It is amazing how much social media and technology expand our networks and make space for people who would otherwise not have access to one another. This week’s Yogi in the Community is Shionta Pumphrey, a fellow yogi I met through social media and through the “Shades of Health” hashtag on Instagram!. Take a second to read more about Shionta’s quest to make sure all people are represented when it comes to health, self-care, and mindfulness.
Name: Shionta Pumphrey
Location: Orlando, FL (originally from Chesapeake Beach, MD)
What led you to the practice of yoga? I was a night shift nurse at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in their hematology/oncology department for years, which has a superb reputation and is truly a great teaching/learning experience. My job was and remains rewarding, but stressful at the same time, and working 48-60 hours (13 hour shifts) I was not sleeping. It was my colleague Brian Fowler, who invited me to a Bikram class back in 2011. I tried 2 classes and never stepped foot onto a mat again until October 2012. I felt vulnerable, I felt like it was too hard, and WAY TOO HOT….lol! Not knowing that there was so much more to yoga and that there were different styles that I might enjoy, moving to FL opened doors that I couldn’t even imagine.
I started challenging myself with long distance running (I am a sprinter by heart) but soon found passion in the miles. Soon after I started running, my muscles were tight and one of my fellow running sisters of Black Girls Run, Claire Denise Johnson (Mom, Medical Doctor and yoga instructor) she encouraged me to start attending yoga classes for runners.
How long have you been practicing yoga? I started practicing October 1, 2012 at home where I found inspiring instructors online such as Kathryn Budig and the original Yoga Instagram challenge, Grow Soul Beautiful. I would go to studio classes occasionally so that my alignment was corrected and to fellowship with other yogis. I practice at least twice a day and use night time for meditation. On any given day I practice 60-90 minutes on creating intentions that are good, I make progress with my flexibility and I have opportunity to connect with people from all over!
How important is it for you to see a diverse array of images reflected in the media when it comes to the practice of yoga? I find it very important to see a diverse array of images reflected in the media when it comes to the yoga practice, hence the journey I envisioned back in November 2013, #shadesofhealth. But even prior to that I was and remain inspired by African American instructors I have found on social media, and wondered why I never saw them in Yoga Journal magazine or other yoga inspired articles. To name a few, Moushami Robinson, Sara Clark, Koya Webb, Tasha Edwards, Faith Hunter, Briana Young Roane, Camille Brown, Brendon Payne and Marcus Jennings.
Can you talk a little more about what inspired you to begin the Shades of Health hashtag? Shades of Health, for the record is not a challenge, it is a journey with GREAT intentions to inspire and educate people from all walks of life, especially the African American community. I spoke with a group of African American young ladies at a Girls Scout’s event back in October 2013 and some verbalized “black girls don’t do yoga, black girls don’t work out!” I was in shock but quickly took advantage in that moment to educate who I envisioned as my future! They needed to know and I am grateful even today to have had that opportunity to share my knowledge and truth. If you scroll through the hashtag on Instagram it is truly inspiring, motivating and educational! The host that are chosen, males and females, have a passion to be healthy and in addition are yoga instructors from all over, personal trainers, holistic health coaches, and/or have shown great example in their communities.
Always quality over quantity, but I must say approaching 2,000 pictures and having newer faces join the journey has been so uplifting and reminds me that my vision has purpose for so many others. Many have asked me “so when are you going to teach?” I find that your plans can not be known to everyone, timing is everything and practicing patience brings progress, quality and great blessings to the table. For now, I enjoy being a student, a sponge soaking it all in beyond the postures❤️