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Conversations surrounding mental health in the Black community are often considered taboo, but a yoga instructor from Baltimore is aiming to change that narrative. Changa Bell, the creator of the Black Male Yoga Initiative, is helping Black men heal from trauma through yoga, ABC News reported.

Yoga was something that was always present in Bell’s household as he watched his father practice it while growing up, the news outlet writes. It wasn’t until Bell had a health setback in his adulthood when he decided to incorporate it into his daily life. Heavy smoking and drinking led Bell to have a serious heart condition which could have required him to wear a pacemaker. That’s when he knew that it was time to change his lifestyle for the better and started to practice yoga.

Bell realized that there weren’t enough safe spaces for Black men to practice wellness and that’s when his yoga journey became bigger than himself. “Black men in particular were being isolated by the yoga community. We’re marketed as over-sexualized, hyper-violent, hyper-masculine,” said Bell. “I wanted to make a huge welcome sign that said, ‘You’re welcome here and come and heal.’”

The Black Male Yoga Initiative has proven to be impactful. Many of the men who attend Bell’s sessions say that they have been life-changing. “Trauma is deeply intertwined in our existence. We get to express it here,” said one of the members. “Yoga brings balance. It puts everything I’ve ever went through into perspective.”

There are several individuals who have been working towards creating safe spaces for Black wellness.  Last year, public health advocate Kevin Dedner launched a digital platform dubbed Henry Health as an avenue to empower Black men to take charge of their mental health.

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