Craig instructing yoga at Fishtown Library on June 17th. (GIH | Rasheed Ajamu)

Just an Amtrak or Megabus ride away, Mx. Craig (they/them) came to Philadelphia as a Bronx, New York native in 2011 as a “student who just happened to attend the University of Pennsylvania.” The music and creative scene attracted them to the city, but the Blackness and energy of “loving hard and fighting hard” kept them here. 

Since then, Craig has relocated from the West & Southwest Philly areas to Germantown in 2021. They bring their yoga practice ingrained with Queer and Trans detailing, which they use to spread non-western ideals of wellness throughout the city.

While they’ve always practiced periodically, they began more intentional grounding in the technique while a student at Studio 34 in West Philly, which, according to their website, “respects and honors all bodies,” not just in yoga but other healing arts.

Their Restorative Justice Circle facilitation background also played a heavy role in their decision to become an instructor. Circle practice is an indigenous one that involves resolving or healing conflict between various parties. Participants talk about the issue within the circle, share their perspectives, and seek healing. 

“The combination of doing yoga and being a decent facilitator who can communicate not just the movement but what to do with your words is a very important skill,” said Craig. “And so I was like, you know what? I should do this.” 

Ableism, athleticism, and beauty standards are just a few things that Craig identifies as barriers to better wellness practices for all people. They talked about how more common portrayals of yoga practice in the media look like “skinny white jawns who are basically doing gymnastics” and said that it’s not helpful for folks ranging in race, ability, size, and more.

“Just like gender is a performance, I feel like we all show up in spaces and perform in a certain way,” Craig shares, dissecting the unnecessary expectations to utilize yoga, whether it’s the clothes or the method itself. “[Sometimes] there’s this performance of ‘I need to push myself and show off all the things that I can do in this outfit that I’m in?’”

Talking about how they dismantle those harmful procedures, they said, “I really do try to emphasize the connection to breath, the connection to this consistency of life and energy, but also the affirmation of a person knowing themselves the best and moving through life, moving through yoga classes, knowing what feels good and what they can strive towards without feeling forced to conform.”

“Everybody can do yoga,” they explained. “Everybody can breathe and practice non-judgment and nonviolence.” 

Craig’s practice goes beyond words. There is intention and care they bring to the spaces they create around the city to ensure everyone feels like their best selves in their practice. 

They detail how they set the stage: “I start all my classes introducing myself, but also ask them to introduce themselves  and what they might want to do in class and if they have injuries or whatever–just to be mindful of who is with me in the room.”

They continued, saying, “We use props. Using the wall, using blocks, using blankets, using chairs, [and] using the environment that we’re in to teach to best support my students.”

For Craig, there is a necessity for people to see them teaching this practice, but more importantly, they needed to see themself. “You don’t see a lot of Black, Queer, Trans, Fat, Non-Binary teachers with green hair teaching your class and affirming wherever you’re at in the class,” they said.

Visiting their June 17th session at the Fishtown Library, I got firsthand experience where I shared my name, pronouns, and what I hoped to get out of the space with a group of four. For the span of about an hour, our group was guided through warrior ones, pyramids, twists, and more poses to open our bodies, hearts, and breaths. And there was never a time when our instructor didn’t offer variations and remind us to check in with our joints to see what felt good.

To support us in connecting a bit deeper to ourselves and our rest, Craig utilized the sounds of bells and crystal singing bowls to create a sound bath for the students while we lay with our eyes closed or softly gazed in our Savasana, the final resting pose.

Though it would seem the care and intention they bring into the space is already a vast improvement from common media portrayals of yoga, Craig’s practice won’t stop there. While a yoga instructor, Craig is also set to become a licensed acupuncturist by the end of the year. And by the end of 2025, you can put “Dr.” in front of their name, as they’ll pursue their doctorate in acupuncture.

In obtaining their license, they seek to blend the two wellness disciplines to increase “body awareness and encouragement for folks to have and engage with their own body autonomy.” For them, these two practices are not mutually exclusive but help inform their personhood.

“They helped me realize awareness of my body and how I move in the world,” they shared. “Also how I’m capable of things, not just in my physical ability, but my mental ability in being there for myself and being there for others. There’s also a level of validation that comes from moving from teaching, but also from witnessing.”

And just like acupuncture, Craig also clarifies that Blackness and Queerness are just as intertwined with their practice. 

“There’s a queerness to being Black, and I’m Non-Binary. I don’t want to be placed in the confines of scripted B.S. I want there to always be the possibility for something to just be a little different and that to be okay and still accepted. And with my teaching, I’ve been able to do that.”

While they are actively hosting free yoga sessions at different Free Library branches throughout the city, they plan to bring these sessions to Germantown at Black.Bird.Rising closer to the fall season. They hope acupuncture services will follow.

“I’m literally trying to be your friendly neighborhood doctor,” Craig said about bringing this series of sessions to the neighborhood. “Promoting healing and wellness here in Germantown and in Greater Philadelphia.”

To find out where you can attend your next free yoga session, follow Craig on Facebook at Craiggy Boi Wellness and Instagram at @craiggyboiwellness. They are also on rotation at Studio 34.

Giving thanks to those they’ve been able to teach but also be taught from, they shared, “I’m very grateful to be where I’m at. This is what I’m called to do in the resistance or called to do in the community.”