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Meet Trailblazer Kayla Morgan

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kayla Morgan.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Kayla. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Graduation night I had my things packed in the driveway of my supervised living “home.” After a summer of being on probation, working a retail job and going to night school to catch up on math credits, I couldn’t wait another day. I was already 18, and I was ready to be free from the label “Ward of the State.” Little did I know I was already wearing the Scarlet letters of TAY Transition Age Youth.

Transition Aged Youth are young people between the ages 16-24 in the child welfare system. Many Transition Age Youth age out of the foster care system without family support. These youths may be voluntarily or involuntarily participating in multiple systems with little to no guidance from adults and often lack the” life lessons” that parents typically provide.

In my rush for freedom and liberation, I found comfort in unhealthy relationships. By 21, I had become a statistic. I had two children in diapers, was in a domestically violent relationship, and was unemployed. I also had a lifetime of untreated trauma, anxiety, and an attachment disorder that I avoided.

After three years of riding the power and control wheel, I could not take the emotional and physical abuse. I could not allow my boys to witness the threats, the minimizing, and blaming. Enough was enough when one of my sons came very close to being harmed during an attack from his father. I decided that I had to leave. Anything would be better than living in the same house as my abuser. I left and I did not take anything with me. That is when I became homeless for the first time, at 23 years old.

I felt like a failure. I was in a place where I was considering foster care for my children. I was in the cycle of repeating generational poverty and domestic violence. I felt a lot of shame, guilt, and pain. My personal instability was oozing over into my work life. I couldn’t keep a job for longer than three months. I “was burnt out” I felt like Issa Rae on Insecure when she was working for that racist nonprofit. I was working two jobs but still could not afford an apartment. The worst part is I did not believe I could maintain my own place. I did not think I deserved to have my own place. Crazy. I know.

At the time, I was living in “survival mode.” Everything was urgent. I couldn’t find my breath. I felt like my back was up against the wall when I had to leave my children with the most affordable care provider instead of the most qualified care provider. I could not find joy. My goal was to just get out of bed and avoid further disappointment and chaos. My mind was not connected to my body and I was not showing up as the employee, mother and friend I knew I could be. I was burned out! I needed to find a healthy way to cope with my anxiety and depression.

So, I took advantage of the YMCA low-income membership. I had heard about the many healing benefits to yoga, so I decided to just try it. I was hooked instantly. I immediately started feeling more focused, energized and balanced – on and off of my yoga mat. During mediation, I would tell myself, “I am strong, I am brave, I am resilient, and I am enough”. There, I found a space to let go of my shame, guilt and fear while choosing who I wanted to show up as when I stepped off my mat. I would repeat these affirmations even when I didn’t believe them. I was building not only my physical strength but also my mental capacity. I was discovering my grit.

It wasn’t long before I realized that I was the only woman of color practicing yoga in the classes I was attending. When I would look around the studio, I was always disappointed that I never had a Black or Brown person guiding me through the practice. Or practicing alongside me. That led me to research the background and origins of yoga even further. I learned that Yoga is a scientific system of simple movement, breath work and focus that originated in India more than three thousand years ago. Its purpose is to help each one of us achieve our highest potential of health and happiness. Society has completely whitewashed yoga and excluded people of color completely from Google searches. Proving again that colonization has happened all over the world, not just in Africa.

Growing Resilient Roots. The more research I did the more I felt the need to take action. I wanted all of my friends to have a safe space to heal from stress, pain and grief. I wanted my friends to feel safe in a space where they were surrounded by their peers. I became a 200 Hour Trauma-Informed Yoga Teacher and soon after birthed Resilient Roots Yoga, Trauma Sensitive Yoga and Advocacy. As the owner of Resilient Roots Yoga, I am utilizing my training to support individuals and families of color as they heal from systematic racism and all its effects. As people of color, we show up courageous and resilient every day. Being resilient can take a toll on your mind, body and spirit. When we make time to slow down and notice our breath, we can let go of negative narratives and respond to racism in a healthy way.

I use my lived experience to walk alongside girls who have experienced Sex Trafficking and are on probation. I provide a safe space for them to plant roots and grow by reconnecting with the bodies through movement, guided meditation and positive: I am” affirmations. I love doing this work. I want to break the cycle of abuse, neglect and generational health concerns through Yoga and Community.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
My messy beautiful life has not been smooth. It’s been rough. It’s been painful and dark. If I could give young entrepreneurs advice… I would say find you an “Elder Sis.” Find a woman who has experienced what it feels like to leave a meeting in tears.  Elder Sis has so much wisdom to share with you and none of the pain from trying to fit into spaces that are designed to keep her out. Right now, you are pushing for inclusion and a seat at the table. My Elder Sis Shannon is the creator and owner of the tables I seek to share my lived experience and skills.  A Mentorship can be formal or informal when you find your Sis let her know how she has inspired you! Honor her hard work,dedication and power she brings to the community. One day you will be The Elder Sis and it is our duty to lift as we climb without competition.   So, got out and fix another Queens crown. Without telling her it was crooked.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
I specialize in Trauma-Informed Yoga. There are five key elements you can expect from a Resilient Roots Trauma Sensitive Yoga class:

1) Consistency – This allows for the opportunity to be more present in class. Consistency in routine and music helps students remain present in what is going on in their bodies instead of constantly scanning the environment and having to adjust to differences.
2) Choice – The power to choose what posture variation works best for you and your body.
3) Self-Compassion‍ – When we are mindful of our struggles and respond to ourselves with compassion, kindness, and support in times of difficulty, things start to change. We can learn to embrace ourselves and our lives, despite inner and outer imperfections, and provide ourselves with the strength needed to thrive.
4) Safety‍ – Stress can be as common as drinking coffee. When we slow down and notice our breath, we start to feel those feelings that can bring tears and that is okay. Resilient Roots Yoga is a safe space to feel and express all feelings.
5) Exclusive Space for people of color‍ – When POC have exclusive spaces to heal from our historical trauma, we can build intentional relationships, focus on our strengths, honor our ancestors and grow because we are resilient like our roots.

Taking Back Our Narrative
Trauma-sensitive yoga is best used with people who experience treatment-persistent post-secondary stress disorder (PTSD), or complex trauma, which may include symptoms such as dissociation, anxiety, impaired memory, hyper-vigilance, emotional numbness and joint and chronic muscle pain. These symptoms can easily be mistaken as “just stress”. ‍If you are experiencing PTSD or you are simply just stressed out from the day to day hustle of your life, you should try my yoga class.

In my class, we take back our narrative. I am here to remind you that you are safe. You are brave. You are worthy. You are enough. You are resilient like the roots of your ancestors!

Do you recommend any apps, books or podcasts that have been helpful to you?
Podcasts:
Tough Skin Soft Heart By Shannon Cohen {Podcast and Book}
Same Different By: Michigan Radio
I love a good TEDtalk
Books:
Black Faces In White Spaces: Randal Pinkett and Jeffrey Robinson
Diversity Beyond Lip Service: La’wanna Harris
Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Angela Davis
Becoming: Michelle Obama

Contact Info:

Image Credits:
Top photo @Indiecityphotograph  Mayline pereze
Head shot  @kellanphotography
Yoga photos- Barbie  @Wild luna Photography

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