Need to Know | January 10, 2019 | Books & Yoga

Need to Know | January 10, 2019 | Books & Yoga


Engaging in conversations about race doesn’t
have to be as challenging as some make it out to be. Two Rochester women have found that incorporating
a good book and yoga in a non-judgmental environment is an ideal combination for learning more
about ourselves and our world. The two recently launched an inclusive club
called Books and Yoga, the mission is to promote a healed self and an empowered community. Joining me now to share more are the founders
of Books and Yoga, Martissa Williams and Hannah Betts, and welcome to you both, thank you
for being here. – Thank you for having us. – Thank you. – So, my guess is I introduce the segment
and some guests, or viewers I should say, are watching and thinking so how in the world
can a book and yoga help us have conversations about race and help us to feel empowered? So how would you explain the concept behind
this? Martissa, I’ll leave it to you. – Yeah, so I mean, you know the cliche that
knowledge is power. So being able to read something that is a
different perspective of what you’re normally getting. The idea, Hannah always say that books allow
us to learn outside of our own worlds. And that’s really what it’s all about. But I think that having the mix of the yoga
piece allows you to bring that information back to yourself. Digest it, kind of let it simmer and marinate,
and then you can move with that knowledge and do as you may with it. – With the intention of having action afterwards,
like to have these conversations that can be difficult, but then to be able to meditate
on it, and then go out in the world and do something with that knowledge. – So I’m curious in terms of was there something
that you saw in our community, or didn’t see in our local community that made you say we
need something like this and we need it now. – I think for both of us we were just looking
to create a space that felt inclusive, and we both come from different worlds. And for me growing up, I didn’t read a lot
in school, I didn’t read a lot of books that were specifically written by authors of color. And I really wanted to really focus on that,
and I think Martissa was kind of in that same boat. Just we didn’t get a lot of that in our education. – Yeah, it wasn’t until I got to U of R and
specifically started studying gender studies and critical race theory and all of that,
that I was like so I went my entire life without this, this knowledge. And it’s only me who went out and sought it
that I got it. So that’s why we were like, okay we need to
do something to help bridge the gap. – I think it’s an interesting time, and I’m
gonna kind of go into the yoga for just a moment, an interesting time to look at yoga
in America. ‘Cause it almost seems as though it’s trying
to reinvent itself so to speak. I think there are certain organizations, national
organizations and local organizations, locally Yoga 4 a Good Hood, which both of you are
involved in that group, to kind of, and I say this because when we would open up yoga
magazines we would see white women all the time in the magazines. You would go to a class and that’s just kind
of what you thought was the ideal person for yoga. And that is changing. And I’m curious if part of your mission is
to address yoga’s diversity issue as well. – Absolutely. – Absolutely. – And the accessibility of wellness, we think
that that’s so important. We know what yoga has done for us, we actually
met in Yoga 4 a Good Hood, so that’s kind of where our relationship started. But just to see and feel what that can do
for us, like everybody should be able to have that. To be able to experience that. – So for people that don’t understand what
the yoga experience is like and what it can do, what happens? – Well, it’s my favorite thing to talk about. [laughs] But I mean for me yoga is all about
very much like a looking inward. We spend all of our days, all of our life,
outwardly searching, looking, learning, whatever, experiencing, and very few of us spend enough
time moving inward to see how we are, how is all this stuff that we’re inputting into
our life, how is it setting in us? How is it changing us? How is it uplifting us or not uplifting us? And that’s what I feel like yoga, one of the
billions of things that yoga allows us to do is it gives a moment to say what’s going
on here, let me check in. And then it opens up a whole new world, the
inner world. – For me it started for the physicality of
it, and then I realized that it wasn’t about that at all. That it was about coming face to face with
yourself on the mat and looking inward. And I think that was huge. It helps me deal with my anxiety that I have
daily. And I think that it can do so, I think it
can do that for everybody. So just to be able to make it accessible and
something that really everyone should offer in Yoga 4 a Good Hood does a beautiful job
of that. – So do you make it kind of a bit more about
the spiritual more so than the physical when it comes to Books and Yoga? – It’s both. – It is. – It’s both, I mean for me I think that, for
a lot of people, people come for the physical. But it’s an inward route I think. You start sweating, you start working, and
you’re like oh there’s more here than just this physical sensation in my body. It’s like a route inward. So, I mean it’s a little bit of both. – But especially coming from the conversations
