Photo: Tangela on her “magic mat.”

As someone who enjoys crafting, the advertisement for the “Original Magic Mat” (a die-cutting crafting aid), suddenly took on an entirely new meaning after experiencing Yoga teacher training. I’ve seen this ad before, but I’ve never thought about anything more than crafting. The words began to resonate on a cellular level as I read and re-read this advertisement. The words like, innovative, game-changing, sturdy, self-healing, amazed, and cleanest cuts you’ve ever achieved all seemed to speak to how my Yoga mat has become a key component to my transformation and self-awareness—truly a “magic mat.”

Early in April 2022, as we were slowly coming out of the pandemic and with frustrations of the new normal setting in, I thought to myself, Now is the time to do something “soul-y” for me. I began to scour the Internet looking for a Yoga teacher training that resonated. I filled out several applications, applied for multiple scholarships, had two interviews, and attended one open house. Funny thing: I was completely apprehensive about attending the Integral Yoga Institute Open House which was over 2,000 miles away from me. Little to my knowledge, this open house would be the beginning of an open heart, an open mind, and boundless connections. After meeting the instructors virtually, I immediately felt their authenticity and sense of commitment. I was glad I could attend virtually.

I can honestly say that I had limited expectations going into this new chapter of life. I thought, Well, I’ve done Yoga before, like a ga-zillion times, so I know what to expect. I had been introduced to Yoga in 2015, when my son was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. During that time, Yoga was an opportunity to decompress from the stresses experienced as a full time caregiver of an ill child.

After my son completed his treatment in 2018, I decided I wanted to teach Yoga. I had no idea this training would push me far beyond my expectations and comfort zone(s). Just a little background about me: I’ve always been one to start new and exciting things but as soon as adversity becomes a real thing, I would flee without as much of a question as, “why?”

So, back to this push now known as Yoga teacher training. It began like any other “classroom class.” You read the material, show up at the scheduled times, and discuss the previous and current readings. But, it wasn’t in the classroom where the action was happening, it was on my trusted turquoise mat—the one I bought four years prior when the thought of Yoga teacher training first became a thought. Life as I knew it was transitioning into the life I longed for: dealing with emotions properly, removing the modifications of the mind, and seeing myself and others in the most positive light. I was starting to understand that Yoga is not about self-improvement or changing others. Yoga is about the knowledge of Self, self-acceptance, and accepting how people are able to show up in the world. With a beginner’s understanding of Jnana Yoga, I experienced a situation during Yoga teacher training that left me trying to figure out how to truly and authentically accept people and their different ideologies. I couldn’t wrap my mind around others not viewing the training as I did—as a journey of self-knowledge and self-awareness.

Through the teachings, I realized that it isn’t about the people or others, it’s about my journey, my self-awareness, and knowledge of Self. It is not about forcing someone to accept, deal with, enjoy, or be a part of what I deemed knowledgeable, acceptable, or right. It is simply about navigating my path of knowledge—my own practice.

I not only learned how to breathe through situations and begin to heal, but I learned so much about myself: how to trust me, to lean into my power within, and to be comfortable in transitions. BIPOC training provided me room to be my authentic self and has supported me when I wanted to give up and quit. Instead, I learned to stop, think, and breathe through a situation.

My reaction would often be the result of actions that took place in the past. There were multiple times I still reacted without awareness, but when I  truly embraced the teachings, things began to change. I was learning, through the teachings of Bhakti Yoga, that Yoga is a constant devotion. On those days when I reverted to things of old, I slowly began to practice leaning on my faith and my relationship to the Creator to hold myself accountable for the right and wrong things I said or did, and to use that connection to transform my personal limitations.

I was starting to understand that my everyday actions and words should be as a service to the Creator and not me. Yoga teacher training has given me so much more than asanas and breathwork. This training has given me daily living practices. These daily practices allow me an opportunity to remove “myself” from my daily activities or actions, and take away the “me first” aspect. I’m learning to simply do because I’m able, and not because I want the props—Karma Yoga in action.

I was able to practice and meditate on these exercises on what I now call my “magic mat.”  My mat was where I found innovation while meditating. The information and material covered in class became a game-changer while in silence on my mat. My mat has been a sturdy constant in my transformation. My mat has allowed self-healing to begin to take place. I truly have been amazed by the Yoga teacher training, trusting the process, and staying the course.

I used to joke with people and say, “You’ll never understand me because I’m cut from a different cloth.” Being able to experience my True Nature has allowed me to realize it’s not a joke, and my vitality is cut from a cloth with the cleanest cut you’ve ever achieved. I’m so thankful and grateful for the BIPOC Yoga Teacher Training, the awesome and well-versed instructors of the training, my new community of cohorts, and the way the universe showed me some love and favor. I have learned that being pushed and bending but not breaking is actually one of my strongest assets. I’ve also learned that I can accomplish whatever I set my mind to by being able to combat each negative thought with a positive one—Pratipaksha Bhavana in action daily! I’m forever grateful.

About the Author:

Tangela London-Henderson is a recent graduate of Integral Yoga BIPOC 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training and teaches a Hatha Level 1 Community Class in Memphis, Tennessee. She has worked in Education as a Literacy Teacher Assistant and a tutor and mentor in the nonprofit sector for many years. Tangela loves to create an inclusive, diverse, and supportive environment where all people feel welcome and safe. She is currently working on a children’s book about Yoga and its lasting impact on her and her family.