2020 has been a year of seismic change, to say the very least. As children and parents grapple with a Back to School season unlike any other in collective memory, we wanted to share a resource that facilitates conversations about representation, family, mindfulness and the benefits of adopting a yoga practice.
SonJoria Sydnor is a mother, educator, yoga teacher and the author of Our Family’s Doing Yoga - a rhyming story about a young child who takes the reader on a journey of chaotic fun as his family finds an enjoyable way to bond through yoga and mindfulness. The book illustrates family-friendly yoga poses and game ideas.
We caught up with SonJoria to learn more about the inspiration behind her book and her Instagram account Black Kids Do Yoga.
Tell us about yourself.
As a woman, I wear many hats - wife, mother, educator, yoga instructor, non-profit co-founding director and activist.
I am the type of person that recognizes a problem or need and thinks how I can help? With Black Kids Do Yoga and Our Family's Doing Yoga there was a need to expand the image of yoga so I found my small part in tackling the issue.
Black Kids Do Yoga began as a way to share my family's journey of practicing yoga together. I noticed that images of black kids practicing yoga were rare. Scrolling down my timeline not finding any photos of black kids amongst the post of the many kids yoga teachers and yoga moms I followed, I felt a responsibility to my children to share that there were black kids doing yoga.
Sydnorville Books began with the vision of "Our Family's Doing Yoga", The 1st of a collection of books.
When I noticed that my children were taking an interest in my home yoga practice, I looked for resources to guide our family yoga experience.
I am an educator so I often utilize books when introducing a new idea to children. When looking for a children's book about families practicing yoga together we could not find one and books that illustrated kids of color doing yoga did not definitively show black kids so we decided to write our own.
When did you start practicing yoga?
I took my first yoga class in high school. I took a few more here and there but I did not begin a consistent practice until I began meditating to help combat undiagnosed postpartum depression in 2017. That's when I realized that yoga is not just stretching on the mat.
What other family friendly wellness practices do you incorporate into your daily routine?
My experience as a parent of 3 is that doing anything on a consistent schedule is difficult, but we try to frequently include fruits and vegetables in our diet, walks and journaling.
Do you have any favorite resources to share for families just starting their yoga practice?
Videos are helpful. When my kids began practicing we found YouTube videos that "we" enjoyed. Many of the videos were 5 minute adult videos because I was trying to show them black practitioners and also men. I felt that it was important for my son to see men practicing. Later we found a couple of animated characters. On my YouTube channel I am building videos of myself teaching kid-based routines but I am also pulling together playlist that feature other black yoga teachers. There are so many instructors that offer classes on YouTube and Zoom - find one that fits your family. Also, if you read books together - read books about yoga.
Why is it so important for black kids and families to have visibility and representation within the yoga community?
Mirrors are important because they create self-connections. When you see yourself in literature, art, activities etc. it sets a precedent of what is possible. If there is little to no representation of black people doing yoga, then opinions are formed that black people don't do yoga. A step further is if the only representation of yoga is the "perfect yogi" image then, yoga is not for everyone. Families will not be encouraged to practice together because of the image beliefs. I am hoping to help change the narrative. The hope is to google images of yoga and see black people widely represented, for my social media feed to be full of black children practicing yoga and mindfulness.
What's your advice to parents navigating through not only a global pandemic but the largest racial justice movement in history? How can they have meaningful conversations without overwhelming youngsters?
This question is difficult. A general answer is almost impossible. Black children are most likely already having these conversations with their parents, friends or another adult. I intentionally have conversations with my kids about race and racial injustice. We have an open line of communication, but if we didn't the conversations would probably still happen indirectly because of first-hand occurrences. Even the wealthiest black family is still black and face unfair treatment. These experiences develop into adult conversations that children often overhear. Children listen and see, so in many cases unless a parent is intentionally shielding their child from it, they are probably well-aware and asking questions. It is up to the parent to take it from there.
For white parents I would say that the work starts with you. Do the work - research, become aware of your biases and you'll be more prepared to answer questions. Do not wait for your children to start the conversation and do not overly shield them from current events. Ask open ended questions then allow your children to lead the conversation. Use your intuition and follow their lead on how much information they are ready to process.
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