Shayla Stonechild graces our March/April 2021 cover. Learn more about the yoga teacher and founder of the Matriarch Movement with this behind-the-scenes look at our shoot, then read more about Shayla and her practice.
Both yoga and Indigenous culture recognize a connection to the divine, says Stonechild. We don’t have to look for a version of “Source” outside ourselves.
After losing her father to suicide in December 2009 and growing up with the generational trauma imposed by colonization, at 18, Stonechild found much-needed healing thanks in part to yoga. And once she started understanding the philosophy beyond the asana through yoga teacher training, she immediately recognized a connection between yogic wisdom and her own heritage.
Stonechild with her brothers Joel (left) and Gayson Oulette (right). “In Cree culture, older sister is nimis,” Grayson says. “She is our protector, our mentor, our inspiration. She is strong, resilient, and a powerhouse for Indigenous rise.”
Stonechild is the founder of the Matriarch Movement. “It started as a platform, but now it’s an organization amplifying Indigenous voices through meditation, movement, and medicine,” Stonechild says. “It’s reclaiming an Indigenous worldview.”
Matriarch Movement workshops aim to decolonize wellness by bringing healing modalities to Indigenous communities through (now-online) lectures, breathwork, movement, yoga, and meditation exercises.
Stonechild is Cree, which translates to “Nehiyaw,” which translates to “the people of the land” or “four-bodied person”—which interweaves the four aspects we all have within ourselves: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Yoga cultivates balance and harmony between mind, body, and spirit.
“When I took yoga teacher training, I realized that this is an ancient philosophy and lineage. I felt like I was not ready to teach it, because it wasn’t my own. So I spent the next three years integrating and embodying what I learned. I went on to train for 500 more hours, learning from different mentors. I had to get past this fear: Am I culturally appropriating it? It’s not from my lineage, but I saw an overlap of Indigenous teaching. It’s like your poses are prayers, and you’re dedicating yourself to something bigger than just you. Even though the terminology may be different, the intention often remains the same. Now when I teach, I weave in Indigenous and yogic philosophy. “
“Where is the balance of social justice and well-being? … Being alive is a political act in itself.”