Sherrell Moore-Tucker

It’s about moving away from always having to be strong, to realizing there’s strength in vulnerability.

Upper Marlboro, MD

Wellness Educator, Yoga & Meditation Teacher

I’m most passionate about helping people rediscover beauty in their body; to understand how their body is changing and still love it; and to go with the flow and just be happy in the moment. I’ve moved from physical yoga practice to teaching mindfulness principles on the mat. I’ve never necessarily been called to teach young people how to “get a yoga booty” or to lose weight. I’ve always been called for the deeper things like when you’re in this pose, what are you feeling? What’s coming up for you? That’s what makes me a different kind of teacher.

In the past, I’ve tried to be everything to everyone, but that doesn’t serve them well, and it doesn’t serve me well either. That’s something that I’ve been spending some time reflecting on. I am not the wellness educator teacher for everyone. I’m not trying to be someone that I’m not, and it’s very easy to fall into that in the yoga space because yoga is very visual, especially on social media. I don’t have a yoga body, and according to society standards, I’m not young either; I’m 47, almost 50. I served in the military, but I don’t teach boot camp yoga – there’s other people for that. For me, it’s about moving away from always having to be strong, to realizing there’s strength in vulnerability.

There was never a moment where my mom, my grandma, or anybody sat me down and told me that I had to be strong, but it was implied. I remember when I young, being upset about something, and my mother saying, “you better not cry. You better get it together because life is way harder than what you’re crying about.” When my grandmother would visit us, she would get nervous around our white neighbors. I would literally see my grandmother code switch and expect us to put on a mask, “Straighten up! You’re in front of white people.”

As I look back on it now, it was learning how to be out in the world, and that you can’t necessarily be yourself because it’s not safe. So you learn how to code switch. You learn how to talk a certain way while you’re at work. You talk a different way when you’re at home. Lots of code switching; everybody knows it exists, but you may not talk about it. It’s just understood, and it’s exhausting. For me and a lot of my Black friends, it’s been a relief to be able to telework, to not have to go in, put on a face, and make small talk. I can be at home and just be myself and not have someone pick me apart.

Unfortunately, the same privilege, racism, and discrimination you face at work, you see in the wellness space as well. I think it’s more detrimental in the wellness space because people are encouraged to be vulnerable. People are not just coming to the yoga space just to stretch, but usually because there are other things going on. I’m a part of a Facebook group, Black Girls Do Yoga, and someone shared that while at her local yoga studio, a white woman who wasn’t the teacher comes over and says, “No, no, no, you’re doing the pose wrong,” and proceeded to put her hands on her body and adjust her. I don’t think people understand that are not part of a minority that when it takes all you have to go to a yoga space – where you may be in a bigger body, a different color, and the majority of the class doesn’t look like you – and somebody tells you the body you’re in is wrong and I’m going to try to fix you, how damaging that can be.

I’ve gone to yoga studios in Bethesda that have mistaken me for the cleaning lady. I’ve been questioned when I go to events, “Are you the yoga teacher? Where did you practice? How many years?” when my white counterparts don’t receive that same type of scrutiny. I’ve gone to classes and the teacher will ask, “are you sure you’re supposed to be here?” It’s not blatant, but it’s those microaggressions that happen when I’m the only Black person here, so what am I to assume? Those are the things that are disappointing, but I think that yoga and wellness spaces are trying to do better. There are more people of color teaching yoga, creating spaces that are safe for people of color to be and to heal.

In the beginning, I pursued yoga teaching because I didn’t see a lot of Black people doing it. I wanted to put myself out there for people that may have felt shy about trying something that seemed only for thin, white women. I don’t have the typical yoga body, so I wanted to be representative of that and share my story of how it helped with flare ups and arthritic pain.

