Things are moving full speed ahead for The BLK Yogi Tribe. The empowering Birmingham yoga movement, which stands for Breathing Living Knowledge, is in the middle of a fundraiser to open the first Black-owned yoga studio in Birmingham. BLK Yogi is also continuing to do trauma-informed yoga at their “home away from home” in PK Fitness on Green Springs, will begin to do yoga classes at the Tarrant Library every Tuesday at 9am starting in June, and is about to return to their Sunday Funday classes. The organization also has a large selection of online yoga videos found on Youtube, and will be celebrating the second annual Melanin Mala yoga festival at East Lake Park this Sunday from noon to 3pm.
“We started breaking ground around October of 2022,” BLK Yogi’s founder, Adi Devta Kaur, shares of the collective’s progress on a physical studio. The GoFundMe was started in April of that year and over $7,000 has been given for this historical project. Located in North Birmingham, the space will feature both indoor and outdoor healing spaces that include a gazebo, waterfall, fish pond, swing sets, hammocks, fire pits, a garden, and more. The interview for this article took place in the future yoga headquarters, where we were able to see the kitchen, bathrooms, yoga space, and more being worked on. A nearby empty lot is soon to be acquired for more parking, gardening, and Sunday Funday activities as well. “If you plant it, they will come,” Kaur shares of the garden - but the phrase is easily applied to all aspects of BLK Yogi.
The future looks bright for BLK Yogi, but the present is just as uplifting. “A really big thing just happened - we’ve partnered with Give Back Yoga Foundation. These folks are some beautiful folks. They’ve just now expanded to Canada. They partner with Gaiam yoga mats and Lulu Lemon and are giving yoga mats - I’m like getting chills (talking about it) - to the communities that are serving LGBTQ+, the underprivileged, marginalized, POCs,” Kaur explains, “They’re giving mats away. You just apply for the grant and they give them to you. We applied and got 16 yoga mats so what we are doing now with that is offering as many free community classes as possible.” Other crucial focuses of BLK Yogi are SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) and corporate wellness.
Another major community cornerstone from The BLK Yogi tribe is the Melanin Mala yoga festival that takes place each year. The 2k23 edition will take place on Sunday, May 31st, from noon to 3pm on the grass behind the tennis courts at East Lake Park. Last year’s event had about 150 people, and the RSVPs for this year’s event are already over 210. There will be three rounds of 36 sun salutations along with less strenuous forms of yoga including chair yoga and a walking labyrinth. 10 teachers will be coming in from Indianapolis, Tennessee, and all over to participate in collective healing and body appreciation with Birmingham residents. There will also be drumming “giveaways, dance parties, getting people moving - a big yoga cookout.”
The upcoming yoga studio is an important step forward not only for BLK Yogi, but for Birmingham as a whole. It is the city’s first Black-owned yoga studio, with an emphasis on being a welcoming space for all who visit. The BIPOC population only accounts for less than 6% of yoga instructors and less than 10% of general yoga users, and Adi understands that providing people the opportunity to see someone like them in these spaces will lead to further growth in yoga. “When I was growing up I had Black, Brown, white barbie dolls - all kinds of barbie dolls. Because my parents wanted me to have that experience. Let’s all play. I’ve always grown up like that, just traveling the world and being inclusive,” Kaur shares of her upbringing. This was not the experience she always felt attending other yoga studios, where she sometimes didn’t feel comfortable and has even been rejected despite her overwhelming number of qualifications. “So let’s create our own space,” the BLK Yogi shares, “No worries Slim, it’s cool. We got us. We got our thing and you’re invited matter of fact. Come out, we have some free classes.”
Those looking to help the cause can do so through GoFundMe, the BLK Yogi website, or by giving to $FundBLK on CashApp. “We’re not asking you to give $5,000,” Adi shares, “We’re not asking you to give $500. If you’ve got 50 cents - thank you. The small reflects the all.”
Adi spent her childhood in Anniston before her family moved to Germany, but the impact of her home state never left the inspired yogi. “Growing up I traveled the world so sometimes I was the only person of color. Learning about Dr. King during every African American history moment. I really wanted to have a connection with him so being here in Birmingham where this man lived, breathed, and walked - I feel that energy and I feel empowered by being here in the movement work,” the BLK Yogi explains, “I think it’s significant for me to be here specifically in Birmingham because the universe was already preparing me to come back to this space and shake it up.”
Things are certainly being shaken up by the BLK Yogi, in the most positive of ways.
Cover image provided by The BLK Yogi