Lesley • The Ebony Yogini, Podcaster, Techie
I first met Lesley at Urban Sanctuary after finding her Trap Yoga class online. It was during a time when I desperately needed community and connection, and I was so pleased with what met me at the studio. Upon entering her class, I took a deep sigh of relief. The space was full of Black and brown faces all eager to flow to 2 Chainz and other trap favorites. I couldn’t believe what I was experiencing but knew I had found something special. Lesley’s classes and the people I met there would later introduce me to a side of Denver I never knew existed, and for that I am eternally grateful.
Lesley moved to Colorado in 1999, the same year as Columbine. She was just 7 years old and can remember being highly concerned about why her parents brought her to a place where such terrible things happened. She grew up equally in Aurora and Denver and despite her initial fears, now has an affection for each place of its own accord. She attended a predominately white school in Centennial, but then fled to “Chocolate City” in Washington D.C., her senior year on a full-tuition scholarship to Howard University. Here is where she fell in love with the nuances of Blackness and the vastness of diversity amongst the diaspora.
She returned to Denver with all of that love still in her heart, ready to craft culture and community wherever she could. Today, when she isn’t at her tech job, she hosts a dope podcast with Jalisa Williams called, “The Soul Subliminal” and the occasional yoga class. When I asked Lesley to describe Denver in one word she replied, “expansive.” Here’s what it means to be Lesley in Denver.
Who are you?
I am an agnostic wanderer that works to remain rooted, despite the entropy around me. I am an optimistic stoic that consistently leans towards hope.
What does it mean to be you?
It means to do the things, even though people say, that’s too many things. To be me means that I am an integral uplifter of community and an intensive lover of people and places and things and my boyfriend, Chaz. To be me is to exude divine femininity and loving energy as extensively as I possibly can, in whatever way I can. It means to be a beauty queen, avid socialite, intentional techie, community connector, and ebony yogini.
You’re a yoga teacher. What do you hope to share through your yoga practice?
I think the key term is equanimity under duress, and beyond that, leaning very much into the concept of stoicism. We as Black people have not survived by panicking and worrying and fretting. No, we have survived by being like water, being adaptable, being able to find humor and beauty and light in everything around us. We can’t survive without that, so that is why I very much want to share my practice with people so that they can understand – none of this matters. Everything around us: our elections, they matter, but they don’t matter. Whatever the outcome, you are still going to be you, and you are still going to have to live your life day-to-day-to-day. So why are you fretting? Why are you panicking? Tap into your power, find your breath, move forward. That’s always what my hope is with my practice.
What does it mean to be you here?
To be me here means to be very thoughtful, intentional and forward-thinking about crafting of culture in this space. That’s something that I always want to keep top of mind. It means to be a witness to all the changes and the ups and downs of the city and the state. To be me here is to be dichotomous amongst the Blackness of my alma mater and the global nature of my hometown. To be me here is to serve as a bridge for those who need to step outside of their comfort zone and into thoughtful moments.
What do you love most about living in Denver?
I love the history of this place. I love driving away from Denver into the Boulder Valley. I love being half naked until October. I love tubing, and climbing, and playing in this vast expanse. I love the green chilies and the palisade peaches. I love Tacos Rapidos on the late night. I love the influences of Keak Da Sneak and E-40 due to our West Coast proximity. I love dirty ass Colfax and getting a rosé and a shot at PS Lounge. I love little grungy bars and warm intimate venues where I can smoke hookah with the artists afterwards. I love the magenta sunsets. I love the family that I have acquired.
How have your experiences in Denver shaped you?
They have made me open to any experience, at least once, without judgment or expectation. My experiences have led me to understand that home can be anywhere that joy is.