that we have which can be difficult. Depending on even our demographic that’s in
our group, which changes all the time. But to have these conversations and then be
able to go sit with it on your mat I think is really powerful. – Let’s talk about the conversations. ‘Cause you are, you’re very intentional in
the books that you select. And you ensure that whether it’s fiction book
or a non-fiction book it’s written by a woman of color. And you explained a bit just about the opening
ourselves up to stories that we haven’t heard before. So what types of conversations are being generated
when you get together and you just really go all in? – We started with, the book name is escaping
me. – Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People
About Race. – Thank you. – So we wanted to kind of start out with a
bang, we wanted to be like this is our mission. We’re gonna keep coming back to these books. It talks a lot about, specifically white privilege,
so it was just dealing with things that are more difficult to talk about in a group of
people, not knowing where their backgrounds came from, who they are, so there was a lot
of difficult conversation in that book, but I think we all grew from it, and it’s one
of our favorite books to this day. – Yeah. – How transparent are people when they’re
open, and they’re sharing, whether it’s their own experiences or their perceptions? Are they raw, are they feeling like they’re
in a space where they can just kind of unload? Or are some people more reserved? – I think it depend on the person. Most people we have found is really open and
honest in talking about their experiences. Often time it’s just about us kind of talking
about our lives rather than even the book. I mean obviously we continue to reference
the book but it opens up so many doors to talk about more than just this text, but also
our own experience in relation to the text. – Okay and then you said after these conversations,
difficult at times, you go to the mat and then that’s the process of just really working
through what you’ve just ingested and shared. And what are you hearing from people? What are you hearing from participants, whether
when they’re done with their practice after an event, or maybe someone’s, I know you’ve
been to a few events and they have a different way of looking at themselves or the world,
what are they saying? – I mean I think the book really depends on
it. We just read Not That Bad that’s edited by
Roxanne Gay, and that was, I mean it was a traumatic book. It was stories of rape culture in what’s going
on now. And it was hard to read, and we’re like why
do we put ourselves through this? But these are conversations that we needed
to have and that we needed to talk about. So that was a really interesting day on the
mat, because I felt like we were all kind of just healing from that, it was just a pretty
traumatic book. So I think it depends on the book that we’re
reading and kind of how people feel afterwards. But again, we really encourage that there’s
some sort of action after that. ‘Cause I think our minds are opening up and
we’re learning more, we’re educating ourselves, and now what are we gonna do with that knowledge? – And what types of things are you hearing
that people are doing when it’s all said and done and they’re heading out there into the
world, what are they doing, how are they acting? – People keep coming back, that’s one thing. We get repeat people who are coming every
month, which is amazing for us. I mean people are going out and they’re having
these conversations at home, they’re sharing the books, all of that. So I think that it’s gonna just continue to
trickle out and to see what people are doing. But people are being exposed to novels and
texts and information that they wouldn’t even have encountered or picked on their own. – And just to kind of walk in our city and
see this kind of segregation that’s going on, I think a lot of times, specifically as
a white woman, you don’t, I didn’t see that for the longest time, I was taught to be colorblind. In reality, that’s not the way that we should
be walking through life. But I think you have to be able to open your
eyes to that. And I think that these books and these texts
are doing that for a lot of people. That we’re able to walk through this city
and say you know what, this is a very segregated city. What can we do about it, what kind of actions
can we take towards it? – So for those who are tuning in right now
and they’re thinking I want to attend, there’s an event coming up on January 20th. How does it work, how can they sign up? – Yeah, so we’re on Facebook and Instagram,
Books and Yoga Roc, both spaces, and there is in the link in both bios is tickets, and
tickets are sliding scale. So it goes from $15 to 25, so whatever you
can afford, we offer for you to just come and hang out with us. If you need help getting a resource for the
book we can make sure that that is set in stone, so whatever you need, just let us know,
reach out to us, [email protected] for any information. – A special thank you to Martissa and Hannah
for joining me today, and for the work that you’re doing, we appreciate it. And you can learn more about Books and Yoga
and their upcoming events on their Facebook page. Just search for Books and Yoga Roc. And again, their next event is on Sunday,
January 20th at 11:30 AM at the Lives-Styled Studio on Gregory Street.