Indigenous

Cree-Métis yoga instructor makes 'vision come true' with cover feature in Yoga Journal

A Cree-Métis yoga instructor from Saskatchewan is on the cover of Yoga Journal magazine this month, and is working toward more Indigenous representation within the health and wellness industry.

Shayla Stonechild aims to increase representation in wellness industry

Shayla Stonechild is the first Indigenous woman to grace the cover of Yoga Journal. (Michaella Shannon)

A Cree-Métis yoga instructor from Saskatchewan is on the cover of Yoga Journal magazine this month, and is working toward more Indigenous representation within the health and wellness industry.

"My main focus is to help out Indigenous youth and the communities that I come from, because I understand all the barriers that we face and all the colonial violence we face every day," said 27-year-old Shayla Stonechild.

Stonechild, who is from Muscowpetung First Nation, started practising yoga when she was 19 and became an instructor a couple of years ago. She now lives and teaches yoga in Vancouver.

While she was learning how to become an instructor, she said she made it a goal of hers to be featured in Yoga Journal, one of the oldest and best-known yoga magazines in the world.

She appears on the cover of the March-April issue and said she is the first Indigenous woman to achieve the milestone.

"People talk about manifestation, but when it actually becomes a reality, you're just like, I can actually make my vision come true," said Stonechild.

Shayla Stonechild says yoga has played a significant role in her own healing journey. (Brien Hollowell)

She said there is a lack of Indigenous representation when it comes to the health and wellness industry.

"Whenever you look at mainstream media, it's usually from a place of survival or a place of scarcity, when it comes to Indigenous women we're always highlighted in a vulnerable way," said Stonechild. 

"So I wanted to shift the narrative around Indigenous women because when I look at my communities, that's not what I saw reflected. I saw women that were strong, that were trailblazing their own industries, that were the backbones of their communities."

In November, she joined Vancouver-based company Lululemon's diversity and inclusion committee and she said she hopes it leads to more opportunities for other Indigenous women.

"I told them as soon as I started, I do not want to be the only person here. I want to pass off the torch. And so my goal at the end of this contract is to get other Indigenous people involved with Lululemon," said Stonechild.

Podcast launched

On International Women's Day this year, Stonechild launched a podcast called Matriarch Movement, the same name as a non-profit organization she recently founded.

The idea for Matriarch Movement started as a content creation space on social media meant to amplify the voices and journeys of Indigenous women. With the podcast, she plans to interview one Indigenous woman a week, with the first guest being Sierra Baker, a lead design consultant in Vancouver.

Another guest on the podcast, and also the photographer and creative director for the project, is Denita Gladue, who is from Island Lake Cree Nation in Saskatchewan.

Denita Gladue is one of the first women interviewed for the Matriarch Movement podcast. She has helped Stonechild with photography and says the project will help to inspire other Indigenous women. (Denita Gladue)

"There is a lack of resources for Indigenous women's health. So it's coming back to this Indigenous perspective of wellness and medicine through meditation and dialogue," said Gladue. 

"Shayla's dream is to create content for Indigenous women that don't necessarily have the resources."

In recent months, Stonechild has teamed up with a number of organizations, including the Native Women's Resource Centre of Toronto, offering online yoga. She also collaborated with Paris Jewellers on a customized, gold arrowhead necklace, with proceeds going to Matriarch Movement.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lenard Monkman is Anishinaabe from Lake Manitoba First Nation, Treaty 2 territory. He has been an associate producer with CBC Indigenous since 2016. Follow him on Twitter: @Lenardmonkman1

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