant about.
How does yoga influence your specific mental health? Overall wellness?
I am a strong believer of yoga for improved mental health. Yoga has many benefits including better sleep, improved mood, and overall general happiness. Yoga is awesome. I’m convinced that yoga leads to a long life.
What benefits have you found in yoga?
Besides the obvious physical changes I’ve discovered since I began my practice (increased flexibility and strength), my pain management has decreased. Mentally, I’m learning how to shift my focus and be present in the moment. My self-esteem and love of myself and others has also shifted for the better since I found yoga.
Discuss: Back Yogi Stigmas
Where I am from, and more specifically, within the Black community, yoga is seen as something that only white women do. Yoga is a practice for the elite. Yoga is only for people with money and privilege. Of course, this is far from the truth. As far as black yogis within the yoga community, I don’t think there are enough of us yet to really say if and how these stigmas will change.
Discuss: Yoga & Black Mental Health & Wellness
I think yoga is especially important for those who are marginalized, minorities, disenfranchised or anyone who has ever felt left out. Besides the physical benefits, yoga can become an outlet for those under psychological and emotional stress. Yoga is good for everyone.
Discuss: Body Image
People always have something to say about how you should look, what you should say, what you should wear. Fuck that! Yoga has in so many ways taught me to love myself. It’s easy to get caught up on a pose that you can’t do or judge how you look in those new leggings. Now, I’m not saying that I’m not guilty of these things, but yoga has provided me something to come back to whenever this negativity comes creeping back. Love your body and it will love you back.
How do you feel about the representation of black yogis?
I don’t think there really is any representation of black yogis yet. We have a long way to go. I know I always am really excited to see another black yogi, or even a yogi of color in class. I always think, “Oh! There’s one. Come be my friend!”.
How does/has your hair affect your practice
I try to keep my attention on the asana and my breathing, but this doesn't always happen. I am guilty of constantly fiddling with my hair and adjusting bobby pins. I try to be practical but often vanity wins.
Favorite/ most challenging pose
I’m always working on fun and strange poses in Acroyoga, anything from pops, standing acrobatics or learning a new washing machine. Right now I’m constantly practicing an extended hand to hand with several partners. As for regular yoga, you can find me practicing handstands and arm balances.
Tell a story/experience about something that’s happened good, bad, awkward, etc while you have been practicing yoga
You learn very quickly to forget about personal boundaries in acroyoga. It’s a community practice, so you usually play with one or two more people at a time. In attempt to keep me safe, a spotter has accidentally grabbed a body part here and there, boobs, butt, you name it. Many times I have accidentally fallen in face first into someone's lap and it’s almost always a guy. Even when I’m a spotter, I may grab things that I don’t mean to. You learn to laugh about it and move on.
I am obsessed with funky, fun leggings. The weirder, the better. Society6 has great prints and each purchase supports an artist.
Look out for Mikela's classes after her teacher training keep and be sure to reach out to her to learn more about AcroYoga!