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Leadership Lab: Tyrone Beverly on Power, Privilege, and Practice

How a Bruce Lee devotee became Denver's leading advocate for diverse inclusivity in yoga.

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In this four-part series, and lululemon athletica introduce the panelists and moderators participating in the Practice of Leadership conversation on Friday, September 19th at Yoga Journal LIVE! in Estes Park, CO. Follow along on Facebook for thoughtful—and thought-provoking—interviews with these trailblazing yogis, teachers, and social justice activists.

Tyrone Beverly is the founder and executive director of Im’Unique, a non-profit dedicated to holistic wellness education, and one of Denver’s leading advocates for diverse inclusivity in yoga. His Illustrating Union Yoga Tours offer free yoga in museums and cultural centers, and attract people of all ethnicities and income levels. Find out more at What first brought you to yoga?
Tyrone Beverly: My yoga journey started when I became interested in refining my discipline and discovering a deeper understanding of the human potential. Bruce Lee was the only example I’d ever seen of the kind of discipline I was seeking. He inspired me to tune into something far beyond the physical realm and motivated me to explore new possibilities.

So, in pursuit my transformation, I found myself looking for a conditioning video by Bruce Lee. I was unsuccessful in finding one but, fortunately, I found a Patricia Walden yoga video. Honestly, at that time, I felt a little unsettled about the purchase I was about to make. Yoga studios weren’t on every corner, in every fitness club, in commercials, and on all the media platforms. It was invisible in my world and I had no idea what it was. I went home, put the VHS (yes, it was a VHS) in the VCR player and an hour through the video I felt myself being challenged, connecting, meditating, moving, and shaking—and I realized I had found what I was looking for. What inspired you to become a leader?
T.B.: Growing up in the neighborhoods I was raised in left me no choice but to get involved and do something about the genocide epidemic that was occurring in my neighborhood if I wanted to survive. It led me to take a deeper look into the problems we can prevent as a whole. I constantly found myself thinking of ways to create positive change and, most of the time, it meant I would have to go against the status quo. I was inspired by progress! Becoming a leader happened by default … What does yoga miss when it lacks diversity?
T.B.: A deeper connection to the culture of humanity! What do people miss when yoga doesn’t speak to them?
T.B.: Yoga is a language, and it’s important for language to be understood for the language to have an impact. It can be quite the task, describing shooting stars in a foreign tongue, to a blind person, on a warm magical night. The same could be said for a healer describing their methods on self-care to a group that doesn’t understand. But quite honestly, they may be missing a different interpretation, someone who can translate the information into a language they can digest. People often talk about the “yoga community.” What does that mean to you?
T.B.: I stay away from the term “yoga community” because I believe it creates division! I prefer “The Community.” We are all interconnected yet governed by expressions that divide—perpetuating the very thing we say we’re trying to eliminate. What visible or invisible barriers work against diversity in the yoga world?
T.B.: We have to take sufficient consideration of how the practice is being packaged and marketed to the masses. One could conclude that the practice was only for an isolated group by the lack of diverse representation. Paint a picture of an amazing yoga class:
T.B.: To me, an amazing yoga class is when people take the positive lessons they learn in the practice and apply the lessons to their daily lives. Realizing it’s not class; it’s a lifestyle. Okay, lightning round. Fill in the blank:

YJ: Today, yoga is ___
T.B.: … changing lives.

YJ: Tomorrow, yoga should be ___
T.B.: … all it can be.

YJ: Yoga needs more ___
T.B.: … people practicing mindfulness

and less ___
T.B.: … people just talking about it.

YJ: I encourage all yogis to ___
T.B.: … remain students of life and shine as bright as possible!

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