Beyond the Postures: Creating Shades of Health

Shionta Pumphrey of the inspirational instagram movement #shadesofhealth shares just how a yogi creates such a life changing collaborative journey for so many appreciative fans. Turns out, she saw a need and decided to fill it — We’re so glad she did!

I was a night shift nurse at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in their hematology / oncology department for years. The hospital has a superb reputation and has truly provided a great teaching / learning experience. My job was and remains rewarding, but stressful at the same time.  Because I was working 48-60 hours per week (13 hour shifts), I was not sleeping.

It was my colleague Brian Fowler, who invited me to a Bikram class back in 2011. I tried 2 classes and never stepped foot onto a mat again until October 2012. I felt vulnerable. I felt like it was too hard and WAY TOO HOT….lol! I didn’t know that there was so much more to yoga and that there were different styles that I might enjoy.  Moving to Florida opened doors that I couldn’t even imagine.

I started challenging myself with long distance running (I am a sprinter by heart) and shortly found passion in the miles. Soon after I started running long distance, my muscles were adjusting to the changes I made, and one of my fellow running sisters of Black Girls Run, Claire Denise Johnson (Mom, Medical Doctor and yoga instructor) encouraged me to start attending yoga classes for runners.


I started practicing yoga on October 1, 2012 at home in addition to incorporating stretches that complimented my running.  I found inspiring instructors online such as Kathryn Budig and the original Yoga Instagram challenge, Grow Soul Beautiful. I would go to studios occasionally so that my alignment was corrected by certified instructors and to fellowship with other yogis. Currently, I practice at least twice a day for 60-90 minutes and use night time for meditation.

Creating Shades of Health

I find it very important to see a diverse array of images reflected in the media when it comes to the yoga practice, hence the journey I envisioned in November 2013, #shadesofhealth.  I spoke with a group of African American young ladies at a Girls Scout’s event in October 2013 and some verbalized that, “black girls don’t do yoga, black girls don’t work out!” I was in shock but quickly took advantage of that moment to educate who I envisioned as my future! These girls needed to know the truth and I am grateful today to have had that opportunity to share my knowledge and truth with them.

imageBut even prior to this occurrence, I was and remain inspired by African American instructors I have found on social media.    I have had the opportunity to meet some of these instructors and I often wonder why I never see them in Yoga Journal Magazine or other yoga inspired articles.

Shades of Health, for the record, is not an Instagram challenge.  It is a journey with GREAT intentions to inspire and educate people from all walks of life –  especially the African American community. If you scroll through the #shadesofhealth hashtag on Instagram, it is truly inspiring, motivating and educational!

The #shadesofhealth hosts that are chosen, male and female, strive to be healthy and create opportunities to help others grow and challenge themselves.  They are yoga instructors from all over, personal trainers, holistic health coaches, and/or have shown great example in their communities. I value quality over quantity, but I must say noting 2,000+ pictures and having new faces join the #shadesofhealth journey has been so uplifting and reminds me that my vision has purpose for so many others.  Many have asked me “so when are you going to teach?” I find that your plans can not be known to everyone. Timing is everything and practicing patience brings forth progress, quality and great blessings to the table. For now, I enjoy being a student, a sponge soaking it all in beyond the postures❤.

Find Shionta!
Instagram – @heartbeat4many or #shadesofhealth
Twitter – @heartbeat4many

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