Amplify and Activate!

It is indeed an interesting time to be alive. It is a challenging time to be alive and for so many yogis, the yoga mat has been a saving grace. It has been for me. These times require self-care and radical action. I've spent the last year putting together my first book, designed to teach yoga teachers and studios how to create inclusive spaces. Skill in Action, Radicalizing Your Yoga Practice to Create a Just World explores the intersection of social justice and yoga while calling yogis into action. During these unpredictable and sometimes scary times, we need tools, we need action, we need to lead with our hearts and integrate justice into the practice of yoga. 

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Michelle Johnson
Rituals of Resistance

Michelle Johnson is a woman of color therapist, yoga teacher, and anti-oppression trainer. She is a beloved colleague from whom I learn so much literally every time I share space with her, and with whom I am privileged to work. This past weekend we were co-facilitating a weekend long exploration of (cultural) trauma, social justice, and yoga. In last-minute preparation conversations, we were discussing the ways we would need to shift the agenda to hold space for what folks were holding in the wake of the (s)election of Donald Trump as president of the US last Tuesday.

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Michelle Johnson
What would a world without racism look like?

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to be a part of an anti-racist yoga convergence, led by two social justice advocates, yogis, and powerful women:  Michelle Johnson and Patty Adams. The two hours began by each instructor sharing their Dharma talk with us – an emotional and moving grounding on why this work matters and how yoga provides a place to practice skills critical to movement building in the efforts to eradicate white supremacy.

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Michelle Johnson
How I Handle My Fear Is Personal

The definition and purpose of fear has been greatly misunderstood in the yoga community for some time. With quotes like, “Once you become fearless, you become limitless,” we are sending the message that fear should be shamed and beaten out of us. But that’s just not true. Like anger, fear can be useful and it must be safely expressed when it is felt, or it will become repressed and eventually come out somewhere else in some ugly way.

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Michelle Johnson
North Carolinian Support for Africa Yoga Project

The Africa Yoga Project mission is to educate, empower, elevate and employ youth from Africa using the transformational practice of yoga. Our vision is to create opportunities for youth to step into their greatness, become self-sustaining and leaders in their communities. Below is an interview with Michelle Johnson, yoga instructor and fundraiser, supporter, and Seva Safari leader for the Africa Yoga Project.

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Michelle Johnson
When Dorothy Went to the Polls

Several years ago, I interviewed my grandmother, Dorothy, for National Listening Day. I heard about the program on NPR. The instructions were to interview someone the day after Thanksgiving to learn more about his or her life story.

I called my grandmother and asked permission.

“Of course,” she said. “I’ve been interviewed before for an oral history project about Glen Allen, Virginia, and I’ve been interviewed for a publication that the church put out a while back.”

She sounded thrilled to have another person, let alone her granddaughter, ask her to talk about her 90 years of life.

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Michelle Johnson
When we Can't Breathe

As a yoga teacher I have been trained to talk about the link of the breath with the various postures or movements we make with our bodies.

Students come into my classes, roll out their mats, set up and then find a comfortable seat. The first instruction I give after they have found their seat is to ask them to let go of their day, to let go of anticipation and to start to find their breath.

Often I say, “Perhaps, this is the first time you have noticed that you are breathing today,” and ask, “What does it mean to actually feel the breath, the inhale and exhale?”

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Michelle Johnson
Moral Mondays

The NAACP in North Carolina started the Moral Monday Movement last year in response to the legislature and the redistricting that caused our legislature to be dominated by republicans. The NAACP knew what the policy impacts might be as a result of that. They started organizing people to respond to the policies that the legislators were proposing and putting into law.

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Michelle Johnson
Why Soul Care Matters

Last Friday night I sat in a circle of women gathered together for a weekend workshop on yoga and activism. One by one, we introduced ourselves. My first words into the group space were tearful, tentative, and jumbled (crying on day one of anything is good, right?). My forays into activism in the past, while impassioned and honest, had been isolating and unsustainable.

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Michelle Johnson
Five Orange County elected officials arrested at Monday protest

CHAPEL HILL — A Carrboro alderwoman hopes five Orange County officials’ arrests at the General Assembly this week encourages other local government leaders to take a stand.

“I would love for other elected officials across the state to be inspired to speak out about how business is being run in Raleigh and about some of the bills that have been put forward,” Alderwoman Michelle Johnson said Tuesday.

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Michelle Johnson
Healing with Yoga

In January, Michelle Johnson found herself in an unlikely place – in Kenya, crossing a stream that reeked of raw sewage and trash, to join villagers convening in an open field to participate in a yoga class.

Two years prior to this moment, Johnson, a member of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen, had seen a three-minute video sent out by Lori Burgwyn of Franklin Street Yoga that convinced her to go to Africa and become an ambassador for the Africa Yoga Project.

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Michelle Johnson
Getting to Know Michelle Johnson

I first met Michelle Johnson at a vinyasa teacher training intensive last November in Savannah GA. During this training I had the opportunity to work with Michelle in small groups and in a one-on-one teaching scenario. When I think back to my time in training with Michelle one word continues to flood my mind, strength.

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Michelle Johnson