In response to the continuous state-sanctioned violence that Black people across the United States experience, Yoga for Black Lives was created in 2016 to support resistance to this kind of violence by giving people the opportunity to take part in a life-affirming and life-sustaining practice. Sessions include yoga asanas (poses), pranayam (breath work) and dhyana (meditation). We celebrate the lives of those in the room, as well as those who have lost their lives at the hands of the state. No previous experience with yoga is necessary, and proceeds are given to organizations resisting state violence against Black people.
Through our yoga sessions, we have made financial contributions to the LetUsBreathe Collective, Bresha Meadows' Defense Fund, Sage Community Health Collective & Assata's Daughters, among others.
After many starts and stops on the mat, Stephanie Hicks, Ph.D. began practicing yoga regularly in 2011 at Moksha Yoga Center in Chicago. At first, a restorative practice gave her the tools she needed to find a sense of stability and calm, but what has sustained her practice is yoga’s regenerative and connective power. The practice has encouraged her growth, and it has deepened her connection to herself, her loved ones, and the world around her.
Stephanie completed her 200-Hour yoga teacher training under the guidance of Amber Cook, Diana Oppenheim & Rich Logan through Karuna Yoga School. She teaches yoga as an expression of gratitude and admiration: gratitude for all that she’s been allowed to experience through the practice, and admiration for students who have the courage to come - and return - to the mat. She hopes to help people recognize that the they have the tools within in themselves to create a home for their spirits and for loving relationships with people and communities.
Stephanie teaches strong, classic asana to help people to turn inward, notice their thoughts and emotions, sit with what they need to, and put the rest down. Students can expect good music too - from traditional chants to Jay-Z. Stephanie believes in using soul music in class, and our souls experience everything: joy, sadness, anger, trepidation, exhilaration...Music reflects all of this, so it's brought, respectfully, into the practice.
Students can also expect a class that is accessible, where they can get in where they fit in. Of course, each body, mind and heart is different. But in this practice, all of those differences are necessary. They lend something special to the whole. When we practice in community, we hold space for each other. Stephanie aims to creates a space in which you can find your place, connect to your essence, and know that it is integral to the class experience.
Crystal T. Laura (Ph.D., RYT-200) is Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Co-Director of the Center for Urban Research and Education at Chicago State University (CSU). Crystal’s teaching, research, and service have focused on the social foundations of education, diversity and equity in schools, and building the capacity of school leaders at all levels of the educational trajectory to promote social justice.
Crystal began her career as an African American History and Communication teacher at St. Leonard’s Adult High School for formerly imprisoned men and women, and a personal essayist who wrote to better understand and disentangle the intersections of education and incarceration.
Crystal’s scholarship on the “school-to-prison pipeline” is informed by her dissertation project, for which she won an Outstanding Dissertation Award from the Qualitative Research Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), and has appeared in such peer-reviewed journals as Race, Ethnicity and Education, Cultural Studies-Critical Methodologies, Gender and Education, Critical Questions in Education, and also in her award-winning book, Being Bad: My Baby Brother and the School-to-Prison Pipeline(Teachers College Press, 2014). Crystal is the recipient of the 2016 CSU Faculty Excellence Award in Research, the university’s highest honor for distinguished research, along with early tenure and promotion. She lectures across the U.S. and is a frequent presenter at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, to which she has belonged since 2006 and currently, serves an Affirmative Action Officer.
Crystal began practicing vinyasa yoga in 2009 to prepare for the natural birth of her first child. She continued through a second pregnancy in 2012, and alongside two little yogis ever since. She is now a power flow yoga junkie who is addicted to experiencing and sharing the physical, mental and social benefits of a daily practice. Crystal mothers her toddlers, loves her partner, and practices yoga—sometimes all at once.