Backstory: In 2019, my life shifted. I began working on breaking down once fundamental paradigms to line up with who I knew myself to be regardless of what was currently afoot.
I just went for it.
I tackled multiple major lifelong phobias that had nothing to do with anyone BUT me. I deep dove into researching the industry I’d felt both pulled to and repelled by like I finally meant it. I even finally faced down everything that I’d rationalized not learning to drive via by taking driving lessons.
In a cerebral sense it was all very kinesthetically and spatially-oriented. How I actually moved in this world, physically related to it and tangibly interacted with it outside of the shield of my art installations and murals. Prior to that shift, via my work was the only way I felt a sense of comfort dealing with people.
After beginning to work on the actual physical “Body IN space” prong of all this I inadvertently suffered a back injury at work that not only put me out of commission on many fronts, it also scared the shit out of my ethereally-aligned ass. I had a day when it took me actual hours to even sit up in bed, let alone walk after having done so. And for an insular chick that lived From her head unless she’s hanging off a ladder or traveling on a train to someplace else to Go, see, do and serve… with her body never failing her nonetheless, it was terrifying.
I healed. The mental aspect of that healing took much longer than the physical repair, which, by forced grace of God I’d had worker’s comp to facilitate. The coolest thing about having to go through Physical therapy was that the occupational therapy division of the hospital I’d been sent to had Traditional Chinese Medicine modalities front and center in its’ treatment program.
I’d had a slight foundation in the more mental aspects of TCM study but learning in a classroom, getting ear acupuncture or doing tai chi to alleviate stress over the years or taking notes while helping stock and more pragmatically organize a medicine woman’s TCM herbal storehouse was completely different from having the needles stuck into your ankles and feet to open up the meridians that were literally too blocked for your back to be able to bear walking for even short bursts.
I thought I was a believer before the injury. On the other side of all of that factoring heavily into my actual recovery from said injury everything went from a “shift consciousness” to a “thresholding into a different world.” My life changed astronomically, really. But physically I was still timid, in a way that was wholly divergent from the phobias I had initially jumped into all this to address.
And I walked it out.
I moved to LA for a writerhead season in 2020 and embraced each new blossoming of “What the Fuck is this?” that rose up for me to love on in my body/mind as it came. It was wonderful. Intuitive. Cosmic. and REAL. Listening to all that is what led to me getting serious about my daily qi gong again and temporarily going into vegetarian food prep mode in mid- January. Doing those two things played a significant factor in how I fared as the plague of 2020 ransacked DTLA.
Because of all the changes and healing I was witnessing going down in my body and mind I was able to consciously pick the frequency I was choosing to walk this quarantine shit out on. I viewed what happened across the globe, man-made or not, as the earth itself having a healing crisis. And I did everything I could to stay on a positive timeline.
… All that was challenged roughly with George Floyd’s murder.
And maybe this is a natural response to things when you lead with your body, but it was 100% a new experience for me…but in the summer of 2020 I picked back up the physical thread I’d had to drop due to that work-related back injury.
Decided it was time to correct that put upon cloak of physical timidity.
I wove all the physical therapy practices I’d learned into the qi gong covid immunity circuits and the paces I used to put myself through as a teenager to make sure I was strong enough to hold my ground with 20 arthead rambunctious, play too much teenaged black dudes fighting for studio space two hours every day for four years of my life.
I built my back all the way up so I could take a clothesline and built my arms back so the clothesline I’d give were as life-threatening as they once were. And I danced [thanks to Beyonce’s Black is King] like a maniac until my ojas were restored…and slowly but surely inched my way towards what I’d had on my elastic heart in 2019 in the first place.
I’ve intermittently practiced yoga since college. My body has always responded well to it, but eventually I’d stopped taking group classes, doing it at home instead, if at all. But in 2019 I had decided to tackle it in a new way, with 13 asanas in sight to nail, which by default included nailing and deepening my physical comprehension of all the asanas that are the building blocks of each of those 13.
It had nothing to do with the outside world. I just have always known while practicing inner martial arts[ which is what tai chi and qi gong actually are] that my inner martial arts include yoga in a specialized way.
But the injury had hit me right in the yogic kisser, if you will. And so I hadn’t touched it. Because of that. I had to draw myself doing it after I did upward dog the first time without anything going astray. To push through the panic that still hit every time it was time. So I could look at it, see me doing it. Remind my mind’s eye that I was fine. Until I didn’t need the visual cue anymore.
The qi gong in particular proved itself in the process in a new way. The Shaolin monk currently featured during GB Saturdaze said something about how if you did the series of qi gong I’d been focused on all of 2020 earnestly you’d become better at every other physical thing you approached. That ended up being my experience.
