Welcome to the accessible yoga Podcast where we explore how to make space for everyone in the yoga community.
Amber Karnes 13:11:38
This podcast is brought to you by the accessible yoga Association, a nonprofit organization focused on accessibility and equity in yoga.
Hi, I'm your host, Jivana Heyman, my pronouns are he and him. And I serve as the director of accessible yoga.
Amber Karnes 13:11:53
And I'm your co host, Amber Karnes, my pronouns are she and her, and I serve as president of the accessible yoga board of directors. Hey, everybody, welcome back to the podcast. It's Amber here, and I am here with Maya broyeur. Maya, how's it going?
Maya Breuer 13:12:08
Pretty good. It's been cold. Here in New England. I'm in Rhode Island. But other than this extreme cold and two feet of snow, I'm good.
Amber Karnes 13:12:19
Oh, my God, oh, my goodness, two feet of snow. We had like four inches of snow here that turned into ice. And now it's raining. And yeah, we can complain about the weather. I'm ready for spring. But I'm really glad to have you here today. It's such an honor to be able to interview you and have a conversation with you. And I'm so excited to share your work with the accessible yoga community. I know a lot of us already know you and follow you. But for those that don't, I'm wondering if you'll just take a moment to introduce yourself, tell us who you are. How do you spend your time? What do you what are you doing out here in the world?
Maya Breuer 13:12:57
Oh, well. Right now I work at yoga Alliance. And I'm the vice president of cross cultural advancement. One thing that I'm very proud of these days is that I work out three times a week. And I'm just happy to say that on the air, you know, it's it took a lot to get to that place of doing it. And committing, so I'm very proud of that. And at yoga Alliance, I'm sort of across the board working with all of the departments and working on supporting them with creating new programs with equity, diversity, inclusion, accessibility, and other various things that rise that I can be helpful with. And, you know, one of our main, the main missions at yoga alliances is equity. And so there's a lot of effort that's going into creating equity in yoga these days. Mm hmm.
Amber Karnes 13:14:07
Yeah, I mean, we're certainly interested in all of that. And I know that Jivana and I and a bunch of people that are involved with accessible yoga were part of the the standards review process that yoga Lyons just went to went through a couple of years ago. So it's been very exciting to see that shift toward really putting a lot of effort into accessibility and diversity work and stuff like that. So it's amazing to have you at the helm of that. I'm wondering if you can tell us like, what sort of programs are y'all working on? Or can you can you talk about any of that work? And what it actually looks like? Well,
Maya Breuer 13:14:43
yes, I'd love to. And I don't, you know, there's a program that I'm so excited about. It's called teaching for equity. And it's It started about a year ago, and we ran a pilot program and provided stipends for 25 yoga teachers, and they were designated to teach in marginalized communities. And we were totally taken aback when we received so many applications. And we were able to select those five people and fund them, we will also able to see that they got their an article in elephant Journal magazine to describe their work within a marginalized community. And also there were various articles. Among that we call them our alumni now, because they finished this first cohort of yoga teachers. So we we graduated one from the first cohort of teaching for equity. And now we're just launching the second cohort, which is now 50 people, and they will be provided a stipend to teach yoga within a marginalized community.
Amber Karnes 13:15:59
That is so cool. Is that a program that people can currently apply for or y'all still have it in the pilot
Maya Breuer 13:16:05
going program however, the second cohort application process has ended and we have selected the individuals and they're about to begin teaching.
Amber Karnes 13:16:17
Okay, very cool. Well, maybe I can get a link from you that I could share in the show notes if folks want to check out that Absolutely. Because
Maya Breuer 13:16:24
you can read all about the program. Read various articles from are all on the yoga Alliance website. and also learn of the dates for the next cohort. This is going to be an ongoing program with yoga Alliance. So we are very pleased with the program. We also provide workshops for the teachers to support them, we provide resources to help them look for funding after our stipend period ends. So we're trying to work. And this is through the yoga lions Foundation. And they're working diligently to provide the support that's needed so that people can continue teaching after the stipend period ends.
Amber Karnes 13:17:13
That sounds like a really great resource. So I'm excited to share that with our audience, for sure. Anything else going on with your current work that you're excited to share about before we kind of dig into your history because I'd love to know like how you came to yoga.
