FFFC: Please introduce yourself to our readers (i.e. your name, occupation, hobbies, etc.).
SW: My name is Sandria Washington and I’m a true blue South Side of Chicago girl and Pisces woman. I’m also a writer, philanthropist, activist, model, health and wellness ambassador and yogini-in-training, currently in a rigorous 200-hour yoga certification program through Moksha Yoga Center.
FFFC: What inspired you to start yoga?
SW: I began dabbling in yoga as a little girl, before I even knew what it was. I would see my stepdad up early in the mornings meditating and doing different poses. I was amazed at how he could lift himself up (in crow pose) and I fell on my butt more than a few times trying to do it, too.
I visited classes on and off as an adult, but I didn’t start to take a more serious interest in yoga until 2007 when I fell into a pretty deep depression. I was looking for something to help me come out of the dark and ended up buying a kundalini yoga DVD from a bookstore. I started doing the DVD once a day and I could honestly feel a shift in my mind and in my body. My life shifted.
Even though I experienced some great benefits from the yoga I was doing at that time, I didn’t stick with it. I didn’t come back to yoga until March 2012 after a cyst was found on my left ovary and the doctor had no advice for me other than, “wait and see if it bursts.” I decided to heal myself and that’s exactly what I did. I put together my own ‘healing toolkit’ that included clean eating, acupuncture, tons of walking for cardio and a regular yoga practice. I challenged myself by going “all in” with the yoga and committed myself to completing the certification program. I’ll be able to share the healing benefits I’ve discovered with others, which is pretty exciting!
FFFC: What changed about you once you started yoga?
Yoga has a way of making you face your stuff, whatever your “stuff” is. For me, I had layers of stuff to face: low self-esteem, body image issues, resentment, blocked creativity, tons of ego stuff like fear, perfectionism and procrastination. Yoga gets under those layers and is helping me get to who I am at my core. Yoga is truly a challenge for me since I wasn’t the most flexible person to begin with (physically or emotionally), so I’ve gained a greater ability to be patient with myself and others. I’m not as focused on getting the poses perfectly; I just do them the best I can at this time. I’m learning that practice is not a bad word and that practicing is necessary for being great at anything. I have a greater sense of focus these days. When things are hard for me, my usual response was to quit or not even start. With the yoga, I’ve learned to keep going and not be afraid to face my challenges.
FFFC: What is your favorite yoga pose?
It’s funny, all the poses I really want to do are the ones I still can’t get into yet, or can’t do very well. Right now, one of my favorite poses is pigeon pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana). It’s a great hip opener. It’s said that our hips can hold negative energy and stress and opening the hips releases those negative feelings.
FFFC: How many times a week do you do yoga?
I do a daily practice at home, at least 15 minutes. I meet with my personal yoga trainer (PYT) once a week and take 1-2 classes at Moksha during the week as part of my certification requirements.
I want to point out, doing the actual poses (asanas) is only one small part under the yoga umbrella. Yoga truly is a lifestyle, reflected in how you live your life’s purpose, what you eat, how you handle your emotions and treat others. Ideally, I want to be “doing” yoga all day every day through positive thoughts and actions. That’s still a work in progress.
FFFC: What has been the greatest benefit you have realized once you started doing yoga?
SW: I am stronger and more disciplined than I gave myself credit for.
FFFC: Which type of yoga do you do?
SW: I primarily do hatha and vinyasa flow, but I’m also studying teaching yoga to children and taking kundalini yoga classes when I can. I plan to become certified to teach kundalini yoga in the future.
FFFC: Do you have any advice for anyone who is interested in yoga?
SW: There’s a lot of intimidation around the practice of yoga, and one of my biggest pieces of advice is to just give it a try. Put aside any preconceived ideas and experience yoga for yourself. Yoga is for every body. You don’t have to be thin or uber flexible. You just have to be willing.
There are different styles of yoga and each teacher or yoga studio will put their particular spin on things. You may have to try more than one class before you find one that’s a comfortable fit.
If you don’t feel comfortable taking a class right away, it’s pretty easy to find a certified trainer that will work with you one-on-one in a private session. My personal yoga trainer has been invaluable.
FFFC: Where is the most interesting place you have done yoga?
SW: I dropped down and demonstrated a plank for my co-workers in the aisle outside my cubicle, LOL. During the summer I did yoga in the park.
FFFC: Do you have any yogis you admire?
SW: It’s been really important to me to seek out and learn about other African-American yogis because even though I know there are plenty of African Americans, like me, doing yoga, we still seem to be very underrepresented in the culture. I’m inspired by the work of Queen Afua, Faith Hunter, Bibi McGill and my friends that are currently teaching and encouraging me on my journey, Stacy Patrice of Soul Healing Yoga and Katrina of Anasa Yoga.
FFFC: Is there a special place you would like to do yoga?
SW: I would LOVE to do yoga in my own DVD, or on an island (maybe I’ll shoot the DVD while on an island!). Oprah’s living room, the White House and Blue Ivy’s playroom are also high on the list. Celebrities can definitely benefit from a regular yoga practice.
FFFC: How can readers learn more about you and yoga? (i.e. Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, your website)?
SW: You can follow my blog, “My So-Called Writer’s Life,” at www.chicagonow.com/mysocalledwriterslife or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mysocalledwriterslife. I’m also documenting my yoga and wellness journey as part of my 2012-2013 GirlTrek Trailblazer Fellowship at www.facebook.com/GirlTrekTrailblazers. To learn more about GirlTrek, please visit www.girltrek.org. My twitter handle is @sochilitetimes. I’m very accessible!
Thank you so much for this opportunity!
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5 Replies to "FFFC Yoga Series - Meet Sandria"
October 13, 2015 (11:20 am)
This is a great interview. I am starting to get back into yoga. It is so relaxing.
October 13, 2015 (11:58 am)
I enjoy it
October 13, 2015 (11:37 am)
I love pidgeon pose. I have been liking some poses that I think have really helped my running, and hip pain. That pic of the headstand is funny because it reminds me of doing them in grade-school. Back to basics sometimes, I guess!
October 13, 2015 (4:31 pm)
Thanks so much for sharing Sandira’s story with us! I am also a yogi-in-training and it’s inspiring to see other ladies stepping out and using this form of fitness for mind, body and spiritual healing! Great stuff. I;m inspired! #blmgirl
October 13, 2015 (9:34 pm)
That is so awesome Margo. I’m learning to appreciate the practice.