Yogapreneur: Leslie Salmon-Jones Fuses Yoga and African Dance

Yogapreneur Leslie Salmon-Jones discusses her unique blend of African spirituality, yogic principals and the freedom of movement.

Leslie_Salmon_Jones_headshotWhat are some of the challenges you face being an African-Canadian in the Yoga space?

The challenge is being aware of the health disparities in the black community and getting people of color in the class.  AfroFlow has decent diversity but I’d love to see more.   I’ve been bringing up the lack of representation up to the Yoga community. This is where I can be of service.

There have been issues with Black folks and [their beliefs about] churches and yoga, so it’s been a challenge to get people to understand that yoga is great way to get closer to God and open your self up and use your Christianity.

We are so far away from our ancestry.  African women are carrying babies and items on their heads and walking up mountains.  That is yoga.  It’s amazing what your bodies can do.  We were taken from Africa for our “fitness” and we are so far away from that with the [prevalence of] obesity.  The yoga industry this isn’t supposed to be for privileged white people; this was an ancient tradition. That is why I feel very passionate about it and that has been my inspiration.

When doing yoga do you feel a greater spiritual connection and how do you incorporate that in your daily life?

I definitely do and it gives me to opportunity to create a clearing.   My biggest lesson from yoga was the practice of non-judgment.  At Afro Flow Yoga, anything goes there except for judgment.  Let that stuff go and let yourself experience no matter where you are.  I try to practice that day to day.

It’s mastery of mind, body and spirit.  When I don’t do Yoga, I get tight and feel further away from spirit.  The whole idea of ego can get in the way of the blessings.

How do you encourage/promote health and fitness specifically to African Americans?

I participated in a program at Mass General Hospital for inner city kids where we taught them about fitness, yoga, creating a vision and nutrition.  It’s not just about the physical  practice of yoga: there is a nutritional piece, spiritual piece, etc. At Brigham and Women’s Hospital, I participate in a program for women of color called the She Network.  The biggest issue for me is the sustainability and being able to offer good quality programs that are affordable.

What are your plans for the future?

I just started Yoga certification program.  The challenge is being the only person teaching and if you get a weekly class going you have to keep the momentum going. I would also like to work in Africa. There are also plans for an Afro Flow Yoga [practice] for youth and a DVD.  We also have social missions, which will always be a piece of our business.

Connect with Leslie Salmon-Jones on Facebook and Twitter.

Next in our Yogapreneur Series: Canada’s Dianne Bondy.

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