yoga for curly, curvy girls

Some of the Yoga to the Curvy Curly at the Times Square solstice yoga event in New York City (image via Facebook)

A Sept 15 yoga class in Brooklyn focused on a very specific demographic – women with curls. And curves. The Yoga to the Curvy Curly Facebook page described the event as “a free, open to the public, 4-hour, weekend day event of yoga, well-being, and hair care activities for women of the Curvy body & Curly hair community.”

As The Brooklyn Paper reports:

The Fort Greene-based classes — which are open to curly-haired women of all races but widely attended by women of color — combine postures that purportedly help hair follicles, such as a standing head-to-knee pose, with tips about what to do with your ’do before, during, and after a yoga session.

“A lot of ethnic girls are worried about ‘sweating out’ their hair — it can be a real mental block,” said instructor Natalie Cosby. “We’re helping them get past that.”

Cosby’s “Yoga to the Curvy Curly” classes, which debuted last week in Fort Greene Park, also seek to bust through the stereotype that yoga is reserved for ladies with “perfect” bodies.

Personally, I didn’t realize that there were yoga postures that had an affect on hair follicles. But I’m all for anything that helps women get over blockages to both yoga practice and self-acceptance.

Apparently this first class, which was offered free of charge and attracted 75 people, also included “a discussion about natural hair products, wrapping hair for class, and getting over the ‘mental barriers’ associated with physical appearance.” The panel discussion was made up of a yoga teacher/visual artist, a make-up artist and hair stylist.

The event seemed geared towards budding “yoganistas,” rather than future yoga revolutionaries. It also made me wonder: does an event like this provide a more comfortable entry point to yoga than something like Yoga for Brown Girls or other efforts to create inclusive studio spaces?

Either way, it’s a step towards the vision that Anna Guest-Jelly puts forward in her recent post, When More Curvy People Practice Yoga.

  1. I read about this yesterday, still not sure how I feel. As a woman of color I will always be frustrated that “I don’t want to sweat out my hair” continues to be an excuse to not focus on health. However if this is what it takes to get more diversity on the mat then it just might be a great idea.

    • thanks for your thoughts, jess. i appreciate your expression of ambivalence. i also have mixed feelings about this event. i believe in a “harm reductive approach” (meeting people where they’re at) to yoga. if that means addressing hair care challenges, then whatever works, i guess.

      i’m a white woman, and i tried to imagine if i had come across a similar event organized by white women and called, say, “yoga that won’t make your make-up run” with beauty product swag bags and a panel of estheticians. i have to admit that i would have been much more critical.

      i’m not sure if that’s an appropriate analogy, as i’m sure the issues of culture and identity around hair in ethnic communities are much more complex. but i definitely found myself being more lenient on this event than i normally am.

      • The hair issue is very complex (since this is not a hair blog I will try to be brief) and so is creating a class to attract women who normally would not set foot into a yoga studio. I have family members who stay out of the gym, and out of MY classes to avoid sweating out freshly done hair.

        Even in my frustration I understand them. When the hair that grows out of your scalp naturally is perceived to be unacceptable, un-kept, or as I have been told on numerous occasions “up-professional” then it starts to become clear why the hours and often times large amounts of money to tame the your hair into a look that is deemed more acceptable. So I struggle with the idea that even though the name of the class may make some feel a bit uncomfortable, they are speaking to many women who would love to be more active without sweating away hours (for some a lifetime) of taming their hair. I am skeptical of the “postures that purportedly help hair follicles” as well.

        Overall, I can’t bring myself to say this class is a bad idea (no matter how I feel about it) when there is plenty of documented proof on the benefits of yoga, I honestly don’t care what brings people to the mat. I just care that they feel comfortable with going to a class to receive those benefits.

        • ditto! and i’m really glad that there was a panel discussion component. i hope that the members of the panel addressed some of the societal and cultural forces that keep women putting so much time into their hair – and prevent women of colour from accessing studio yoga classes.

  2. Yes, I think that like everything else, this must be considered as much as possible in its relevant cultural context. As a white woman who’s approach to hair care is basically wash, dry, comb, and go, I remember how truly surprised I was when a Black friend opened up to her about how much her hair concerns drove her physical activities – it was a huge, huge deal. And I had been completely unaware of this. But I understand it’s completely normal in the African-American community. So . . . given that yoga is such a “white thang” as it is, I feel much less ambivalent – I’m all in favor of strategies to reach out to communities of color in ways are fun, appropriate, and welcoming.

  3. Wow! Thanks so much, Jess for your comments and explanations. This topic around hair, and the whole issue of “sweating out one’s hair” shines a whole other light on the perplexing (to many white folk) issue of “privilege,” as Carol’s comment points out.

    Given the cultural and social conditions, an outreach like this looks like “upaya” translated as both “skillful” AND “compassionate means.”