Meet Your Kula: Mel Douglas

Part of what makes us so unique are the amazing members of our Yogi community, our kula. Each month, we’ll feature one member of our yogi community, chat with them about their practice, learn more about what draws them to yoga, and get to know each other a little more.

This month, meet Mel Douglas, our Karuna Yogi.

Tell us about yourself!

My name is Mel Douglas and I’m a Brooklyn, NY native currently living in Los Angeles with my pup Kenji. I’m a plant mom, black coffee lover, and outdoor adventurer. I spend much of my time advocating for wellness in my community by sharing my journey with mental health, wellness, and yoga. In 2018 I founded the Black Women’s Yoga Collective (BWYC), a community organization focused on increasing accessibility to wellness and generating true safe spaces that offer intersectional wellness practices.

What started your yoga journey?

I like to say that yoga found me because it turned out to be such a huge part of my life pretty unexpectedly. I was bored of going to the gym, so I started trying out the different classes offered there instead. I ended up in a power vinyasa class, got my butt kicked by a deceptively gentle voiced lady, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

When did you decide to become a yoga instructor?

I decided to become an instructor about 6 months into developing my personal practice. Something clicked for me right away and I knew I wanted to teach, to share what I was learning with my community. I recognized the impact that having teachers who looked like me had on how I was able to connect in class and felt that I could foster that sort of connection for others through teaching.

What type of yoga do you teach? What drew you to this particular form of yoga?

I mostly teach different styles of vinyasa yoga because I love the way flowing leaves me feeling grounded and connected. The styles range from gentle restorative vinyasa to hot power vinyasa, and everything in between. I believe that we can practice flowing through life much the way we do a vinyasa class.

How has the practice of yoga affected your life? Spiritually? Mentally?

Practicing yoga has changed my life completely. As a person with a mood and anxiety disorder, the practices I’ve learned on this journey have allowed me to begin to navigate life in much healthier ways. Yoga has helped me better my relationships, feel empowered in my abilities, and deepen my capacity for joy.

Tell us more about BWYC! What led you to create this space?

I created BWYC because I noticed a lack of resources and representation as a Black woman starting my own journey with yoga. When I stopped attending yoga classes at my gym in Crenshaw and branched out to actual yoga studios, I was disappointed to often find myself the only Black student in class. It also became apparent that finding other Black instructors was going to be a challenge.

I knew that a part of what helped me connect with yoga when I did was the comfort I felt being surrounded by my community. I had practiced before a few times throughout my life but had never felt like it was truly for me, until I experienced yoga in an environment that was for me. So I decided to create a space for more of that and it’s bloomed beautifully over the last few years.

How do you incorporate what you’ve learned from your practice both on and off the mat?

I do my best to flow through life with ease and intention, much the way we’re taught to flow through a yoga class. A lot of the Baptiste methodology particularly is around staying in alignment with your true purpose, facing tough times with ease, doing what you can and knowing it’s enough. In a class I use those things to remind myself to be kind to my body, in life I use those things as a reminder to be kind to my whole self.

What would you share with a beginner?

I would say don’t be afraid to explore all of the different styles of yoga to find the style that fits you best. A lot of people think “yoga” is just one thing but there are so many different ways to practice.

How has your understanding of Karuna grown and changed over the years?

Before I started practicing yoga, I believed that compassion was something I only gave to others. Over the years and through practice, I’ve come to understand that it starts with me. I’ve come to understand that when I am compassionate to myself, it is much easier to be compassionate to others. When I’m kind to myself, it’s much easier to share kindness with others. When I heal myself, I create space for others to heal themselves.

You can follow Mel’s journey and connect with her on Instagram at @meldouglasyoga. You can support her work at Black Women’s Yoga Collective on Instagram at @blackwomensyogaco. You can also practice alongside Mel this month with our Karuna Heart-Opening Asana with our mantra:

I extend deep and unconditional compassion with each breath. I find presence and happiness through boundless, abundant compassion for all living creature