When you think of yoga, what comes to mind? Do you think of yoga pants, a clean yoga mat and a soothing studio? What about the types of people who do yoga? Are they young, able-bodied and white?
When Paul Winfield, a local yogi and author, returned to his hometown of Baton Rouge from Puerto Rico, he noticed microaggressions and a lack of diversity at local yoga studios. As he finalized his yoga teacher training in 2019, he decided to open his own yoga studio where all people, no matter their race, size or mobility, could feel welcome.
“You don’t need legs or arms to do yoga,” Winfield says. “You can actually lay in your bed and do yoga in your mind, and you will get the benefits from it. No physical challenge is a challenge. No ability or lack thereof is an impediment to success.”
Winfield opened More & More I Am Yoga Studio on Juneteenth 2019. Juneteenth celebrates the emancipation of the last enslaved African Americans in the Confederacy. So it was a special date for Winfield to open a yoga studio in a primarily black area. He aimed to provide a safe space in north Baton Rouge for locals to practice yoga in a judgement-free and inclusive studio.
When locals step into the studio, that is exactly what they feel. Students are comfortable. They wear everything from cozy sweatsuits to yoga leggings and a T-shirt. No two students look the same. They are different ages, experience levels and backgrounds.
The quaint studio on Florida Boulevard offers different styles of yoga classes, including power yoga, restorative and intermediate. Locals can drop in for a single class or register for an unlimited membership for $50 a month. Students and seniors get a discounted membership rate for $40 a month.
Winfield wants to encourage people to practice yoga consistently. The meaning of the studio name was chosen to motivate yogis to grow in their practice by applying themselves “more and more” each day. He wants the studio to be a place where people can start where they are, with their current resources and not feel like they have to perform in exclusive, all-white settings.
“It’s important to have a space that is here for a part of the city that is not appreciated and people are never given hope or told you can,” Winfield says. “This is a space for them to get that message and experience.”
More & More I Am Yoga Studio is at 1714 Florida Blvd. moreiam.org
This article was originally published in the July 2020 issue of 225 Magazine.