Happy Sunday, y’all! Welcome to my second Yogi2Yogi conversation. Yogi2Yogi is an interview segment where I get to chat with a fellow yogi about their practice.
I met Monique Washington during my time on a local library board. We engaged in passing conversation over the years, realizing that we had so much in common beyond our board participation. Both born and raised in Chicago, we have both resided in Iowa City for many years. Also – if I may be frank – being a Black woman in living in Iowa presents its own unique challenges of which she and I were acutely aware. Recently, I noticed her posting pictures on the socials of herself in a lush garden space. Spotting a yoga mat situated among the towering plants, I was inspired to invite her to be my first Yogi2Yogi interviewee.
Her face was a shining presence when I arrived at The Garden Group on this dreary Sunday morning. A privately-owned agricultural area, stepping into this colorful space instantly takes you out of your body. You can sense the peace from the colorful leaves and flowers, which is why it is Monique’s preferred spot for her practice. After chatting our hellos and ‘what have you been up to?’ dialogue, I assumed we would begin our practice in this beautiful nature-filled center. The words flowed between us so effortlessly that we found ourselves seated on a bench under a halo of greenery, diving into conversation before we ever stepped foot on our yoga mats.
Monique on her yogic path: A lifelong athlete, Monique never imagined her fitness path venturing into yoga. “I always felt I needed to move intensely,” she shares as a light Midwestern breeze envelop us. Five years ago, Monique’s mind was changed by her longtime friend Beth Beasley, a Hot 26 yoga master. It wasn’t long before Beth invited Monique to the garden to attend her first yoga practice. Monique has been hooked on the mat ever since. “It changed my life.”
Monique on her place of peace: You can find Monique twice weekly at the garden doing her practice – and for good reason. “Being here, just breathing in this garden, gives me a peace,” she says as we tour the garden. From an array of flowers to every leafy vegetable you can imagine, I took it all in as Monique led us through the space. Her only setback has been her missed attempts to gather more people in the garden to introduce them to yoga. “Do you see all of this?” she exclaims, waving an arm over an expansive bundle of kale and Swiss chard. “There is no space like this in Iowa City. How can you not want to do yoga here?”
Monique on Black women and yoga: Our sistertalk goes into the history of Kemetic yoga and its undermentioned roots in Africa. Monique’s invested belief in Black women engaging in yoga becomes apparent. You can hear the passion in her voice when the subject arises. “We need to make yoga a focus in our lives because, as Black women, we are dealing with more exposure to both health risks – hypertension, high blood pressure, diabetes – but the systemic trauma happening daily in our lives.” She straightens her back, her fingers outstretched as she counts off her points. “We take care of everyone else: our children, other people’s children, our friends, our co-workers. When do we have the time to take care of ourselves? We need to make that time. Yoga can be that for us.”
Our conversation ran so long that we only got in a few poses before the grey skies gave way to a sprinkle of rain. As we gathered up our mats and the droplets increased, I was already anticipating the next time I’d visit the garden again. Monique told me to get in touch with her for my next visit. There is no doubt I’d be back – not only for the plants and peace, but for another conversation with a wise yogi. What a blessing!
See you on the mat tomorrow!
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