After embracing the yogic lifestyle and becoming a successful yoga teacher, Maya Breuer was visited by her grandmother in a dream, having fallen asleep with the question on her mind, “what will my work be?” In the dream, her grandmother told Maya to be herself and to use her strength as a woman. Around the same time, another African American elder, bell hooks, spoke to Maya through her book, Sisters of the Yam,
stressing the importance of a black woman’s need for healing and self-examination. These events inspired Maya to create the national Yoga Retreat for Woman of Color
, a retreat offered annually for 20 years at the Kripalu Center for Yoga.
Celebrated as one of America’s distinguished Black Yogis by Black Enterprise
magazine, Maya Breuer is also president and co-founder of the national Black Yoga Teachers Alliance
, a non-profit organization created to support and provide opportunities for Black Yoga Teachers to be in community with one another and to receive yogic education from Black Yoga Teachers who are master teachers in their discipline. She is also founder and director of the Santosha School of Yoga
, based in Providence, Rhode Island.
Maya’s mission is to empower individuals through “teaching the practice and philosophy” of yoga to “renew spirit and achieve positive outcomes” from healthy living. She draws on a deep knowledge of yogic theory, practices, applications and philosophy studied at the Lakulish School in Khayavorahan, Gujarat Province, India. She combines these traditional forms with indigenous methods to offer a unique and soul-full approach to the ancient practice of yoga.
Maya also emphasizes yoga as a method to abate and control chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, cancer and depression which are illnesses that disproportionately impact people of color. She is co-author of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) study, “Back to Health: Yoga vs. Physical Therapy for Minorities with Chronic Low Back Pain,” conducted at the Boston Medical Center.
Maya’s work has been featured in many publications including Yoga Journal
magazine, The Philadelphia Enquirer
magazine and Essence
magazine. Shaken by the number of deaths in recent years from violence, especially police violence within the black community, Maya co-created an initiative titled Yoga As A Peace Practice
. “This initiative will introduce a contemplative approach to yoga to help individuals and communities recover from the trauma of loss and the impact of violence,” she says. The initiative was launched in Oakland
in May 2017, and will be in Massachusetts and Brooklyn later this year.
Maya’s life exemplifies her motto: “Listen to spirit and take action.” On this week’s call, we will be discussing the importance of honoring our calling and serving our communities with this preeminent yoga instructor and practitioner, author, community activist and consultant.
Five Questions with Maya Breuer
What Makes You Come Alive?
I am a jazz singer and a visual artist who teaches yoga. I come alive teaching Yoga, creating art (portraits) and performing Jazz!Additionally, I come alive when I teach individuals the importance and power of prayer, faith, yoga, and community.
Pivotal turning point in your life?
Studying yoga in Guajarat, India with Shri Rajarshi Muni. I learned that everything is possible and I still believe this to be true!
An Act of Kindness You'll Never Forget?
When I was first in college I was a mother of three preschool children . I loved my work and the classes, but the biggest challenge was -I did not have a car. I walked from my home and dropped my children at their babysitters, and then I took two buses to get to college. when I rteturned, by bus, from school I would gather my brood and walk to my home. One of my teachers in a writing course that I was keenly interested in , learned of my transportation challenge. This kind teacher offered to buy me a car! She bought me a car, and I am forever grateful for this generous, kind, sweet, and loving action. Transportation truly made my life easier ( no more bus trips to do laundry or grocery shopping). The car was a used one, but it worked very well. I still tear up when I think about how a perfect stranger brought a car for me when I so desperately needed it.
One Thing On Your Bucket List?
Sorry, but I have more than one thing on my list:Writing a book about my experiences with the yoga and how it intersected with my faith as a Black women raised in a very religious family; Returning to Gujarat India to the Khayavorahan Temple; Spending one month on a beautiful beach, with my husband; one that is not too isolated from delightful things to do and discover!
One-line Message for the World?
Trust God, and Do it!