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Meet Destiny McLennan of Yogini Destiny in South Central

Today we’d like to introduce you to Destiny McLennan.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Destiny. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
My educational and yogic journey are deeply intertwined.

Throughout my childhood, I was a dancer, emphasizing in jazz and contemporary techniques. I was also a first-gen student pressed to go to college, but with no knowledge of how. It wasn’t until high school that I personally witnessed the disparities in education, particularly in urban schools, and found myself developing a passion for equity in education, for Black students especially.

When I entered college, I stopped dancing. I’m not really sure why I stopped. I just didn’t take many classes, and when I did, it was more for the workout / physical fitness aspects. It wasn’t until college that I realized just how much dance, and movement in general, helped me and my mental health throughout my childhood. Dance was my outlet. Even still, I didn’t make a change. I knew I needed it, but I kept telling myself I was too busy. When I entered my doctoral program, I found my mental health needed to be more of a priority in my life. I found that my relationships and interactions with people could be more fruitful. Ultimately, I just wanted to be a better person. I started practicing yoga more consistently, and after a few years, realized the educator in me had to teach, and share this practice with others.

At the same time, my interest in urban schools and Black student experiences grew. My research interests largely encompass the educational experiences of Black students, particularly in decision-making around their futures. I acknowledge antiBlackness as a very real and ever present structure in our society. This systemic oppositional relationship between Blackness and humanity as a whole makes it difficult for us, or me, to imagine our future freedom, yet I, and countless students, continue to fight anyway. My current research project asks how do Black high school students make decisions around their futures given the antiBlack world we live in. It is with this in mind that I look at the pathways of Black students from urban high schools as they ready to graduate. I don’t just look at college choice, but at pathways and more precisely at decision-making processes along educational and occupational trajectories. In a sense, I explore the identity journey of Black students and ask, who do you want to be; why; and how will you get there, while exploring both the barriers and opportunities students navigate through.

Today, with a global pandemic and #BlackLivesMatter uprisings around the world, I feel I have something to offer both through my scholarly research and my yoga practice. In a time where they try to tell us that our minds, our bodies, our lives are disposable, there is no way I can sit back. So, I am here to offer work that highlights our successes. I am here to provide wellness spaces that give us a chance to breathe and protect our energy.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I am honestly that person that hates to talk about hiccups. Beyond the stresses of being a Black doctoral student at a predominantly white campus in the midst of a pandemic and civil rights movement, I feel like I was, and still am, my biggest obstacle. I think we get in our own way a lot, and I think that was my main struggle. There are so many times where I doubted myself. Countless times where I thought too much about what other people thought, or how other people would perceive what I’m trying to do. I realized that I had to stop getting in my own way and just put myself out there. Drop the website. It’s not like I can’t go back and edit it at any time. Drop a teaching schedule. So what if it’s the same few students every week? It’ll grow, consistency is key. So, I continue to put myself out there, I continue to stay true to who I am. These simple “mind-shifts” have helped me grow as a yogi, grow as a scholar, and be a happier individual overall.

I definitely believe in the power of manifesting. Let’s call it faith. “What’s for you will be for you.” “Ask and you shall receive.” “Open your heart to accept what’s already yours.” Etc. These are all mantras I live by. I do believe our paths are already written, so I try to enjoy the journey including the bumps. So, when there are times that feel rocky, unstable, and simply like failure, I turn inward. I find that those are the times that I’m not fully present. Those are the times I didn’t have faith. But, when grounding myself in deep thought, reflection, meditation, and prayer, I’m able to focus a little more on what’s actually important and grow from there.

Yogini Destiny – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Upon completing my 200hr training at The Tree South LA, I learned more about Yin and immediately knew this is what I needed in my life, and this is what I was called to share with others. Yin targets our connective tissues (e.g., fascia), with the goal of increasing circulation in the joints and improving flexibility and joint mobility. A defining characteristic of Yin is long holds w/commitment to stillness (sometimes ten minutes or more!) It’s best practiced on cold, stiff muscles (so great for right after you wake up). I like to describe Yin as a meditative practice because you are forced to sit in stillness with your own thoughts.

I have rooted my practice in mindfulness and social justice, specializing in Yin, Restorative, and Vinyasa flow. My objective is to provide yoga to individuals from all communities, all body types, and those who have experienced trauma. I hope to help others within their yoga journey, realize and understand the benefits of yoga for themselves, within their own bodies and practice.

I am also deeply passionate about bridging the gap between academia and the community. In academia, there’s so much work done around vulnerable communities, yet these communities often don’t even have access to the research. I will continue to partner with community leaders and practitioners to help bridge the gaps between research and practice, and bring more yoga into the schools along the way 😉

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
I love this question! Success can be interpreted so many different ways for different people. I’m trying to not sound cliché but for me, success really is happiness. It’s that feeling of making your mom/family proud. That feeling of not necessarily “needing” anything from anyone. That independence. Mostly, it’s that “light” feeling. When I’m most happy and feel successful, I feel light. There are no heavy burdens holding me down, there are no dark clouds in my thoughts. Everything is just flowing naturally like a stream, peace and tranquil. For me, success is always peace/equanimity. In yogic logic, equanimity is that point of mental balance and calmness that allows one to respond to situations out of clarity and balance, instead of emotion. I feel the most at peace and happy when I am trying to stay present and aware, and thats on my mat.

Success is also that student that comes up to me after class and tells me how much they enjoyed it. Those small, one-on-one interactions with people that remind you of why you do what you do in the first place. Transforming just one life, introducing just one new person to your craft; these are markers of success.

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