Teacher Spotlight: Celena

We checked in with our instructor Celena to ask about her practice. Check it out here and join her for class this week.


What first brought you to yoga and why did you decide to start teaching?

I started yoga as a freshman at Morgan State University. I knew almost nothing about yoga and took the course because it counted as a physical education credit which was required for all students. Very quickly I started looking forward to my yoga class and really enjoyed the burst of happiness and energy that I felt after each class. My teacher was knowledgeable and encouraging. I ended up taking his class every semester until I graduated. Yoga became such an essential part of me in college. I needed it to manage the challenges of college. Post-graduation I moved to Florida to be an English teacher  and I knew that I needed to continue my yoga journey for both the physical and mental benefits so I joined a YMCA. I built strong relationships with my instructors who pushed me to look into becoming an instructor myself. When I moved back to DC, I learned about Breathe for Change, a company that provides yoga teacher certification to educators. This combined my two main passions: yoga and teaching children. I felt a strong divine pull to the program and knew that it was my time.

What have you found that yoga brings to you when you feel the pressures of the world around you?

When I start to feel stressed and under pressure, yoga is one of the only activities that forces me to end the cycle of overthinking, anxiety, and my need for control. Yoga allows me to regain control of my thoughts through breathing and body awareness. The impact that yoga has on my mental state is what keeps me coming back. Yoga gives me clarity of mind that I can’t find anywhere else; this clarity makes it so much easier to be in the world.

How has yoga changed your perspective on what it means to be a black woman in America?

In the past several years mainstream media places significant attention on the body of black women. This creates pressure to look a certain way and shame if your body is outside the norm depicted in music and by celebrities. As a young woman, I struggled with self-love and acceptance of my body. Yoga teaches you to appreciate and honor your body in its current state every time you practice. Prior to yoga, this wasn’t something I encountered as a black woman in America.  I have had to learn compassion and patience towards my body because of yoga. This lesson helps me create and maintain a positive relationship with my body and high self-image. Yoga helps me love my body in a world that is too critical of the bodies’ of black women.

How do you bring your practice off the mat and into your everyday life?

Yoga has taught me that your fears and negative beliefs about yourself hinder your own success. On the mat, sometimes a simple belief about what your body can and cannot do prohibits your advancement into a specific pose. As I deepen my practice, I have to let go of fears like falling and being upside down. I retrain my mind to be patient with my body and release apprehensive thoughts. Off the mat, I continue to rewire the voice in my head so that I redefine how I see myself in order to achieve my personal and professional goals.

What is one area of your life where you are cultivating an energy of expansion?

My professional life as a yoga teacher and middle school educator is one area where I have been working to cultivate an energy of expansion. So much of life is dependent on mental strength. Sometimes I can get caught up in the day-to-day responsibilities of my job which can take focus away from broader professional goals. Consistently I push my thinking to develop and expand where I want to be professionally. I have to remind myself to never become comfortable and to ensure that my choices and actions will further my success towards my goals.

What is your go to self-care practice?

My go to self-care practice is the steam room in my gym. Several times a week I use the steam room to release tension and stress through meditation, breathing exercises, and hair/skin treatments. This ritual helps me slow down during a busy work week and clear my thoughts.

What is your personal mantra?

My personal mantra is that your mindset is your reality. This reminds me to monitor my own energy and my thoughts. I rely on this mantra whenever I catch myself being influenced by negativity. It helps me remember that I can choose how I feel even in situations out of my control.

Brandon Copeland