Black-led neighborhood highlight: Felicia Savage Friedman of YogaRoots On Location | Group profile | Pittsburgh
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CP Photo: Jared Murphy
Felicia Savage Friedman is teaching a Chair Yoga class at the Kingsley Association in July 2019.
For many, the word “yoga” conjures up images of watercolor sunsets and people sitting cross-legged and stretching their hands with their palms towards the sky. Yoga itself began as an ancient Indian cultural and religious practice, and as it became popular in the western world, teachers began changing and adding to traditional principles. For Felicia Savage Friedman of YogaRoots On Location, the practice still has some of its spiritual roots, but it also adds elements of social justice to it. For Friedman, yoga is an embodied practice that has roots in the self and in the larger community in which a person lives. That is why she combined the traditions of Raja Yoga with framework conditions against racism and oppression.
Friedman came to yoga as a practice 32 years ago. She was a member of the East End Food Co-op, followed a vegan lifestyle, and took pride in being healthy. She met her first yoga teacher at the cooperative and studied with her for six years. She says that her main focus was taking care of her body and family. She has two children (Maya and Cleveland) who were young when she started her yoga and meditation practice. Friedman did not begin teaching until after those six years of study.
“I didn’t get into yoga planning to even become a teacher. I would look at myself and compare myself with my colleagues who also studied, ”says Friedman. “We were studying at the same time. I wasn’t as flexible as she was. It took me longer to understand and conceive the concepts. ”
YogaRoots On Location, a roaming yoga practice in the Pittsburgh area, began 11 years ago after Friedman originally taught yoga for the Healthy Black Family Project at Kingsley Center in Larimer. Friedman says that in addition to being part of the HBFP, she was part of a research project at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health asking her to travel around town and teach. With all of these things on her plate, she decided it was time to do her business “legitimate” and YogaRoots On Location was born.
Friedman has taught at Allegheny County Jail, Schuman Juvenile Detention Center, and most of the city’s fitness facilities. Naming your business was easy, she says. “I was like ‘yoga roots’, these are my roots, I’m going back to my roots to be healthy,” she says. “And it is me who regains my health, but then also takes it out. And that’s why I was “on site”. Because I didn’t want a physical building. I wanted to bring yoga to other people in their locations. ”
Meeting people where they are is part of her philosophy as a teacher. Friedman says you don’t have to have a yoga background to take any of their classes. In this respect she calls herself the “Queen of Modifications”. She repeats that before the class began, she feared that she would not be flexible enough to teach or that she was not familiar with the principles of Raja Yoga. It is central for their classes to create a space where everyone feels their needs are being met and their strengths are highlighted. Friedman emphasizes the importance of “practicing” and notes that we all have daily exercises such as exercising or writing. As long as you bring this energy into the yoga room, you will be successful, she says.
And she adds that YogaRoots On Location thrived on multiple levels despite the loss during the COVID era. Part of their mission is to empower people through employment on a living wage along with the physical exercise and spiritual practice of yoga.
YogaRoots On Location is also a place suitable for those who are new to working against racism and oppression. How these two topics intersect, one might wonder, but Friedman says that there are many principles that are complementary to one another.
One of the commandments is nonviolence and the promise not to cause harm. As part of their practice, yogis vow to do no harm in their daily life and to practice nonviolence. According to Friedman, the aspect of nonviolence is crucial for both yoga and the work against racism. “Oppression is about people not seeing their own power. If people really see their power and worth and are encouraged to do their best, we’re not going to oppress each other,” Friedman says. “We won’t feel this level of competition. We will see each other’s gifts and work together. “
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Felicia Savage Friedman (top left) and members of the AntiRacist Raja Yoga group, including Shelly Regner, Antiracist Raja Yoga teacher and facilitator and social worker (top right); Sheba Gittens, anti-racist Raja Yoga practitioner, healing mother and teacher / moderator (center left); Naomi Ritter, marketing specialist and yoga teacher in training (center right); and Lori Crawford, Grant Fairy and Creativity Curator (below) pose for a zoom portrait on April 22nd.
She says that part of her job as a yoga teacher is helping people live their most incredible lives, and that can’t happen in an oppressive society. Therefore, they combine the two to create a more equitable experience. She says just like we see animals in nature coming together to work together for the home base, we as humans must do the same.
Friedman focuses her teachings on the eight limbs of Raja Yoga that she practices: intrapersonal limitations such as purity, contentment, self-study, self-discipline, surrender to higher power; interpersonal observations: non-violence, moderation / celibacy, non-possession, non-hoarding; Exercise practice; Breathing techniques; sensory withdrawal; Concentration; universal meditation; and purposeful life.
She says that the seventh link – universal meditation – has to do with being determined.
“If I am with you now because I am determined and focused, then you get energetic from me that you are important to me because I share my time and my energy with you,” says Friedman. “I think that’s the opposite of racism or patriarchy because oppression doesn’t recognize us. It’s about power over. It’s not about sharing and honoring. “
YogaRoots on site. yogarootsonlocation.comThis community function is made possible by the financial support of
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