*As a growing number of African Americans begin to pursue more active lifestyles, many are being introduced to Yoga as a viable exercise alternative.
An ancient Hindu practice, Yoga in the U.S. is practiced more as an exercise that has many reported musculoskeletal and mental health benefits. One of its most ardent devotees is Kendra Blackett-Dibinga, the owner of Bikram Hot Yoga in Prince George’s County, MD that is quickly gaining a national following.
The Robertson Treatment recently spoke with Kendra to learn more about Yoga and why African Americans are doing good to get involved.
Robertson Treatment: How did you get involved with Yoga?
I have always been involved in physical activity. I ran track, was a personal trainer, and continued to work out until I started having knee issues. In between, I got married and had two children and even had knee surgery. After the birth of my second child, I decided to dramatically change the way I worked out. Instead of doing exercises that broke my body down, I decided to embrace a different form of exercise that would build my strength and flexibility. I started out doing Ashtanga yoga and Hatha Yoga. A friend of mine recommended Bikram Yoga. Being that I was used to intense physical exercise as a personal trainer, I thought that I would like it. I fell in love my first class. Because of the heat, I did not risk causing greater injury to my knees and in truth, in all my years of working out, I had never had a sweat like that! I truly was hooked from my first class.
RT: Explain how Bikram yoga is different from other forms of yoga?
Bikram yoga is based on the tradition of hatha yoga however it is more fast paced and intense form of work out, done in a heated room of about 105 degrees and 40-50% humidity. The intense series works every single part of the body, strengthening, toning and stretching giving the practitioner a total body workout. The 26 postures are standard and the sequence never changes. The sequence builds on each other and are designed to bring balance to the body. Bikram Yoga focuses a lot on strengthening the spine as the key to a healthy life.
RT: What are the benefits of doing yoga?
Practitioners claim many benefits to a regular yoga practice including increased strength and flexibility, less stress, detoxification, increased focused, energy and peace of mind. The postures bring balance to the body and mind.
RT: What’ the best way to get started?
Try a class today. Try not to have any expectations because each class is different based on how the person is feeling that day. Try to come prepared though. Hydrate! If you are going to try yoga at the studio, try to arrive early, bring your mat and towel and water. Make sure you inform the teacher about any injuries you may have which may prevent you from safely executing the poses. Be conscious of what you eat before you take a class. Heavy foods may make you feel nauseous. Maintain an open mind. Some people fall in love from day 1; others take longer to get acclimated to the new moves and conditions of the room.
RT: How can we get more Blacks involved in yoga?
There are many misperceptions in the black community about what yoga is. Because some believe it is a religion or a religious practice, they feel they cannot benefit from the yoga. We need to change these perceptions and rather focus on the benefits. Many blacks are also concerned about working out due to societal demands on image and hair. Yet there are many health benefits that everyone can achieve. In addition, more black people who have been able to understand the benefits should do more to let others know about it. Often the images on the magazines show young Caucasian women who are usually quiet thin. Yet blacks come in all shapes and sizes and we should not discourage those who don’t fit a certain image to not participate in yoga. Links with the black churches, yoga demonstrations and other talks may serve to encourage others to join.
RT: What are your future plans?
I plan to open my own studio! Bikram Yoga Riverdale will serve to be a full service wellness facility, offering services for the entire family. Children’s yoga will be a key feature of the studio, wellness seminars, and other special events geared to the community will be held at the studio. Our goal is to open numerous locations throughout the US and potentially Africa and the Caribbean
For more information on Kendra, visit: www.bikramyogariverdale.com
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