Transmuting Trauma Into Power With Trap Vinyasa™

Photographs Courtesy of Abiola Akanni

Photographs Courtesy of Abiola Akanni

Abiola Akanni, the creator of Trap Vinyasa™, is not your average yogi. Biola, as she prefers to be called, dedicates her life to rewriting unhealthy body narratives and cultivating inclusive wellness spaces. Her vision is the result of her own life’s story, one in which she was able to transmute trauma “combining the storytelling power of hip hop with the healing nature of yoga.”

Photograph Courtesy of Abiola Akanni

Photograph Courtesy of Abiola Akanni

For too long, Biola had a difficult relationship with herself. As a Nigerian-American, she soon realized that the bodies of women of color are continuously sexualized in this world. “I had profound insecurities and suffered sexual trauma, so to beat that and gain some easy confidence, I fell into the hyper-sexualized black woman stereotype”, she told Mindful Feminism.

Growing up in Atlanta, the motherland of Trap music, this culture always held a special place in Biola’s life. Spending many of her days around Trap communities, she soaked in all the elements of the lifestyle. Drugs were a common part of it, and she spent years using on a regular basis. 

In Trap communities, I find lack of judgment, there’s so much freedom to express who you are, and I was surprised that I wasn’t able to find that at a yoga studio. I felt like the varying degrees of my personality couldn’t be shown.

Feeling hope is the first thing Biola remembers of the time when things started to change. It was a sentiment she’d disconnected from entirely since her early childhood, and when it appeared for a brief moment, it was all she needed to begin walking the path towards her true self.

Around that time, she’d been in an accident that worsened her scoliosis and impeded her from doing high-impact exercise. Her roommate suggested she do some yoga, and she remembers connecting with the power of the practice rather quickly; “the first class -a hot yoga class- I just enjoyed the cardiovascular challenge, but it all became about so much more very soon.”

Seven years would pass until Biola would consider becoming a teacher. When that time came, she was completely immersed in a practice that was allowing her to heal, but something was missing. The foundation of Trap Vinyasa™ was perfectly told in her words: “When I started teaching more I came with a lot of excitement, but also a lot of trauma and I wanted to find a community to explore and heal from that. I was incredibly bored at the studios, there where no people of color, no different bodies, and it was all just so dry. At that time I thought, ‘if this is going to be my career of choice, I want to be excited about it’, so I slowly started taking myself out of the studio.”

“The creation of Trap Vinyasa™ wasn’t intentional, it began as just me in my living room, flowing, adding sensuality and self-expression to the practice.”  Biola slowly found a way to blend asana with sensual dancing, boxing, and high-intensity interval training. Yes, incredible music and twerking are involved, but it's about a lot more than that.

Photograph Courtesy of Abiola Akanni

Photograph Courtesy of Abiola Akanni

The element of Trap is not gratuitous. Biola highlighted the importance of bringing values of the Trap lifestyle into the yoga practice. “In Trap communities, I find lack of judgment, there’s so much freedom to express who you are, and I was surprised that I wasn't able to find that at a yoga studio. I felt like the varying degrees of my personality couldn't be shown.” Biola dared to create the practice that she wanted and needed for herself, and what a wonderful thing, because the healing virtues of Trap Vinyasa™ have reached places and hearts traditional yoga generally doesn’t.

“This philosophy is also about bridging the gap of enlightenment, we want to make the practice accessible to all people, and that’s why anyone is welcome at a Trap Vinyasa™ class”, Biola told us. Since holding the first lessons open to anyone at the community room of her building, Biola has preserved the approachability of the practice. There’s always a scholarship available per class, and community outreach is an essential part of her business model. The first Trap Vinyasa™ teacher training starts in a few months, and we can't wait to see the power of this practice reach every corner of the earth.