Maya Breuer 13:17:28
You know, one of the other things I do is the yoga retreat for women of color. And so we will be having an in person yoga retreat for women of color at the Apollo center for yoga and health, July 29, to 31. So, you know, I started the yoga retreat for women of color many years ago, and it's continued. I have a co director Kiesha battles, who pretty much runs everything, and I'm involved but not in the day to day management of it. But we are going to be in person at Kripalu. So, that's exciting. I'm very excited.
Amber Karnes 13:18:10
That is exciting. Um, tell us how that started. You've been hosting that for what, like over 20 years now, right? Oh,
Maya Breuer 13:18:17
absolutely. You know, I started with the yoga retreat for women of color in 1999, actually, and it started at the Apollo center for yoga and health. Um, and you know, it started, I found it. I used to have this dream after I started yoga, I would have this sort of dream with my grandmother telling me teach the women teach the women I couldn't, you know, I would I would wake up it wasn't every night, but I'd wake up and I'm like, What is she saying? And then I realized that I was supposed to teach women of color. And I I started, you know, I apply to present the program at Capello and it was accepted. And it was so it was a dream that became a reality. And you know, it's it's been going strong since 99. During the pandemic, we had virtual retreats. And so now we're finally going to be back in person.
Amber Karnes 13:19:23
That sounds amazing. What is the retreat? Like? Like what can people expect if they well like to
Maya Breuer 13:19:28
know you can expect to be nourished. That's the main focus, to look at how we can nourish body, mind and spirit and we look at yoga as a practice and some of the perspectives of yoga for example, Kriya yoga really supports one's daily life. So we, we look at Kriya yoga, we dance, we laugh, we take in all the Capello offers in terms of healthy food and I we bring in presenters who offer conversations or programs on different topics, it can be grief and loss. Working with the elders, I mean, there are a variety it can be, you know, we did one on headwraps which was fabulous. We do I mean, they can expect to be feel part of a community of women of color and be able to open up and talk about things that they are happy about bothered by concerned about.
Amber Karnes 13:20:42
Yeah, I think it can be so transformational. I just know from my own experience to, you know, be in a community of people who look like you who have a similar background to you who are, you know, who share in a lived experience and like to be in a community of people where it's like, you don't have to explain yourself all the time, you know that they have similar experiences in the world. It can be so nourishing and then to bring in yoga and all of the other wonderful things that y'all are going to do together. It sounds so good.
Maya Breuer 13:21:17
Absolutely, absolutely. You know, so it's it's awfully, it's an uplifting experience, you know? Yeah. I just want to add that the last yoga retreat for women of color in prose I can't remember the exact dates. But we had 108 people.
Amber Karnes 13:21:35
Oh my goodness. And that's a special number, but also a big number
Maya Breuer 13:21:40
of the number. You know, I still, I was just blown away. So that was prior to the pandemic. And we also we are a, it's for all women of all colors. And now we're having women from all over the globe participate.
Amber Karnes 13:21:56
That's amazing. Yeah, cool.
Maya Breuer 13:21:58
So it's a it's my baby that I'm still nursing along, you know,
Amber Karnes 13:22:04
your baby that's now a grown child. I'm proud woman in her 20s. Thank you. I wonder if you'll tell us? How did you come to yoga? How did you find yoga? What was your first, you know, kind of practice? There first years of practice, like, who are your teachers? Like, tell us a little bit about that?
