We caught up with her to talk about her burgeoning business and why Grenada will always be her baby.
Yoga Journal: You were running a successful PR business when you started OMNoire. What made you want to be a yoga teacher and retreat leader?
Christina Rice: I attended yoga teacher training because I wanted to go deeper into my practice. I actually wasn’t sure if I wanted to teach, because I was afraid of public speaking! But by the third week, I thought, I’m going to teach. There were very few people of color in my classes, and once I started teaching, a lot of black women would reach out to ask for my class schedule. Women of color felt more comfortable being taught by a woman of color. That’s where the idea of OMNoire came from.
YJ: That was at the start of 2016. How did you get OMNoire up and running—and gain such popularity—in such a short amount of time?
CR: The lack of representation for people of color in the yoga and wellness space means we are really hungry for it. That’s where OMNoire’s success and growth have come from. I started it as a simple social media page to highlight women of color practicing wellness in different cities. I came up with the name, started the Instagram account, and attracted a lot of followers right out of the gate. In November 2016, someone approached me about leading a wellness retreat, which I officially announced in March of the following year—and OMNoire as we know it was born.
YJ: What dream destination did you choose for your first retreat?
CR: Grenada, and it was our largest retreat to date! More than 50 women attended from all over the world—the UK, US, Canada, and Nigeria.
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YJ: Why Grenada?
CR: I took my first solo trip there in September 2015, three weeks before I started my 10-week yoga teacher training. There’s an amazing underwater sculpture park there. You can snorkel it, but I wanted to get over my fear of open bodies of water. So while I was there, I took my first scuba diving lesson. Many of our fears are rooted in physical actions or things: heights, swimming, standing or speaking in front of large crowds. If we conquer those types of fears through adventure—hiking up mountains, scuba diving, etc.—we can conquer anything.
When I did my first dive, in an extremely deep part of the ocean, I was terrified. I panicked at around 10 feet and shot back up to the surface. I took out my regulator—which you’re not supposed to do—and accidentally took in some water. So there I am, basically choking, trying to catch my breath, and I used my practice. I paused, taking deep breaths and quietly speaking confidence in myself, until I was ready to try again. That day I ended up doing two successful dives for a total of 89 minutes under water. Thanks to my yoga and meditation practice, I’ve continued to grow and stretch over the years. I’ve found my happy place internally—both under water and above ground.
For this, Grenada will always carry a special place in my heart, and it was an easy choice to host our first retreat there. Two years after my first dive—four days before the ladies arrived for the very first OMNoire retreat— I received my scuba certification with the same Grenada-based dive team I took my first dive with.
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YJ: Back in January, we kicked off a conversation about new leadership in yoga. Since then, conquering fears has come up quite a bit. Do you consider yourself a leader in the evolving yoga space?
CR: It wasn’t until recently that someone told me I was a leader and I thought, Oh—I guess I am! Since then, I’ve embraced that title and responsibility. At OMNoire, we’re clear and direct with our messaging: You don’t have to fit in a certain box. Our work with the women in our community is helping them discover their own wellness journey, and to own it, and to be leaders themselves.
I consider it one of my biggest responsibilities to be transparent about my own journey. Anyone who follows me on social knows that I’m very transparent—about wins, losses, struggles, fears, and surviving a toxic relationship that brought me to yoga and OMNoire. It’s a leader’s responsibility to allow people in their particular community to understand that they don’t have to be perfect.
See also How to Be a Yoga Leader in Your Community
Learn more about Christina and OMNoire at omnoire.com and @OMNoire.
A 5-Minute Meditation to Release Anxiety
Detach from anxiety and come back to the present.
Rina Deshpande shares her quick 5-minute meditation to release anxiety and let go of attachments.
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Yoga Helped Me Face My Fears About Marriage Once and For All
I went to Mexico to rejuvenate, detox, and practice yoga with my boyfriend. Turns out, it would also be where I faced my fears about marriage.
It was a humid sunrise on a quiet, sandy beach in Tulum, Mexico. Despite our previous late-night mezcal tasting beneath the jungle leaves, my longtime boyfriend, Anush, had dragged me out of our tiny thatched-roof cabana at first light.
I adjusted my Beyoncé t-shirt and gray cotton shorts I’d worn to bed as I scanned the horizon. When I turned back to Anush, he was kneeling in the sand, holding a typed love letter and a tourmaline engagement ring.
