By Keshia McEntire, written for bewellindy.co.
Indy’s yogis will soon have a new space to cultivate community and practice, and this studio is all about inclusivity. Haven Yoga Studio, located in Indianapolis’ Butler-Tarkington neighborhood, aims to be a place where yogis can practice in peace, no matter their size, race or experience level. Haven Yoga Studio founder Charlie Redd has been practicing yoga for eight years and teaching for three. She says her studio, which will open at the end of October, will be a dedicated space for marginalized groups to explore holistic health practices. We met with Redd to learn more about why she feels yoga is for everybody.
How did you become interested in practicing yoga?
Redd: It’s kind of a long story. I used to dance in high school, and I have always used movement as a way to help me with stress. I found out about yoga in dance class, when one of my instructors included some of it in our training, but I was just like, meh, whatever. When I was in college, I was walking around the bookstore and there was a black lady on the cover of Yoga Journal. I was like, yo, I can’t believe we do Yoga! This is something we regularly do? Sometimes it doesn’t register that something is for you or accessible to you until you see other people like you that are doing it. That cracked opened the door, and I took my first class which was not the right style for me. When I moved to Indianapolis a friend encouraged me to go to a hot yoga class with her. I started practicing every other day, sometimes more, and it took over my life.
You mentioned that your first class wasn’t the right style for you. Can you explore that a little more and explain your style as an instructor?
Redd: That class was restorative and Hatha yoga, and I really think it was the combination of the style and the instructor. It just didn’t resonate with me. I like to teach a combination of styles, but the most important thing to me is that the instructor is authentic. You can tell if the instructor is having fun and being their authentic self, or if they are saying the things they think they should be saying. To me, that’s the most important thing.
When will your new Yoga studio officially open?
Redd: We are hoping to be open by the end of October. I call my students, the people who practice with me, my community and my loved ones. Basically, there are not a lot of spaces in Indianapolis that allow marginalized communities to be their authentic selves in practice. My own stories of being othered or tokenized as a black woman, and also being tokenized for my other identities, drew my attention away from being present in practice while people are staring and analyzing my every move.
Was there a specific experience that made you feel you were being analized?
Redd: There is more than one. One of my first classes, there was a white women who came up to me after class and said (in a shocked voice) “you have a really nice practice?” There was a question mark at the end, like it wasn’t possible for me to practice yoga and be passionate about it. In this particular class it was dark in the classroom, so I don’t know why she was peering at me that hard. Also, the tone was so similar to “you speak very well to be black.” it was really uncomfortable for me, and unnecessary. It was a microaggression in a yoga room.
So when you say that you want your Yoga studio to be a place where all people feel comfortable, how do you plan to make sure that takes place?
I always admit i’m human, and I make mistakes, and I learn and grow from them. A lot of time with instructors, there is a weird barrier there. But I am a student of yoga as well. I know that the way I teach is welcoming and affirming to people, because that is who I seek to be, and so my teaching is that way as well. There are things I had to learn. I have had elders in class, and one of the ladies said “If I get down on this floor, i’m not getting back up.” So i’m like, oh shoot, I didn’t think about that. So I went home and thought about ways to teach to that ability, what she has going on in her body. It’s an adaptability that you have to care to have as an instructor, rather than making a formula that you try to fit everybody’s body into.
What do you want people from marginalized communities to know about practicing yoga?
I hate to be cliche, but yoga really is for everybody and it is a tool, not a magical formula, but a tool that you can utilized to gain control and awareness of your body, your breath, how to navigate stress and heal from trauma. It is a opportunity to build community with others in a healthy way. It doesn’t matter your body type, age, gender, race or religion, it’s a tool that can be utilized under the umbrella of all of those things to help you be a more connected person in mind, body and spirit, whatever that looks like for you.
Haven Yoga Studio is located at 309 W 42nd Street Indianapolis, IN 46208, and is currently accepting donations as they prepare to open business. To learn more about Haven Yoga Studio, visit havenyogaindy.com.