Goal Digging Women: Faith Hunter, Spiritually Fly Yoga and Meditation Instructor & Pioneer in DC

Goal Digging Women features amazing brown skin women across the globe who are doing remarkable admirable work. It is with great pleasure I bring to you someone who literally opened my soul right up. Prior to a powerful three-way conversation for this feature, I studied the pioneer and inspiring soul, Faith Hunter on her website and social media outlets. The power of the #BlackYogi (hashtag) allowed me to connect with all the magic Faith puts out and into the Universe. On this call was myself, Faith and her talent manager Ava. Join us as we take a powerful trip down Faith’s self-love, intentional living and entrepreneurial journey.

Faith is a global yoga instructor who has a passion for beauty, movement, love, and soul freedom.

Carmen: So Faith, you are a yoga instructor and also offer certification training as well. Let’s talk more about that and how you got started.

Faith: Yes, I am a yoga and meditation instructor. I started taking yoga when my brother was dying from AIDS. I went to my first yoga class during that time to help deal with the pain and the experience was amazing. I was like OK I’m showing up tomorrow, I’m showing up the next day and it just kind of continued.

Carmen: So at what point did you decide that you were going to become an instructor and teach other people?

Faith: That didn’t happen until almost 10 years later. I was in my 20’s in the 1990’s. 2003 is when I did my training but 2001 is when I started thinking about it and then I was like OK let’s do this. I decided to become a yoga teacher sometime around 2011-2012. That’s when I actually jumped into my teacher teaching.

Carmen: I know you are originally from Louisiana but what brought you to New York City before making DC your home base?

Faith: I moved to DC around 1996 after graduating from grad school with my MBA. I did nonprofit work for many years. Around 2001 is when I totally quit nonprofit and moved to New York City. I had no idea what I was gonna do next so I literally spent an entire Summer jumping around from yoga studio to yoga studio because they all had great deals and I had limited funds. I figured if I go to this studio I can practice for $20 this week and just bounced around at different studios taking advantage of the deals.

Carmen: Smart and a great way to use your time. So what was your transition period from NYC to DC?

Faith: After I finished my teach training in 2003 I taught in NYC for a little while at different studios and for private clients. At the time my younger brother living in DC told me ‘hey my girlfriend says the yoga classes here suck (chuckles), you should come teach here so she could take your classes’. So I thought maybe I’ll move back to DC. And that’s what I did. Thinking the DC yoga market was the same as NYC (meaning that I could work full-time as a yoga teacher and do my thing) but when I moved back in late 2005-2006 I quickly realized it was not like that. I ended up working part-time as a yoga teacher and consulting in nonprofit for a couple of years until I decided to drop off the nonprofit stuff and focus on yoga.

Carmen: At what point did you open your studio in DC?

Faith: The studio I own now is my second studio. I opened my first one in 2007 with a business partner whom I shared the business with. At the same time I was also still working fulltime as a consultant. My partner and I had the studio for about two years. In 2011 is when I opened my current studio space here is DC called Embrace.

Carmen: Are you instructing yoga and meditation solely or do you have other instructors with you?

Faith: I call the studio my love community love project (chuckles). I have a studio manager and about eight teachers on our roster right now. I teach there on average about 2-3 times a week unless I’m traveling. Half of my staff have gone through yoga teacher training with me or they are senior level teachers who have been practicing for years.

Carmen: With your practice, you share a lot of your personal journey with yoga and the practice on a daily basis. What would you say to someone who may find you on social media, observing how incredible your visual captures are?

Faith: The main piece (and I try my best to share this on social media and online) is that my yoga, meaning my practice, is not just on the mat. I take the lessons, stories, feelings and sensations, everything that I’m doing there on my mat and meditation pillow and I take that into my life. My yoga isn’t just that 1-2 hours that I’m practicing, it’s what I’m doing everyday in my life. My mindfulness, thoughtfulness, self inquiry and exploration happens every single day in my relationships and in my business. So yoga is my entire life.

Carmen: I’ve been following you for a couple of months and I see that. It’s apart of who you are and it’s admirable. Outside of sharing your love of yoga and meditation I see you traveling and sharing parts of this world on a grand scale. Let’s talk a little bit more about the work you do outside of Embrace, which allows you to bring this way of intentional living into other parts of the world.

Faith: It all started about six years ago and possibly longer than that (I feel like time flies). Funny story, I was in a room filled with a bunch of undergrads talking about mindfulness and meditation as they are completing their internship in DC government. They invited me talk to them about how to live mindfully as they move into the corporate world. So during the engagement I mention I started practicing yoga in the 90’s and asked who was born in the 90’s? And like 90% of the room raised their hand and I was like Oh My God lol. I was an adult then. That was kind of wild. So yeah, I started traveling and teaching regionally, nationally and internationally I would say about 6-7 years ago. My main focus is to bring this practice to as many people as possible. The opportunities that show up and come my way I really just try to take full advantage of and present this practice with all my heart. It doesn’t matter if I’m teaching to a room full of five women or if I’m teaching to a crowd of like 10,000, it’s all the same. Giving 100% every time I show up.

