By Shelley Hill Young
Enough, already. Enough spiritual bypassing. Enough lack of diversity.
That’s the idea that Kate Reutter Counts of Evolve Yoga, Kennae Miller of Transformation Yoga and Tamika Gadsden of the Charleston Activist Network had as they brainstormed ideas for a yoga class in which they would reach out to a diverse audience, embrace all body types and encourage participants to register to vote.
The mission of the first Enough Yoga class was to show that self-care and wellness is for everyone and it has a voice. Some proceeds from the first class went to support the Charleston Activist Network’s get-out- the-vote efforts.
Kate, who teaches yoga at Gaea Yoga Center and Yoloha Yoga Factory, says she and Kennae want to use their yoga practices to encourage people to have “uncomfortable conversations about race and privilege” and to use their privilege for social change.
“When that begins to happen, we are actually able to ignite the journey toward what the word ‘yoga’ actually means, ‘to yolk,’ ‘to unite,'” she says. “We cannot say we are all one, when others are treated as different.”
More than 130 people packed the deck of the Charleston Pour House for the first class held in August and there was such a positive response that they are planning to hold another class Oct. 27 and are looking for a larger location.
“It was such a beautiful experience,” says Tamika, who calls herself a novice yoga practitioner. “We got shoulder to shoulder, sweating and crying. That’s what I’ve been craving. We have to get real.”
Tamika worked to organize the Women’s March held in January in Charleston and in July announced the formation of the Charleston Activist Network to help connect local activists and causes in an effort to promote community, activism and equality. She also hosts the “Mic’d Up” podcast. Tamika believes in democratizing spaces, including self-care and wellness classes.
“Enough Yoga is not asking anymore,” Tamika says. “It’s demanding that change. We’re excited about doing it again. We’re excited to see how far it can go.”
Tamika says the women work unapologetically.
“It’s important to create spaces where people don’t have to compromise,” she says.
For Kennae, yoga is activism and it is spiritual work.
“A lot of people leave it trapped on the mat,” she says. “Compassion on the yoga mat should translate out in the world.”
Kennae founded Transformation Yoga after years of attending events and noticing the absence of racial diversity as well as bigger and older bodies. Today she teaches yoga classes on the joint Navy and Air Force base and at a Del Webb retirement community.
She says she is not interested in creating an image or a pretty package with her yoga practice. Instead, she wants to focus on creating a space where people feel safe enough to be vulnerable.
“I’m going to say things that you’re going to cry,” Kennae says. “You’re going to dig deep.”
For example, she says, when you find the point of resistance in a pose, she might ask why you are resisting change. It starts in the pose and then you dig deeper, she says. The disconnect is when people just feel it in their body. She wants to encourage people to feel it in their soul.
“That’s what bridges the spirituality,” Kennae says.