Maya Breuer 13:22:25
Okay, well, I came to yoga in the late 80s. It could have been 87, or 88. And that wasn't my first time I'll go backtrack a little the first time I went to yoga was in Rhode Island at the First Unitarian Church. And it was in the late 70s, maybe 79. I was enthralled with yoga. I remember thinking, Oh, I have to do this all the time. And I didn't get back to yoga for almost 10 years. Because I was very busy at that time raising a family and working. But in the late 80s, I was having health issues. And I meaning one of the things I lived with was chronic fatigue. And so a friend of mine said you should go and visit Kripalu. And so the minute I walked in, I remember feeling something is different here. You know, there was a presence or an energy that I felt. And I took an afternoon class. And you know, I just started feeling that this is having an impact on me, even though I couldn't really put it into words. So I kept going to Apollo, I learned that they had a program I could do which was called saver or selfless service. And I was there every chance I got to do seva. And I was sort of soaking up what now I call prana. The energy that was there, I didn't know what it was when I first walked in. But I began to study yoga say during that time, around 89 I started taking studies and doing teacher training and you know, I became a teacher. I mean, so I went from, you know, volunteering, so just to be in the midst of Apollo and the people and all of the teachings and it became a spiritual practice. I was able to heal my body and begin to live my life transformed to where I became a teacher. And my first teaching of yoga was right in my home I transformed my first floor into a studio. And there's that that's how I started yoga. And some of the teachers I had were over the years were amazing, you know and wonderful teachers. I you know, I studied with first Henrique Desai because he was the guru. I don't know if we have those anymore but he was the girl at Kripalu at the time. And I I studied with so many people, Berryl Bender - binder or bender Birch, Tom Gillette, Judith Lassiter, Steven Cope. These are all people who were in the midst of Kripalu at the time and I studied. I learned yoga but I also learned mindfulness and meditation and so many different things.
Amber Karnes 13:26:02
So did you did you do your teacher training at Kripalu? Is that where you started
Maya Breuer 13:26:07
my first teacher training at Apollo? My second teacher training was at the lochalsh school in India, Gujarat, India. And I traveled to India to study advanced are deeper practices, the more of the yoga philosophy and meditation and prayer so that My journey, you know, that's how I started my journey.
Amber Karnes 13:26:34
And then, and then you started, you know, the yoga retreat for women of color. And what other things have you brought into the world? I want to talk especially about Black yoga teachers Alliance. But after you started teaching, where, where did that head?
Maya Breuer 13:26:52
Well, after I started teaching, I was I was teaching and I just want to mention, I was inspired and motivated to teach because I didn't see people who looked like me in the closets. I taught it yoga Journal conference, I didn't see, you know, hundreds and hundreds of people, and I didn't see many who looked like me. So I realized that many of the challenges that Black people had, this is free BIPOC. Yeah, we're, you know, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, all of those could be managed with the practice of yoga and meditation. So, you know, that encouraged me to teach, that's really what got me going in my own community,
Amber Karnes 13:27:38
you had to show up for your own community. Yeah,
Maya Breuer 13:27:41
I didn't know. You know, that's how it started, I just said, you know, I'm gonna bring this bring this home, you know, so I brought it home to various libraries, community centers, like literally wherever ever, they would have have showed up and taught. And it's, you know, I am so grateful for this journey, I just really am. So after the yoga retreat for women of color, many years later, in fact, it was in 2009. That I worked with Jana Long. And we established the Black yoga teachers Alliance, we co founded it. And it started off in 2009. And by 2016, we had established it as a nonprofit organization. And I'm just happy to report that I don't actively work with the Black yoga teachers Alliance. But you know, it's thriving today. And the Black yoga teachers alliance was created to, it was created as a collective of teachers to share yoga, and inspire conscious living among ourselves and among others. So the organization also was to provide a business and a social network for Black yoga teachers. And, you know, we wanted to increase the diversity of those teaching and practicing yoga. So, you know, it was it was, you know, it was a leap of faith that Jana long and I went out on, and just we were just shocked that so many yoga teachers around the globe, were interested in being part of this organization.
Amber Karnes 13:29:45
Yeah, I bet. I mean, you know, I can only imagine that so many people have that experience that you had, and that I also had, which was like, the reason we started teaching was to help our communities. And also because we didn't see anyone like us, you know, in that space of a teacher where we were and so like, I'm sure that you're able to inspire so many people to step up and say, like, oh, yeah, that's me, too. And my town. And so having that community support, I think is really crucial, especially if you have a marginalized identity or multiple marginalized identities, because we really don't get that, you know, that same positive representation of, you know, what a yoga person looks like, or what a yoga teacher looks like, or whatever those things are, we've sort of absorbed from, you know, marketing messages, and, and this kind of the way that oppression functions in our society, you know, and so, I think that's such a wonderful resource you've created do you all do? What type of resources do you provide to teachers? Like, do you all do conferences and things like that? Or
Maya Breuer 13:30:50
yes, they are vital to their continuing when I was very active with them, we offered conferences, and and even today, we have scholarships for teachers who want to take other trainings with various teachers. One that comes to mind is Rod Stryker, another is Susan Piver, who offers a meditation instructor training. And then there are other opportunities that crop up for yoga teachers, but this is a hub for Black yoga teachers and like I mentioned it continues and truly supports a global community.
