Fitness Fridays: TrapYogaBae On How Trap Yoga Is Really A F–kin’ Empowerment Session For Black Women

October 6, 2017  |  

Have you ever been to a yoga class filled with a majority of Black women?

Before Britteny Floyd-Mayo, otherwise known as TrapYogaBae, brought Trap Yoga to Brooklyn this week, I hadn’t.

Trap Yoga

I’d gone to many different types of yoga classes, including the hot ones, but the makeup was often the same — I would be one of the few women of color in the space, and I felt like I needed to perform at a certain level to look like I belonged. I needed to truly tell my brain to shut up so that I could focus on my breathing like everyone else. Despite being tall and curvy and having locs that flopped in my face during poses, I need to be more like a wallflower. But in Trap Yoga, you just need to focus on doing you. It’s much more comfortable trying that when your instructor looks like you. Floyd-Mayo has big hair, she has a very curvy figure and she reminds you of that one sistah in your circle: She is rambunctious, she curses A LOT, and is confident in how colorful she is. But it’s that transparency, that take-it-or-leave-it way of being with the women in her class that helps you let your guard down, dance and in the end, really sweat. Don’t get it twisted, her class is hard.

I talked to the 29-year-old Oakland, Calif. native about how she went from teaching her first yoga class for a few friends and family one day to taking it around the country (upcoming class schedule here). We also talked about how yoga helped her get through the anger she’d held onto due to past trauma and why Trap Yoga is about more than getting into boat pose while dancing/twerking to “Rake It Up.” It’s really an empowerment session.

I heard motherfuckers sayin' they made Hov Made Hov say, "Okay, so, make another Hov!" Niggas wasn't playin' they day-role So we parted ways like Ben and J-Lo I shoulda been did it, but I been in a daze though I put friends over business end of the day though – Jay Z "Lost Ones" ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• If/when you'll meet me you may notice how I have mastered the delicate language of the sophistiratchets. The shit I say is often informative, inspiring with a hint of belligerence. It works for me tho! But did you know, I think song lyrics? Mostly rap music. I assign songs to relationships and situations. Music has such a healing property and this is why it's in the forefront of my Trap Yoga classes. Not every song is deep, but it doesn't have to be. Not every lyric fits, but it doesn't have to. But, when an artist speaks to your soul, let them find your words as you find your way. #trapyogabae #trapyoga #ratchetaffirmations #lifeisamusical #latenightthoughts #jayz #lostones #thinkinlyrics

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MadameNoire: Growing up in Oakland, were you always physically active as far as taking part in sports or anything like that?

TrapYogaBae: I was on the swim team from ages 9 to 14 and because I wanted to dye my hair, I couldn’t swim anymore. I made the executive decision that being beautiful was way more important to me at the time. So I gave up swimming so I could dye my hair [laughs].

And then in high school I tried being a cheerleader. But do you remember at the top of the class, I told you I was physically aggressive? People would piss me off and I would fight because I didn’t know how to handle my shadow. I would be there ready to fight the other team’s cheerleaders. So I gracefully stepped down to deal with myself. So I’m not overly athletic. I’ve always been rambunctious and loud and a cheerleader of sorts, but sports? Not much organized sports. And when I did, swimming was more of a solo thing.

How did you end up trying yoga?

I would hear these stories about people laying their entire f–king souls out on the mat and I knew that I had some issues. I had really, really heavy anxiety to the point where it would cause me violence later on. I was told I had something called hypervigilance, which meant I never physically felt safe. So I was always heightened and ready for war due to some traumatic sh-t that I faced during my childhood. And so, I knew that I could be better than punching everybody in the f–king face or fainting when I got mad. When I was in college, I lost my presidency because I got into a fistfight with a girl. I couldn’t be student body president anymore. That was like, “Look, honey. You need to change. You’re going to get killed or you’re going to lose some really, really good sh-t.” And so I came to my senior year. I went to Dillard University in New Orleans but then went on to graduate from Holy Names University in Oakland, and my senior thesis, because I studied positive psychology, was How Yoga Can Help People During Transitionary Periods. So I did a quantitative analysis of yoga and other mindfulness-based practices, but part of my analysis was me participating personally. I realized within the first six weeks my anxiety levels had diminished. I was not anxious and on edge every day. And you know, like I said in class it was like, “Next time you want to slap a b—h in the face, you’ve got options.” And yoga gave me options. Seven years in, I always choose yoga over hitting people. But the good thing is, I’ve been able to integrate my own shadow — the yang, the dark side of me — to help other women, specifically other women of color, kind of deal with that. So that’s how I got started in yoga.

