In January, Nike launched its first yoga apparel collection, acknowledging its athletes who use the ancient Indian practice to enhance their performance.  Just one month prior, a casting agency working with Nike reached out to D.C based yoga instructor, Brandon “Brando” Copeland. They sent a direct message via Instagram to Copeland, who is the creator of “Trap Yoga”, inviting him to be a part of the inaugural campaign shoot in Los Angeles.

Copeland, 29, says it was “surreal” to hear from Nike, since he had pitched an idea involving yoga to the athletic retail giant eight years ago, when a representative visited his college: Howard University. “[Back then] I didn’t receive a response,” Copeland recalls. “In January, I was flown out to L.A. to shoot the first campaign and it was fantastic.”

Copeland claims that he is the first African-American [nonprofessional athlete] male in The Nike Yoga Collection. He credits himself “being aligned” for the opportunity but can’t forget the times when he says he was just a “scrappy little kid with a baby” who was unsure of himself and his purpose.

Growing up in Atlanta, GA Copeland played traditional sports like soccer, and basketball, but fell in love with swimming when he was eight-years-old. In high school, he continued to swim competitively and saw some success. Yoga, to Copeland at the time, didn’t seem like an option. But as a junior at Howard University, Copeland needed an outlet to help him deal with his stress while at school. Not only was he worried about his GPA, but Copeland also had a child on the way.

“I took a yoga class and it helped me think clearly,” Copeland said. “It was just a contrast to what I had been used to. It helped me be okay with my feelings.”

On Sundays at Trinity University, Copeland teaches “Soul Flow”, an R&B infused yoga experience meant to clarify and detoxify participants by using restorative practice as its base for healing and intention setting. He’s been teaching for over eight years now, and his company Khepera Wellness offers classes three times a week.

There’s the Ashtanga class, a hot and energetic form of yoga which assists with breath control and posture, the “Soul Flow” class, a “Black Girl Magic” class, and the company’s most popular event, “Trap Yoga,” held at Red Rocks on H St.

Copeland can’t find the playlist for his first “Trap Yoga” event on his iPhone but says the first one, held at the Lululemon in Georgetown, certainly had a lot of Future, Jeezy, and some TI.

“It’s the first time I felt like a “big deal,” Copeland said. “It was my birthday (October 25), 50-60 people showed up they were mostly white, but you had black people in this class for the first time — that was special. It was a faster-paced class. My son was there and I just taught it. It went really well.”

The concept Copeland created, has been replicated all across the country. “Trap Yoga” intertwines thumping trap beats with Ashtanga style movements and sequences. This combination, Copeland has noticed, has drawn more black people to partake in yoga — and he’s excited about it. Ever since his first class at Yoga District, Copeland felt like he could serve his community with yoga. “We need it the most I feel like,” he said. “ I can take it to any black person and help them feel connected to their breath. Small microaggressions start with your breath.

“I want to see more black people teaching, more black people practicing even outside of the music involved in it.”

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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