As I’ve gotten older, my yoga journey has morphed, so now it’s more about a focus on helping beginners and those dealing with chronic pain. I look at myself more so as a wellness educator, which comes from my training and HR background. Many times when you’re dealing with chronic pain, you can feel very isolated, that you can’t go to a group class or show yourself because when everybody’s doing a pose, you’re going to be the one looking different. So I really tailor my classes – they’re gentle, they’re specifically for those dealing with chronic pain, looking to build more mobility and strength. And those specifically that are over 40 because I’m over 40 now. I didn’t start practicing yoga until my 30s. It would have been amazing had I discovered it as a teenager, but that just wasn’t the time that I was in it.

I like to consider myself a Georgia Peach – I was born and raised in Augusta, Georgia. It was just me, my parents and my brother, who is seven years younger than I am. I felt the importance of faith and being a part of the church community growing up; even going to my grandmother’s house in the summer, it was very routine to go to church.

I also had a strong family unit in my church family. My dad’s side of the family is Catholic, so I was raised Catholic – I took my first communion around 12 years old. At that point, my mom began visiting non-denominational churches and Pentecostal churches where there was more diversity, so from that point on, my experiences were in the Black church.

My family are descendants of slaves. My great-grandmother may have been raped by a slave owner in Port Gibson, Mississippi, since my mother’s side of the family, starting with my grandmother, is very fair-skinned. My dad’s side of the family comes out of Columbia, South Carolina, where there was also slavery. My grandfather on my dad’s side who lived until he was in his 90s, was African, and I believe that my great grandmother was Indian. I have very deep southern roots.

My mom worked for the state of Georgia at a place called Gracewood, where at the time they called it a space for adults with retardation. We now know that as autism and special needs, but my mom was a caregiver for adults with special needs and abilities. It’s definitely not light work; you’ve got to be called to that kind of work.

My mom was great. She gave my brother and me freedom to try a lot of different things. As an adult, I realized how blessed I was that my mom allowed me to be a kid. If one season I wanted to do cheer, I could join the cheerleading team. If one year I wanted to become a gymnast, she would take me to gymnastics. I tried swimming during the summer. There was a program called Upward Bound, and I also have experience going to the Boys and Girls Club. I have great memories of trying a lot of different things.

My father was a medical technician for the Medical College of Georgia, and he also had a side business where he cleaned buildings like banks and industrial sites. My brother and I would go with him to help clean up, wash dishes, take out the trash, so that was my first experience with entrepreneurship.

My father’s love and passion was music though, so I grew up with a lot of music in the house. He plays a lot of different instruments, but primarily the guitar and the keyboard. I never really picked up an instrument, but I picked up the love for music and the arts. I was going to a locally zoned middle school, but there was a performing fine art school that I was interested in. You had to audition – very similar to the old show Fame. From eighth grade to my senior year I attended Davison Fine Arts Magnet School and it was a magical time. I took concert choir for about four years, and then I spent about four to five years in ballet. I graduated in 1993 with a graduating class of less than a hundred people. Before I went to the performing arts school, I ran track. I did the shot-put and hundred-meter dash. Moving is it for me. That’s how I express myself: to move, whether it’s through sports, through the arts, or through yoga.

College was an experience that I started dreaming about in eighth grade. When I graduated high school in 1993, I was ready for college. It was also the first year that the state of Georgia approved the State Lottery, so for kids that graduated with a 3.0 GPA, they could get tuition assistance going in-state. My first two years I attended Albany State, a Historically Black College in Albany, Georgia.

I breezed through my freshman and sophomore year without too many issues. I started out as a nursing student, but by the end of my freshman year, I realized I didn’t want to do this. From that point on, I felt lost. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. I was just happy to be in college, but I wasn’t sure what my career path would be.

In my second year there was a hurricane that hit Albany and the entire campus was literally underwater, so that started my transition away from college. Many of us were living in trailers instead of dorms; it was not a good situation. At that time I was in a relationship that wasn’t working, and I didn’t want to go home. I didn’t want to go back to Albany State and money was an issue. So I ended up living in Atlanta for a bit and then decided to enlist in the military in 1998. I went in for a fresh start and for the benefits: the VA loan, the GI Bill, and so many other things. That began another part of my journey that was pretty magical.

