The Iyengar yogi who’s making moves — and historical reflection — a daily practice.
– KEYS SOULCARE
Deidra Demens has come a long way since her introductory days of yoga. After studying theater at DePaul University in Chicago, she doubled down on that mind-body connection through her work as an Iyengar yoga practitioner and teacher, building a life rooted in honor, art, and self-exploration. From her live, sliding scale classes to therapeutic sessions specifically for women, Demens is reshaping narratives on race and the body, getting us all back into alignment.
If you don’t already follow her on Instagram, you’re in for a treat. She’s made a ritual of pairing her own yoga poses alongside iconic imagery of the Black history-makers who inspired them. (Trust us, the results are as mind-bendingly beautiful as you might think.)
We chatted with Demens about the self-renewing ritual of stretching our minds, spirits, and bodies with intuition and intention.
Why do you practice Iyengar specifically?
Iyengar yoga is known for “alignment,” use of props, and often the word “structure” comes up. But the way I think of Iyengar yoga is that it’s a method that makes yoga available to everyone, no matter where you are. If you’re young and flexible, Iyengar yoga is going to keep you flexible and strong. If you are older and not so mobile, Iyengar yoga helps to increase mobility. If you’re recovering from injuries, if you’re pregnant, if you have certain things going on like back issues or shoulder tension, this method meets you there.
How do you bring soulcare into your work-life routines?
In the beginning, taking time for myself to practice soulcare was really tricky. When you’re starting out [as a practitioner] or in anything, you are starting from the bottom and trying to work your way up — so you take whatever teaching opportunities come up.
But that might mean teaching somewhere between 20 to 25 classes a week, when on average a [more seasoned] yoga teacher might teach 10 classes. Eventually, I had to make time for soulcare. I knew I had to study for the classes that I was teaching and planning, so in the spring and summer, I thought, if I’m doing this, I don’t need to always be in a coffee shop or at the studio, I can go to the park.
Now I have upped it. I think when you’re teaching so much, sometimes you have to be reminded to take a class yourself. Also, going to the gym has been really helpful. I try to do just the little things that make me feel good. It doesn’t feel like a chore. When I take a bath or get my new body care or bath products, it feels like I’m taking care of myself in the now.
What inspired your Instagram visual x movement photo series?
I didn’t plan on starting the photo series, I had just been thinking about Josephine Baker. I saw this photo of her where she’s standing in what looks a lot like a tree pose. I put the two poses together and posted it on social media. I got a lot of likes and a lot of comments where people were like, “This is awesome.” I was like, Well, maybe I’ll do another one.
The first series was Black History in general. And the second series focused on leaders of today. I wanted to honor and show people [who] are doing great things today. Black women and men who are victims of police brutality, racism, and violence as well as a quote from their families with their photo [framed the] “Unsung Heroes” series.
How have your experiences affected your teaching?
My teaching has shifted and focused to specifically help people honor their bodies and see themselves. It’s not just that I teach the poses: it’s about finding freedom in that space, and how we learn to stand on our own two feet and not feel rigid, stuck, hard, or heavy, but instead open and light.
What’s a lesson you’ve learned about work-life balance?
I’m never going to get to that place where everything is in perfect alignment — and that’s okay. I can work with what I have right now. I can give space and time for what I need right now. And, when that changes, I can adapt. I don’t have to be so hard on myself thinking that I have to have everything together or perfect.
What other platforms, people, or channels keep you inspired to take care of yourself as a creative and as a person?