Indoor cycling coach Sasha Whitney always loved taking cycling classes, but after noticing a lack of Black women in and leading classes, she decided to take her love of the activity to the next level and become a coach. We caught up with Whitney about diversity in fitness, protecting energy as self-care and rejecting comparison. Note: This interview is part of our 20 Masters of Mindfulness, Movement + Connection roundup, which ran in our Winter 2021 issue. Read more here.
Tell me about your journey and how it brought you to your current role.
I started my fitness journey back in 2012 not setting out to teach, just trying to find a way to move my body that I enjoyed and didn’t feel like [was] punishment or a chore. I tried every workout, and while all of them were enjoyable in their own way, indoor cycling was the only workout I genuinely loved and looked forward to. The booming music pulsing through your body, the endorphin high, riding as a pack and the sense of accomplishment afterward was unmatched. I would notice, however, that even though D.C. is incredibly diverse, I often found myself as the only Black woman in the room.
Black women are not very often represented in fitness, so when I did see a Black woman leading the class or in the room with me, I loved it and wanted to see more. That’s what planted the seed that I could do this, and perhaps another Black woman could feel seen and like she belongs there, too – not just as a member of the pack, but leading it. What finally spurred me to get certified was taking a surprise country music-themed ride class. I walked out afterward like, “Yeah, never again. It’s time to get certified.” I signed up for my certification that evening. I completed my certification in late 2015 and started coaching the following spring. I cannot remember the instructor’s name and even if I could, I wouldn’t say her name, but thank you, baby girl for being that final push.
How are you practicing and prioritizing self-care, especially mid-pandemic?
I speak a lot about self-care on my platform and believe the world could use a lot more of it. The biggest way I’ve been practicing and prioritizing self-care, particularly during this pandemic, is being mindful of my energy and protective of my peace, joy and happiness. That means if something isn’t resonating or disturbing my spirit, I don’t allow it in my space. As we are plugged in now more than ever as a result of the pandemic, I’m mindful of my screen time and to unplug when necessary. [I] use that time I’m unplugged to do things that fill my cup.
On any given day, that may look like going for a walk (weather permitting), journaling, talking to my sisters, spending time with my husbae, taking a cycling class on the Variis app or working up a sweat exercising in whatever manner I’m called to that day. Meditation has also been hugely important for me during the pandemic – finding that time to introduce stillness into my day and do some inner reflection. Meditation has been profoundly instrumental in my life, and I believe in sharing good things with others. So over quarantine, I started facilitating two free meditation sessions a week [that are] free for anyone to join.
What does self-compassion mean to you, and how do you incorporate it into your practice?
Self-compassion is being kind to yourself and recognizing you are enough as you are. We’re living in a time where we can hop on social media and be greeted with millions of images of what “perfection” looks like. It’s way too easy to look at these images and compare yourself to others, thinking that if you have what they have or look as they do that you’ll be happy or can get ahead. This can be especially true in the fitness industry, which can be very toxic as it pertains to putting a certain aesthetic on a pedestal. Respectfully, I reject all of it.
Comparison is the thief of joy, so I don’t look to others as my competition because I recognize I’m pretty awesome the way I am. This abundance mentality is what guides my life and mindset, and is what I take into my health, wellness, mindfulness and fitness practice. You’ll never hear me talk about anyone’s body or use any type of language that is minimizing or damaging to self-image. I just want us to sweat, vibe to the music, enjoy ourselves and challenge ourselves on our own terms, recognizing we’re all at different places in our journey and are sweating for different reasons. Allow yourself to be moved by the music and let go. All that matters is you’re having fun and doing what uplifts you!
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