Ava: A little bit of this picks up on how Faith got here and then all of the amazing things that she’s doing. She provided the timeline from 2003-2011 but I want to take it a bit further. Faith is a complete Pioneer. She is by far the most recognizable African-American woman in yoga. From the doors that she has opened and the stages that she has been on big and small, including the White House. So when she says 10, 000 people, she’s not just saying that, she actually taught to a room full of 10, 000 people. I’ve been part of it and able to watch it all,the big and small moments. One incredible highlight being fundraising and teaching in Haiti. Faith brought teacher training to Haiti for Haitian girls. The yoga industry has really changed in the past eight years or so and as Faith was saying the way she shows up. I really believe she is the complete package, and one of the first in a lot of respects regardless of background, for women of color. A Pioneer reference gets used to describe Faith, and it’s appropriate. There’s some fancy things that happen in the yoga world that Faith has been the first woman of color to be apart of. Something as simple as her traveling to Iowa and being the only person of color and everyone present wanting to listen to her and hear what she has to say. Her studio location as well for instance, it is now on the up and up but it was the hood. She took a chance on the area with opening Embrace which now caters to a diverse group of participants. She shows up, she works her ass off. She’s the complete package.

Carmen: Thank you for putting Faith’s work into a deeper perspective for us, Ava. I don’t normally have the opportunity to have a third party present to speak on behalf of who I am featuring and appreciate the insight you’ve shared. Faith, as Ava shared about how dynamic you are, from you becoming your own person, practicing yoga, becoming an instructor on to instructing other teachers, what was the driving force behind all of this?

Faith: The primary reason that it was years ago and still is today is I am constantly seeing how powerful this practice affects my life. Not just because I’m 46 and healthy and all of those great benefits but the real benefit is this mental and emotional harmony, balance and equanimity that I get from the practice. I know for a fact if I didn’t do that over twenty plus years ago I would not be where I am today. Meaning in harmony in so many ways but also anytime that a challenge or a struggle comes my way, my reaction to it is definitely different from what I probably would have done twenty years ago. Knowing how this practice impacts my life and how it continues to have a direct influence on all of my decisions, like literally everything. If I really don’t know what to do, I drop into my meditation. Or if I’m feeling something is going on physically in my body or I’m dealing with a lot of stress what am I going to do to alleviate that? I’m going to drop into my practice. I’m going to rely on my meditation and I’m going to rely on my mantras. I’m going to use this practice in every aspect of my life not just for my short periods of time that I need to move my body. That’s my inspiration. That inspires me, it keeps me on the mat, it keeps me sane, it keeps me balanced and therefore I need to continue to share this with people. I’m reminded of this when I receive comments literally everyday from people hitting me up in my direct messages or someone sending me an email saying how what I’ve share or offered has helped them. I received a message today from a woman saying “I listen to your yoga podcast” and I’m like I haven’t released a yoga podcast since like 2010 (chuckles). Shocked but it’s still relevant so I guess I’m on the right path.

Carmen: OK so let’s cover the mental wellness aspect of existing, especially for black women. All of what we have gone through and all of what we are still going through. How we channel that external energy and how we internalize it. Since starting Brown Skin Women in 2013, I’ve held a series of small to large events that allows women to connect with educators, speakers and brand providers. What I’ve realized is so many of us are struggling with the day-to-day. Business owners, moms, significant others, employees, so many of use aren’t dealing with the daily stressors in a healthy, life enhancing way. My message has always been to focus on the you that nobody gets to see, and growing through internal challenges. I know how important the wellness piece is but also recognize it’s incredibly challenging for us to just show up for ourselves. Can you touch base on personal alignment with who we are on the inside?

Faith: I do a lot of workshops that are geared towards women and I’ve been noticing many women are not taking care of themselves. They’re spending a small amount of time on themselves and then they go back into their regular lives and drop back into the same habits. What I’ve been really trying to do with some of my women focused workshops is to give them this extended targeted focus around wellness and self-care. What’s been spinning around in my head for the past six month is personal intimacy. What that means is that you’re really genuinely taking the time out to drop into who you are. Really do the self inquiry examination of where your heart is resting. Where your womb is resting. We have these two powerful arcs in our bodies: the heart arc and our womb. They hold a significant amount of energy and a lot of it is built with emotional trauma as well as physical trauma. And as a result of childhood experiences and relationships, we constantly hold on but then we’re constantly out there trying to nourish and be the mama for everybody and that’s absolutely impossible. If we’re not mothering and intimately connecting to our truth, then it is impossible for us to show up and serve other people. What I’ve been really focusing on is crafting very targeted meditation, yoga, journaling and a time you have to set aside for yourself every single day. So it’s like creating your own personal ritual where you’re diving into the self. And it’s not selfish! I was talking to one of my yoga classes about intimacy and self-care and I’m like, people may call it selfish. YES, my selfish is sacred. It is something that I have to do every single day in order to insure that I have quality relationships with my family. So those are genuine, nurtured and loved. So I can actually fully show up for them when I’m present. Also, so that I can have quality relationships with my co-workers and my employees that I’m working with every single day. My studio manager for instance, it’s impossible for her and I have a positive, quality relationship if I am not communicating effectively with myself on a daily basis and checking in to see where I am emotionally and physically. So that rippled out. It’s really stepping back and not just saying oh yes, I did my self-care, I got my nails done, I go to yoga practice. No, no, no, no, no. You need to go a little deeper than that. You need to do a little bit more self work on a daily basis to ensure that all that you are doing outside of the self is fully balanced and connected.

