As humans, it’s only natural for us to be fearful or slightly discouraged to venture into new things because we think it isn’t for us. I’ve heard that little voice in my head attempt to deter me by saying “women don’t do that… Black people don’t do that… people from the hood don’t do that” many of times. I can vividly remember the same type of doubts filling my mind the first day of yoga teacher training. I had taken countless classes, but none of them were led by instructors that looked like me. I never felt a sense of representation in spaces of healing. As I walked up the staircase, I began to worry that I would feel out of place, or that maybe teaching yoga was something I couldn’t or shouldn’t being doing. When I entered the room, to my surprise (and relief), there were two trainees who looked just just like me. One of them being Shakira Scott, a Berkeley native who now teaches vinyasa and gentle flow styled yoga.
Shakira has shared her personal journey as well as what inspires her to help others in a field where she is considered under-resprented.
Have you always been active or considered yourself to be healthy? What was a turning point or important event in your life that motivated you to transition into your current lifestyle?
I was raised in a very “Berkeley” household on a pescatarian diet with a artist and a musician for parents. Everything we ate was natural and organic so I had a pretty funny experience with college dorm food. I started ballet when I was 2 years old and throughout my childhood and well into college I explored all different styles of dance (from Senegalese to Modern), I was a gymnast for a number of years and I played basketball for 9 years. I basically couldn’t stay still.
I was a dance major in college until I got injured in a West African dance class and though it wasn’t a serious injury, it was a wake up call that my body is just that, a body. Our bodies are not indestructible, we have to take care of every bone, every muscle in order for it to support us. We also need to rest & pamper our bodies.
After college I stopped dancing and since I never like gyms, I didn’t “move” regularly. I occasionally ran in my neighborhood for exercise but not much. At the time, I was a visual and wardrobe designer in LA and those years packed stress on top of stress on my already tired body. I would literally wake up in so much physical pain that it was hard to move. The church I was attending held weekly yoga classes and that’s when I fell in love with the practice of yoga and meditation.
What has inspired you to help heal others?
Noticing the changes in my body before and after class, reading about yoga & understanding the health benefits inspired me to help others through yoga.
As a person of color, what do you think is the importance of representation in the health and wellness community?
People of color NEED to be representatives in the health and wellness community because we tend to look to people for guidance who look nothing like us, aren’t built the way we are, and usually don’t have the same economic background as us.
After reading how yoga can actually reverse the disorders people of color suffer from the most, (like high blood pressure and diabetes) I was inspired to teach in places where people of color would probably would never try yoga.
There aren’t many Black women teaching yoga, yes there are some, but society associates yoga with white women these days and that is far from the originators of the practice. Yes, in 2017 yoga is for everyone, but thousands of years ago is was a practice for young Indian men.
Just by me walking into the studio, people (of all races) have thanked me for becoming an instructor because they don’t often see someone who looks like me leading the class. (I’m also heavily tattooed with piercings).
What do you believe is the correlation between mental and physical health?
I believe that mental and physical health are one in the same, I was taught this at a young age. The mind has power over everything. My minister says ‘energy flows where attention goes’. Meaning, the things you dwell on manifest in your life. Some people literally come to my classes and before class tell me what they “can’t do” and I ask them “how do you know what you can’t do when you haven’t even tried it yet?” [lol] It seems so simple, but every day we put limitations on ourselves for no reason at all!
The things we say, listen to, eat, our bodies have a reaction, proven fact. I’m not saying have a positive mindset, eat trash food and then you’ll be healthy because in your mind you’ve changed your thought pattern. It doesn’t work that way. Because I’m sure after eating that unhealthy food, your body feels like crap. When you consistently think about what you put into your body or your mind, you’ll be more selective.
What is a mantra or something that you strive to live by or achieve on a daily basis?
Every single morning I pray (in bed), say affirmations for the day in the shower, and then I stretch for a few mins while my morning tea is steeping. (Oops that’s more than 1 thing lol but they’re all vital!)
How do you maintain balance in your life? What are some of your interests and hobbies outside of health and wellness?
So, I kind of live a double life. Yoga instructor by day, bartender at a popular bar by night. The two actually blend together sometimes because some of my yogis hang out at my bar, and my bar regulars have joined my classes! Some people see it as a contradiction, but isn’t life at times?! I take care of my yogis in the studio and I take care of bar patrons, slowing down their alcohol intake, giving water in between drinks, sometimes cutting people off all together.
I also have a handmade jewelry line, Raw Elements by SCOTT that keeps me creative.
What is some advice you’d share with someone who is interested in transitioning into a healthier lifestyle but is afraid and doesn’t know where to begin?
When people talk to me about fear I remind them that starting the conversation, taking the initiative, changing the mindset is the biggest step they’ve already conquered. A friend of mine says “you can’t achieve new goals doing the same shit, you have to do something different” so if that means replacing soda with water, that’s a huge step to fighting things like cavities, diabetes and addiction to sugar.
I’m always down to talk with people about literally anything, I have a website and people can submit questions about anything.
I would also encourage people to read about whatever they’re interested in but also knowing that all of our personal experiences are just that, personal. Each individual has to try things out for themselves to get a real opinion.
If you’re interested in learning more about Shakira, you can visit her online at yourlocalyogadealer.com where her weekly schedule, and information on special events can be found, along with group/private yoga session rates. You can also follow her on Instragram.