I am Eternity Philops (Tori James), and I am honored to be your guide on this holistic wellness journey! My own journey to this moment all began with a single Yoga class.
Like many people, I used to think that Yoga was just exercise for people with already thin body types. My first experience was a so-called “beginner” class that turned out not to be for beginners at all. The instructor basically yelled out poses and people simply did them. A newbie, I had no idea what I was doing and just did my best to copy the guy next to me. To make matters worse, in a room of almost 60 people, I was one of the very few who wasn’t White.
That solitary experience made me decide that Yoga definitely wasn’t for me. But sometime later, I took a class led and attended by only Black women. This experience was much different. I was around people who looked like me, who weren’t naturally athletic or already in shape, and I was given the space and time to more consciously engage in the poses. This time Yoga felt…great! From there I sought Yoga classes specifically taught by Black women, and thus began my real journey into truly understanding and embracing Yoga.
But once I became a certified Yoga teacher myself, I immediately noticed two major issues. The first was the emphasis on the body in most Yoga classes. Yoga is a deeply spiritual path of Self realization and transcendence. Yet, based on the practices of the average studio, most people think Yoga is just a peaceful exercise program meant for the flexible and fit.
Secondly, as a Black and queer yogi, I often observe the lack of representation and inclusion of marginalized people in mainstream Yoga spaces. Modernized Western Yoga is overtly White-washed and mostly reflects athletic bodies doing acrobatic postures. This common imagery has many people of color, particularly Black people, believing that Yoga is not for them when the truth is that, with roots in Africa and India, Yoga was actually created by people of color.
I wanted to address these problems in a direct way. Thus, I formed Soul Liberation Holistic Wellness, a socially conscious brand that explores not only the sacred practice of Yoga but many other holistic practices through the Afrocentric lens of Black identity and culture. Through this platform, I work to make Black, BlaQue (Black+Queer), and QTPOC populations aware that Yoga and wellness is indeed open to them. I want people who look and live like me to see more Yoga teachers who look and live like them. And I want people to know that Yoga serves not just the body, but the heart, mind, and spirit as well.
Professionally trained through two separate 200-hour programs, I am a certified Yoga teacher in both modern Hatha Yoga (Kiesha Battles, I AM YOGA School) and Kemetic Yoga (Yirser Ra Hotep, YogaSkills School of Kemetic Yoga). I also independently study the traditional eight-limbed path of Raja Yoga, which gives my teaching style a meditative feel. An energy worker, I am a Second Degree Reiki practitioner (Asha Sims, Ashakti Wellness), as well as a Certified Spiritual Life Coach (World Coach Institute). Academically, I have a Bachelor’s of Art degree in the dual fields of psychology and sociology (UNC-Greensboro) and a Graduate Certificate in women and gender studies (UNC-Charlotte). I combine all of these areas of scholarship and more to provide a well-rounded and informed approach to teaching holistic wellness.