According to Yoga International, yoga studios in the USA are usually mostly white rooms.

“As a black person, due to systemic trauma and individual experiences of discrimination, it can be uncomfortable to enter a predominantly white yoga class alone,” said an article by Yoga International describing how yoga can help heal trauma . “In order for yoga to heal for the black community, it is imperative that the teachers who lead yoga classes understand the challenges black people face.”

From what the instructors said about the music being played in the studio, it is clear that the space at The Collective STL “centers blackness,” says Harris. And unlike most yoga studios, The Collective STL works as a non-profit organization to help remove the financial barrier. According to the website, students can “pay what they can – when they can”.

Here, too, children sometimes practice yoga. The Collective STL offers childcare services for parents to practice while children are old enough to take classes.

The room isn’t a moneymaker, but that was never the point, says Harris. The instructors work during the day and teach in the evenings or on weekends because they believe in the mission. Financial support comes through donations, grants and partnerships.

“We rely on our community to take care of the bricks and mortar, if you will,” adds Harris.

The collective STL aims to address various aspects of wellbeing and has used partnerships to provide nutritious foods to those in need. When Harris ponders how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected this community, he becomes frustrated and persistent when it comes to taking care of the health of others. A room that was once filled with more than 40 people had to cut down on class attendance, social distance and masking.

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