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Meet Ashlea Skiles of Yogic Melanin Community

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ashlea Skiles. 

Hi Ashlea, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
Connection. Relationship. Community. I centered three of my core values when I first relocated to Denver from the east coast. I knew I needed to form connections and establish relationships with people that I shared common interests with. So, I turned to the Meetup platform, and as an avid reader and teacher, I first found the Denver Girly Book Club. It was here where I formed my first new friendships with women that I shared many other mutual interests like hiking and yoga. Back east I was usually the one bringing multiple friend groups together into community, so it felt natural to take on a similar role here in Denver by connecting with folxs, establishing and deepening relationships, and then combining and expanding my community circles. (As an only child my friendships have always meant the world to me, and I thrive when surrounded by relational love in fun and caring communities). 

In the summer of 2016, I attended my first “Yoga on the Rocks” at Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater where I met Katy Lafferty, aka Big Booty Yoga, and I fell in love with practicing out in nature. In the summer of 2018 while out on a hike with a friend and fellow yogi, an idea to combine my two loves, hiking and yoga, came to me. I remember thinking that I had never seen anyone out on the trails practicing yoga. This struck me as odd, especially considering our state’s landscape, and thinking about the people in my circle who were passionate about both hiking and yoga just like me. But I tucked this idea away in my mind as the busyness of life continued; all the while maintaining a diligent personal yoga practice at various local studios across the city. Then, the pandemic and lockdown hit us all, causing me to shift my personal in-studio yoga practice to an at-home practice. It is during this time that I discovered Black to Yoga, a studio that I still practice with virtually, and ViBe Theater of Brooklyn with their “Yoga and Movement” Virtual Series with Linda Lopez and Aimee Cox. This shift to an at-home practice was something brand new for me, having only regularly practiced in-studios (or at an Ashram in upstate NY), over the course of 15-years prior to the pandemic. 

As the global pandemic raged on, I turned to my mat and virtual at-home practice with greater intensity. My heart broke daily, and even more so with the collective witnessed murdering of George Floyd, with the killing of Breonna Taylor, and with the deaths of so many other Black and Brown-bodied men, women, and children in 2020. I sought both refuge and strength from BIPOC yoga communities and BIPOC yoga teachers, most of whom practiced yoga and embodied movement as a form of social justice with a shared goal of collective liberation. It was this trifecta of events: a pandemic, police violence, and murders, (and what felt like an energetic awakening of mass critical consciousness), and my virtual at-home yoga practice that drove me to the decision to become a certified yoga teacher. It was both urgent and important to me to answer this deeply personal and socially-committed call by investing in two certified yoga teacher training programs, and three yoga and social justice continuing education courses. Today I am a certified Vinyasa yoga teacher and trauma-sensitive yoga teacher. 

I have also completed three continuing education programs: a 25-hour yoga and social justice continuing education course with Off the Mat, Into the World, a 75-hour “Skill in Action” continuing education course with Michelle C. Johnson, and a 45-hour “Integrative Somatic Trauma Therapy Training” with The Embody Lab. All while carrying that initial seed of inspiration from 2018 to combine hiking and yoga that I brought to fruition in 2021 with the launch of my company, “Hike-Yoga-HIke”. 

I was blessed to be in community with Vibe Tribe Adventures and Black Girls Hike; bringing my company, my personal practice, and my advocacy work full circle through wellness offerings for other Bodies of Culture and allies. I am also in a developing partnership with Fit & Nu, a black-owned fitness studio in Aurora, Colorado, on a shared mission to promote the health and wellness of BIPOC and ally communities. Having these opportunities to share my practice and my love of living yoga serves as collective nourishment. I continue to be humbled and honored when entrusted to develop, cultivate, and lead unique communal healing spaces and experiences. Our growing “Hike-Yoga-Hike” community is changing the narrative about what constitutes a wellness space, and who a wellness practice is for (it’s for black bodies, it’s for white bodies, it’s for Bodies of Culture, it’s for all bodies) one trail, one breath, one space, and one downward-facing dog at a time. 

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
This has not been a smooth road, but sometimes it’s the bumpy roads that bring about growth and resilience. It was not easy to juggle the development of my personal practice, yoga trainings, and learnings with my full-time new role as a Program Manager of Equity & Engagement with Denver Public Schools while developing my “Hike-Yoga-Hike” company and partnerships. 

However, now that my certified trainings are complete, I plan to usher in an era of ease in 2022. I plan to be more intentional with my time while giving myself grace through this process. I am seeking greater work-life balance, and I am excited about a focused deepening of relationships within my growing yoga community and within my Program Manager role’s equity work. 

It’s all about balance, growth, and ease for me in 2022. 

Are there any important lessons you’ve learned that you can share with us?
That “passion is an incredible alarm clock” meaning take the time to discover your passion, your inner fire, so when challenges arise you have a deep-seated desire to keep going because your purpose is greater than you. 

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