Adi Devta Kaur has been enhancing Birminghamians lives with her BLK Yogi yoga experience for a while now. She is ramping things up even more with the city’s first ever Melanin Mala Project this Sunday, June 5th, at East Lake Park from 11am to 2pm. The event is bringing 14 incredible yoga instructors from around the nation to our city, along with barbecue, shaved ice, and all sorts of healing exercises. This exciting celebration is one of many ways to check out the greatness that is BLK Yogi. Adi was just approved by Yoga Alliance to teach 200-hour yoga instructor training courses, and interested students can sign up for fall classes now. She also teaches at PK Fitness on Green Springs every Thursday at 7pm, and can be found on the Insight Timer app every Monday. BLK Yogi is also expanding to a permanent home off the Tallapoosa exit close to the airport in the near future, which means even more classes are in store for Birminghamians.

The BLK Yogi is also found on Youtube, where she has over 300 videos that cover a wide variety of topics. “I’m constantly making new stuff because I meet new students, and I really listen to what they have to say. That’s why it’s able to grow in the way that it’s growing. Because I listen to my students. I see them and I meet them where they are,” the instructor shares, “I’m not going to make you hate yoga, hate your body, and hate this experience. We’re going to ease into it. That’s why I’m able to really cater to humans, because I pay attention and I listen.”

Yoga is BLK Yogi’s life now, but this wasn’t always the case. “Yoga for me happened on accident,” Adi explains. Besides a book her grandmother gave her when she was younger, the peaceful practice had never really entered Kaur’s life. That changed when she went on a private yoga session as part of a date while living in Tampa. As she laid into the savasana position, Adi found herself weeping - but in the best of ways. “It was such a feeling of relief, and nothing had happened. It was just that I had felt so good.” The BLK Yogi had begun their yoga journey. 

Adi’s first yoga session was in 2015, and things only ramped up after she moved to Birmingham in 2017 and met Rob Ginwright who taught yoga at the YMCA. “I came and I loved every moment of it,” Kaur recollects. Ginwright soon informed Adi of yoga instructor training courses, which captured her attention. The price seemed out of her grasp at the moment, but Adi soon saw the power of community first-hand. She shared her wishes with the world and found that family, friends, and internet strangers were more than willing to help. 

Adi Devta Kaur finished her teacher training in January of 2020, and went into a second training nearly right after. This training was 300 hours of kundalini, a breathing-focused practice that moves “energy from the base of your spine up to the crown of your head.” The training was supposed to take place from March 1st to March 28th, but the pandemic came and made Kaur’s return date a mystery. She once again saw the power of people caring as family, friends, and internet strangers came together to help her until she was able to return to Alabama in September of that year.  “My heart is just so full, so the need to give back is inevitable,” she shares.

Adi’s first way to give back to her community was through free yoga sessions at East Lake Park every Sunday. The first class had three people attend, including Adi’s dear friend Yogi Dada. The word spread from there, and soon every type of person and even dogs were coming to take part in this healing practice each week. “It was such a vibe,” she shares. 

Yoga sessions hosted by The BLK Yogi have become a must in Birmingham. Image by Bomani Williams.

The BLK Yogi brand and merchandise is another big part of Adi spreading her peaceful message. BLK stands for “Breathing Living Knowledge”, which is what Kaur aims to provide those who attend her classes.  “I’m just bringing all the elements of who I am-my background, my upbringing, the folks who really matter to me-I wanted to put that in the name,” she explains. The shirts became public after Adi had made some for herself and Yogi Dada told her she should sell them to others, which she now does. “There’s so much love put into it,” the yoga instructor shares of her shirt-pressing process.

The idea for the Melanin Mala Project came after Kaur was invited to the Global Mala, an annual event centered around meditation. “This is a very peaceful event,” Adi shares. There will be 108 sun salutations during the Sunday gathering, and there will be a focus on releasing what people are suffering from and calling out the names of those who’ve passed on or faced injustice.  “We’ve witnessed all these things happen, and we hold that in our bodies. This is a designed space for us to collectively release on such a powerful scale, with so many people gathered with the intention to release in peace,” Kaur explains, “This is a safe space for anyone who believes in the breath and believes in movement of the body.”

This event will also be held at East Lake Park, which has become one of Kaur’s cherished grounds. “I really gravitate to that space because I’ve met a lot of different folks, it didn’t matter who they were or where they were from,” Kaur details. They will have everything from barbecue to a kombucha taste-testing in addition to yoga instructions that cover everything from matt-based exercises to walking meditations. Kaur is thrilled to be bringing in over a dozen of the most impactful yoga instructors to the Magic City for this healing event, sharing “I’m really really happy that we’re all gathering on one accord in a positive way.”

In addition to the impressive list of visiting instructors, the BLK Yogi has brought sponsorships from organizations and friends like Active Devotions, Leaders of Excellence, St. John’s AME, and Speech In The Magic City along with Jettye Davis Labyrinth, Danielle Effinger, and Alyssia Knox. It is going to be three hours of fun and healing community for all who attend. The BLK Yogi is happy to be doing what she is where she is and with whom she’s with. She sees her purpose as taking “the baton to continue forward so that all the folks who fought hard and died weren’t doing it in vain. For me to be here, I feel like that’s why we’re on fire. Because we have that energy. There’s still energy in the Earth. I believe that this place is empowering. To be here in Birmingham, Alabama. This is monumental-very much so. As a woman of color, to be able to be in the Birmingham Museum of Art and offer yoga. I cried. Folks don’t know I cry every time. I’m never taking it lightly.”

The advice for Adi to new yoga students? “Meet yourself where you are. Just meet yourself with one deep breath in and one deep breath out, and you’ll go far.” Sounds like some advice we could all use, and we’re excited that the BLK Yogi and Birmingham’s Melanin Mala Project are here to remind us of this lesson every chance they can.

Cover photo by McKenzie Media