Amber Karnes 13:31:30
That is so cool. I want everybody to be sure to check out the show notes, because we're gonna link to the Black yoga teachers Alliance and yoga retreat for women of color, and all the things we're talking about today. So definitely check that out for links. So, you know, speaking of the yoga retreat that you've created, and also this amazing resource through Beida, the community for for Black teachers, I'm wondering if we can talk a little bit about, you know, why yoga and self care are really critical for women of color, or especially Black women. I know, like, during the pandemic, you know, you and I have both, we just were talking a little bit before we hit record found, like so much, you know, kind of comfort and strength in our yoga practice. And I know that's, it's so essential for, for your work. And I wonder if you just talk about that a little bit?
Maya Breuer 13:32:24
You know, yeah, when I think about it, um, you know, what comes to my mind is that everyone needs self care. And the thing about it is that Black women are exception, and historically, we have been the exception, you know, because we've borne the brunt of caring for others before self. And I think, you know, we could trace that all the way back to the slavery within the world with the Black woman. And I'm not saying there weren't challenges for others. But what we're talking about is Black women, but there was a way of being with self was not put first self was not even in the mix, for the most part. So, you know, the value of self care, I, I'm happy to say, has become more accept, accepted, you know, today, and that's been going on for, for many decades now. That Black women and women of color, are putting themselves in the mix. You know, we've all well, Black people have always been told, get your education. So that's always been there. But now it's, you know, we do yoga, we do meditation, we practice mindfulness, and what has also crept in is rest and renewal. Mm hmm. You know, I was talking about a friend and she said, you know, we, we would work and work and work and the only release was maybe going out, having a drink, or, you know, having food or doing those things, but this, you know, meditation, yoga, even dancing, for your health, all those things are now prevalent within the lives of many women of color. And, you know, I read a book many years ago by Thomas Moore, and he is a great psychologist, psychiatrist, and he talks about care of the soul. And I think that care of the soul is, is what we do when we take care of ourselves. And that has an according to him, and according to me, today, I have learned that it means everything, you know, it means your movement, your breath, your rest, your humor, your or your fun, your quiet time, your food, your everything. And then I put a big law, a big word in the middle, and it's nourishing self. So I always think of self care as nourishing self. And I just mentioned that the book by Thomas Moore was so enlightening to support me, I read it maybe 3025 years ago. And it just helped me and that combined with yoga has gives me this idea that everything is important in my life, but I must care for self. First, do you see what I mean? Amber?
Amber Karnes 13:35:44
I do. Yeah. I wonder if you'll talk about like, how has your yoga practice shown up for you during the pandemic, when so much has changed for so many of us from you know, the way we do work? Like you've had to postpone your retreats and things like that, from being in person to just like dealing with the stress of everyday life right now when it's more dangerous to be alive. And you know, systemic inequities are so like, in our face every day. I wonder if you talk about that, like your personal practice. Um,
Maya Breuer 13:36:17
well, you know, what I was, I was, I was thinking just then is that, you know, the start of the pandemic of the early days where the deaths of People of Color were highlighted. More than they are today, because the, you know, the many People of Color were dying from, from COVID COVID-19, during the COVID 19 pandemic, and, you know, it brought to mind the, the, what do they call them, comorbidities, or the healthcare comorbidities that people live with. And you know, as I was in the house, you know, like everyone else, I would think, Oh Lord, I wish these people knew about breath and yoga, so that they wouldn't be in this moment and have these vulnerabilities, in addition to having to battle the pandemic, the virus. So that was the first thing and, and then that whole, I felt blessed, because being alone, being quiet, being spending time meditating, spending time alone, all those things appealed to me, and don't push me against the wall. And I think a lot of people were pushed against the wall, because we're such a social society. So I think that was the first challenge being isolated when we were in lockdown. And it was a challenge to me, because I wasn't moving enough, you know, but but it didn't bother me to be quiet or be alone. But I think that's been a real challenge for many. And then, you know, the roller coaster that we've ridden with COVID-19, and then the variance that have come about and, you