Spotlight Series Guest #1 - Leana Marshall, yoga instructor extraordinaire
1) If you can recall it, what is your memory of your first yoga practice?
My memory of my first yoga class was in Jackson, MS. It was a little locally owned yoga studio called Joyflow Yoga. I was terrified when I walked in. I remember when I walked in I got so many looks and stares. It made me so uncomfortable, but I went in with my yoga mat and was ready for class.
2) What brought you to the mat?
I was introduced to yoga by my doctor. I was in a car accident and I injured my neck and back. After lots of therapy, pain medications, many doctor visits, I went and searched for a holistic doctor. When I went to see him I was really sad and depressed because I was in so much pain. After seeing him a few times, he suggested I try yoga. I was very apprehensive about it. I honestly thought yoga was for white people and that it wasn't something POC (People of Color) did.
3) How did you feel before and after class?
When I walked in I was immediately intimidated. I didn't feel welcomed. I was nervous. Of course I was the only POC, but I ended up staying anyway. I could see people looking at me and watching my every move in class. It's almost like their stares were burning my skin. It was crazy. However, I didn't allow that to stop me. I enjoyed how warm the class was and I enjoyed the sweat and challenge of the class. It was hard but I refused to give up. After class I was exhausted but my mind and body felt great.
4) How often do you practice yoga? And what currently brings you to the yoga mat?
Pre COVID-19 I was practicing at least 3-4 times a week with other exercise in between. I do my best to get on my mat at least 1-2 times a week at this moment in my life. Currently, when I need a mental break from everything going on in the world, I get on my mat. Life is so heavy right now especially for POC. Yoga helps.
5) As a black female, how has yoga fit into your life?
In the past, prior to me diving into yoga principles on my own, I didn't really understand the spiritual practice of yoga. I was treated poorly in many yoga studios but I would always just sweep it under the rug and pretend my feelings weren't hurt.
Whew....now that my mind is stronger (thank God for growth) I always try to treat people as I want to be treated even if they are being an asshole to me. I will continue to be nice and kind and that's where the yoga practice comes in handy!
Mentally, yoga is so great for mental health. When I am feeling down and anxious, I do my best to try and get on my mat.
I truly enjoy the physical practice of yoga and how it makes my body feel after a great class.
6) As a proud advocate for LGBTQ+ community, in what ways has your yoga practice intersected with this mission?
The LGBTQIA community means so much to me. Often times, it's so hard for members of this community to feel welcomed in yoga spaces. As a member of the community myself, I always try to create spaces where everyone feels welcomed and included. This (and other reasons) is why I am such an advocate for inclusivity.
7) What role has yoga played for you in stress management?
Normally when I am feeling stressed out or overwhelmed, I know it's time to get on my mat. Yoga plays a huge role in helping me manage my stress, PTSD, and anxiety.
8) Besides being a mover and a shaker on the yoga mat and in the world, what hobbies do you have?
I love to do other workouts outside of yoga. I enjoy taking my mini poodle Bailey on long walks. I love being with my family and friends. I am enrolling myself into a Doula program this summer. (This should be exciting!)
9) How does yoga play a role in the way you show up off the mat?
Yoga plays an imperative role in ways I show up on and off my mat. There have been many instances in which I could have gotten so upset and angry about many situations that I have been in. But I always remember my yoga practice. (Not so much the physical but the spiritual practice). Always remembering the yamas and niyamas and how I can apply those principles to my everyday life.
Leana's Contact Information
@blackyogateachers365 (Non profit organization)