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Fitness Inspiration: #YogaAfterDark with Jessica Tara

• Apr 15, 2015

When one of my long time curlfriends tweeted that @jesstaras was her best follow of 2015, I had to see what was up. After browsing through her pics for a bit, I found myself clapping in my head, raising the roof, and convincing myself to go to the gym, all at the same time. Her posts are sexy, insightful, and just plain awesome.

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I was excited to pick her brain about fitness, hair, and women’s empowerment — here’s what she had to say:

How long have you been doing yoga? How long have you been teaching?
I’ve been practicing yoga for 10 years, and teaching for five years. I received my first Yoga Teacher Certification at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health (2010) and my master Yoga Teacher Certification with Sacred Lasya in India in (2013). I’m also a certified personal trainer and I’m currently finishing up my B.A. in Dance.

YogaAfterDark is fierce, sexy, and empowering – what made you start posting your skills on Instagram?
Thank you. I strive to convey all of those things through my pictures so it’s nice to know that it’s being well received. Throughout the years, I had posted a few yoga poses here and there but I never really started posting regularly until January 1, 2015. I made sort of a “New Year’s resolution” to post one yoga picture a day for the year. It started as just a way to improve my alignment in poses by looking at the pictures and also just a fun social media experiment. But it’s snowballed into what is now a statement on female empowerment, body confidence, art, and freedom of expression.

My favorite aspect of the whole project is the people who contact me sharing that they’ve been inspired to start yoga or some other venture they’ve been putting off. Or that they were inspired to be bold and wear that red lipstick they’ve been too shy to wear. One woman even said she was inspired to pull out a cheeky bikini that’s been sitting in the back of her closet unworn because she wasn’t sure if she could pull it off. That one really made me smile. Go, girl. Wear that bikini and wear it proud!

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In addition to yoga, how do you stay fit? Do you have any nutrition tips for our readers?
I’m also a dancer, so I take ballet, modern, and hip‐hop classes almost every day — that definitely gets me sweating! Another aspect of my fitness, and one which I really want to emphasize, is that I’m a bike commuter. I own a car, but I very rarely drive it. My road bike is my primary form of transportation, rain or shine. I love it because it doesn’t “feel” like exercise. I just get on, start pedaling, and cruise — to work, to class, to lunch with friends. I’ve really gotten to know a different side of my city as a bike commuter. It’s a totally different view than from inside the car. My gas budget is almost nil. Plus, it’s good for the environment (and my glutes).

Your inspirational posts often center around encouraging girls and women (I love those!) – do you consider yourself a feminist? Why or why not?
I am an advocate of female empowerment and empowerment in general. My work deals a lot with body confidence, anti‐bullying, anti‐slut shaming, and non‐judgement. It’s crucial that we as women stand together, encourage one another, and support each other. Enough of calling each other “sluts,” enough of picking out each other’s physical flaws, enough of this “You can’t sit with us” mentality. You can sit with me. And this doesn’t just apply to women. It applies to everyone.

Have you always worn your natural hair? If not, when did you go natural and why?
I straightened my hair for years until, around the age of 21, I chopped it all off. I wanted something new and different. As my hair grew back, I developed a different appreciation for it. I realized that it wasn’t something I had to fight against, it wasn’t this wild beast that needed to be tamed. It was a crown. It was a blessing. After I started wearing my hair natural I got all kinds of comments about how “bold” and “brave” I was being. At first I thought “this isn’t a political statement — I woke up like dis.” But now I understand what they meant. It does require confidence to be your natural, authentic self, especially in a roomful of people who are not like you. Natural hair is big. It’s bold. We have to own it. Wearing my hair natural was a milestone in my personal journey of self‐acceptance.

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How do you care for your natural hair? Is your regimen simple or more complicated?
I try to keep it as simple as possible because I’m always on the go. I co‐wash/detangle every few days. Coconut oil is my best friend. I also use a leave‐in conditioner daily (currently using Kinky Curly Knot Today). If I want my hair to have that extra oomph, I’ll wet it and blow it out using a diffuser (low heat!).

Do you have any tips for ladies on preserving your natural hair while working out frequently?
The more you sweat, the more you will have to wash your hair so conditioning is vital. I try to plan out my Bikram classes (yoga done in a room heated to 104F — you sweat A LOT) for right before wash days. Aside from that, I either style my hair into two pigtail‐buns (my go‐to hairstyle) or the infamous pineapple ponytail with a headband to catch the sweat. It’s work, but it’s worth it.

Your double puffs are too cute — What are your favorite natural hairstyles?
Thank you! The double puffs are my go‐to daily hair style because it’s simple and neat for yoga, and it fits the dress code for my ballet class. But my absolute favorite way to wear it is all out, loud and proud. I feel most like myself when I’m rocking my lion’s mane!

Anything else you’d like to tell us? Any mantras to share?
Gandhi said that happiness is “when what we think, say, and do are all in alignment.” Be your most authentic self. Be kind. Do you. And in doing so, you will inspire others to do the same.

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**Can I just say that I love this interview? Such a kickass sweetheart. Make sure you follow Jess on Instagram (@jesstaras) for more pics and inspiration. Namaste!