know, we were, we're at one level, and then we jump up and have another out, you know, severe outbreak and high death rate, the changes, I think, can be very challenging, and an off putting, but one of the things I learned was that many teachers were doing yoga online, right. And I did an article about the BIPOC community during the pandemic. And I interviewed all these different teachers, and they were telling me that they were able to reach more people who didn't come to the studios, and who found it easier to practice at home, because they didn't feel comfortable in many of the yoga studios. So that was something else that rose up during the pandemic, is that we were we I say, the proverbial we, we were able to reach more People of Color. Who would not normally go to studios? That's right. Yeah, I think that was really a powerful outcome. But I think that, you know, those of us who know yoga can share it with our families, who know meditation could share it with our friends and families. And even just talking about it can motivate someone to pull it up on the internet and practice. But I, you know, we are in a challenging time. And I feel blessed to have the breath and to have yoga and meditation and, and contentment within my life at this time. So, you know, if you call me and you want to talk, I'm going to teach that to you. Reach out to me, and they start like, Well, what do you think, you know, I am teaching the same thing all the time to friends, family and others who find me that, you know, this is a time to look, look at self. So it takes us back to self care. And I'll put a slash there. Self love is also something that I think, you know, I know when we listen to the news, there's so much violence out here. There's all these sort of, quote unquote crazies running through the world. But you know, Self Love is something that can really help you when you don't know what to do. So you know, yoga moded motivated me to love myself something I had never been taught or had never witnessed, really. So. You know, I think the that the the time that we're living in is a difficult time. I think that one of the remedies is yoga, or meditation or mindfulness and breathing consciously.
Amber Karnes 13:41:13
Definitely, I would have to say like my breath is definitely one of my biggest tools and dealing with uncertainty and discomfort and just learning how to like kind of stay when that when I all I want to do is run away or argue with someone or whatever the thing is, right?
Maya Breuer 13:41:30
It is. So do you have
Amber Karnes 13:41:33
kind of a go to breathing practice or technique that really helps ground you in those moments that you'd like to share?
Maya Breuer 13:41:41
Yes, yes, yes, yes, I love Ojai breath. Which is where you close the glottis at the back of the throat. And you make a hissing sound, but the exhalation is through the nostrils and your lips is sealed. I'm just giving that little in the stretch.
Amber Karnes 13:42:04
Yeah, I mean, if you want to lead us through a little practice, you know, will be fine too. But you can also just, you know, just
Maya Breuer 13:42:09
you know, you can everybody can look it up when you make a hissing sound. And years ago, the joke was, it's the Darth Vader sounds, you know, because you have that heavy breathing in sound and exhaling sound, but it is. So I find that it centers me. It it, it also lifts me up. And, you know, if if I have pain, like, if I have an issue with a shoulder or hip or whatever, I use the Durga pranayama, the three part breath, to bring the breath to that area, I'll send the breath to the pain and it dissipates or lessons. So those are my to go twos. I'm not living with a lot of pain, but I have it if I need it. The Complete Breath, do yoga breath. But the ujjyi breath is my daily breath. I practice it. I will do it in between meetings, because it appears it seems these days were on, you know, those those who work from home are are in front of the computer a great deal. Yep. So I'll give myself a few minutes to this, you know, I'm going to add the thing that I love about yoga and pranayama is a little bit goes a long way. Do you agree? Andr?
Amber Karnes 13:43:34
I do agree. I mean, I'm always amazed at how like, I don't know, I can be really spun up and just anxious and having a really bad day. And if I will literally like move my body just a little bit and sit still for like even two minutes of focus breathing, like totally changes everything. For me. It's so amazing.
Maya Breuer 13:43:54
I love that about it too. You know, you can just do one posture and just feel so much closer to balance, you know?
Amber Karnes 13:44:04
Yeah, oh, it doesn't change the circumstance. But it changes like my physical state or like my nervous system. And that allows me to feel like I can, you know, deal with it a little more easily. Right? For sure. It
Maya Breuer 13:44:15
doesn't change the circumstance, but it gives you an opening to find your, your what you need in the moment.
Amber Karnes 13:44:23
Yeah, that's well said,
Maya Breuer 13:44:25
You know what I mean, like you knew me need may need to say to someone, I'm sorry, I can have this conversation, you know, right.