That’s so open and honest. Because I assumed you were overexaggerating in class about wanting to take your anger out on people and that you meant when you get fed up with folks, turn to yoga. But to actually say, “I was in physical fights often and having these issues,” I think that’s really great to share with people. Many of us have a dark side and we don’t tap into the reasons it’s there.

There’s nothing wrong with anger. Anger is not a real emotion. It’s a masked emotion to protect you from what you’re really feeling. But I had no issues with operating in the darker side of me. That side of you is actually made to protect you, but we’ve been taught to suppress it in society because it’s animalistic. But the thing about emotions is when you don’t deal with them and handle them, they build up and when they come out they’re like caged, unsocialized dogs. Well, I socialize my anger. I express it or any type of negative emotion that I have because I’ve learned to operate and deal with those. I’ve learned to do such in a way that’s productive. How do I go from wanting to fight damn near every woman I see the way society tells me I should as a Black woman to helping other women understand that yeah, you can be mad, you can be angry, you can be loud, but you also need to deal with that sh-t?

How did you go from getting into yoga and not feeling like you fit the mold of a yogi to actually ending up practicing yoga in India and getting certified?

A lot of sh-t we do is just for selfish gain and then it just ends up being your path. So I didn’t go to India to become a yoga instructor. I went to India for my own journey. I had just started the process of divorcing my college sweetheart, whom I have two children with. I was like, “I’m getting angry again and this isn’t right. I’m going to these yoga classes and I’m not feeling safe.” I don’t mean physically safe, I’m not feeling like I belong. I couldn’t quiet my mind because I had too much sh-t to deal with. That’s bullsh-t when they tell you to “Quiet your mind so that you can meditate.” No, no, no. You deal with the sh-t that’s crowding your mind so that you can meditate. So I knew that after one or two classes with those b—hes that they had no idea what I was going through as a Black woman in America. So I decided to go to India.

Now, it wasn’t like, “I’m going to go to India to learn how to be a yoga instructor. It just so happened to be the cheapest way to travel to India. I applied to five programs and three of them said I could come. And you pay X amount of dollars and what they do is they feed you, they house you, they give you itinerary. And India is not the safest place for women, so they also protect you. So I was like, “I wanna go do an immersive yoga program. I’ll be there for seven weeks and I’ll come back a yoga instructor, but more importantly, I’ll come back with a deeper understanding of yoga.” It just so happens that I got the certification. When I got back home, I had a really amazing friend who was my tenth grade Spanish teacher turned homegirl who left the school district to own a yoga studio. She was like, “I really think that you have done amazing work.” She’d seen me since I was that angry little girl fighting all of the time. So she told me, “I really think you’ve done an amazing work and I think it’s because you’ve dealt with your shadow. I really think the reason why you never felt you belonged in a yoga class but you knew it was supposed to be for you was because it wasn’t your job to be in a space that was made. It was your job to create space.” So she owns a yoga studio called Dogpatch Dance in San Francisco, and February 6, 2017, she posted a video of me like saying, “Come, let’s get some sh-t out with Trap Yoga.” And 90 people showed up to my very first class. Literally, I haven’t stopped teaching and being on the road ever since.

How did you come up with the format for Trap Yoga? I love the mix of you getting to input your sense of humor, the light moments of twerking, but still the fact that it’s a serious class that’s hard.

I think what I do changes lives and I think that these people I am in charge to create space for are so valuable and so important. And so, I sit back and I’m like, “What is this message that I want to teach?” Yeah, it’s Trap Yoga but really it’s an empowerment session and I just con-artist people into coming to open up their heart. These poses are ancient and they’re safe to open up and unlock different parts of you. So I’m thinking, when they do this, what do I want for them? I’m so happy you took the class. If you’ll remember, we did Warrior I, Warrior II and then peaceful warrior. The reason I do this is because I need you to know you are Warrior I. Sure, you can win any battle, but three, the best way to win a battle is to never f–king show up to that in the first place. There’s a language behind what those asanas and those poses are. When we’re doing the “To the Max” part and you’re twisting, you’re opening up, that literally is a heart-opening sequence. If you believe in the yogic way, then you’re opening up your heart. And what I’m instructing you to do is to let that bullsh-t out. So I think about what my hangups were, what my hangups still are because I’m very, very human, and what I’m hearing my friends and family and loved ones dealing with as women of color, and I put them together in a sequence giving them permission to take their power back. And it just so happens to flow. And my songs are even chosen for a reason. It all seems so happenstance, but it really isn’t. It’s carefully curated because I take it so seriously. I take joking seriously. And the reason why I want people to laugh is because when you laugh, you let your guard down. And that’s why I need feedback, I need noise, and I need you to feel safe. If you laugh, you feel safe. And when you’re safe and you let your guard down, we can start dealing with the heart of the matter.

Were you ever nervous about how people would take to the format or has the response always been very positive?

