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Meet Shawandra Ford of Brwnskn Yoga

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shawandra Ford.

Shawandra Ford

Thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
In April 2019, after 21 years of working for Memphis Shelby County Schools, I resigned!  This had been my life since I was 18 years old and by far one of the hardest decisions I’d ever had to make. As a Highly Specialized Strategic Planning Advisor (it just meant I did a lot) and throughout the years, I had accomplished a lot and received many accolades; it was simply time to move on.  But move on to what??

I knew that I was good at a lot of things but not anything I wanted to do for another 21 years, so I took a few months off to figure it out. It was traumatic, to say the least, but my good moments were in my Yoga classes. For years, I had indulged in the idea of becoming a Yoga Teacher. Yoga had truly helped me through some rough times, especially my mom’s death but I never had time to commit to taking the training, and now I did!

By the end of 2019, I was a Certified Yoga Instructor and the proud owner of BRWNSKN YOGA. However, I still did not know where I was going. Not until I came across a yoga program for children and then it hit me, THIS is what I should be doing. Most adults into yoga already have a practice so my focus became more on children. And not just any children, underserved children in black and brown communities. I was fully invested and received my Children’s Yoga Teacher Certification in the summer of 2020. I was ready!!

Ready to go out into the community to teach children all about Yoga but then the pandemic hit and everything shut down… As COVID had done with so many things, I didn’t allow it to stop me. I pitched my idea to Vision Prep Academy and they hired me as their Virtual Yoga School Teacher. I had reinvented myself and I was motivated! In 2020 amid a pandemic, I was teaching black and brown children yoga on Zoom. I was teaching 6 classes per day, Tuesday- Thursday, kindergarten through 5th grade and they were showing up, being present and they were ENGAGED! Not only did I have my students, but I had my adult clientele as well; people of color who had always been interested in Yoga but weren’t sure if it was for them.

In 2021, as soon as the World opened back up so did BRWNSKN YOGA. I opened my Yoga studio in Whitehaven, in the Southbrook Town Centre where I grew up. I also decided to expand my teaching so I could reach as many students and adults as I possibly could by partnering with Memphis Shelby County Schools and other private entities throughout the City of Memphis, especially those in underserved communities.

I am very proud of the work that I do. I am very proud of my students and those who show up committed to becoming a better version of themselves through the practice of Yoga. When I started, I did not know where this change would lead me but now, I know exactly which community I’m serving each day!

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
I would never discourage anyone from pursuing their dreams but I will always be honest with them. Being an entrepreneur is hard work. It may seem like the dream job but if you are not driven and determined you will not make it. Soon you will find out that rest becomes obsolete therefore, self-care is mandatory.

Convincing people that your services require a fee because it is an actual business, your real JOB, and not a hobby, now this becomes a game of chess. You have to learn how to market yourself. Lastly, without the proper education or training in forecasting and planning you may run into issues with maintaining a balanced budget which could potentially ruin your business.

There is so much more that goes into operating your own business that on those bad days you have got to be resilient and bounce back but if it is your passion, it will be worth it.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Brwnskn Yoga is a holistic space for wellness that operates in underserved schools and communities. Our mission is to make sure that Yoga is accessible to everyone regardless of their socioeconomic background.

In addition to providing studio-style sessions, BSY has been fortunate to be able to go out into the community and into inner-city schools to introduce the practice of yoga and social-emotional learning to children and adults of all ages. Most recently, we have expanded our teaching to those who are incarcerated and are seeking reform and rehabilitation.

What were you like growing up?
Honestly, I’m simply just a girl from The Haven. My lineage expands from Lakeview Gardens to Orange Mound; from North Memphis (Hurt Village) to Whitehaven. If you know anyone whose maiden name is Cowan(s) we’re most likely related. I come from a pretty big family.

Many of my struggles were the same as the students I teach. My household was at a disadvantage, we were considered low-income. Growing up, I was feisty and very sassy. with a smart mouth. Thinking back, I probably would have stayed out of a lot of trouble if I had a Yoga Teacher. I am sure that I would have experienced less anxiety and depression if I had been taught how to breathe and self-regulate at an earlier age.

Nevertheless, I am grateful for all of my life experiences and happy that I found the practice of Yoga when I did.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Marlon Gentry – Marlon’s Vision Photography

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