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There’s nothing typical about Tyrone Beverly’s yoga classes. First, the venues: Rather than teaching in studios, he holds Denver-based classes in large spaces like the Denver Art Museum, the Denver Zoo, Walmart, and Mile High Stadium.
Second, consider the crowd: His classes are huge—often about 100 attendees—and include “people of all races, people in wheelchairs, people who are 80 years old, and kids,” Beverly says.
Third, there’s the cost—or lack thereof: Beverly’s twice-weekly classes, which run from January through October, are free. They’re offered under the umbrella of his nonprofit Im’Unique, which he founded in 2013 with the goal of promoting healthier lifestyles while strengthening community bonds.
And finally, there’s what happens after class: Beverly holds discussions called Breakin’ Bread, Breakin’ Barriers (BBBB), which always start with a meal (provided by a host restaurant or Im’Unique volunteers) and tackle topics like race and violence, community law enforcement, and mental health. “In yoga class, the heart and mind are opened up, and people are calmer. After class is a good time to engage in conversation,” he says.
Beverly’s own introduction to yoga happened accidentally. Growing up in inner-city Denver, he says, “I saw many people going to prison. Others lost their lives because of drugs or gangs. Losing my uncle to gun violence, I knew this way of living had to change.” He turned to martial arts, attracted by the notion of “fighting without fighting.” One day when Beverly was around 20 years old, he was looking for a Bruce Lee tape at Blockbuster; the clerk suggested he try a Patricia Walden yoga tape instead. “I had no idea what yoga was,” he says. “I had done stretching in football and basketball, and was in good shape, but this tape was impressive. Whoa, I was sweating.”
He started practicing yoga on his own at the gym where he worked, and employees and patrons began asking to join. “The manager said, ‘You have a following without having an actual class. You should think about becoming a teacher,’” Beverly recalls. Beverly became certified in Kemetic Yoga, hatha yoga, and vinyasa, but he found that “both as a student and teacher, nobody looked like me.” Slowly, he began to attract a more racially and socioeconomically diverse clientele.
Beverly also realized “not everybody has $15 for a yoga class,” so he started teaching free classes in parks, restaurants, and other venues. After class, when Beverly noticed students talking and sharing stories, he hit on the idea of BBBB. “Just doing asana is not going to solve our problems,” he says. “We have to also address how we show up in the world.”