Uh-uh. There are people who absolutely f–kin’ hate me. It happens. I don’t think I got a chance to say that to your class, but no matter who you are or what you are, you’re always going to be too much of something to somebody. My hair is going to be too blue, my voice is going to be too manish, my titties are going to be too big, my ankles are going to be too pointy. So the best thing you can do is just be too much of exactly who you are. Because if you spend your life worrying about how you may be perceived to people, the people who you’re in charge for miss the message. So I explain to people, because I get hate mail, “Thank you so much for expressing yourself. It must have been really weighing on your heart that you would take time out of your impeccably important day. This time spent sending this hate mail you’ll never get back, so I really hope you valued that time appropriately. But what I do understand is that I’m not made for everybody. So if I disturb you, I wasn’t made for your a–.” And then I go on from there and say, “And because of that, I’m a protector. I’d like to do something for you. I’d like to protect you from me, and I’m going to protect me from you. I’m going to block you. And you’ll never see me again. But if you do decide you want to log into some other account and find me, I may just be that b—h you’re looking for. Take care of yourself.”

People ask me why I go so hard to protect it. People will come for you and by nature we’re just all looking to be protected and we have to understand that we are our own saviors. So if I let somebody come for me and make me question what I believe is what I’m called to do with my life, put in just the smallest hint of doubt, and I don’t defend myself with zeal, effort and all the energy, I might one day wake up in weakness and believe I’m doing the wrong thing based on what one angry a– person said to me. So I protect myself and I protect my students with everything in me. If people don’t like it, it doesn’t bother me.

So, your body is sick. Kudos to you for that [laughs]. The question has been, do you only do yoga?

I mean, there was a time where I was a gym rat. And I think that’s probably when I filled my butt out to be it’s biggest. That was literally putting 300 pounds on my back and doing ridiculous squats. I’m interactive in the class, and I tend to do three to five classes a day. How the f–k am I going to get in the gym? Impossible. I tried going to a trainer about two weeks ago, and we worked out, but coming from the gym, it leaves me so sore that I can’t teach my class. And that’s a no-go. So literally, my entire workout regimen is the class. But you’ve got to realize, I do it for hours a day. You were there, you saw everybody was struggling [laughs].

When you started this, did you ever foresee taking it this far and the places this opportunity would take you? Was there ever a Plan B?

That’s what is so crazy, Victoria. When I taught the first Trap Yoga class, it was literally for fun. I was in advance practice nursing school, I was one year away from getting my masters in nursing to be a nurse anesthetist. That’s a really great job. It’s a career with a lot of f–king longevity. I also own a customized organic spray tanning business with my best friend of 14 years and we opened a microblading med spa. I’m also the president of a Los Angeles-based non-profit. So I was a serial entrepreneur before this, and literally this was supposed to be one fun class for my friend’s new yoga studio. I had to make the decision to travel the world and do what really seemed to be my passion or to continue on with the dream I had before. It’s crazy because I spent all of these years trying to get into medical school and it meant so much to me and now I’m about to give up my dream to live my wildest dream. There wasn’t a Plan B because Trap Yoga wasn’t even in the plan! But I couldn’t ignore what I felt was my greatness, and I can always go back to the other stuff if I need to.

I love to see so many women of color enjoying different modes of fitness in general, but particularly something like yoga, which we don’t heavily participate in. So how has it been being able to get so many Black women of different backgrounds excited about yoga?

I tell people, “You know Trap Yoga is a gateway drug, right?” I just throw trap and twerking and “B—h mutha—ker” in there to lure people in, and then you walk out like, “Wait a second. I never thought I could do yoga, but now I know.” And that’s why I also don’t make the class so easy. I want you to know this sh-t is hard and it’s real, but look how great you feel when you walk out of it. And to see so many women of color join a space like that, it just warms my heart. We live in a world that tells us that self-care is selfish and we as women of color, specifically Black women, feel like it’s a f–kin’ rite of passage to be a martyr. Like, it’s always a who’s more tired, who’s getting f–ked over more match. I don’t want that for us and that doesn’t have to be our way of life. If I can just get you to come in for one hour to take care of yourself, maybe you’ll get to see how good it feels. Maybe you’re always afraid that if you take some time out for you the f–king world will collapse. But you came here. You spent an hour doing nothing but worrying about your mutha—kin’ self, and when you walk out of here, you actually have more to offer the world because you replenished yourself. And to see Black women taking me up on that offer is amazing. When people ask me what my mission is, my mission is to find as many as women of color in the community as I can to come in there, have fun, f–k some sh-t up and then walk out of that b—h making it better than the way I found it. And that’s exactly what I feel like I came to do.

Follow TrapYogaBae on Instagram and check out the rest of our Fitness Fridays profiles! 

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