Carmen: WOW that was SO good. It was perfect. OK so onto entrepreneurship. How do you feel your practice, self-awareness, self-love, and your daily focus on just giving yourself the absolute best has affected your entrepreneurial successes?

Faith: Instead of it affecting my successes in the business world, I think it impacts my decisions. I know all the decisions I make are not going to be winners. However, if I’m making them from a very genuine and authentic place then regardless of what the result is I’m comfortable with it. I’m satisfied because I made it from the place of center and my own personal alignment. So one of the biggest decisions that I’ve made in the past year was to leave NY and come back to DC. I’ve had my yoga studio for over six years. There were a lot of different factors that impacted my reason for leaving and returning. When I showed back up in DC, the beautiful part is I was very clear about how I wanted to run my business and how much time I wanted to even spend in my business. I learned through my own personal practice that I had to set boundaries around that. I know for a fact that I probably wouldn’t have done that three years ago. I didn’t do it three years ago. I was trying to do everything all the time and be completely absorbed while traveling. My arms were extending out in too many different directions. So when I showed back up a year ago I was like this is my schedule (communicating this to my studio manager), this is how you and I will operate. I am very adamant about my time. I put my phone on do not disturb mode until 10 in the morning. The only people who can get through are my VIP’s. I don’t want my phone ringing at certain times of the day, especially when I’m doing my personal practice. Even if I’m not doing my personal practice but am checking email and want to focus on business, I really stick right my boundaries. My personal practice has given me the confidence to set those boundaries and not apologize for being clear about what I need and what I want. Even in relationships.

It’s about being really clear about what I want as a woman and also being unafraid to set some boundaries. Say no. And when its right say yes.

Carmen: Ok so lets talk about your retreats that you have coming up. I read that you’re teaching at a retreat in Africa in October.

Faith: Instagram is a fascinating tool. The woman who runs the retreat in Africa does about three retreats in different locations. Just by coincidence I was on instagram looking at something that she was having in New Orleans. I was like I love connecting with other powerful women so I reached out to her expressing interest in meeting her. I went to the house she rented, sat down and had a great conversation. Which wasn’t really about business, it was about life, being an entrepreneur and dynamic women in the world talking about mindfulness and uplifting women of color. At the end of the convo she mentions having an event coming up in Zanzibar. Earlier that week the original yoga instructor advised she could no longer commit. That opportunity was perfect and already in line with what I already do which is focus not only on yoga but also life balance. So I will be teaching yoga and meditation, an art instructor and local chef are coming in as well, and we’re gonna swim with dolphins. This is how you should experience life!

Carmen:  I see you also have a retreat coming up at the Kripalu Center in December.

Faith: Yes so this is actually my second year doing the News Years Eve weekend retreat with them. Last year when they reached out I wanted to do something special so I asked could I do something women targeted. They told me yes so this year is 3 1/2 day retreat where we get to dive a lot deeper into the self. Last years retreat was really focused on healing. This time we will do a little healing on day one and then throughout it’s building this beautiful structure so that women can take the tools that they are learning over the weekend, and extend them into other aspects of their life. The other piece that I’m adding is a women’s circle which is so dynamic. We’re getting in, we’re crying lots of tears, and sharing stories because sometimes you just need to talk it out and have another woman hear you and say “you know what, I’ve been there”. The beautiful part about it is women are coming from all walks of life. The ages range from twenty to sixty year olds who are all going through the same stuff. So really powerful in that way but also the other piece that we are adding on is to celebrate as we transition into the new year. We are creating a women’s altar. So all women are encouraged to bring something sacred to add to the energy of the space. We will create this altar for the space, but encourage them that it’s also important to create one at home for yourself as well. I have one in my home and that little altar moves around from apartment to apartment. It’s the first thing I setup when I move into a new apartment, it has everything that’s so important. My family, my loved ones, my dead cat, my buddha. Everything from every spiritual aspect of my life. People who know me will give me things that I keep adding to it because it’s creating this sacred energy. and it’s a reminder every time you walk into your space. You are a driven human being, you are sacred, you are powerful, and then you’re like OK I can tackle the day.

Carmen: I need an altar in my home now. Sounds incredible. So this retreat, is it open to anyone?

Faith: It’s open to anyone, all women and we are still accepting registrations.

Carmen: I can always tell how powerful and impactful an interview is when I don’t really want to end the conversation. This conversation has fueled me so much. I practice yoga regularly and so I feel as replenished as I do after I take a yoga class. I am completely overwhelmed with excitement and joy that I had the opportunity to speak with you and thank you so much for your time.

Faith/Spiritually Fly is Social:

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Yoga Teacher Training: click here

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