Two Black Yoga Instructors Share Their Top Tips For Beginner Yogis

Yoga provides a judgment-free environment where you are welcome to come as you are.

Every BAUCE has heard of or experienced some sort of yoga, but did you know you have options? Whether your soul was snatched years ago, or you’re new to the mat, there’s a yoga class for any vibe.

Need to meditate, awaken your six-pack, or rehabilitate after an injury? There’s a practice for you. Yoga provides a judgment-free environment where you are welcome to come as you are. I’ve spoken with two BAUCE certified yoga instructors to discuss everything from class suggestions to their personal advice on how to commit to the practice better, especially if you’re a beginner. Read this article and challenge what you know about the hustle formerly known as yoga. Gain knowledge, grow courage, and flourish!


IG: @yogabrielle.elle

  • Certified RYT-200 Yoga Instructor, instructing at LifeTime Fitness (Since 2016)
  • Founder of #TRAPPIN, #SOULIT, and #YINME classes

 Dr. Desi Williams

IG: @desijwilliams

  • Certified RYT-200 Yoga Instructor (Since 2009)
  • Physical Therapist (PT) practiced at Riverside Health System, Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Castaway, SURVIVOR Season 35 (Healer Tribe, 2017)

A lot of people look to yoga when it comes to stress relief and meditation. What specific type of yoga practice do you recommend for those two options?

 Gabrielle Roberts (YOGABRIELLE): “For stress relief and meditation I would recommend Yin, or specifically a restorative class. Yin would be my first choice. Yin is more of a relaxing practice with meditation, where you hold restorative poses for a longer time – like spinal twists and forward folds. You use your inhales to create space and your exhales to sink a little bit further. Holding the poses for longer periods of time giving your body a chance to get deeper into your connective tissues.

The practice of just being still can bring on a lot of frustration, tension, or even mess with your concentration. That’s where the meditative part comes into play because you focus your attention on your breath – the space above your lip and below your nose. It’s a very nice calming practice, but it’s also very tough and mentally challenging.”

Dr. Desi: “For stress relief and meditation I recommend Candlelight Yoga, which is usually a little slower flowing and there’s more of a focus on meditation and intention. If you want pure relaxation… the Yin Yoga is more of a restorative class where you spend minutes in a really comfy pose and you just lay there for minutes. Then you move into another pose and lay there for minutes.”

I’ve also heard that yoga can help you get some tight abs! What do you recommend for core work and strengthening?

Gabrielle Roberts (YOGABRIELLE) : “For core and strengthening I would definitely take a Vinyasa class or Ashtanga. Even a Warrior Sculpt, which is like a segue from yoga. But if we’re speaking from a yoga perspective, I would do a Vinyasa. It really focuses on applying one breath to a movement, and you have the opportunity to go at your own pace.”

Dr. Desi:  “The great thing about most Vinyasa flow classes (dependent upon the teacher) is that there’s no set regimen of poses that the instructor has to go through. Whatever feels good that day, they’ll do. The other good thing about a Vinyasa class is often times a teacher will ask students if there’s anything you want to work on? Any places you’re having issues in your body? Then they can tailor the class to that specific need. I find Vinyasa to be a lot more malleable of a practice than say a Bikram class where there are a set number of 26 poses that you go through.”

Alright, cool. So what if you’re just starting out? What do you recommend for beginners? How did you get your start in yoga?

Gabrielle Roberts (YOGABRIELLE): “I started in Ashtanga. With yoga you’ve got to approach it with an open mind. Ashtanga is very segmented and never changes. It’s a good benchmark, day-by-day to see how far you’re progressing with different poses. When I first started I could barely touch my toes. Then at the end of my Ashtanga segment, after a month or so, my hands were behind my legs and my chest was just resting on my thighs.”

Dr. Desi: “Most studios have a beginner yoga class. And the only reason I say to go to a beginner yoga class is that typically there’s more of a focus on alignment and introducing you to the poses. You could certainly hop in any Vinyasa flow class, and if an instructor is skilled, they’ll be able to walk you through it.”

How about for our more intermediate or advanced yogis that are looking for a challenge? What would you recommend for them?

Gabrielle Roberts (YOGABRIELLE): “My class recommendation for intermediate/advanced practice would be a Vinyasa class, specifically a FLOW class at Lifetime! I feel like Vinyasa is more of a free-flowing form but yet very challenging. I’d also recommend an Ashtanga class. No matter how many times you take Ashtanga it’s ALWAYS a challenge, and being, better practiced you can push yourself further.”

Dr. Desi: “It depends again on the yoga studio because they have different titles for their classes. Where I’m practicing now they have a Flow 1, 2, and 3 – so a beginner would go to Flow 1, and if you want something more challenging you’d go to Flow 2 or 3. But I’d say what’s more universal is a Power yoga class. Power yoga classes are usually targeted for athletes or people who want an athletic type of experience in a yoga class. If someone were looking to get stronger or more sculpted, I’d recommend Power yoga.” 

What bit of advice would you give someone coming to the mat for the first time?

Gabrielle Roberts (YOGABRIELLE): “Let everything go outside. Let your mat catch you if you fall, and surrender completely to it. Let go of the thoughts of what you think it’s supposed to look like.  Make it an internal practice and focus more on the feeling.”

Dr. Desi : “One thing is not to be hard on yourself. It’s our human nature to be competitors, but the nature of yoga is that you should not be competing with anyone else. That’s hard to keep in mind as you see people on either side of you contorting themselves into these crazy positions, but yoga is all about making the practice your own. That is the yoga, the letting go of the comparison and competition. Especially the spiritual component, being fully present with yourself and nobody else.”

The second thing I always tell people is to give everything three shots; like when I go on a date with a guy, say the first date wasn’t so great? I give it three chances and if it’s not for you… then you can move on.  But I don’t believe you can judge anything or anybody based on one encounter.”


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