Brandon Copeland, a D.C. yoga instructor, is helping the local Black community deal with being Black in America through wellness and empowerment exercises.

Yoga Instructor Brandon Copeland says that yoga is a good way for Black people to acknowledge their own existence. (Courtesy photo)

As a jovial, yet straight-forward 25-year-old Atlanta native and Howard University alumnus, Copeland leads a variety of yoga classes taught at Khepera Wellness, a power yoga studio in northeast D.C. Unlike other yoga classes offered in the nation’s capital, his creation – Trap Yoga – incorporates a soundtrack of today’s hip-hop artists such as Future, Gucci Mane and Travis Scott to create a familiar aural atmosphere for participants to explore unfamiliar, yet therapeutic body positions and movements. Launched in June, the class regularly welcomes dozens of students and meets twice a week.

“I first got into it – because Groupon was really popular – and I tried it. I didn’t really think anything of it, because I hadn’t done anything athletically focused since high school,” Copeland said. “I liked that fact that it helped me relax, but I really didn’t get into it until I found out about my son.”

Copeland said yoga helped him, who at the time was 19; deal with the anxiety of becoming a father while still in college. Soon realizing the time he spent meditating was the least stressful part of his weekly routine, Copeland said he began looking at ways to practice self-care.

“I was just so used to being utility,” he said. “It was really one of the first times where I was able to take care of myself. That’s why I have been so adamant about keeping myself in it.”

Avoiding any impulses to be dubbed a “yogi,” Copeland said his intentions behind practicing yoga exceed its trendy appeal, and are solely to promote self-evolution, mindfulness and safe spaces, particularly for the Black community.

“For me, it’s paramount. It is the most important thing we can do. I’m not going to say ‘You should do yoga and stop rapping, or going to school, or hustling;’ but you should be able to have the wherewithal to make a conscious decision,” he said.

He added that living in the here and now is an essential moment that is often overlooked.

“The most important thing every single person has right now on this earth, by default, is their next breath. It’s not the money they have or their history,” Copeland said.  “Yoga in itself helps you relax, but it also helps you to understand reality. The reality is you are a living being that exists, that breathes, that is important and Godly and a reflection of God for that reason alone. If can get this in front of Black children and get them to do it well and to think in that way, then they can decide what they want to be and say ‘Yes, I exist.’”