Every asana I added to my qi gong practice felt stronger and surer than it had ever felt in all the years I’d done either modality. In fact, the meshing of the two created a physical bliss in my limbs, so much so that my last birthday I made the decision to look into learning yoga as a facilitator. To count the cost of such moves and research pathways to the right teacher.
Over the holidays I found two potential programs… and I decided to sit with the entire thing to see what this pull was really about. Because ME becoming a teacher of anything physical sounded so foreign to me, especially this. Frankly, I was bewildered.
It flew in the face of everything I knew of myself. But it was registering as a clarion call that I needed to understand before moving forward. There was something else going on at the root of this that would give me the bigger picture I needed. I could feel it, but not yet see it.
And as it happens on this grid we call life, one of my qi gong teachers posted a program that fused qi gong and yoga, based in Europe. There was a scholarship for the program, and even out-zoned I felt needled to apply and did. It had an essay request that stated:
“This should include why you would like to participate in the training and how you envisage using your training experience.”
What flowed out took me completely by surprise. What follows is part of that 300 word essay.
“Yoga centers me in my body like nothing else but “post-2020,” real talk?
I silently went through years of watching & experiencing yogis refusing to adjust BIPOCS finding courage to try yoga as though we had leprosy. The shame, then silent outrage at getting “hit” with confusing hostility due to asking for help is only topped by seeing it happen to the only other bipoc in class. I couldn’t take it anymore & changed to primarily home study.
Qi Gong filled the void. My teachers were kind and hands on & my grandmother was the offspring of the Delta Chinese who helped build railroads post Gold Rush so I feel connected via qi gong. And my place of peace for years was watching a class of Black fathers and grandfathers doing it in a nyc garden, too shy to join. They were the only other Black people I knew who did qi gong.
In 2020 God nudged me to get back on it daily. Then the world closed. It kept me sane. The yoga ptsd healed witnessing Koya Webb’s yogi heart. I realized I wanted to get certified. HUGE-(…) I had no clue HOW…but it was on my heart.
[I now understand that] Certifying in a yoga that Sincerely incorporates Qi Gong and is Sincerely bipoc- inclusive makes my heart Sing.(…)
I see me communicating the shy love/freedom I find in yoga to fellow artists, writers and survivors of sexual and child abuse. Our introverted bodies & souls heal via it. Period. It’s not about racism blocking us from healing. I see me clarifying that.”
In writing all that I came to understand WHY easing back into doing yoga had been my body’s demand on the heels of the Black Lives Matter explosion in 2020.
It’s not “omg, racism~!”
I’m a Black genXer who spent 20+ years in the creative industries primarily in nyc, where damn near every bipoc of my wave WAS one of the first to roam those halls and ram through those ceilings nobody really talks about in the way it went down for us. And I am from Ohio. I was raised in a liberal area of one of the most racialized cities in America and started my college career in a town that probably still burns crosses downtown for Christmas like they did as an expression of their free speech while I was in school. Strange way to say it but I have seen so much of the psychology and psychosis of racism firsthand since age five, with multiple whathaveyous attempted that my defiance and pushback always rang louder. I was a through the fire chick on racism.
But I took the hit on yoga.
Didn’t realize I had.
Because on top of the mentioned unspoken, untouchable status experienced and witnessed in many group classes, due to my long-limbed build I was also deflecting the cloying compliments of those same teachers -who refused to touch me to correct asanas as they openly hissed about what they would do with my limbs. Which was as ugh to me as short people trying to force me to play the basketball they couldn’t. It took years to find a teacher who helped undo damage done by doing certain poses incorrectly for eons.
But still IT[yoga] had helped me over tangible hurdles big time. Just like Qi Gong and Tai Chi . So much so that I had disconnected from passively passing on group classes to avoid the theft of peace that they had become in a sense.
It’s not even so much that I want to be a Certified Yoga teacher.
It’s that I want no one who could be released from carrying the trauma we tend to IN our bodies over things that happened in the past to miss out on seeing their bodies heal because their introduction TO a modality that truly works like an inner martial art is from someone who appropriated the modality from people of color only to turn around and make other bipocs feel less than wanted in acquiring the practice as a tool to work through their shit.
I am not talking about this “democratization of yoga” newish hashtag. I am talking actual inner martial arts that help inner-oriented folks open up. Because its not about them. It is about YOU. And removing ANY and all blocks to anybody making your healing be about THEM.
This desire is leading towards something. Strange.
Big. And in a zone that is new for me.
And I am just going to go with it. Because there may be comfort waiting there for me.
It may not lead to teaching in the traditional sense, but I am embracing being called on this journey, however it shows up. I am officially embracing deepening the exploration of all of this as a new level of Art of Life/Angel Brynner.
So this is an accountability post.
Things are kind of wild for me right now[ Understatement of 2021 so far].
But I have my travel mat with me now.
When I come to mind, imagine me using it daily, no matter what. for the next 365 days.