With all of the obstacles Black men face in this country, and no clear light at the end of the tunnel, one fact remains certain: our brothers need a safe space to unpack and heal. With so much stigma surrounding mental health, it’s much more likely that Black men try to solve their issues on their own and suffer in silence, however. During Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations, Michael B. Jordan spoke out against people shaming men in this way. While talking to the legend about the negative effects of playing Killmonger in Black Panther, Jordan told Oprah therapy helped him out a lot following the dark role, noting that “as a man you get a lot of slack for it…I don’t really subscribe to that. Everyone needs to unpack and talk.”
Like Mike, we all need to speak up on behalf of Black men and stop subscribing to mental health stigma—cue Baltimore yogi Changa Bell, profiled by PEOPLE writer Char Adams. After turning his own health around by way of yoga, Bell has been doing his best to get other Black men into the spiritual practice—and it’s catching on.
According to the article, Bell began suffering from a heart condition that forced him to change his lifestyle in the early ’00s. In an effort to improve his physical and mental health, he turned to his dad, whom he’d saw practice yoga growing up. “I was raised in the ’80s and yoga was totally not the cool things to do, but I always grew up having yoga as a part of my life,” Bell, 46, told PEOPLE. “I had a major health infraction and I wanted to do better. I needed to turn my life around. I was in the yoga studio to save my own life.”
After studying yoga and becoming a certified instructor in the practice, Bell founded the Black Male Yoga Initiative in 2015 to help fellow Black men in the Maryland area find the same healing he did, PEOPLE reports.
“It’s still a work in progress,” Bell told the publication. “Getting men to follow you as a yogi is hard, so I have to model the lifestyle. I just try to stay centered and be who I am and that resonates with people. I show that it’s okay to love openly, it’s okay to love yourself. It’s really modeling this openness and ability to grow spiritually that I think really resonates.”
His approach seems to be working, as he also told PEOPLE “I’ve seen changes in their emotions. They’ve talked to us about changes in their home life, in terms of literally being ‘different people.’ Sometimes their wives will come in and say, ‘I don’t know what you’re doing, but keep on doing it!’ Right now it’s been a lot of emotions, mood, and anger management changes for the positive!”
Join us in saluting this king, plus more photos of his amazing work in the community below.