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CarmenmahoganyfaceFeliciaAndre ReeseLikewaterforchoc Recent comment authors
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Davina916
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Davina916

I started following her a couple weeks ago. So inspiring!

Rose
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Rose

I honestly find the sexualization of a spiritual practice disturbing. If she wants to do porn, there are other outlets for that. Masquerading it as yoga is just absurd and disgusting. This is porn, not yoga.

JLiz
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JLiz

Hater. This is far from being pornagraphic.

Carmen
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Carmen

@JLiz Rose did not hate on her. She simply pointed out that this is sexualization of a spiritual practice. And Jessica’s pics are close to porn if you ask me. I’m sorry but posing with your butt completly exposed is something you would see in a porn magasine, or in a man’s magasine, yoga pose or not. It’s not to say that sexual pics are good or bad. But it is what it is. In addition, just because someone dares to be a little critical doesnt mean they’re hating. Anyways, she’s a beautiful girl. What is inspirational about her is… Read more »

Carmen
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Carmen

I totaly agree with you!

mds29
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mds29

She is gorgeous and sexy! I need to start yoga!

just putting it out there
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just putting it out there

I honestly find her amazing.…but…i wonder if there’s another way to do it rather than in just a leotard and socks (in some of the pictures provided, it might only have been in the selected few, i dont know). I just feel like if someone else were doing this, say a Kim Khardashian or something, everyone would be down her throat about how she is sexualizing this and giving a bad rep to women that and how she just wants publicity or blah blah blah. the poses are beautiful, i just find it weird, i also doubt men seeing this… Read more »

Felicia
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Felicia

I agree, and I suspect many people do but would rather be quiet than be labelled a ‘hater.’

Imani
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Imani

“i also doubt men seeing this see anything spiritual about it. If they thought Yoga pants were a shout for “Hey look at my body men”, i don’t even need to wonder what they think about this… just my.…thoughts” It’s quite possible it’s not done with men in mind. Or their likes and dislikes. It’s quite possible it’s done simply because the Yogi likes to practice Yoga this way. There is no one look to yoga (contrary to what Yoga Journals front cover would have you to believe). Besides, you’d have to walk around in a burlap sack 24/7, and… Read more »

Likewaterforchoc
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Likewaterforchoc

I have to wonder if she does like to practice yoga “this way” in a thong unitard? I have practiced yoga in my home naked and found it more comfortable. I don’t believe there is any way that I would find practicing in a thong comfortable as I don’t even find them comfortable for general wear. ijs

Felicia
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Felicia

It’s not about the amount of clothing but rather the sexualisation. You can be butt naked in a non sexual way, and clearly this is not the case with this lady. Nothing wrong with being sexy, but it’s just another example of how the sacred, spiritual practice of yoga has been westernized and commodified. That’s just my opinion anyway, everyone is allowed to have their own opinion.

nononsense
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nononsense

She’s beautiful! I commend her dedication to her crafts. I practice yoga, too, and love following sista yogis like her and Koya Webb. I also hope to deepen my practice.

@ilola
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@ilola

I am quite confused. Is it not possible to do the yoga thing and still look sexy without exposing the whole butts? Someone please educate me.

cryssi
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cryssi

She gorgeous and makes me want to really get git this year.…

For those who feel the pictures are doing to much, yes they are sexy and that’s okay and if I was her in my best Janelle Monae impersonation would reply,

You can not police me, so get off my areola!”

Rachel
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Rachel

Yeah these pics are nasty. Save this stuff for your husband girl. Cool poses.but it looks like porn straight up. You don’t have to be naked to get attention.

Andre Reese
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Andre Reese

@Rachel…why do you have to be so harsh with your words? If you don’t appreciate her work you can keep all the negative comments to yourself.

pp
Guest
pp

There’s nothing wrong with the way she is dressed. People do yoga naked! Also when you’re in those position why would you want shorts/t‐shirt to be in your way? Instead of focusing on her outfits, focus on the fact that a black woman is being successful and being care free.

Heaven
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Heaven

people are so negative and sad. this is pure beauty. OMGoodness. #getlives

Imani
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Imani

As per the norm, a good portion of you (who, might I add, have been out and about in public in less than what she has on) have missed the point. Move PAST the clothing, and into the asanas she’s sharing with us. Yes it’s sexy, both she and the interviewer have said that was one of the main focal points. So let’s all get to growin’ on up, and move past this, to her *actual* message: Personal Growth.

Felicia
Guest
Felicia

Sadly African Americans reveal ourselves to be hypocrites though. We complain about how Black women are over‐sexualised in the media then praise a young woman who’s over‐sexualising an ancient spiritual practice. We complain about cultural appropriation then praise someone who’s appropriating and distorting an ancient culture… Do unto others.

mahoganyface
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mahoganyface

I think she is amazing. The purpose of yoga is to find your own personal spiritual peace through the movements of your body. This is her comfort zone and her element so why is she being criticized for being in her own zone? Some of you are worried about the wrong thing. This article is about her craft and her hair, not about her attire. I say embrace your whole you in every sense of the word “whole”. If you feel somewhat uncomfortable with a little nudity or skin, then this practice isn’t for you. She is inspiring and if… Read more »

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