At the top of the month, I attended the SoulFestNYC held in Harlem. Soul Fest is an annual, outdoor yoga event that is held at the Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building grounds on 125th Street and all are welcomed. It just so happened that I was exhausted that morning and had no intentions of trekking up to Harlem on this very hot day. When I found out my yogini friend Tami Payne was attending, I changed my mind and met her there.

A series of on-going yoga classes were being offered under a huge tent that could hold at least one hundred students. Teaching these classes were ‘celebrity guest yoga teachers’ including Faith Hunter of Spiritually Fly, Jessamyn Stanley, Lara Land, etc. When I began learning yoga in the late 70s, there were so few of us in yoga spaces. Most times I was the only Black person in a yoga class. I love that we are now on the world stage with this practice, bringing what only we can deliver with our powerful uniqueness.

Choice vendors were giving away samples and selling healthy products. My favorite was the RX Protein Bar, famous for their four ingredients that are displayed boldly as the only text on their labels. I have since purchased a number of them. I keep one in my purse to stave off hunger.

At SoulFest there were those offering services such as Harriette Cole of Dream Leapers. Harriette’s service consisted of complimentary speed consultation. That was amazing!!! A few minutes with Harriette can change the trajectory of your life. She’s always dropping jewels.

Photo by Tamara Payne

One of the booths set up that day was Setu Community. They were taking photographs of anyone who was willing to strike a yoga pose. I got in on the fun. I decided that since I was hot and exhausted, I would take it easy and do a simple Tree Pose.

Weeks later I receive an email with the photos Setu Community had taken that day. Included were a few photos of me. The above photo was my favorite shot, which I posted on my @anuessentials Instagram page. Shortly after that, I was contacted by the founder of Setu Community, Libby Nicholaou. She wanted to know if I would be interested in being a student in a yoga video. I immediately said, yes! I later was informed that I was going to be the only student in the class. That seemed a little scary.

There had been so many yoga students doing extraordinary poses I was curious as to why Libby was interested in my being a part of the video. She informed me that Setu Community in on a mission to bring diversity to yoga, to make yoga accessible to all ages, body types, ethnicities, genders, income brackets, etc. That was a dose of humble pie for my ego, age and body type. Well, hey, I am a woman of a certain age, and I’ve earned this full woman body.

Yoginis ~ Anu Prestonia, Libby Nicholaou, and Crystal McCreary

As it turned out, there were two students/ yoga instructors for the video, Allana Diaz and yours truly. Our incredible instructor, Crystal McCreary told me her first yoga teacher was Rodney Yee. After hearing that, I knew we were in for a special class.

The recording happened on one of those really hot and humid days. You know the type, sixty degrees the day before and sixty degrees the day after, but this day was a scorcher. When I arrived at The Floor yoga studio and felt the air conditioning I was so happy and relieved. Libby, who was also the filmmaker quickly informed me that due to the constant hum of the portable air conditioner, it would have to be turned off during the recording. Oh no! Who does that to a menopausal woman who has just had her makeup done??? As you might imagine, I was sweating like a wild boar throughout the entire class. That aside, I had so much fun. Crystal is an extraordinary teacher, and I was reminded of how invigorating it can be to attend a class with a teacher who is present as opposed to virtual.

I arrived at this taping limping from feeling like I had somehow twisted my ankle overnight.  I thought, how is this going to work, a twisted ankle and yoga.  By the time I left the class, I was no longer limping, and I had forgotten all about my ankle being in pain. There all kinds of little bones and muscles that we don’t think about that also are massaged, stretched, and strengthened during yoga practice, like our wrists, ankles, our neck, internal organs and so much more.  I share this to say that there are so many micro and macro benefits from the practice of yoga, the rewards are endless.

Setu Community is available for those times when you can’t get to a live class. On their website, they feature all forms and levels of yoga, and you can donate at your discretion. So check out Setu Community if you’re looking to learn yoga, expand your current practice, or you just want to practice from the comfort of your home or private space.

Congratulations to Libby and the Setu Community for making yoga accessible to all. Many Thanks to Crystal and Libby for making one of my yoga dreams come true.

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