By Girl Tyler
Yoga is an ancient physical, mental, and spiritual discipline that is practiced around the world. It can provide a mental escape from the world’s chaos, allowing for moments of alignment with your highest self. Yoga can promote fitness with an abundance of physical benefits. Beyond the yoga mat is a space for healing, one pose at a time. Practicing yoga a few days during the week can improve your body image, provide a healthier lifestyle, and create mindfulness in every area of your life. Yoga can appear intimidating, especially if you've been inactive since the start of the pandemic, but no excuses! All you need is an open mind to embrace the journey ahead. With yoga comes community. Certified yoga instructor, Rachel Voss, has taught yoga for nearly a decade and considers the practice a healing art. She's the founder and owner of Rachel Voss Yoga & Wellness. Voss recalls the first time she taught yoga as the moment it propelled her into her purpose.
Two years in, she knew it was time to make a change. She submitted her resignation from a six-figure corporate role without a concrete plan but equipped with the reassurance that she'd found her calling. We did a Q&A about the beautiful benefits of yoga and why Black women should take their worries to the mat sooner rather than later.
Izzy & Liv: What makes yoga most beneficial for Black Women?
Rachel Voss: Restorative yoga is known to restore the body down to the cellular level, which is where trauma can lie. Practicing yoga regularly for a few moments each day or a few times each week can be extremely beneficial for the overall wellness of Black women. It is a place where we can take off our armor and be safe in doing so. Additionally, yoga is a practice that reminds us of our individual power. The more we maintain our practice, the more we feel a sense of reclaiming our power and, ultimately, it is in those moments when life challenges us that we feel our power is being taken away. Yoga is there to remind us that we always hold the power.
Izzy & Liv: Do you have any advice for beginners who are nervous about starting yoga?
Rachel Voss: Yes! The number one thing I often hear from those who are interested in yoga but are apprehensive to start is that they're not flexible enough. I am here to remind you that you don't have to be flexible, an ideal weight, or even have yoga pants or a mat to begin! Yoga is a practice that invites you to start exactly as you are. When I first started practicing, I couldn’t touch my toes and I struggled with this my whole life. I'd always written it off as having tight hamstrings, which I do have, but with a regular yoga practice, I was finally able to reach my toes one day and I can't explain enough in words the joy I felt in that moment. When we show up just as we are, and we stick with the practice (even just 15 minutes a day), you start to see your body do things you never thought it could do, or you told yourself it could never do. As you start to see those changes, this can help to facilitate a sense of inner empowerment. To know that we can create intentional change if we put our mind to it is amazing. My mom was in her 70’s when I first introduced her to yoga, and she now regularly practices her stretching and breathing techniques. It has helped her with her balance and when she is managing lower back pain.
Izzy & Liv: Do you have any stretching techniques that you'd like to share?
Rachel Voss: I always tell my regular students and beginners to get in that first stretch in the mornings and to take a mindful stretch (or three!) during the workday. Now that many of us are working remotely, it can be so easy to sit at our desks all day, slouching our backs and hunching our shoulders, and we feel completely tight and achy when all is said and done. One super simple stretch is to stand with feet hip-width apart (or wider if that feels more supportive) and take a deep breath in and out. With the next deep inhale, raise the arms above the head and alongside the ears (being mindful not to hunch the shoulders) and with the exhale, bend forward and bring your fingers to or towards your toes. Hang out here for a breath or two while resting the hands on the toes or shins - whatever feels most accessible. This forward bend is a great way to gently open the hamstrings and lower back. With the next deep inhale, rise back up to standing with the arms raised and repeat while following the inhales and exhales. A few rounds of this are a great way to wake up in the morning or to rejuvenate the body during the workday.
You can follow Rachel on IG @rachelvossyoga