Jasiri Nkalati


I am eternal. I am here and present to witness life unfold, shift and expand within me. Two years ago I was given the name Jasiri (Fearless) Nkalati (deeply rooted like the biggest tree) upon graduating from a rite of passage process. My name is a medicine; a reminder to myself to walk intentionally in my power and purpose. But long before that day was marked, I arrived on this planet to be of service to others in a healing capacity starting with myself; this is a daily and moment to moment effort. Yes, there are times when I’m not in alignment. Except now -the intention is deeply embedded and calls so loudly within me that I return to healing, to loving, to compassion more readily.

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I graduated from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (NY) and received a certificate in holistic health coaching. I organize and guide wellness services for and with women both nationally and internationally. My services include transformational wellness coaching, Thai Yoga Massage, mindful and intentional yoga practices/workshops, and therapeutic movement sanctuaries -Dancing With The Goddess.

As a health coach first and inspired author, I encourage and inspire others to come away from their thoughts and into their bodies to better assess their physical vitality, emotional and mental stability, and interconnectedness with others. I inspire to be a lifelong student by learning from my best teachers -everyone outside of me!

 

Yogini on the Mat

Preferred yoga style: 

Compassion -towards the self and others. Yoga extends beyond the boundaries of a mat or a particular space or room. Yoga encompasses how we show up to life; daily and with acceptance. 

Now if you were to ask about preferred style of asana (posture) practice, I’d say Yin Yoga. I prefer and benefit most from a practice that encourages holding postures longer and being with breath more intimately. 

Favorite Pose:

Vajrasana. I love that my spine becomes immediately upright, my core gently engaged and an air of noble authority pervades me.

Challenge Pose:

Dhanurasana. Although I appreciate both the benefits and aesthetics of the posture, I’m currently experiencing major to minor restrictions in my shoulders, spine, quadriceps, and hamstrings where this particular posture is concerned. 

City: Los Angeles CA

Birthday: Feb 4th

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Random Fact: 

Part of the reason why I decided to teach yoga was that it would require me to be in front of people, speaking and being with them without hiding. Fears and all. And I was afraid of that for so long. But even with making that choice, I was still hiding. 

I was hiding my dancing behind yoga. Why? Because teaching or presenting, the language of yoga was more readily understood by others. Somehow that made sense back when I decided this. There was less room for interpretation with yoga. There are set postures with established names and an established rhythm, etc. Although dance is my mother language, I forced it to take a back seat, to learn, to understand yoga became the primary platform for how I transitioned myself; my focus.

What brought you to yoga:

Trauma has the capacity to create life's greatest blessings. For me, one of the blessings was the practice of yoga. My traumas were multi-layered and culminated in depression; deep and consistent. 

I had taken several yoga classes before so one day when I found myself in a deep slump again; I decided to open the mat and practice what I remembered from class. But instead of breathing and moving with intention, I sat on my mat and cried, until I was done crying. Then I would breathe more intently, and I'd move my body. And I kept going. And in that process, something new occurred to me. Simply put, I was feeling better in the moments as I continued to breathe and move my body. So I decided that whenever I would feel depressed, I would at least open the mat and be on it. I never forced myself to move. I just allowed whatever would happen to unfold. Admittedly, I would eventually move my body and breathe and sometimes cry. This was how it would unfold when I initiated practice. 

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Practicing yoga became a way to self-soothe and peel away layers once used to distract from honoring a more authentic presence. While spending time on the mat, one of many “aha” moments surfaced and became the echoing voice for how and why I practice yoga:

“Yoga is not in the asanas (postures) but the breaths between the asanas. When we inhale and exhale deeply, we are sustaining life with our breath. We create the very essence of opening and allowing. And when we are open and allowing we are practicing mindfulness. By sustaining the breath, we can remember to be gentle with ourselves and to be ever so tender with the actions that follow the breath.”

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

It would seem that I am governed by the need to progress in all aspects of my life. I make no distinction between life and yoga. For me, one does not exist without the other. Certainly, I set an intention for my practice. At the top of my day, directly after I’ve awakened, I set my intention to be, speak and act with mindfulness towards myself and others. I do that by bringing attention to my breathing, slowing it down and touching or massaging my body with loving kindness. 

