Power Room x Amanda Bazil: Afroyoga, Yoga With A Dash Of Melanin
I’ve heard of some wild yoga practices in my days, such as goat yoga and even beer yoga if you can believe that. In honor of the newest stride, we queens have made these past few weeks, it’s only appropriate that we also speak about the way we are gearing the conversation when it comes to physical health and spiritual healing. We’ve slayed courtrooms, some of the world’s biggest stages, demanded change, and made changes, and now it’s time we worked on us and slayed yoga. Yoga is the physical, mental, and spiritual practice that motivates you to chill, meditate, focus on your breathing, helps you build strength, and is of course a great form of self-care. I may be still at my downward dog faze but Afro Yoga instructor, Amanda Bazil, is certainly not a newbie. Just check her hanging out on Instagram if you don’t believe me.
And yes I said AfroYoga! Do they wear afros while doing yoga? That would be cool but nope! Amanda grabbed a seat in the Power Room to tell us a bit more about her practice, are you ready? check it out!
My name is Amanda Bazil. I’m a recent college grad from Florida International University with a B.S in Communications and a concentration in Film Studies. Outside of my extra-curriculars, I fed myself through different outlets and hobbies such as music , television and of course yoga. It wasn’t until the pandemic that I truly got back to my love for practicing art and taking care of my health.
You are a young, African American Female Yoga Instructor, Why yoga?
Amanda: Yoga is something I started getting into after I came back to Miami. I just wanted to do something new. At first, I felt a little funny about it but after one session It radicalized my fitness routine. It helped me change my approach to what it meant to go about being healthy and what it means to be active.
You instruct yoga but with a twist, what is this twist?
Amanda: I incorporated afro-beats into yoga. My style of yoga is a vinyasa Hatha, which is the typical style that someone would expect when they go to a yoga class. It’s about strength building, breath work so as we’re going in and out of the different poses we're also incorporating our breath to help maintain our balance and maintain our focus throughout the exercise.
Normally it’s done with some Indian music or chanting, but I decided to spice it up and add afro-beats cause I love afro-beats! It’s fun, it gets the diaspora connected. I hope to incorporate more dancehall, more reggae, and just continue to make it fun.
Yoga is supposed to be a peaceful workout and healing practice, in your opinion, how does it disrupt that peace?
Amanda: I do believe that it changes the nature of yoga itself. The basic yogi understands that yoga means to be in unison with the mind, the body, and spirit. For that union to take place, one needs to be fully immersed and absorbed in the mind, the body, and the spirit. They all work together to help us to reach that transcendent point or that aum, cause the goal is to reach aum. Aum means to meet God.
When we find ourselves now incorporating modern music or styles to try to spice it up or to give yoga a different type of vibe, we’re altering its simplistic state. I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. There’s nothing wrong with taking something and spicing it up. I just feel like you shouldn’t deviate so far from what a basic yoga practice is.
Although it is something I created and I find fun, it won’t be the only practice that we do. It will be like a treat for those who want to exercise and who want to pump up the blood. Because that’s what it is, it’s to get hype.
For newbies thinking about joining a yoga class, what tips and tricks do you have when they feel intimidated on the first day?
Amanda: My advice for newbies would be to recognize and face what exactly might be the reason for their fear and hesitation, and then, to immediately debunk that myth to move forward and embrace the practice. Yoga is all about instilling self-acceptance. If you’re feeling self-conscious about entering a new space because of a lack of body positivity or because you’re afraid you’re not “flexible” enough, understand that there are absolutely NO types of physical requirements needed to do yoga. It’s all about coming in with a tunnel vision mindset and a focus that is solely on your teacher, you, your breath, and your mat.
What do you have to say to the full figure woman who might not feel welcome in the yoga space?
Amanda: ANY space is a space for full-figured women (and men)! Unfortunately, the way yoga has been marketed has given many people the notion that yoga is for the super slim and skinny but it’s far from true. Yoga is HUGELY non-discriminatory. It means for every(body), literally. Whether you’re a size 2 or 12, yoga is for you. It’s a mind, body, and soul practice meant to bring us to our whole and authentic selves by teaching us to embrace and honor our selves. A practice like that is for every living and breathing soul, regardless of what you look like.
What does yoga mean for the afro community?
Amanda: Yoga can be an amazing restorative tool for the black community to help us possess the ability to self-heal. A lot of people don’t understand how to self-help and self-heal and that’s why now we are looking at a lot more resources such as therapy. We don’t understand how to help ourselves first when that’s the first person you should turn to when something goes wrong.
There are different spiritual practices with new age enlightenment that people are now discovering, but yoga is one of those that can serve as a foundation to practice self-care and learn how to care for others. It not only helps you but I believe it is a great tool to foster a sense of community. The black community can learn how to self heal to heal as a community.
Being of Caribbean descent of strong Christian values, how do you debunk the perception of Yoga as not being “of God”?
Amanda: Yoga is not a religion. It is a practice. Similar to the act of reading your bible being a practice, the act of doing yoga is similar to that practice. It’s meant to look at in my opinion with a scientific view. Yoga is an old study that’s been done over 1,000 years, great thinkers have come together to perfect it. Now it’s this tool that can be used to perfect you as a person. The funny thing about yoga is, there is no such thing as perfection. It helps you to accept yourself. Just the way you are.
How can yoga help fight the anxiety that comes from living during a pandemic, as well as, racial injustice and ongoing protests?
Amanda: A good way that yoga helps lower the anxiety surrounding this is, by keeping you grounded and keep your feet on the ground using root chakra. The root chakra is about feeling safe, feeling secure, and meeting your basic needs. Doing yoga will help you to tune in less to the news and your phone, and more to you. If you want peace but your surroundings aren’t mirroring that peace, you have to tune inward.
By connecting with the breath and controlling the breath, you can reduce and slow the anxiety down, therefore, reducing stress and cortisol in your body so you can feel better, sleep better and block out all the noise. Because that’s all that is, NOISE.
What is your mantra and what tips do you have for others to find theirs?
Amanda: My mantra has always been to be balanced. Balance as far as maintaining the balance of my chakras to make sure that everything, from my basic needs to my connection with God is taken care of. So that everything I project outwards and pour into is on the same note and the same tune.
The way that I would encourage you to find your mantra is to start looking at your life from an objective point of view. To do this start utilizing that other part of your consciousness to start questioning different parts yourself, your reality, start journaling more, and being more attentive and in tune with your happiness, lastly how you feel about it. Play around with different words to see where you fit in and where you want to grow from it. Try to get it all out, simplify, find your mantra in that, and use it as a tool to keep you going.
Besides Yoga how do you unwind and enjoy some self-care?
Amanda: OOh! So many things
Creating a space where I can feel my most self at
Massaging my hair
Reading a good book
Being around my plants ( Chris, Jade, and jade Part 2,)
Gardening with my sister
Especially as women and as black women, I think it’s important to learn and to maintain this kind of relationship with ourselves. Selfcare is doing the work that you wish someone else would do for you like hugging you, except no one else is there and you just gotta hug yourself.
Lastly Shameless plug, Where can our Power Babes find you and attend your next class!
Amanda: To stay updated on my next classes, y'all can follow me on IG and Facebook @YogaWithAmandaBazil, or you can check out my website yogawab.com. You can also follow my personal IG @IAmAmandaBazil.
I’m ready to try some Afroyoga at the park! You?
If you swing by say hi and let me know how you enjoyed the class!