Leah Baldo

In just a few words she is a : Coffee addict, music junkie, secret afropean, wannabe photographer, nature loving and baby vegan.

Yogini On The Mat

Preferred Yoga Style

Bikram Yoga

Age

24

Random fact/favorite movie or book or word, food etc.

I got to study abroad in Italy for a month and a half! I am half Italian so visiting one of my motherlands was one of the best experiences of my life and the first time I ever left the states.

City

Born in PG County -> raised in NOVA

The Practice 

What inspired you start practicing yoga? 

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Four years ago, my eldest cousin Hanna was the first person to introduce Bikram Yoga to me. I went for a while but stopped because I went to school at VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University). While in school I was a full time student and worked full time as well. It was a very stressful time for me and it affected my health. I was eating poorly and didn’t have a moment for myself to recharge and release. After I graduated last May I moved back home and was looking for a fresh start and before I knew it I was back practicing Bikram Yoga.

Something happen in life? 

I was really stressed working full time and being in school. I was so stressed that I started to neglect my mind and body and I didn’t like the person I was becoming. I didn’t eat, sleep, or work out right. I was constantly thinking of how the hell I was going to pay my rent and afford food.

Felt the need for a change?

After I graduated I wanted a fresh start and I thought back to the feeling after yoga class years ago and knew practicing yoga would improve the connection between my mind and body.

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What anchors your practice? Do you set an intention for yourself before you practice?

To be still when need be and to move in a free loving way. Sometimes I don’t know how my practice is going to be, before class I could feel great and ready to go but then have a hard time breathing or I could feel super sleepy but have a great practice! So it goes either way, you just got to work with what body you have that day.

Tell me about your practice? Any aspects you'd like to share?

I am not flexible at all and I remember feeling discouraged to start yoga because I couldn’t even reach my toes.

How does yoga impact your life? Both on and off the mat?

Practicing yoga has helped me breaaathe. That’s the main impact for me both on and off the mat. Your breathe is so important! I think it defines your mood and how you take care of situations. During practice when you’re breathing calm and slow your body opens up more and vice versa if you’re holding your breath you won’t get far. When I’m feeling overwhelmed at work or anywhere I just freeze and breathe slow and steady for just 10 seconds and immediately I feel better.

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What challenges have you faced while practicing Yoga?

My challenges are stretching my hamstrings and opening up my right ankle.

Most changing aspect of your journey?

My diet for sure, I knew that if I fed my body the right foods it would improve my practice and it sure enough did.

What are some things yoga has taught you about yourself/others?

Yoga has given me some big aha moments. Sometimes when something is bugging me and I don’t know what’s the right solution I get to class and in during savasana I just figure it out. It’s also taught me that everyone has his or her own challenges and we are all the same in that aspect. No ones problems are above others so yoga has brought me to being patient and understanding. You never know what others are going through.

How does Yoga make you feel? While practicing, after, and generally

Yoga makes me feel light, happy, and confident. I love the way I feel when I’m practicing regularly.

While practicing it depends on how I’ve taken care of myself outside of class that day so it could go either way. If I ate the right foods and stay hydrated throughout the day then I’ll feel great and could do all the postures with a couple or no breaks. I’ll feel great afterwards as well. If I don’t eat the right foods or do not stay hydrated then I will definitely feel the struggle to hold half moon pose.

A quote or phrase resonates with you and your practice

“The world gives you so much pain and here you are making gold out of it. There is nothing purer than that.” –Rupi Kaur

Advice you have for new yogis & long time practitioners

My advice is if it keeps you happy and healthy then keep doing it. Of course there will be times you are frustrated with the practice because your body isn’t doing what you want it to do but you got to think you’re undoing the damage you’ve been having for years maybe even your whole life. You just have to be patient and you’ll get to where you want to be. Don’t give up easily, just keep breathing.

How can someone alleviate hesitation to yoga?

You won't know if you’ll like or dislike yoga until you try. It doesn’t hurt to just try but you have to do it when you are ready. Others can’t make that decision for you, that goes for anything.

How does yoga influence your specific mental health? Overall wellness?

Personally, yoga ups my serotonin (the happy stuff). Yoga has improved my sleep and helps handle stressful situations better. I can’t stress and I can’t control everything. I constantly have to remind myself that and believe that everything will work out.

What benefits have you found in yoga?

Yoga has helped relieve my stress and making better food choices for sure. It’s always changed my physical appearance by becoming longer, stronger, and more flexible.

Favorite/ most challenging pose

Standing bow pose! I feel so badass, it still needs some work though, haha.

Discuss Black Yogi Stigmas

I can’t really tell you any particular Black Yogi stigmas. Luckily, I attend a very diverse studio, which I deeply appreciate because growing up yoga was seen as a white person thing. I have also noticed more men of color coming to yoga, which is so dope because they must put aside that nonsense talk that yoga is “feminine or gay”. Ain’t nothing wrong with getting your mind and body right.

Discuss Yoga & Black Mental Health & Wellness

I think people who have ever felt out of place in the world need yoga. Yoga can be the key to unlock those emotional and psychological challenges.

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Discuss Body Image

I can say now that I appreciate my body more. There were moments when its was hard to look at myself in the mirror during class for 90 minutes but with time I started to admire my curves, thick thighs, even my belly. Worrying too much about how my body looked in postures was draining me and keeping me from going deeper into the postures. One day I was like, “fuck it” and let that shit go. Once I let go my practice became stronger. Yoga has taught me to love myself and the amazing thing is everyone in class has different bodies and it’s completely NORMAL. We’re all different! We’re all beautiful! Don’t let anyone tell you what you should be wearing or what you should look like. Forget that mess just be you and be happy. Let that shit go.

How do you feel about the representation of black yogis?

I don’t think there is any representation of black yogis yet but we’re getting there. I love coming across black yogis or yogis of color in class or on Instagram. It’s always refreshing and inspiring to see.

How does/has your hair affect your practice?

   I don’t have any issues getting my hair ready for class I just rub some oil in it, clipping it back and call it a day. I am however guilty of fiddling and adjusting my hair especially during rabbit pose.

Tell a story/experience about something that’s happened good, bad, awkward, etc while you have been practicing yoga

Ah, I can’t think of anything! Except one time I accidently whacked someone’s head behind me coming up for the sit up.

Recommendations

I love music! I collect records and listen to a lot of old school soul, jazz, r&b, disco, hip-hop, motown and neo soul. I listen to some rock too. If you are ever in Richmond, VA highly recommend you visit Steady Sounds it’s a dope local  music shop in the neighborhood of Jackson Ward.

Some Artists I’m into include:

Minnie Riperton, Diana Ross, Quincy Jones, Whitney Houston, Parliament, Earth Wind and Fire, Grover Washington Jr., J Dilla, Bilal, SOLANGE, SZA, Kendrick, J.Cole, Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, Thundercat, Outkast, Jay Electronica, Jay Z, MICHAELJACKSON… man the list goes on and on!

 

Books to Consider:

“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” –Maya Angelou

            “Zeitoun” –Dave Eggers

            “Love & Misadventure” –Lang Leav

            “Teaching My Mother to Give Birth” –Warsan Shire

            “Milk and Honey” –Rupi Kaur

            “Color of Water” –James McBride

 

Some documentaries  to consider as well:

            “What the Heath”

            “Food Matters”

            “Fed Up”

            “Minimalism”

            “Hip-Hop Evolution”

            “Vegucated”

            “Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise”


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Keep in Touch

Follow Leah on instagram! @secretafropean see parts of her yoga practice and health journey as well as her love of music,adventure, and life!