Life and Religion
|Yoga more than curiosity to underserved Historic West End|
|Kiesha Battles brings passion, instruction|
|Published Friday, June 7, 2019 10:35 am|
|PHOTO | KARA VINCENT|
|Kiesha Battles is creating yoga space with instruction along the Beatties Ford Road community.|
Kiesha Battles is tackling Charlotte’s yoga desert.
Battles calls the city’s Northwest area home, striving to create a space for her neighbors that they would otherwise have to travel to find. While she teaches across the region, including Corepower Yoga’s Midtown and Park Road Shopping Center locations as well as at Charlotte Family Yoga in Concord, she wants her neighbors to have the same access on Beatties Ford Road.
“I realized that there was no yoga in the space,” Battles said. “I didn’t mind traveling to all these great studios around town, being with great students and teachers, but I just realized there was nothing in my space. It became a mission of mine to incorporate classes in the Northwest corridor.”
Battles’ work established two offerings on Beatties Ford Road: Friendship Missionary Baptist Church (3400 Beatties Ford Road) and the McCrorey YMCA (3801 Beatties Ford Road).
“I teach three times a week at McCrorey, and we’ll average about 20 active seniors in our classes,” Battles said. “These are folks who are not just in chairs. They are doing headstands. They are actively doing their practice—breathing, meditating. Then at Friendship, we have four classes a week with four teachers who rotate. I teach twice a week. We touch the whole gamut, from moms with little kids to seniors up in their 80s.”
Building community through yoga is not a new frontier for Battles. Her journey at Friendship began with a single student.
“Miss Barbara, who is now 82 years old, she’s been with me for about seven years,” Battles said. “It became word of mouth. She told another person, and then another person, and then people would just start coming from word of mouth. From there it really became community, where we’re supporting one another, inviting people, and they saw that I was able to make the yoga accessible to anyone. Someone would come in and say, ‘I can’t get down on the floor,’ and I would say, ‘we’ll do it in a chair.’ Someone would say, ‘I have this going on with my shoulder, I can’t lift my arm.’ I would say, ‘we’ll just turn our head.’ What I just started to do was make it accessible to people and inviting to everyone, and not making it this space of, ‘we have to be quiet and serene and doing handstands and headstands,’ just making it accessible, and being the example.”
Said Rene Darity, who serves on Friendship’s health and wellness committee: “I got directly involved just from reading it in the [church] bulletin. I had practiced before, but just on a very small scale. With Kiesha, she makes you want to love it. She says anybody can do yoga, and she really makes you feel like that in class.”
Battles began practicing yoga nearly two decades ago, while she was pursuing her masters in Asian studies at Seton Hall University in New Jersey.
“I was studying philosophy, language [and] religion throughout my course in college, and really my husband [Toby Battles], he was about a year or two behind me, so I needed something to do, so I signed up for a yoga class,” Battles said. “Back then, you would sign up for a series where you would attend once a week and your teacher would give you poses, and then they would say, ‘OK, you’ve blossomed, and you can move to the next things.’”
Battles followed that path for the next three years, during which she gave birth to their oldest son Toby. However, the New Jersey native and her family moved to Charlotte, forcing a brief pause in her practice.
“My dad [Kenneth Dowdy] was ill,” Battles said. “Life just kind of took over.”
Her mother, Georgieanna Dowdy, began practicing to cope with her husband’s illness and eventual death. Battles found her way back after the birth of her second son, Elijah.
“Yoga picked back up in my life to where it started to consume my life, including my corporate space,” Battles said. “It’s been seven years since I left Duke Energy, and started teaching yoga full time.”
For more information about Battles’ advocacy:
For more information about Friendship’s Fitness Ministry:
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