“Will you marry me?” He asked.
I was so incredulous, I couldn’t speak. Feelings of doubt and darkness coursed through me, even though I’d always imagined a future with him: He was the one person who made me feel seen and cared for and uplifted. Still, I was reluctant to commit.
My parents went through a dramatic and corrosive divorce when I was 13, but the fallout had lasted long after. Most of the great pain in my life has come from marriage—and its ending. Marriage is the thing that has made me most likely to run, and least likely to trust
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As I stared at the man I love, these past traumas lit my body from head to toe with alarm bells. How could I marry anyone? But, as I looked at him, I calmed myself down. I silently told myself something I had learned in my yoga and mindfulness practice: Be here now. With that mantra, I slowly came back to the moment. With that mantra, I reminded myself where I was, who I was with—and most importantly, who I am now.
He waited patiently. I started to cry. Finally, I said, “Yes! Yes. Yes. Of course, yes.” He put the ring on my finger, and he held me while I cried. In that moment of “yes,” my world expanded.
We drank champagne and ate fruit in front of the ocean while the Tulum sun rose, pink and hot on our skin. I could hardly believe my good fortune—engaged in Tulum at sunrise. In that moment, instead of fear, I chose gratitude.
I saw a beachfront yoga class almost immediately after—Tulum, thankfully is crawling with them—and I asked my fiance(!), if he’d like to take it together. I was still shaking from the metamorphic decision I had made: unwavering commitment in the face of fear. I hoped familiar asana would steady me. Internally, I repeated my mantra as we walked into a large triangular wood pavilion, perched on a hidden natural cliff in the jungle, overlooking the beach as if it had been there forever.
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Our yoga teacher, a young woman from Mexico City with a sing-song voice, instructed us to let go of our fears, to open our hearts, to experience the beauty of the moment we were in.
I was exactly where I needed to be. I still had my dark corners—I may always—but I could learn to live with them and still claim the life I wanted and deserve. I could live in the present and not in the past. I could be here now, soaking in the jungle, the ocean, in a magnificent place where afterward we would eat fresh coconut and bike carefree down the beach road and hike up Mayan ruins and speak a little Spanish and accept a glorious chocolate mole cake that said “Felicidades.”
As I looked over at the joyful, patient man doing yoga next to me, the waves crashed out ahead. I took his hand for just an instant, and he smiled. And then we raised our arms together, side-by-side, to salute the sun.
See also 7 Simple Ways to Call in More Joy—and Feel Less Stressed
About our author
Gina Tomaine is a yoga teacher and magazine editor in Philadelphia. Her work has been published in Prevention, Women’s Health, Runner’s World, and other publications. Learn more at gina-tomaine.com.
6 Yoga Teachers Share What They Never Travel Without
Yoga teachers weigh in on what they can’t travel without—plus, our favorite must-brings for every adventure.
1. Under Armour Cotton Fleece Logo Hoodie
“A sweatshirt with pockets and a big-enough hood that I can pull over my eyes and take a quick snooze or do a little yoga nidra on the plane.” —Rosie Acosta
2. Vuori Performance Jogger
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3. Magic Bullet Mini
“I love having the ability to make matcha or a smoothie wherever I go. It’s a game-changer.” —Eoin Finn
4. Primal Defense Ultra Probiotic Formula
5. Ujjaya Balance Bottle
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6. BCOZZY Chin Supporting Travel Pillow
“A travel pillow that supports my neck is vital for falling asleep on the plane!” —Rina Jakubowicz
7. Mantisyoga Guru Backpack
8. Bose QuietComfort 35 Wireless Headphones II
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9. HITOP Classic Plaid Tartan Blanket Scarf
“An oversized scarf and my essential oils: I put the oils on my neck and wrap the scarf around me so I can push out airplane germs.” —Kathryn Budig
(from $14, amazon.com)
10. Pangea Organics Frank-incense Essential Oil Roller
“Frankincense helps me connect with my intuition and stay grounded while traveling—plus, it doubles as an organic insect repellent!” —Lauren Eckstrom
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11. Yoga For Bad People Travel Mat
“My travel mat is great for practicing in tropical and humid climes, and it’s super yummy when thrown over a gym or hotel mat—extra cushion without the gunk!” —Heather Lilleston
12. Vivobarefoot Primus Lite Shoe
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