bending the rules 5

How Shelby Holly-Page is reclaiming self-love through 
practicing yoga and why she’s not apologizing.

The first time I met Shelby Holly-Page, she was fully nude. Yeah, you read right—zero clothes. You see, this isn’t such a rare sighting when it comes to the bald-headed, ultra-bendy, Instafamous yogi queen we know as Chocolate Yoga (@chocolate_yoga). For her, confidence is not lacking.

And behind all that confidence, there’s yoga.

Missing from Mainstream

While attending school in Fairfield, Iowa, where yoga and meditation were incorporated into the classroom, Holly-Page realized that these practices could be useful tools for relaxation. 

“I was really interested in getting started, but I couldn’t afford yoga classes,” she says. 

Despite not even having a mat at the time, she was determined to learn.

She did what likely many of us have done: turn on YouTube and prop up the computer in her living room. After following along for about an hour a day, “I eventually got the flow to where I could do it by myself without (videos).”

But something big was missing from these resources. 

“Even when I typed in, ‘black women doing yoga,’ it all turned to white women,” she explains.” (I felt) like, ‘ok, I don’t really have anyone that looks like me to look up to.’”

It was out of this frustration that gave rise to her Instagram account. 

“I wanted to be that person.”

From 200 followers to 36,000, Holly-Page has been vocal about topics surrounding race, gender and sexuality—her platform serving as a space for more than just stretching her physical limits.

A Celebration of Self

“I started practicing around the same time I shaved my head—which at the time, was this weird power for me and I think the clothes just came with it,” Holly-Page explains. “I started to love myself and appreciate my body and skin complexion so much more (because of it).”

However, she admits that it has not been all love from the social media world. “I remember thinking, ‘do I be myself?’ Because people were telling me, ‘you have to be more cautious about what you say when you have a platform.’

“But then I thought, ‘No!—I’m going to let people decide if they like who I really am.’”

Particularly, she says that, in a society that teaches us that nudity is sexual and therefore wrong, she wanted to take back the idea that nakedness is natural and beautiful—especially for women, and even more so black women, who she perceives as being shamed the most.

“I’ve always been a huge advocate for encouraging other women to love their bodies, so I wanted to incorporate that message that I’m always preaching (into my Instagram).”

Her advice to folks who are unsure if they can empower themselves through yoga: “Do it anyway. If you have a body, you have a yoga body.”