Ashley Adams fell in love with yoga after just one class, but she was concerned by the lack of diversity in the practice. Which is why Adams, owner of Yoga Blue Fitness in Tarpon Springs, Florida, decided she wanted to pave the way for change. Since that decision, she has certified thousands of yoga teachers of all skin colors and sizes.
“We’re here, too, and it does not look like what you see on Instagram, but it doesn’t make it any less powerful, important and needed than any of those other images that you’re seeing,” Adams told Inside Edition Digital.
Adams explained that she had initially turned to yoga after becoming a new mom. She gave birth to two children in the span of 19 months, and was looking for a natural way to alleviate her postpartum struggles.
“Not for nothing, but my last child was a 10-pound baby,” she joked. “I have earned every bit of these curves.”
She took one yoga class, and was immediately hooked. She enrolled in a standard 200-hour yoga teacher training course, then went onto completing a more advanced 500-hour teacher certification course, and over the following year, built her studio, Yoga Blue Fitness.
But Adams said that as a Black woman, she still didn’t feel entirely part of the community.
“[Students] come into the studio and they’re like, ‘Hey, can I speak to the manager?’ I’m like, ‘That’s me,’” she said. “They’re like, ‘Well, you don’t look like a yoga teacher,’ and I ask this all the time, ‘What exactly does a yoga teacher look like?’”
According to the career site Zippia, 77% of American yoga teachers are white, 9% are Latinx and 6.4% are Black.
She decided she would change that for herself, and developed her own curriculum to help diverse yogis receive become teachers. Wanting her course to be accessible, Adams’ course costs a few hundred dollars instead of the thousands many other yoga teacher trainings cost.
“I didn’t want cost to be a barrier of entry to keep people from going on this yoga journey,” she said.
And when the world shut down in response to the spread of COVID-19, Adams’ practice was well prepared to go online. She now has about 3,000 people either already certified as yoga teachers or on their way.
For those who are interested in the practice but haven’t had a chance to get their feet wet, Adams’ advice is simple: “Let it look however it looks, let it feel however it feels. Be awkward. Be uncoordinated. But get on the mat.”