SUNDAY, April 5 — “My hope is to help people bring the elements of yoga into their day-to-day,” said Belinda Thurston, 52, founder of Just B Yoga in REO Town. “Because if you’re going a little crazy with anxiety and fear, now is the time to find your breath and move that anxious energy in your body.”
“Does that mean I’m going to meditate and make COVID go away? Certainly not,” she said. Instead, yoga movements, according to Thurston, help people access their inner selves. And in times of crisis, that’s a useful tool, she said.
Just B Yoga is providing a variety of donation-based yoga and meditation classes online at varying levels of difficulty. It also offers a curvy yoga class called Yoga2eXcel and an LGBTQUIA Flow class. It has had a strong online presence since long before the outbreak, said Thurston, so it wasn’t too difficult to continue providing classes during Michigan’s recent statewide shelter-in-place order.
“Basically, since the 10 years we’ve been in existence, we’ve been on social media,” said Thurston. She has also been using the web to stay in touch with her students. Just B Yoga’s vast array of content is spread out across Youtube, Soundcloud, webstreams, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. There’s even a regular blog on the Just B Yoga website. Basically, Thurtson keeps herself busy.
“What I’m doing online is trying to put as much of my content out, all with the same mission in mind,” explained Thurston. “During the coronavirus outbreak, hundreds of thousands if not millions of yogis have come to the digi-sphere.” She called them “Instagram yogis.”
Thurston emphasized that she does not want to be an “Instagram yogi.” Namely, she does not want to put her body on display, shame others’ bodies or encourage other people to use yoga as an intense, calorie-burning fitness class.
“I’ve got nothing to prove as far as how far I can put my foot behind my head. I’m working toward the longevity and wellness of my body,” she said. “How do you start to embody the philosophies of meditation and yoga?”
Inclusivity and easy access are keys to this, said Thurston. That’s why her classes are donation-only. It’s also why, over the years, she has worked in partnership with Community Mental Health, Lansing Schools, Ingham County Health Department and more. She also developed an entire Trauma Yoga program for the Firecracker Foundation, a local group dedicated to helping young survivors of sexual assault.
Thurston obviously holds the surrounding community dear to her heart. She said that now is the time for us to get out of our bubbles and connect with each other more.
Because of this, Thurston said that she’s hoping to get Lansing locals on her podcast to talk about social justice issues, yoga, and more. For example, on last week’s episode, Thurston interviewed a mental health professional who had to drive around alone searching for all of her clients who didn’t have access to the phone or an Internet connection, just to make sure they’re OK. With the whole world going online, said Thurston, it’s easy to ignore those who don’t possess the privilege of a cell phone or a computer. She hopes to find as many ways as possible to connect with and help folks struggling during the coronavirus outbreak.
Thurston referenced a New York Times article about the disparity between those who can successfully social distance and those who cannot. It gets easier to practice safe hygiene and proper social distancing, she said, when you possess more privilege, more wealth and more access to resources.
“As a woman of color, as a bisexual woman of color, as a person who really doesn’t have a lot of means, I can share that I’m in the same boat as others, that I don’t know where my next dollar is coming from,” said Thurston. She said that she gave up a lot to start Just B Yoga. Practicing what she preaches has kept Thurston honest.
This commitment separates Thurston from the aforementioned “Instagram yogis” who focus on self-improvement above all else. Staying true to the guiding principles of yoga is less about mastering the moves, she said, than about figuring out how you can reach out and give back to others.
“That’s yoking! Yoga means ‘to yoke’,” Thurston said, referencing the original Sanskrit meaning of the word. “To bring together. That is our yoga. Off the mat and out into the community.”
To get in touch with Just B Yoga, go to justbyoga.com or visit Facebook.com/JustBYoga
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