Live Be Yoga: How Kung Fu and Poetry Inspired Tyrone Beverly to Build a Better World—One Tough Conversation at a Time

Through his organization Im'Unique, the yoga teacher and activist is using the practice to help facilitate important at-the-table dialogues between people with wildly opposing viewpoints.
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Tyrone Beverly, founder and director of Im'Unique, leads a yoga practice in his home outside of Denver before a session of Breakin' Bread, Breakin' Barriers.

Tyrone Beverly, founder and director of Im'Unique, leads a yoga practice in his home outside of Denver before a session of Breakin' Bread, Breakin' Barriers.

Live Be Yoga ambassadors Jeremy Falk and Aris Seaberg are on a road trip across the country to share real talk with master teachers, explore innovative classes, and so much more—all to illuminate what's in store for the future of yoga. Want more stories from Live Be Yoga? Follow the tour and get the latest stories @livebeyoga on Instagram and Facebook.

At a restaurant in Denver, CO, a group of mostly African-American men and women sit down across the table from a handful of officers from the city’s police department. The atmosphere is tense, uncomfortable, and painful to many. Moments later, a dialogue begins that revolves around service, safety, and police brutality.

When the meal ends, much of the tension has dissipated, viable alternatives to the disheartening status quo have been shared, and people on both sides are crying as they shake each others’ hands.

An hour earlier, folks first gathered to practice yoga with Tyrone Beverly, local teacher, activist, and founder and director of the nonprofit organization Im’Unique. The organization arranges recurring sit-down sessions called Breakin’ Bread, Breakin' Barriers

In an era when our country seems more polarized than ever, this kind of conversation across any type of aisle seems almost impossible. So, what’s the secret?

How Tyrone Beverly Discovered the Power of Yoga

As a kid, watching icons like Jean-Claude Van Damme and Bruce Lee battle it out on the screen, Beverly developed an interest in martial arts and kung fu. Yet unlike many kids who are pulled into action movies, it wasn’t the violence that captured his attention, it was the practice of mental fortitude.

“When you think about this life and how we’re being challenged with different things, mentally we’re not cultivating our potential in those areas,” he says. Years later, while renting martial arts movies at his local Blockbuster, he stumbled upon the first yoga videos he had ever seen and was soon practicing with them every day. “It was exactly what I was looking for: Increased awareness of my body as well as being able to pay attention in a different way.”

He began paying closer attention to all the ways that nature has permeated our lives, from the names of cars (Subaru) and sports teams (Broncos) to the names of asanas (Mountain Pose) and the energetic qualities that are being transmitted. 

This philosophy inspired Beverly’s signature Poetic Flow, where movement through a yoga sequence is guided by a powerful poem that gives life to each posture through its name and the inspiration we can draw from it.

See also Tyrone Beverly's Poetic Flow for Meaningful Movement

“There’s a lesson in every single thing. Everything in my life now is based off of nature and how to do my best to harmonize with nature,” he told us.

(Our friends at Gaia Herbs have the same intentional philosophy that pours into every herbal blend they make).

How Yoga Drives Meaningful Dialogue

After years of teaching his classes, Beverly started to pay attention to another naturally occurring harmonization. People who were strangers before class were organically having meaningful conversations about important issues afterwards.

“We were fortunate enough to practice the poetic flow with Beverly in his home outside of Denver, and it was the single most inspiring and empowering class I have ever taken," says Jeremy Falk. 

“We were fortunate enough to practice the poetic flow with Beverly in his home outside of Denver, and it was the single most inspiring and empowering class I have ever taken," says Jeremy Falk. 

This ultimately spawned the idea for Breakin’ Bread, Breakin’ Barriers, in which Beverly and his team use yoga as a way to help facilitate important dialogues between people who may not normally socialize or discuss their problems. 

“It’s all about cultivating relationship and having conversations with people that you may not know,” Beverly tells us. “When you look at society, most of our barriers are because of our ideologies, our philosophies, and the way we look at life.”

These barriers are further solidified in our minds because often we only spend time with people who reinforce the same values as us. "In Breakin’ Bread, you have an opportunity to listen to that other side of the narrative. To say maybe your truth is different than my truth because we are looking at it from different angles."

Beverly and his team have held numerous Breakin’ Bread conversations around homelessness, education reform, immigration, gentrification, and racial inequality. They work tirelessly by going into the community and seeking out people with opposing viewpoints to be a part of a meaningful discussion. Before the dinner discussion, Beverly believes firmly in the power of yoga to facilitate a productive conversation.

“When you’re in practice, it allows you to be in tune with yourself and the world around you,” he says. “When you practice before the conversation, it allows you to be more open to what’s going to be said and to work towards a better and more humane society.”

How Yoga (and Conversations) Create Change

Make no mistake, this is not easy work, and moving through a few postures is not enough to erase the deep wounds that often exist around these sensitive issues. “There’s a lot of pain associated with this work and moving past that pain is not the easiest thing to do. It comes with many hurdles and challenges, but I think that’s where yoga comes in,” he says. “By being able to center yourself and think about the larger picture, that’s where we give birth to change.”

Tyrone Beverly is truly a living example of the future of yoga in action, and a potent reminder of how yoga can help us all skillfully navigate through difficult and challenging times. “Once you lead with the why, you always know where you’re going.”

To learn more about Breakin’ Break, Breakin’ Barriers, visit Im’Unique.org.