I served in the Army for five years as an aviation operations specialist, working in the training division. In the military, your job is like a side job since ultimately, you’re a soldier first. Learning how to use weapons, how to fight, basically all those things that come with being a part of the armed services, was a really unique opportunity. I went into my eight-week basic training in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, as one person and came out another. I’ve always been pretty physical and I thought that I was in great shape, but coming out of basic training, I was probably in the best shape in my life, physically and mentally; it felt really, really good.

My first assignment was Yongsan, Korea, which was the Joint Base installation at the time. I had never been outside the country before, but after a year I decided to extend my one-year tour of duty there for another year. I learned a lot about the culture and learned to speak a bit of Korean. After my two years, I got reassigned to Fort Rucker, Alabama, which is where I eventually ended my time in the military in January 2003.

During the time that I was active duty, I had very supportive leaders that allowed me to go to school in the evenings, so I was able to complete my undergraduate degree at Excelsior College while in service. When I got out, the next thing on the list was my master’s degree. I got a temp job in Augusta and enrolled in Troy State to start my master’s program in human resources administration.

I met my husband in Korea, and he had retired from the Navy to the DC area. I applied for different contractor positions in the federal government and then piled all my stuff in the car and drove up to DC. I finished my degree at Central Michigan University, taking classes right after work at the Pentagon and out in Chantilly, Virginia, on the weekends. Meanwhile, towards the end of my time in the military, I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis, so I’m dealing with that, moving, and also trying to go to school. When I finally did get my master’s degree in 2006 through an accelerated program, I was exhausted and began to take my health more seriously.

My primary care doctor in the military told me about some free yoga classes on base that I tried. This is the early 2000s, so, it’s very common to walk in a class and be the only Black person. Back then, aviation wasn’t diverse either, so I was accustomed to being the only person of color. But work and wellness are different. I saw some benefit to the yoga classes, but I didn’t feel comfortable enough to continue until I moved to DC. Then once I found a church home, I found a Black-owned yoga studio where I was able to feel safe and comfortable and hone my practice. That’s when I began to learn about holistic wellness and all that it could be for me. It sparked a passion in the same way that moving and dance did for me.

I started practicing yoga in 2008 and took my first level one teacher training two years later. I went to get more understanding about the practice of yoga. The same year, I joined the liturgical dance ministry and started dancing again. I would teach different yoga stretches after dance rehearsals, but I wasn’t really interested in teaching; I just enjoyed it. Four years later, I finally completed the 200-hour yoga teacher training.

I created Sherrell Moore-Tucker, LLC in 2014 when I completed my yoga teacher training only because we were told that we should do it. So it was out of formality that I did that part, but it wasn’t until 2016 that I thought I wanted to make this a business and not just be a “traveling yoga teacher.” I often use the phrase “Mind, Body, Faith” to let my faith-based community know that there is an understanding of mindfulness tools, but there’s also a foundation of faith that I can help people connect to.

When I got my yoga teacher training certificate in 2014, I was heavily into ministry and church. I was not only in the liturgical dance ministry, but I also was the secretary and the vice president for two years each. I was attending a megachurch, so the number of members in the ministry alone was close to 200 people. The ministry was like a second job, so between 2014-16, I couldn’t dedicate to my business like I wanted to.

Since 2014, I’ve completed other trainings and I’m now an experienced yoga teacher (ERYT), which means I’ve taught over 1,000 hours of yoga. I’ve done trainings for yoga for trauma sensitive communities; I completed restorative yoga for race-based trauma; and also received training in iRest Yoga Nidra meditation, which is specific meditation that came out of Walter Reed Medical Center for veterans dealing with PTSD. I’ve been very, very specific about my additional training, focusing on trauma, stress and pain.

