Black w/ Plants: Yoga Q&A with LaToya Maria

January 2019–January 2020, Black with Plants will publish q and a on mental health + community building with botanists, college dropouts, horticulturalists, plant care specialists, natural hair experts, social justice advocates, sound therapists, etc. across the thirteen hardiness zones in the United States and African diaspora.

What do you want readers to know about your role as a yoga instructor? Enchanted Flow? Or a creative project that you are working on? and the role of community building, and its impact on mental health?
 
I truly believe yoga, like many of our deepest passions, finds us when we most need it. Such is the foundation for me. As a student of yoga, I found that it is truly a means to journey to the self. That’s what led me to become a yoga instructor. I know that I’ve always liked giving back what I learn and as an instructor my role is to be a support vessel and a guide to those who yearn to deepen there practice. Enchanted Flows are all about connecting and balancing the mind, body, and breath. When you bring awareness to the self in these ways, you have more space to trust yourself and allow your magic to unfold.
 
I feel it is my duty to give back to the community by offering free yoga classes. Of equal importance, having discussions about mindfulness and the value of finding healthy outlets to bring peace to self is part of my calling as well. Essentially, if we as individuals are “well,” we as a community can be whole. I’ve found that yoga has a certain face and perhaps the black community has felt like it doesn’t belong in that space. As a black woman living abroad, this is absolutely untrue and I will continue to do my part to share yoga to our community in an inclusive way.
 
What about the opportunity to display foliage, etc. online (specifically via IG) first interested you in committing your time and energy to plant care-taking?
 
My connection with plants has come about gradually. It’s a deeply emotional connection for me because it makes me feel closer to my father. He has a green thumb like no other, and can make all plants thrive! My father was diagnosed with dementia last year and one of the things that he still does is gardening. Being so physically far away from him takes its toll on me. Yet, by cultivating a habit we could share together, plants have become a way for us to always be near each other emotionally and mentally.
 
In yoga, prana is an essential part of our nature. Prana is the breath and the vital life force. Plants offer so much to us all and it’s a natural inclusion to incorporate my love of plants into my yoga practice. When I care for my plants, I am also caring for myself. When I practice my breathing techniques, I know I am breathing quality air because my plants are aiding in that. My hope is that people will not only be inspired by my yoga practice, but also my love of plants.
 
What do you think are the five key characteristics of a successful place?
 
Set an intention for your space. Understand that the energy in your space is critical.

     

  1. Smell and scent. I cannot begin to express how important it is to have a space that smells intoxicating! Smell is closely linked with memory and you want people to be able to conjure great memories of your space.
  2. Open space. I don’t function well with clutter. A clean clear space aides in creativity and an uncluttered mind.
  3. Ambience. It’s important for your place to be comfortable. The energy this provides for yourself and others is extremely beneficial and productive.
  4. Most importantly, have I mentioned PLANTS! Plants add to your space in so many emotionally lucrative ways. For those just beginning their plant journey, I’d recommend getting a succulent. What’s a succulent plant, you ask? These are plants that store water — a cactus, for example — and come in a diverse range of types, species, shapes, colors and features.

Community engagement is a significant obligation of direct service. With that in mind, can you tell us about your experience in engaging with your contacts day-to-day? Do you notice services rendered positively affecting your contact’s psychological well-being?
 
Being available to my tribe is essential because I want them to feel comfortable as they develop their practice. Having someone to guide them and provide reassurance is vitally beneficial. When I was in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia, in November 2018, I was able to lead two yoga workshops. I made such genuine connections with the women that I shared space with. Not only did it have a positive impact on the participants, but it left me feeling full. I receive messages from women telling me how my courage to share online inspires them. This is truly humbling because my goal in all this is to help women in particular rust themselves and go after what they want!
 
Would you be willing to share a memorable moment from 2018?
 
A memorable moment for me in 2018 was deciding that I could do everything that my heart desires! What has come out of that? I became a certified aerial yoga instructor. I built my website from scratch! I started my own YouTube channel. And I began writing my yoga e-guide for beginners that will be launching this year! Watch this space.
 
Your perspective is invaluable. Thank you for distilling your talents, sharing your time, and a contributing to the local economy. Can you tell readers a little bit about your perspective on securing space for psychological healing and/or wellness?
 
I know first hand the importance of psychological healing. I have intentionally spent the last two years working on healing from past traumas. Yoga has been a major aid in this journey for me. Our community deserves to have outlets and safe spaces to heal, learn about wellness, and commune. Most importantly, this therapy should be inclusive. I want to hold yoga space for people to take care of themselves — no matter the race, size, or socioeconomic status. Self-care isn’t specific to that and it isn’t indulgent. It’s preservation. So grab a mat, a towel or just stand or sit where your are. Close your eyes. Inhale deeply for three counts, now exhale completely for three counts. Do three rounds of this. Open your eyes and smile. That is yoga.
 
Final thoughts from LaToya Maria (@yoga_enchantress):

Thank you so much for allowing me to share my thoughts with you. I live by the commandment of trusting yourself and being patient with your journey. I hope that my yoga journey will not only inspire you to start yours, but to embark on whatever dream you hold dear to you. The world needs you to share your true self. Don’t rob the world of this joy — but even more important, don’t rob yourself! Release the magic within! Love + Light beautiful souls.

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