Today we’d like to introduce you to Mel Douglas.
Mel, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I started my journey with yoga in Crenshaw in 2017. Although I’d tried yoga before and hadn’t connected with it, something about the energy and environment there shifted my view. I realized after some time that I just wanted to practice yoga, so I ended my gym membership and began going to studios to practice. I felt strongly called to teach and share the tools I’d learned through developing my practice, so I decided to get certified in Vinyasa Yoga so that I could expand my knowledge.
I knew right away that I wanted to use yoga to impact my community, so shortly after I began practicing I founded the Black Women’s Yoga Collective (BWYC). BWYC is focused on increasing wellness accessibility for black women, people of color, and underserved communities. We hold events, workshops, and classes in NYC and LA. We also have a growing online community where we host yoga challenges, share wellness tips, and encourage others along their wellness journeys.
I fell in love with Baptiste Yoga after signing up for their Unstoppable training, which is focused on yoga for youth who’ve experienced trauma. I’ve since gone on to complete my Baptiste Level One and Level Two trainings. Being a part of the Baptiste Community has changed my life. The things I experienced and discovered during those training have been so incredibly impactful. The people I’ve met have uplifted me and supported me like a true family. I’ve learned that the best way to empower myself is through empowering others and it’s become a central focus in my life.
I reside in DTLA with my dog Kenji while I pursue yoga, fitness modeling and Digital Content Creation. In connection with BWYC, I host monthly New Moon Sister’s Circle’s to generate community and hold space for others. Back in October, I signed up to be a Team Volunteer with Africa Yoga Project to go help at their teacher training in Kenya in April. This will be my first trip to the African continent and as a black woman, my heart is so full. I’m grateful to get to also be traveling there to share this thing I love with others.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It hasn’t always been a smooth road. There have been so many obstacles, some personal and some systematic. I speak often about having a mood disorder and anxiety. Managing my own mental health while working to impact change can definitely be a challenge. Existing in spaces where you aren’t widely represented can be draining. Trying to shift what “wellness” looks like and who it’s for isn’t always welcomed.
Personally, I suffered a sudden and devastating loss in 2018 that forced me to start over my life over. Before I found yoga I was tied up in a lot of negative and self-destructive activities as coping mechanisms. If I had still been on that path, I know I would’ve sunken so deeply into my grief that I may not have been able to get out. Although my grief was and is still immense, I am able to allow myself the space to feel everything I need to. I’m able to give myself permission to keep living and seeking joy.
We’d love to hear more about your work.
The Black Women’s Yoga Collective is a community organization that’s focused on increasing wellness accessibility for black women, people of color, and underserved communities. We host classes, workshops, and events in NYC and LA. We sell affordable wellness and spiritual items (think crystals, Palo Santa, live plants, handmade beauty products, etc) at events. We also host online yoga challenges to encourage and engage our ever-growing digital community.
We’ve become known for our monthly New Moon Sister’s Circles in DTLA. Our Sister’s Circles are all about sharing energy and space – it includes guided meditation, journaling, group discussion, and oracle card readings. Women have enjoyed having a safe space to gather and dig below the surface with their community. The food and wine definitely help!
We’re most proud of our organic growth – started from just a feeling, we’ve grown our online community to nearly 2k supporters. We believe what sets us apart is our genuine care and kindness – community really is what it’s all about for us. We spend a lot of time engaging with the women who support us, supporting them right back.
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
I’m surrounded by amazing, supportive women. My mom Susan and grandma Jean have always been my greatest examples of resiliency and strength. My sister Maya serves as our Social Media Intern and my best friend Aonya shoots our event pictures. I have countless other friends, family members, and even strangers who’ve supported me every step of the way. I’m so grateful!
- Website: blackwomensyogaco.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @meldouglasyoga, @blackwomensyogaco