Tell me about your practice:

The primary focus of my practice is the practice of gentleness or in other words, compassion. I’ve been told by close friends that I’m hard on myself. And that’s just unkind. It's also clear to me that how I am with myself is how I will show up to and with others. I'd rather be gentle. I'd rather be available. 

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The word practice implies that the goal isn’t to get something right; it's ultimately a function of exploration. Exploration requires receptivity, and when I allow myself to be receptive to change in every moment, then I am successful in my living.  Our entire life is a practice. 

The yoga practice is life practice. Both come with instances (poses) that are favorable and unfavorable. Both require a level of mindfulness. Neither regards our likes and dislikes. Both require acceptance. My practice is about acceptance so that regardless of the outcome, I am not pulled by the weight of perceived failure. 

How does yoga impact your life (on and off the mat):

Since yoga is life itself -the breath, the body, the mind, the spirit, and all the chemical cocktails and even subtle energies that animates all these parts, the best way I can answer this question is to offer this -yoga enhances the quality of my living.    


What challenges have you faced while practicing yoga:

On the mat: 

  • Contending with the ego while comparing myself to others. 

  • Forcing myself into postures while experiencing injuries.

  • Forcing myself into postures before my body is ready.

  • Neglecting my breath.

  • Not honoring my body’s wisdom.

  • Practicing without compassion.

Off the mat: 

  • Contending with the ego while comparing myself to others.

  • Forcing my perspective rather than listening. 

  • Allowing certain instances to occur when I already know that stillness and reservation is needed.

  • Not taking a full breath when I know I should.

  • Abandoning my self-care rituals.

  • At times lacking empathy with myself and others.


The most changing aspect of my journey:

On/Off the mat: Finally becoming acutely aware that yoga is all about relations; the relationship between Self and the relationship with others. I often come back to the question “how do I want to feel right now?” 

How my practice impacts the lives of others:

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Because of how I live my life, others are willing to shift, to learn and to grow. Some commit to practicing in such a way that the quality of their life is enhanced. They discover their tools or methods, and they commit themselves to improving the quality of their life. Several have decided to become yoga teachers after several encounters or classes with me. Some chose to mother their child/children differently. Some chose to change the direction of their lives and engage in activities that bring them joy rather than focusing on standard measures of happiness such as prioritizing material gains over their joy. Some have invited me to their homes or workplaces so that more people would have access to my being. 


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

Yoga shows me that I don’t need anything or anyone outside of myself to create and experience what I need for myself. Yoga shows me that I am in charge of how I experience life, regardless of what anything or anyone places in front of me. Yoga teaches me that I have a space to come back to that's rent free to reset myself. It shows me that I along with everyone else engage a life yielding process called breathing that when performed efficiently, can alter our mood, our thoughts, our behavior, our vibration to suit our particular needs. And what I LOVE most about this, is that we don’t require a prescription from a doctor and it doesn’t cost a thing to choose to direct our attention on how we breathe so that the instances that follow it is desirable. Yoga helped me to be more discerning and present as a witness and less preoccupied with operating from ego or identity. 

How does yoga make you feel?

Yoga is so true and so competent that it drives me to want to spread its gospel. However, its most beautiful and effective component is that it isn’t something that needs to be forced on anyone. Ever. You simply have to be the example of the teachings you learn through yoga. And being that example will always be about and for you. There’s enough practice to go around just with the self.  

Regarding posture (asana) practice sometimes I’m up for it and other times not so much. But I can confidently say I have never regretted a practice. Sometimes I experience a pleasant or satisfying change within and around me after completing a practice. Other times, I’m still tied up in knots. Either instance I am aware. 

 

A quote or phrase that resonates with you and your practice:

Unfolding. Truth in every moment. -Me

 

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The advice you have for new yogis/long term practitioners:

Titles nor accolades are substantive. What we do comes second to how we are being. And it will always be about the journey (process); never the destination. 

How can someone alleviate hesitation to yoga?

If they can comprehend that when they breathe in and notice themselves breathing in, and when they breathe out and notice themselves breathing out, they are in fact practicing yoga, suddenly it becomes accessible and possible to them. Yoga is awareness; awareness in every moment.

