Healing Charlotte Podcast: Kiesha Battles, Yoga Ethics for Transforming Racism

In this episode, we have the pleasure of talking with Kiesha Battles of I Am Yoga and co-creator of the “Yoga Ethics for Transforming Racism” program with Kristine Kaoverii Weber of Subtle Yoga.

“It’s the conversation that we hope that people are open to having because with this Yoga, you know it’s more than doing, it’s taking action and what we are trying to do is take that action of just sharing more of the tools and the practices that can benefit us in this world. We both have this understanding that there are many paths to Yoga, and not all of them focus on the ethical principles. So what we want to do is share with people that they are there.”

Her Yoga journey began when she found a flyer in the hallway of her graduate program in Asian Studies. She started out studying the Iyengar method and after moving to Charlotte, began practicing more Vinyasa and Power Yoga. She’s completed two 200-hour Yoga Teacher programs, the first being with Kristine and the second with her mentor Maya Breuer. She’s also completed a 300-hour program with Maya and is currently in another with Embodied Philosophy. Presently, she is the Yoga Director at Charlotte Family Yoga and founder of I Am Yoga where she leads Yoga Teacher Training programs and provides Accessible Yoga.

Kiesha is a full time Yoga teacher with over 20 years of experience. Before COVID, she was teaching 20 classes a week to over 300 students. During COVID, she found herself with more time on her hands by not driving from class to class. This intersection paired with the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement provided the opportunity to co-create with Kristine. Kiesha’s study of Yoga Philosophy began when developing her research paper for Kristine’s 200-hour Training Program on “Why Don’t African Americans Do Yoga.” This research led her to Maya Breuer, her “Grandmother of Yoga.” She attended her Yoga Retreat for Women of Color and began private studies with her afterwards on Living Yoga. She studied intimately with Maya for years going deeper and deeper with the Yamas and Niyamas(Ethical Principles of Yoga). She then began practicing with Kelley Palmer in Charlotte who was integrating the Yoga principles more directly. This partnership with Kristine reminds Kiesha of Yin and Yang. Not only by the styles they teach, Kristine teaching more of an active style and Kiesha teaching Yin, but by who they are as women. Each present the Yamas or Niyamas as it relates to racism, humanities, and ethics, paired with a physical practice. All proceeds go towards scholarship foundations for BIPOC organizations; Black Yoga Teacher Alliance and I Am Yoga. After 1 month of offering the program, they have been able to contribute $3k to each organization. She believes this program gives the participant a path to change and understand racism through the lens of the ethical principles of Yoga.

“What are your values? What are the values that you hold true that you would stand your ground for, that you would fight for, that you would be willing to die for. For some people in our path, it could be God, it could be Spirit. For some people it’s love and for some people it’s country. But what are you holding true as a value outside of who you vote for?”

Maya Breuer has been influential in Kiesha’s work and from her she found T.K.V Desikachar’s book “The Heart of Yoga” which has done the same for her. Candace Jennings, her partner in I Am Yoga was influential in developing her 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training. Kiesha enjoys working with everybody as she believes working with everybody provides her an opportunity to learn. She wants to Heal Charlotte because she is a loyalist. She moved to the Carolinas during her adolescent years and is now so embedded in the community here, she wants Charlotte to be well.

In Charlotte, she’s inspired by Candace Jennings, her business partner and bodyworker, her Mom as she has found healing in the extra time spent with her after surgery, interactions with her friends during COVID, and Key Baldwin, her Reiki Master. Dr. Tony Peters is another bodyworker in Charlotte who Kiesha appreciates.

“If you are looking for healing, ask for it, there are so many resources out there and there’s no one right way of healing.”

Learn more about “Yoga Ethics for Transforming Racism.”