Choose Joy, Aim True, Be You

Written by Michael Harley Cruz (they/them), PT, DPT, E-RYT/RMT 200 Black Swan Yoga Dallas YTT Trainer, Instructor and BSY DEI Committee Member
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My name is Michael Harley Cruz (they/them), and I am a yoga instructor at Black Swan Yoga Dallas as well as a member of BSY’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) team.

I identify as a person of color (Asian American with Filipino and Chinese descent) and a member of the LGBTQIA+ community (genderqueer, non-binary, and gender nonconforming). I began practicing yoga in February 2013 when I was in college. Randomly one night hanging out with friends, a Pinterest page of yoga poses was pulled up. We all thought we could do these poses, but it was hilarious trying them out and falling out of them (I’m pretty sure I face planted on the floor trying to do crow pose). Even though I couldn’t get into some of the poses, I definitely noticed how good I felt after that night of yoga fun. Yoga was finally a practice that clicked for me immediately.

I grew up playing competitive sports and was a perfectionist at the time I started a yoga practice, but I soon realized I had no one to compete with other than my ego. There was no goal of perfection. It was the progress through practice that I benefitted from not only physically but also mentally, emotionally, interpersonally, and even spiritually. I will never forget my first yoga class ever in Abilene, Texas. I thought I was a rockstar for being able to get into camel pose, but when the teacher came over to adjust me and asked me to simply breathe, I couldn’t. That was quite a humbling experience for me. I knew I wanted to dive deeper into my yoga practice, and I remember wanting to explore yoga at different studios. I was still in college when I paid my cousin in Austin a visit, and I will always remember my first class at a Black Swan Yoga studio. I walked out of that class telling myself I wanted to become a yoga teacher and teach at Black Swan Yoga. Y’all, the power of manifestation is real!

In 2017, I went through my 200-hour yoga teacher training at the yoga movement in Dallas and then became an official part of the Black Swan Yoga squad when BSY Dallas opened in 2018. My Tuesday 8:30 pm class at the Lovers Lane location was actually my first teaching slot at BSY Dallas. It used to actually be a powerful vinyasa class, and now many of you know/take it as yin and sound bath meditation, so what a journey it has been getting to teach different styles of yoga at BSY! I still enjoy teaching power flows with an added emphasis on mindfully embodying poses and smoothing out transitions between poses because I truly believe there is a different kind of strength you build in stillness and in slowing down movement with the breath (that’s the physical therapist in me talking). One of my favorite classes I now teach is yin yoga with an added sound bath meditation at the end of class as I fell in love with that style of meditation even before doing my 200-hour meditation teacher training in 2020 at Breathe Meditation and Wellness in Dallas. Practicing and teaching yin yoga (a true practice of patience and stillness) has been truly transformational in my yoga practice as a student and teacher.

It has been a real joy getting to be a part of the BSY family as it feels like home to me. I have always felt supported as a person of color and queer person at BSY Dallas, and I am thankful to work at a company that truly celebrates diversity. I pride myself for having diverse students in my classes as I truly take the time to make my classes inclusive and accessible. I absolutely love how BSY supports and inspires community not only among instructors and staff but also among teachers and students. I am excited to have recently joined BSY’s D&I team and am looking forward to co-creating and collaborating to create diverse, inclusive, and accessible communities of intersectionality that support, encourage, and inspire members of BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ populations.