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Twin Cities yoga instructor part of special network for Black men

Chance York is defying stereotypes and proving yoga practice is for everyone.

MINNEAPOLIS — October is Emotional Wellness Month, but for Chance York, it's a lifestyle year-round. Of course, you have to start somewhere. For York, it was by following instructions in a pocket-sized book in the dorms freshman year.

"Yoga for Dummies," he said. "They don't even make this edition anymore but it changed my life. I feel connected, I feel peaceful, I feel like I'm learning about myself. I didn't know I could sweat just by breathing."

Then, like many of us, he got busy with other things.

"Out and about all the time, and I just found my lifestyle to be very unhealthy physically, emotionally, spiritually," York said.

Four and a half years ago, he remembered that little book and the way yoga made him feel. Today, he is a certified mindfulness and yoga instructor at several Twin Cities studios and organizations, including One Yoga and the YMCA.

"I use meditation, yoga, behavioral psychology, social-emotional learning to educate people of different ages," he said.

And different backgrounds.

"One of my favorite classes I get to teach is through a nonprofit called Black Boys OM," York said. "Yoga was more presented towards suburban white housewives. That really stigmatized large populations of people to think it's only for those types of people. So there is a lot of just like, you know, 'Black men shouldn't be practicing yoga because it's not masculine or it's not tough.' The purpose of this nonprofit is to destigmatize that."

Black Boys OM offers free sessions to Black men and their families.

"It takes a certain amount of bravery to walk into a yoga studio, and even more so if no one in there looks like you," York said.

Due to the pandemic, most yoga studios have moved to Zoom. So it might be a good time for anyone who has felt nervous to start.

"When you think of yoga as more than just being on the mat and just stretching and breathing and stuff, it's really a lifestyle of bringing more compassion and more awareness and less autopilot into your life. And you can get in touch with me, or there are many other great teachers out there," York said.

For more mental wellness resources, click here.