In the moments before her online yoga class, Jasmine RaShae takes 15 minutes to meditate, pray, and look inward. Her mat lies on the hearth under an array of symbols: a fleur-de-lis, a cross, an Om, and gold plates with Egyptian and Aztec designs. Her laptop and monitor occupy the kitchen counter—the laptop, to navigate Spotify and Zoom; the monitor, so she can see her students and make sure they’re safe in every position.
When yoga studios shut down in March, RaShae had been teaching full-time for less than six months, commuting between four studios and Seattle Girls' School. She faced a momentary fear of returning to a corporate job and giving up her passion. Now, however, she looks back and sees the pandemic as a blessing in disguise, one that forced her to break out of the studio model with its limited teaching slots and to focus on her independent practice. These days, companies, schools, and individuals are reaching out to her. “It was exhilarating, at first, because it was new territory,” says RaShae.
With a background in marketing, she embraced an entrepreneurial mindset. She bought an unlimited Zoom plan and set up sessions on Eventbrite. She set aside time with other teachers and her family back home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, calling Zoom to troubleshoot sharing music, balancing its volume with the sound of her voice.
RaShae developed her unique brand of “soulful flow yoga” when she first grasped yoga as a spiritual as well as physical practice. “I need something that reflects my personality and people who look like me,” she recalls thinking. When she started teaching in Seattle, she mixed playlists of soul, hip-hop, and R&B, ranging from the meditative Beautiful Chorus to Whitney Houston, Sade, and Solange. She then curated yoga postures inspired by the music and lyrics.
RaShae now hosts four online classes and one in-person class at a new studio, Take Care Yoga, in Belltown every week. She also holds classes for companies and individuals as requested, with past clients including the likes of Amazon, Nordstrom, Lululemon, and a Seahawks player, all of whom reached out in the pandemic.
Take Care Yoga opened in October for a short while before having to shut down amid the state’s latest round of coronavirus restrictions. Even with her students distanced and masked while off their mats, those in-person classes gave RaShae a boost every week. “It’s the most beautiful thing,” she says of her students relaxing into stillness and calm.
Online, RaShae welcomes yogis from the East Coast, Hawaii, London, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia, wishing some “good night” while her Seattleite students start their afternoon. Posture, or asana, is only one of the eight “limbs” of yoga RaShae highlights in her practice. She starts and ends every session checking in with her students, asking how they feel and offering insights from a blend of spiritual frameworks, from her own roots in Catholicism to Buddhism, Hinduism, and Kemetic yoga from Egypt. RaShae also opens up about how she feels. Some days, she has to say, “Hey, I miss y’all. I miss hearing and watching you breathe.”
Another personal challenge for RaShae came in June, during the height of the movement for racial justice. “I always know I have to be an advocate,” she says, “But it wasn’t until this summer that I realized that I had to be an activist.”
Activism as a yoga teacher, in RaShae’s practice, means offering access to students of color and students from all socioeconomic backgrounds. She teaches regular classes at the Black-owned Maya Whole Health; when she first started teaching, she bused all the way out to Renton to make sure she could support them. She also contacted Seattle Girls’ School to ensure her practice reached beyond studio members.
For all of her personal classes, aside from studio partnerships, students pay what they can—some a single dollar, others $55. Yoga used to be free, RaShae reminds me. While she faced anxiety at the onset of the pandemic, not knowing how to price classes online or whether she’d draw enough participants to make a living, she let her spirituality and faith guide her, trusting that there would be enough to support her. Despite oscillations in income, she has drawn enough business to also donate to nonprofits, primarily Seattle’s Legacy of Love and Light, Know Your Rights Camp, and Families of Color Seattle.
Beyond the yoga practice, RaShae offers a variety of services, with clients in wellness consulting and spiritual workshops that combine yoga with candlelit meditation or written reflections. “I want to take care of your soul and your spirit, or the essence of you as a human,” RaShae says, “I tell my students, 2020 will give us all the plot twists. We breathe through the transitions on and off the mat.”