To show you how my military background was still a part of me, I started teaching hot and power yoga, the most physical types of yoga you can teach. And because I’m a physical person, that inner competitiveness, it felt good. That’s what I was accustomed to. However, I felt like that wasn’t what I was called to do, it’s what was popular. My classes were packed so I could’ve continued teaching for the money, for the prestige, for the packed classes, but I left to teach gentle and restorative yoga, the yoga that people think is the most boring. But that’s what I felt I was called to do. I want to be able to make an impact and help those that feel invisible, those that feel isolated.

I would say my mindset has been a barrier for me. I admire millennials and young people so much because they have such an expanded mindset of what could be. I’m Gen X, so I think that it’s taken me a minute to have the right mindset to be an entrepreneur in this particular season of my life. Sometimes being older makes me a little self-conscious in comparison to people that start businesses right out of high school. I don’t necessarily learn as quick as I used to at times, so the learning curves when it comes to technology are real.

Some things require speed to get on the wave or you get left behind, and I don’t necessarily have that kind of energy or speed at this point in my life. Nor do I really want it, to be honest, but I can definitely see that as a barrier. I have a full-time job and I other things going on, so to then dedicate time trying to figure out how to use social media can be very all consuming.

I would say time is my biggest sacrifice. You don’t get it back. There’s no exchange. You have so many hours in the day just like everyone else, so whatever you spend time doing, you don’t get a do-over. I’ve spent hours trying to learn a new program and eventually I still have to outsource it. It’s a lesson learned that you don’t get those hours back. You may have to sacrifice hanging out or doing things that just bring you pleasure for the moment, knowing that hopefully there’ll be another time that you can do it.

I do try to practice what I share with other people though and take time for myself. I have a pretty solid yoga practice at home, doing between 20-30 minutes of yoga each day. I meditate. I pray. In the spring, summer, and fall I spend a lot of time outside. I like to take nice, brisk walks. I love hiking. I spend time journaling. I love to read. Every day, whether it’s in the morning or in the evening, I have a time of silence to get clear with no electronics. I’m not speaking, I’m not talking to anyone, and that daily silence helps.

I love being outside. Any type of park or trail is great for me. I never wanted to have a studio. I just love educating people and wasn’t drawn to having to creating my own community in a physical building. Even before the pandemic, I had a sense that I wanted to be online because I felt like I could reach people that were possibly stuck in the house and too afraid to come out to a yoga studio. I started my YouTube channel in 2014.

I think quarantine opened the doors for people that wanted to take a yoga class or were interested in meditation. People were seeking out community online, taking time to really research and better understand mindfulness tools as they were grappling with being alone, feeling isolated, and an array of other feelings. I also do a mindfulness in the workplace training, talking about how mindfulness helps with diversity. COVID became a time where people began to look within themselves to find how mindfulness could help them cope, so for that, I’m grateful.

When it comes to short term goals, I want to make sure that I have a really good online presence, primarily through my YouTube channel, to put free content out there and let people see a different type of face. The long-term plan is to use my platforms to collaborate and to make impact through collaborations. Success is about the impact that you’ve made on people’s lives, and I’ve seen the most success when I’ve partnered with businesses like Black Girl Health, Nature Glow Hiking Club, or Destination Hike, where we held hike and heal events.

There are some people that want to be in a yoga studio, but I’m always curious to connect with those people that are interested in other movement modalities and how their perspective might change or be enlightened when I come to them. I see it as a compliment to something that they do. I’m very also interested in working more specifically with communities that deal with chronic pain and stress. I’ve reached out to AARP and national organizations that deal with arthritis to offer a blog or some type of education piece.

When you’re talking about entrepreneurs like myself that have a full-time job with benefits, it’s easy to fall back and just treat yoga teaching as a hobby. To be honest, it’s very easy to give up, and I have thought about it numerous times, but the next day always brings something else, and then, no, it’s not an option. Ultimately, it’s God’s calling for my life why I’m doing this. It wasn’t something that I set out to do, but I was led this way spiritually and mentally by being mindful, paying attention to the signs, and paying attention to my intuitions. I am still pressing forward and trying my best to make an impact on businesses and in my community. I’m most proud of the fact that I’m still here and that I haven’t given up.