Social Justice, Southern Life, Southerner Spotlight

Southerner Spotlight: Creating an Inclusive Yoga Community with Patrice Graham

Southerner Spotlight: Creating an Inclusive Yoga Community with Patrice Graham

Y’all are in for a real treat today: A Q&A with the self-described “spiritual hypewoman” who has created an inclusive yoga studio in Raleigh, NC! I can confirm that she is indeed one of the most enthusiastic people I know, and she is doing incredible social justice work in our local community by building a unique and diverse group of yoga enthusiasts. I am so excited to introduce y’all to my inspirational friend and yoga teacher, Patrice Graham!

Patrice, tell us a little about yourself!
I’m a Raleigh native. I was technically born in Virginia, but we moved to Raleigh when I was 1. And I grew up wanting to get out of Raleigh as soon as I could. Long story short, 31 years later and I still live in Raleigh and have never lived outside of the Triangle area. I went to undergrad at UNC-Chapel Hill (Go Heels) and attended NC State for graduate school (we don’t really talk about that). 

After grad school I found a job at a consulting firm, and while the pay was great, the work was stressful. Yoga quickly became my way to decompress after work. Being the Type A person that I am, I went to a class that was the same sequence every single time. I always left yoga feeling great and quickly became addicted. 

Fast forward to 2016: I was in a new job working from home, and I decided to attend a yoga teacher training. At the time I had no interest in teaching yoga anytime soon, I just wanted the certification so I could retire and teach yoga on a beach on a tropical island. And like I said before, I’m Type A, so I like to plan ahead.

Fast forward to today, and I’m a full-time yoga teacher, reiki practitioner, empath, spiritual hypewoman and studio owner. While it’s definitely challenging, I’m so grateful that this is my path.

Creating an Inclusive Yoga Community with Patrice Graham  |  Fairly Southern
Dave Lantrip

Tell us about your yoga studio, Colors of Yoga!
Colors of Yoga Raleigh opened in August 2017. I actually started by teaching in a smaller shared space in April of 2017. I loved the Carter Building and reached out to the landlord to see if any other spaces were available. When the space where COY is currently became available, I jumped on it. 

Colors of Yoga was created to be a space for Black folks to feel welcome to do yoga. I fully believe in the transformative benefits of yoga and believe that people of color can benefit greatly from the mental and physical benefits of a consistent yoga practice. Since then we have evolved and strive to make this THE inclusive studio for all folks no matter what their race identity, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, ability level etc. 

Colors of Yoga - inclusive yoga studio in downtown Raleigh, NC  |  Fairly Southern

Why did you decide to open a yoga studio?
When I was in yoga teacher training and was practice teaching, my mom and sister came to my class to support me. Before the class they were very skeptical of yoga, mostly because I was doing hot yoga and still had a relaxer so my hair was always a hot mess after doing yoga in a 105 degree room with added humidity. But after the class that they came to, they said they felt much better and could understand why I like yoga so much. It hit me then that representation does matter. They probably would have never gone to a yoga class if I, or someone else close to them, hadn’t been the one teaching. This started my hypothesis that if more people of color were teaching yoga, more people of color would practice yoga. So I decided to give it a try. This was not at all in my Type A plan, but here we are!

What is your favorite thing about Colors of Yoga?
Easily the community! The people that come here are amazing, and they make it all worth it. We have created a little family here at COY, and in this day and age when folks are so disconnected and spending less time together in person, that is really special.

Colors of Yoga - inclusive yoga studio in downtown Raleigh, NC  |  Fairly Southern

And, on the flip side, what are some of the challenges you’ve encountered as a yoga studio owner?
How much time do you have? Haha. Owning a business is hard, and I didn’t/don’t have investors or even a business partner. At the end of the day, all things fall to me. Having said that, I have AMAZING family, friends and staff that help support me and the business, but it’s definitely challenging keeping alll the things afloat.

It’s also challenging with our target demographic. A lot of these folks have either never tried yoga and don’t know much about it and/or may not think this practice is something that folks like them do. So there is a lot of educating about what yoga is and isn’t and explaining the potential benefits of yoga. 

And finally, you know we have to talk about the South here on Fairly Southern! What are your favorite and least favorite parts of living in the South?
That’s complicated. I love and dislike the South. The South is the only home I’ve ever known and there are so many things I love about the South. Like our seasons, friendly folks, bright colors, being close to the mountains and the beach, etc. But it’s definitely challenging living in the South as a Black Woman with our painful past and alarming present. There is a lot of ignorance and hate in the south, and while I know that’s the case everywhere, we LIVED that ignorance and hate far before other places. 

Patrice, thank you for sharing about your passion for bringing yoga to the local Black community and creating a yoga studio that is inclusive for all. The work you are doing is so incredibly important here in the South, where inclusivity has not (and is not) always celebrated. Your thriving yoga studio and diverse yoga community are a testament to the good work you are doing!

Be sure to check out Patrice’s website and Instagram. (And be sure to check out Colors of Yoga’s website and Instagram as well!)

Click here to read other Southerner Spotlight posts.

xoxo Laura

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