Amber Karnes 13:44:31
Right. Like, what, what do you need in that moment? Yeah. Do you need distance? Do you need to reach out for someone to someone and ask for support? Like it can kind of like, be that clarity, to to get our brain a little unscrambled and say like, yeah, what, actually what I need in this moment, right? Absolutely. Okay, well, um, and we're gonna start wrapping up this conversation soon. But I just have a couple more questions for you. What's lighting you up these days? What are you excited about?
Maya Breuer 13:45:02
Um, well, the first thing, which really like what really lights me up is the work I do with yoga Alliance as part of the leadership, it's just excites me. And, you know, what we're doing at yoga alliance is aligned with what has been a 30 year desire of mine. And that is to spread the practice and philosophy of yoga among all people. So that really lights me up. And, you know, I'd like the idea of reaching more people so that they understand how viable yoga is to one's well being. And I mentioned before the teaching for equity program, and I think that is something you know, no matter where a person where you live, you can look into becoming a part of that program if you know, a group that you want to teach.
Amber Karnes 13:46:02
Yeah, that is such a cool opportunity. And I'm excited to share that with folks. was so what does the future hold for you? Is there anything you have coming up that you're excited about other than, you know, that program that you just mentioned? What's what's next for you?
Maya Breuer 13:46:18
Well, well that's um, I have a grandson, who is 13 years old, and his interest on music and social studies, and he's such a uplifting spirit in my life. And so, the that's definitely I'm so happy to be witnessing him growing into the future. Yes. So the other thing, which many may not know about me is I'm an artist. And so I do music, and I, I draw and sketch. And so that's always, you know, the more time that we are in our homes, it's given me time to really give more focus to my art. Not that I'm doing not that anything is happening, except it's in my home. But I That's wonderful. Yeah, it's so good. You know, because when you're when you're out and about Udall, you know, you don't think oh, let me just draw this, or let me look at this. You know, so I like being in, although I like going out to so I look forward to when we can be freer and move about?
Amber Karnes 13:47:39
Yeah, I understand what you mean, it's definitely, you know, I think the time of, I don't know, the are all our routines being disrupted for some of us has given us, you know, a chance to kind of dig into a new interest or cultivate one that maybe we set aside for a long time. So that's really wonderful to hear. And I didn't know you were an artist. So I'm going to try to get some piece of your art that we can show people on the oh, I'll send the show notes. So maybe I'll be able to get something from you.
Maya Breuer 13:48:09
And, you know, the other thing that I'm on in the future, we are going to bring the yoga retreat for women of color to Peru. And that will be in 2023. So that's an exciting thing. And that way, we'll be able to include women from that area in the event treat for women of color, and we're going to be going to Nairobi, Kenya in 2025. So those are exciting things. And I can I intend to continue doing the work I do with yoga Alliance, because that really pleases me.
Amber Karnes 13:48:50
Wonderful. Oh, that's so exciting to hear. You're taking that internationally, I love it. And I'm really excited to share all of the resources that you've talked about, and links to everything. So y'all definitely check out the show notes so you can connect with Maya, Maya, I spend so wonderful to talk to you today and hear about your work that you're doing in the world. I'm wondering, as we close, is there any final thoughts that you'd like to leave our listeners with or anything you want to point them in the direction of as we go?
Maya Breuer 13:49:22
Well, I'm just, and it's been a pleasure to be on this podcast with you. And if this if this airs during Black History Month, I want to just say that it's an honor to be on this podcast during Black History Month. And there are too many people that I could mention, but I just encourage everyone to really consider your history consider our history as Black people. And there was much out here to learn and to grow from.
Amber Karnes 13:50:01
Thank you so much for your time and for your work in yoga and beyond my it was great to talk with you today.
Maya Breuer 13:50:08
Thank you, Amber.
Thanks for joining us for the accessible yoga podcast. We're so grateful to be in community with you.
Amber Karnes 13:50:18
Please check out our website accessible yoga.org To find out more about our upcoming programs, including our annual accessible yoga conference. At our website. You can also learn more about how to become an accessible yoga ambassador and support the work that we're doing in the world.
Please subscribe to the podcast and leave us a review wherever you listen. We'd love to hear your thoughts.
Amber Karnes 13:50:37
You can also submit a question or suggest a topic or potential guests you'd like us to interview at accessible yoga.org See you next time.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai