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UMN Kinesiology Study Hopes To Draw More Black Woman To Yoga And Movement

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - Yoga is an extremely popular wellness exercise, but across the country, and in the Twin Cities, it's been dominated by white participants.

Right now, there is an effort to draw women of color - especially Black women - to yoga, and they're looking for participants.

Dr. Daheia Barr-Anderson is an associate professor at the University of Minnesota Kinesiology Department and she's conducting a 3 month research study called YogaMoves. With this program, she's monitoring 60 participants who identify as Black and female as they learn basic yoga moves. She'll track heart rate, stress levels and physical movement.

"Cardiovascular disease is an issue for Black women, high stress levels is an issue," said Barr-Anderson.

The participants will take free yoga classes at 612 Jungle in the Lyndale Neighborhood or at The Zen Bin in north Minneapolis. Equipment will be given to them and they will be paid $150 each for their participation.

The participants have to be sedentary, meaning they exercise less than 30 min per day, but weight status does not matter.

"We are looking and hoping they will decrease their sedentary behavior," said Barr-Anderson, "[This will be] very culturally tailored and an inviting space for Black women to just be and to hopefully connect to yoga."

This research program was important for yoga studio owners, Sierra Carter, at The Zen Bin, and Gabrielle Roberts, at 612 Jungle, to be a part of. They are the only Black, female yoga studio owners in the Twin Cities right now. They both opened their wellness sanctuaries in 2018 because they felt before then, there was not a place for them to feel welcome, comfortable and accepted. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that less than 10% of Black people participate in yoga in the U.S.

"One of my friends told me, 'Sierra, you got to create what you want to be a part of,' so I ended up just doing that," said Carter.

She and Roberts each founded their spaces with a blueprint that did not exist before.

"I wanted to create a space that was affordable, accessible and relatable," said Roberts.

Both spaces are rooted in the culture they're founded in.

"We do R & B candle-lit yoga," said Carter.

"We do yoga to all hip hop and R & B," said Roberts, who's studio offers classes such as Trappin' Hard, Trappin' Lite and Hustle + Flo.

Both owners hope this program gets 60 Black women passionate about yoga.

"I'm really excited to see the transition in their minds to their approach to exercise and moving their body," said Carter, "Because it healed me, it saved me, and I want to keep passing that on to people."

The deadline to sign up for this yoga study is Friday, May 27. Sign up or learn more about the program here.

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