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

Yoga enhances the quality of how I experience this life. When I engage this practice or technology for wellbeing with a level of commitment and consistency, then I am in fact refining my perception and consequently how I experience my life. Certainly, my mental health and general well being are enhanced. I do perceive the sensation of loss, confusion, suffering, or even profound sadness at times. The apparent difference is that the amount of time I languish in any of those particular sensations is minimal as compared to before my yoga journey. Typically it is also what anchors me back to the practice of letting go and being present (acceptance). 


Discuss

Black Yogi Stigmas: 

I can only comment on this question if it’s what I choose to focus on. But since I do not, I can’t comment with any measure of truthfulness about it. 

Yoga and Black Mental Health & Wellness:

Yoga does not regard color. The practice doesn’t work differently because one person has a dark hue and another has a light hue. Identity is an instance of the ego. Yoga does, however, regard wellness. So in brief, if anyone applies the technology of yoga in their life, they will undoubtedly experience an enhanced level of mental and general wellbeing. It is a tool that supports total wellness regardless if a person is black or of any other physical expressions. 

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Body Image ( Reverence): 

There’s an astounding quote I just heard about the body. —-“Your body knows first. It's important to respect its conversation with you.” Given this quote, first I'd like to offer that body image be replaced with body reverence. The body is wise. If we did regard the conversation our bodies are having with us more regularly, then our focus would shift dramatically with regards to the treatment of our bodies. We would offer it what it is requesting of us without prioritizing looks/external before the inner environment. 

We do not need to regard body image at all. It’s strictly for satisfying the ego. In the culture and society that we live in, many people distort, abuse and neglect their bodies strictly for looks without any regards to consequences. It's alright to regard body image, but it's important to know that when we do, its purely to satisfy the ego. The ego isn’t substantive or truth. The wisdom that our body possess is far more substantive. 


The heartbeat is regulated, the neurons fire off at the precise time that it needs to, the body releases waste without an alarm being set for us to remember to “take the trash out,” the body breaks the foods that we consume and turns it into raw material for how it needs to function. All this happens quite efficiently without any input from the ego. Pure intelligence! 

How do you feel about the representation of black yogis:

First, the title yogi means that one has full and complete mastery over themselves -their bodies, their thoughts, their actions, and responses because they are aware in every instance. The title is used pretty loosely these days, so I’ll instead write about black practitioners since I don’t personally know of any black yogis. 

I don’t have staunch feelings about black yoga practitioners regarding whether or not they are over, under or equally represented in the “yoga arena.” The first distortion here is that the culture of yoga, at least here in the west, is that it’s encapsulated in the body and what the body is capable of. There is less emphasis on how yoga is a practice of how you show up to life, daily. Nonetheless, the black yoga practitioners do appear to be underrepresented in the more broader yoga arenas such as major magazine publications, large yoga retreats, workshops, or master classes.  

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Secondly and lastly, each of us have specific callings or purpose. Ultimately what we experience will either be an accidental process or an intentional one. And so it will always be up to the person to decide how they want to experience their life; in this case -whether or not as a black yoga practitioner, its important to become a face or a voice in the representation of black yoga practitioners. Each can decide and create for themselves what they desire to experience.

How does your hair affect your practice? 

To me, this question reads like -How does your hair affect your breathing? One has nothing to do with the other. In short, it doesn’t. 


An experience I have had while practicing:

There are many! It's a challenge to pick only one because not one is more special than another and I don’t label them as good or bad. Each of them shows me something, and that’s plenty. 

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During one particular practice, I was taking a class at a studio where I also taught, and 15 minutes into the class, I started to feel my body tell me to be still. So as the teacher continued teaching, I sat down in sukhasana (cross-legged position) and then the tears came. I didn’t dare stop it or get up. I simply sat there in the front row and let whatever needed to come to the surface come forth and move through and outside of me. That was an amazing practice. 


Recommendations:

You are far more vast than the holy books that you read. Learn yourself. Honor yourself. Be kind.

Reach out to Jasiri Nkalati

Instagram: @Jasiri.n 

She also has hosted Yoga Q&A's on the Yoga Green book Facebook check it out! Dig Deeper into your practice !