Bending the truth: Jackson’s first Black yoga studio

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Amia Edwards

By Amia D. Edwards
Jackson Advocate Lifestyle/Entertainment Writer

I am going to be honest with you. When I first received the assignment to visit and interview the owner of Split Rebel, a yoga studio, I rolled my eyes.

“Yoga?” I said to myself. That is a “sport” for highly, self-indulgent women. The kind of women who have leisurely lunches and share grievances of dealing with children in expensive private schools and the tattered emotional fringe benefits of a six-figure salary husband. You know what I mean?

But, like the committed writer I am, I took on the task and had the pleasure of meeting the studio owner, Maya Morris.

The 26-year-old entrepreneur greeted me with “socially distant” warmth in her sage- scented downtown Jackson business. After being requested to take off my shoes at the door, Morris showed me my mat and other equipment to begin the class. I immediately let her know, I am here to interview – not “yoga”. But, Morris was flexible and patient.

Class began and you know what? I learned a lot.

Morris opened Split Rebel during the beginning of the Covid pandemic. “ It was so scary to take that leap. But I really wanted to do it. So, like a good business owner and the rest of the world, I make adjustments. Not only can clients come to the studio, but I only allow up to 8 in the studio for a class. Of course folks can attend class via Zoom.”

As the class continues, I try to maintain my professionalism and facial expressions as participants take on different positions. The “Yogi Squat”, in particular, made me gasp. Morris laughed at my reaction and then said, “I’ve been practicing yoga since I was 8-years-old. But, you’d be surprised at the growth of most of my clients after a few weeks of classes. Like anything – consistency is key.”

Before her official yoga career, Morris was a dancer and comes from a family full of professional basketball players. “I have several clients who are athletes. College football athletes such as Shedeur Sanders (son of JSU’s Deion Sanders), Jim Hill’s girls basketball team, and Wingfield’s Cheerleader Squad.”

When asked about the lingering stereotypes of yoga and its participants, Morris is all but happy to lay it all out. “I hear of all of that all the time. But, I really want more of our community to take part of the benefits of yoga – which is Indian for YOKE-balance. I get it. Some folks who are into the fitness lifestyle do and can afford $100 tights and mats. But I don’t do all that. My clients and I go to TJ MAXX, Rainbow, and other affordable stores for our stuff. Even the classes and memberships are attainable. I just want my community to learn about and get into this.”

She is offering a free class on August 21, called “Yoga on the REZ”. The class will be held at Lakeshore Park.

For more information, visit www.splitrebelyoga.com.